The SHARE Blog

The Campaign for an American DREAM: A SHARE staff member reflects

March 19, 2012

Campaign for an American DREAM's launch at Golden Gate Bridge, March 10, 2012

For the past few weeks I had the amazing opportunity to work with the Campaign for an American DREAM as they inhabited our offices up to the launch of their walk. The Campaign for an American DREAM’s mission is to create dialogue across the nation about the DREAM Act and immigration policy – they are doing this by sending a group of young DREAMers and allies on a 3,000 mile journey from San Francisco to Washington DC… on foot. The DREAM Act will provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth brought to the US before the age of 16, provided they serve in the military or attend 2 years of higher education.

I was prepared to help them as much as I could around the office, to host some of them in my home and to attend their kickoff at the Golden Gate Bridge on March 10th. I was completely unprepared for what a transformative experience being in solidarity with this group would become. These aptly named DREAMers carry the ability to truly inspire. They inspired me to see the vast courage and hope that lives in us all, of what a powerful force love for your family and community are, and to remain unafraid in the struggle for our collective human rights.  

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Salvadorans in Solidarity Against Mining

February 22, 2012

 On February 10th, 2012 the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining and SHARE protested  at the Panamanian Embassy in San Salvador.  In solidarity with indigenous groups in Panama facing hydro-electric dams and mining on their indigenous territory. Similar protests occurred in Costa Rica and Guatemala calling an end to repressive tactics and violence against civil society that resulted in two deaths in the last week in Panama. Organizations like Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Model Extractivo Minero and the Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Mineria issued statements condemning the violence and reinforcing the message that the struggle against mining is a global struggle and throughout  Latin America civil society stands together in this fight.

            Dying for Gold by Ellie Roscher

El Salvador is working to pass a ban against all metallic mining and if they succeed, they will be the first country to do so. Radio Victoria, a community radio in Cabanas, is speaking out in support of the ban. The gold companies are not happy, and lawsuits and death threats surround a vulnerable country and the radio correspondents who are covering the story. This piece,  Dying for Gold, acts as a brief introduction to a complex issue.

Reflections on Mining in El Salvador by SHARE delegate, Bob Werly

I have a short time to make each of you care about a small country thousands of miles away, and to care about one-hundred people in that country who love every one of you.

A big issue in El Salvador right now is an attempt to mine gold in what are now some of the most beautiful mountains you’ll ever see. Up here we’d never think twice about our personal safety if we got involved in environment issues. Down there we met with a twenty-two year old community radio broadcaster opposed to mining. We were told he can’t leave the radio station or his life is in danger. Two weeks before our trip, a thirty year old university student posted fliers about a meeting to oppose the mining projects. The next day he disappeared. His body was found a few days later, tortured and shot twice in the head. I would like to emphasize that though we were face to face with people whose lives are in danger, we always felt safe, thanks to the accompaniment of SHARE.

In our sister community, Buen Pastor, the people dress cleanly and neatly and their children are well-behaved and happy. The people make eye contact, they smile at you, and amongst themselves the joke and laugh a lot. My impression was that as a collective they are happier than we are. It’s easy to see what we do for them, but at least for those of us who have been there, it’s what they do for us internally that holds deep meaning. Near the end of today’s gospel it says, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” When it came time to leave El Buen Pastor, there were tears coming down the villagers’ faces. Think about it. In your lives, tears have come from only one type of person when you left them: From someone who loves you!

 

* Thank You  to Jan Morrill, Coordinator for the International Allies against Metallic Mining in El Salvador for information on the international movements involved in this fight.


A Visit to Nueva Trinidad

February 14, 2012

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

~Pedro Arrupe, SJ

Futbol Match in El Salvador; Photo taken by Theresa Edwards

My name is Theresa Edwards and I am 16 years old. As a parishioner at St. Patrick’s parish in Seattle, I first traveled to Nueva Trinidad with my family when I was 12. Last summer I was part of the youth delegation going back to El Salvador, which was an awesome experience! Here are just a few highlights.

First, the greeting we received when entering into Nueva Trinidad was unbelievable. It was raining cats and dogs, and as the bus lumbered toward the village we all heard a rhythmic sound that grew louder and louder. When the bus stopped, we were surrounded by people—elderly women offering us their umbrellas, the teenagers of the batucada (drum line), and children grinning from ear to ear. The drumming, fireworks, pouring rain, and radiant smiles of everyone made it an unforgettable welcome.

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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.

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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 »


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