Posts Tagged ‘Justice’

35th anniversary of the martyrdom of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan

May 15, 2015

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Dear brothers and sisters,

SHARE El Salvador and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, LCWR are inviting you to help us organize the 35th anniversary delegation to El Salvador to celebrate the lives of Ita, Maura, Dorothy, Jean, Carla and all the martyrs. Delegation dates: November 28 to December 5. Read More »


Romero’s Legacy: 35 Years Later

March 27, 2015

“We cannot remain quiet in such an unjust world.”

The last week has drawn thousands of people together from around the world to honor the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Monseñor Oscar Romero. From marches to forums to meals shared, the silence of injustice was broken and Romero’s Legacy of Truth, Justice, and Peace lived on in a very tangible, inspiring way.

“We suffer with those who have disappeared, those who have had to flee their homes, and those who have been tortured.” Read More »


El Mozote: Celebrating Resilience and Life

December 20, 2014

On Saturday, December 13th, hundreds of people made the pilgrimage to the site of one of the bloodiest massacres during the Salvadoran armed conflict. The massacre at El Mozote in 1981 ended the lives of close to 900 men, women, and children. The youngest child brutally murdered that day was three days old.  For decades, the Salvadoran government denied and covered up this travesty.The El Mozote Massacre has come to emblemize the violations of human rights that took place at the hands of the national military during the 12 years of the armed conflict.

10445529_10152938960944301_2121070061778881473_nThe event this past Saturday evoked the memory of the lives lost 33 years ago. However, more than anything, the crowd celebrated the resilience and present life of the Salvadoran people. Symbolically, the commemoration demonstrated that no force can truly kill a collective strong spirit, nor halt a people’s movement towards justice, equity, and human dignity.

This notion is naturally and tangibly  captured in one of the only buildings left standing today from the massacre. On the corner adjacent to the church, one can still see the bullet holes left on the exterior wall of the now crumbling structure.  The gray of the concrete is solemn and shocking. However, the image that catches more attention is the lively green vines crawling along the entire surface offering to heal the 33 year-old wounds and bring life back to the building.

The Salvadoran military, specifically the Atlacatl Battalion, thought by draining the civilian-filled pond on December 11th,10805700_10152938961399301_9214767109475303062_n 1981 they were ending life. In a concrete sense, they did end over 900 lives that day.  However, what they intended to be a screeching stop to the popular movement served as a catalyst that still propels the Salvadoran people today to work towards a life where no one is oppressed, where all have equal opportunity, and where all life is considered sacred. May we continue to move forward justly with the lives lost at El Mozote as our inspiration.


Equality: Marching from an Idea to an Experience

November 26, 2014

On November 25th, International Day Against Violence Against Women, the streets of San Salvador were filled with women of all ages denouncing gender-based violence.  Chants rose up to the Legislative Assembly saying, “We are now in the 21st century! Women have rights! We want equality!” And “Violence is that the government and the church make decisions about my body!”

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Azul holds her sign reading “I denounce the crimes against women. Not even one more disappeared or assasinated!”

One of the women at Tuesday’s march, Amanda Castro, walked along side her 10 year old daughter, Azul Castro, carrying a picket sign advocating for the end to violence against women. When asked why she was there, Amanda responded, “For me, November 25th is a day to denounce the systemic violence against women that comes from the state.”

To what was she referring?  El Salvador has one of the most rigid abortion laws in the world.  If the experience of having a miscarriage were not emotionally and physically straining enough, the Salvadoran Government in 1998 found a way to cause even more harm to women who go through it.  A woman in El Salvador can be sentenced to anywhere from 15 to 40 years of imprisonment for having a miscarriage. Many women at the march held up signs detailing the lives of 17 women who have been unjustly incarcerated under the terms of that law.

Amanda continued, “I am here with my daughter and all these other women today in the struggle to end sexism and inequality. Azul is intentionally here with me today. This is a consciousness raising event. She is a tool for the future.”

Young girls and women are the hope for a different future, one where equality will not just be an idea but will be an experience. Through community involvement and advocacy, young girls like Azul are challenging the current patriarchal system. Educating women and men alike about women’s rights is the answer to repealing oppressive institutionalized laws which claim complete control of a woman’s body.  There is hope for the future, and in this case, her name is Azul.

