The SHARE Blog

Santa Marta Demands an End to Impunity and Justice for Perpetrator of Massacres

February 6, 2012

A war criminal running for political office has caused uproar among the members of the organized community of Santa Marta, in Cabañas. “People have no choice but to express their outrage when people like this, involved in crimes against humanity, get involved in public life and run for public office, places of decision-making,” declared Leonel Rivas, Santa Marta resident and a family member of victims of the massacres carried out by former General Ochoa Perez. 

On February 2, 2012 around 30 members of the community Santa Marta, department of Cabañas, demanded that the Attorney General of the Republic begin a judicial process against Ochoa Perez. “We fully believe in President Funes when he said ‘no people will be free, no people will be happy, no people will achieve peace until the profound pain in their hearts caused by the negation of memory, truth and justice is removed.’ And for that to be possible, for the victims to know the truth, these crimes must be investigated, and those responsible brought to justice,” read the press release given by Santa Marta and ADES

Ochoa Pérez with his "hero", Lt Col. Monterrosa, intellectual author of the massacre at El Mozote.

From 1978 to 1982, when Colonel Ochoa Perez was in command of the Second Military Outpost in Sensuntepeque, at least seven massacres were perpetrated against the civilian population of Santa Marta, causing over 900 deaths. 

Santa Marta residents and victims of the horrendous oppression and violence carried out in the region shared their testimonies: a massacre of six women who were making the day’s tortillas for their farmer husbands; young, pregnant women killed and their unborn children ripped from their wombs; the massacre at the Lempa River, as the civilian population fled their homes and left everything behind in Santa Marta to save their lives. 

Now, Ochoa Perez is running for the Legislative Assembly with the ARENA Party.

Santa Marta and the organizations that support justice and human rights made the following demands: “For these abhorrent acts against the population and with the “conviction,” as President Funes said, “that real democracy should be founded in truth and justice”:

  • We ask that Col. Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez be investigated and brought before justice for crimes against humanity and the repugnant violations of human rights against the civilian population of Santa Marta in 1981.
  • We condemn ARENA’s decision to present Col Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez, implied in acts of genocide against our people, as a Legislative Assembly member candidate.
  • We ask the Attorney General of the Republic to create an Ad Hoc commission, made up of people with experience in human rights and of publicly recognized moral and ethics. 

Leonel ended the press conference expressing concern over the recent naming of a military officer as Director of the National Civilian Police.  The history of Santa Marta and tens of thousands of Salvadorans that lived and suffered the war, ongoing impunity for those responsible for crimes against humanity, and continuing death threats and violence against anti-mining activists and journalists in Cabañas are inextricably linked to  further militarization of national security forces.  Further militarization of Salvadoran society will not lead to greater truth, peace or justice, but it may lead to a repetition of El Salvador’s violent, bloody past. 

Military Returns to Public Security in El Salvador

February 1, 2012

Despite Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes’ recent declaration in El Mozote that no institution in El Salvador should name or honor military officers linked to grave human rights abuses as national heroes, in the last few months he has taken more steps toward militarization than any government since the 1992 Peace Accords. He has removed all members of the FMLN in high-level positions within public security institutions, and in three notable cases, replaced them with recently retired military personnel.

President Funes visits El Mozote Memorial

 Last November, President Funes removed Manuel Melgar as Minister of Justice and Public Security, replacing him with recently retired David Munguía Paés. On January 26th El Faro published an interview with Minister Munguía Paés in which he defined his principle goal as getting the gangs off the streets. Munguía Paés claims that the gangs account for 90% of the violence in El Salvador – a statistic that has not been published in any study or confirmed by the police. His security plan includes a curfew to keep minors off the streets at night, special anti-gang police units and judges, and authority for the anti-gang units to search homes without a judicial order. María Silvia Guillen, director of FESPAD, a Salvadoran organization of lawyers working for human rights commented, “This is not just more of the same, this is worse than the same. How do they expect things to change?” Past policies that focused on cracking down harshly on youth, like the Iron Fist and the Super Iron Fist have done little to reduce violence in El Salvador, and have greatly increased youth repression and human rights abuses. These policies simply fight fire with fire and do little to address root causes or other sources of violence.

