The Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES) and the Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango (CCR), the signatories, express to national and international public opinion our deep concern about expressions of hatred, acts of intimidation, and threats of political violence against Father Miguel Vásquez, priest of the Parish Fray Bartolomé Mártir in the municipality of Arcatao, department of Chalatenango, El Salvador.
Father Miguel, as he is commonly known by his parishioners, has been a fundamental pillar of the Arcatao community since the 1980s, and a spiritual and moral reference that, from his position as a parish priest, promotes the development of healthy, organized and thinkers’ communities in the department of Chalatenango.
Since the end of the year 2020, Father Miguel has denounced the harassment suffered by the communities by prominent military personnel in the municipalities of Nueva Trinidad and Arcatao with the excuse of preventing cross-border trafficking due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Also, this has echoed the complaints against the militarization of these municipalities and their actions violate the right of the mobility of the communities of Salvadorans living in the Ex-Bolsones located in Honduras, these communities depend on crossing the border for trade and access to services basic.
During the last electoral campaign for mayors and deputies in El Salvador, Father Miguel also denounced numerous irregularities that occurred in Arcatao, such as the history of corruption of the mayoral candidate by the New Ideas party, and he claimed to have documented the buying and selling of votes by Salvadoran citizens abroad who are financiers of the party in power. In addition to the complaints made public in a letter, Father Miguel called on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to investigate irregularities in the Arcatao local campaign, the New Ideas party won only by a margin vote, and requested that the allegations of vote-buying, the sources of financing of the campaign, and the reason why the military did not allow the Salvadorans living in the cross-border Bolsones exercise their right to vote and that violations of the electoral code be punished.
Due to his spirit of denunciation of injustice, Father Miguel is now the target of attacks and threats by individuals with questionable political backgrounds that have been strengthened by the politics of hatred that is promoted in the country from the highest political levels. This political violence has also affected other leaders of local political parties: on March 6, the lifeless body of Concepción Varela, candidate for mayor for the Partido de Concertación Nacional (PCN) in the Nueva Trinidad municipality, was found in a pasture after having received death threats and being missing for 10 days.
As social organizations, we are concerned about the systematic attack on the country's democratic institutions and the potential for political violence that is currently manifesting itself in the communities of Arcatao and Nueva Trinidad. We are alert to the escalation of political violence in our communities and we make a call:
San Salvador, March 15th, 2021
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