 


Ayotzinapa Update

November 10, 2014

Last week we wrote about the disappearances of the 43 Mexican students. We would now like to extend our condolences to their families and loved ones. Over the weekend, authorities found the students’ bodies massacred and burned among sticks and rubbish. Currently, 72 people associated with a “drug gang” have been taken into custody to be charged with the students’ murders.

Yesterday many Mexican citizens, in an out pour of rage at the government’s handling of this brutal bloodshed of innocent youth, stormed the Presidential Palace in Mexico City demanding justice and a change in response to the cartel violence that has become evermore common.  People are not convinced that the government was not involved in the orchestration of the student massacre.

Often times, we consider massacres at the hands of state governments to be archaic phenomena that our modern day society has overcome. However, lamentably, the case of the Mexican students suggests otherwise. Accompanying a people who is all too familiar with the suffering inflicted by unjust killings, we at SHARE offer a fraternal hug of solidarity to the Mexican people.  We are all Ayotzinapa.

 


Salvadoran Families Struggle to Commemorate Their Disappeared

October 9, 2014

This article by Jeff Ritterman, MD was originally published in the Huffington Post on October 8th, 2014. Bethany Loberg is second author of this article. Bethany was the Human Rights Advocacy Co-ordinator for SHARE-El Salvador.

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All photos courtesy of Claire Moll, SHARE-El Salvador, Communications Coordinator. All photos are from a demonstration by the Relatives of the Disappeared, San Salvador, August, 2014. 

1980 was a tragic year for Sofia Hernandez and her family. Government security forces and right wing death squads were terrorizing the rural population of El Salvador. By March, Sofia’s family had fled their home in the countryside in hopes of finding safety. Two months later, Sofia’s brother was disappeared. By the summer’s end she was a widow. Her husband of 15 years, Juan, was murdered. Sofia’s daughter Norma, another brother, a nephew, and a cousin had also joined the swelling numbers of the disappeared.

Sofia Hernandez, like so many other relatives of the disappeared, searched for loved ones in military garrisons, prisons, hospitals, morgues, and even in garbage dumps, where bodies appeared daily. Most often they searched in vain. Decades later, many are still left with unanswered questions. Where is my son, my daughter, my mother, my father, my brother, my sister? Donde estan? Donde?

Read More »


A Shared History of Injustice: Central American Solidarity

September 23, 2014

“Nuestra historia es una historia viva.”-Rigoberta Menchú
“Our history is a living history.”
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Rigoberta Menchú Tum addresses the audience at the National University of El Salvador

On September 8th, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, spoke at the National University of El Salvador at the Central American Symposium for the Access to Justice for the Victims of Crimes Against Humanity. After the murder of her father in the Massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980 during the height of the Guatemalan Civil War, Rigoberta Menchú became a peaceful human rights activist. As a member of Guatemala’s Mayan Indigenous population, Menchú felt called to stand up against the military regime that carried out a genocide against her people.

The Guatemalan Civil War, like the armed conflict of El Salvador, took place during the Cold War era lasting 36 years (1960-1996). The military government that ordered death squads, forced disappearances, and massacres of rural, indigenous peoples was primarily backed by the United States government of the time. Over 200,000 people were killed in the Guatemalan civil war,  of which 83% were of Mayan descent.

For years the press and international community ignored this conflict, , swept it under the rug, and all who were in the military at the time were given impunity. However, the 2000s have brought a greater sense of justice to Guatemala. General José Efraín Ríos Montt, de facto president during the height of the war, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on May 10th, 2013. However, following through with his sentence has been complicated. Many argue strongly against referring to the deaths during the civil war as a genocide, noting that only 5.5% of the Ixil Indigenous people were killed. “Given the army’s brutality, if the intention were to destroy the Ixil, it would have been relatively easy to kill more than 5.5%” commented Raquel Zelaya, a government signatory of the 1996 peace accords. Arguments such as this build some  of the largest barriers in seeking any kind of real just reparations from this era in Guatemala’s history. Read More »