Read More »

Launch of Campaign to Secure Residency for Central Americans

January 30, 2012

Leaders from the Central American community gathered in Houston on January 29th and 30th to launch the national campaign.

Central American Organizations throughout the U.S. Launch Campaign to Push for Permanent Residency for Central Americans with Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.

Houston, TX, January 26, 2012- On Monday, January 30th at 11:00 AM at the Mickey Leland Federal Building in Houston, Texas, community, religious, labor, and civil rights representatives from all around the country held a press conference to announce a campaign to push for Permanent Residency for the approximately 300,000 Central Americans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S.

Nearly 14 years ago, Central America was hit with several devastating natural disasters which had a significant impact on entire communities throughout the region and led to hundreds of thousands of Central American families establishing roots in the United States.   In 1998, Hurricane Mitch, one of the deadliest hurricanes in Central American history, ravaged Honduras and Nicaragua and resulted in the loss and displacement of thousands, as well as a collapse in the physical infrastructure.  Due to this devastation, TPS was designated to both countries in 1999. Read More »

An Invitation: Celebrating 30 years of the Sanctuary Movement

January 25, 2012

March 24th, 2012 will mark the 30th anniversary of the Sanctuary Movement as well as the beginning of a national campaign to grant residency to the thousands of Central Americans and Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Here is a letter written by leaders of the Sanctuary Movement. Please help us spread this letter and Call! (PDF format: SHARE 30th Anniversary of Sanctuary Letter, Call to Action)

March 24, 1982: Press Conference at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, California. Launching of the National Sanctuary Movement

On March 24, 1982, the second anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, five Berkeley congregations declared public sanctuary simultaneously with the Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Arizona!

Over the next decade, more than 500 congregations and thousands of people stood in solidarity with our Central American sisters and brothers seeking political refuge. The Sanctuary Movement challenged unjust immigration policies and the U.S. foreign policies that fueled the exodus. We thought and acted locally and globally. We crossed borders and made covenants in search of the Common Good. We were transformed. Read More »

Violence and Intimidation Against Environmental Activists Continues

Violence and intimidation against anti-mining activists and defenders of human rights continues in El Salvador.

On Friday, January 20th, Father Neftalí Ruiz, Salvadoran Catholic Priest, Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Cabañas Environmental Committee, and member of the National Working Group against Metallic Mining, opened his home to a group of university students who had expressed interest in his work.  He was then tied up, intimidated, and robbed. The young men did not take anything of value other than Father Neftalí’s computer, and stated numerous times that they were looking for information.

At a Press Conference held by the National Working Group Against Mining on Tuesday, January 24th, David Pereira of CEICOM emphasized: “These acts are meant to intimidate us to weaken our resistance.”

Alluding to past cases, in which the Attorney General and police have tried to blame cases of death threats and violence against activists on common delinquency or gang violence, Father Neftalí explained that he has no enemies. “The only work I do is to defend mother nature, to preach the Gospel, and denounce injustices.” Catholic Bishop Monsignor Francisco Sol added: “We have shown that in our country, it is a crime to defend the interests of the vast majority.”

Finally, Father Neftalí had a direct plea: “I ask the National Civilian Police and the Attorney General, what are they going to do in this case? Since 2008 and 2009 I have reported death threats. What are they waiting for? For there to be more deaths, more bloodshed?” Read More »

Reflections on Peace

January 18, 2012

SHARE recently interviewed Isabel Hernandez, Director of SHARE El Salvador and Madre Guadalupe of the Committee of Family Members of the Disappeared (CODEFAM) to reflect on the peace accords and what it means 20 years after a war that took more than 75,000 lives. Below are just some of the powerful responses we received from these women:

Is the transition of the country to democracy durable and irreversible?

Madre Guadalupe

Madre Guadalupe-

“There has been a transition because now we have the space to speak up and say how we feel, however we are living in the same conditions. To have peace people need to be able to fulfill basic needs, like food. If you are hungry, you are not at peace. If you are scared of violence, you are not at peace. If you are under economic stress, you are not at peace. When you have been a victim, you are not at peace.  When these conditions exist you cannot speak of peace.”

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, what are your thoughts on the state of peace in this country and the extent to which the state has complied with recommendations of the Peace Accords/Commission on Truth?