Case of Padre Toño illustrates corruption in Salvadoran justice system

September 17, 2014

Toño with GeovanniLately here in El Salvador, we have been witness to high-profile court cases that illustrate the level of corruption in the Salvadoran justice system. The first came as the arrest of Spanish priest Antonio Rodriguez (Padre Toño). Padre Toño is known internationally for his revolutionary work in gang rehabilitation in San Salvador–something that no one else in El Salvador dares to attempt due to the danger that lies in becoming too close to gang members.  In late July of this year, the trailblazing priest was arrested not but a few days after he had publicly called out the Attorney General for his lax response to the increasing homicide rate (connected to the gangs) in spite of the famed truce. Back in March 2012, a deal was cut with the leaders of El Salvador’s two largest gangs–MS 13 and Barrio 18.  At that time, the homicide rate dropped by over 33%. However, in the last few months, death tolls have risen higher than before the creation of the truce. Padre Toño recognized this spike in homicides as a failure of the truce, and that it is time to reassess El Salvador’s gang problem. Unfortunately, instead of being given the opportunity to improve the situation, he was arrested and charged with the following:

  • Introducing contraband into the jails (i.e. cell phones)
  • Pulling political strings for high up gang leaders to get moved to lower-security prisons
  • Collaborating in illicit acts, specifically collaborating with leaders of Barrio 18

Read More »


We All Have a Story

September 5, 2014

We all have a story. All we need is a pair of ears to listen to it. 

On Saturday, August 30th, mothers gathered together to commemorate their loved ones who disappeared during the armed conflict and to demand that the government declare that day the National Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance. 

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Some of the mothers with photos of their disappeared loved ones

The testimonies given by the mothers of the disappeared on August 30th in the Plaza Civica in commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance were captivating and left many people with tear-filled eyes. The loss of a child is something that no one understands until they have experienced it  themselves.  However, in the case of the mothers of the disappeared they haven’t lived  through a definitive loss. Rather, because their children disappeared, the possibility that the children could be alive haunts the mothers and prohibits them from finding peace.  However, at the same time, this very uncertainty provides the mothers with they hope they need to continue in their struggle for justice.

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Gloria Anaya

Gloria Anaya, the daughter of Herbert Anaya who was an activist killed during the armed conflict, told the story of one of the mothers of the disappeared. One day, the woman received a letter from her disappeared son. The letter came in a moment when she had almost lost all hope. However, the letter rejuvenated her. For the first time in years, she had proof that her son existed.  The government denied his existence and told the mother that she was lying about the disappearance because she had never had a son in the first place.  The letter was her proof.  Her son did exist. That letter gave her the hope to keep moving forward in her personal struggle for recompense.

Read More »


Sanchez Ceren Commits to Reparations for Human Rights Violations

August 14, 2014

SHARE supports the Pro-Historical Memory Commission with a project to strengthen advocacy and take six cases of forced disappearance and one case of massacre to justice. Click here for current advocacy action opportunities in support of Pro-Memoria.

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Marina Ortiz with President Sanchez Ceren and First Lady Doña Margarita Villalta de Sanchez. (Courtesy Pro-Memoria)

True to his words in his inaugural address, President Sanchez Ceren has taken initial steps to establish coordination with the relatives of the disappeared and with the Pro-Historical Memory Commission to solidify a policy of reparations.

On Sunday, July 6th, Sanchez Ceren hosted representatives of each of the member organizations of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and twenty-five relatives of the disappeared for a breakfast at the presidential residence.  The breakfast marks a symbolic commitment to work with victims and human rights organizations to address the still deep wounds left by egregious human rights violations during the war. Marina Ortiz, who participated as the representative of PROBUSQUEDA to the Pro-Historical Memory Commission commented “It was an important space for the victims, because it visibilizes them and the president showed a commitment to them.”

The following day, Monday July 7th, the president held a press conference announcing the creation of the Board of Directors of the Program of Reparations for Victims of the Armed Conflict, the committee created to oversee implementation of Executive Decree 204, a decree establishing a government program of reparations. The government issued the decree with such little fanfare last fall that even human rights organizations did not know it had been approved for a month. The decree and this committee are the fruit of coordination between the Pro-Historical Memory Commission (PRO-MEMORIA) and the Funes administration.  However, the press conference Sanchez Ceren held marks the first time this reparations program has been brought to the attention of the Salvadoran public.

Carlos Marvel presents a special gift of recognition to the President and First Lady.

Carlos Marvel presents a special gift of recognition to the President and First Lady.

Madre Guadalupe Mejia, Coordinator of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission and President of CODEFAM sends this message to the international community: it is important to remain alert, to watch and support this process, to ensure that it becomes a reality. We ask that you support us now just as people supported us during the war, that there be support for the process of reparation and healing.

Read More »


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