Isabel Hernandez-

Isabel Hernandez

“For the Salvadoran people, the peace agreements meant an end to 60 years of military dictatorship and space for the construction of a new democratic system that respects freedom of thought. The main achievements were the dissolution of the ill named security forces (Treasury Police, National Police and National Guard) that were used to repress the people, the armed forces assumed its role of protecting the state and ceased to engage in political affairs. Also, there was a great reduction in  military personnel. Some constitutional amendments were made, including the legalization of the FMLN as a political party, the National Police was created with a new doctrine of  civil service to the public and the Humans Rights Ombudspersons Office was created to ensure that the state does not violate human rights.

There are areas of the peace agreements that are pending compliance and others that have not advanced at all. For example:

In the economic sphere there was a social and economic forum created, consisting of employers, workers and the government to discuss and propose economic changes. That initiative did not work.

The governments of Cristiani, Calderon Sol, Francisco Flores and Saca did not promote or support policies to improve the agricultural sector. Therefore, there has been no progress in Argarian reform. Another debt of the Peace Accords is the lack of justice for victims and their families.”

Read More »

Cinquera Historica

December 28, 2011

Out of a past of horror and violence, Cinquera shines as a beacon of hope for the future.

A mere thirty years ago, nearly unspeakable atrocities were common place in this small, mountainous town. Don Lito, a historic leader of Cinquera, shares gut-wrenching tales of torture, rape, massacres, and incredible, cruetly against humble farmers whose greatest sin was to organize for land to work to feed their families. But today, Cinquera has become a model for locally-led, sustainble development with an emphasis on youth, historical memory, and environmental preservation.

In 1991, the civilian population returned to repopulate Cinquera from the refugee camp in Mesa Grande, Honduras. Like so many places in El Salvador, people returned to find a town destroyed. They began to rebuild from the rubble, starting with makeshift homes, then permanent houses, then roads, a school and potable water. Read More »

Celebrating 2011!

December 15, 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, we look back on all of the amazing achievements that your solidarity has made possible.  Thanks to you, and the support of hundreds of others, SHARE and our counterparts in El Salvador were able to: 
  • Make the high school graduation of 23 young leaders possible! In a country where only 15% of the rural population reaches high school, this is a major achievement for young people and their families. 
  • Support communities like San Simon and El Corozal  in preparing for and adapting to climate change, including the creation of risk-prevention and disaster mitigation maps and plans, which helped prevent loss of life in the October 2011 deluge.
  • Provide over 50 micro-loans for women’s economic initiatives, including a pig project with the Mujeres Ganaderas. Watch a video about their work here! Read More »

Civil Society Demands Justice on the 30th Anniversary of the Mozote Massacre

December 14, 2011

The Monsenor Romero Coalition and the signatory organizations and persons call on the national and international community to remember that December 10th we celebrate the 63rd Anniversary of the Universal Declaraion of Human Rights and that on the 11, 12 and 13th of December of this year it will be 30 years since the Mozote Massacre.  These two commemorations invite us to continue with efforts to denounce impunity and demand that the Salvadoran government provide the truth, justice and reparations for the crime against humanity committed in El Mozote and surrounding areas. For this reason:

1.  We declare to never forget this cruel, inhumane and aberrant extermination. Read More »

Youth and Theater: Another Sign of a National Unified Mining Resistance

December 12, 2011

Last week, fifteen high school students from Carasque, Chalatenango piled into a van and made the six hour trek from their home to Santa Rosa de Lima in La Union.  For many of them it was the first time they had ever traveled outside of their department (the Salvadoran equivalent of a state) as well as the first time that any of them had gone as far as La Union, the most eastern department in the country.

These rambunctious youth, part of the Nuevas Estrellas Juveniles theater group, traveled all that way to participate in the music, arts and culture week organized by the Santa Rosa de Lima Parish.  Since the beginning of last year, the theater group has been traveling around the department of Chalatenango presenting a play called La Mina Contamina (The Mine Contaminates).  The parish priest in Santa Rosa de Lima invited the group to perform their play as way to continue to educate his community about the dangers of mining and also so that the theater group could leave a copy of the script for the parish theater group to reproduce. Read More »

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