In the early morning hours of August 20th, the National Civil Police of El Salvador (PNC) and the Units for the Maintenance of Order (UMO) violently evacuated ten townspeople from a park in the municipality of Cuisnahuat. They also destroyed community infrastructure including a water well that supplied the community. The siege continues.
Since July 27th, people of the municipality of Cuisnahuat in El Salvador have gotten organized to protect the town park, a place of historical and social importance for residents; it is now in danger of imminent destruction due to the construction of a shopping center. No environmental permits have been issued and there has been no public consultation regarding the commercial project. Townspeople do not oppose the shopping center itself but instead, the spot on which the Mayor’s office insists on constructing it.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ernesto Gustavo Sierra has refused to dialogue with the townspeople and has threatened and made attempts on the physical integrity of the members of the People’s Assembly of Cuisnahuat that is safeguarding the place.
We of the Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders, together with the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, stand in solidarity with the defenders in the People’s Assembly of Cuinshauat, and recognize their work in defense of their territory. The townspeople have the right to defender their lands, water resources and patrimonial assets.
We repudiate the actions of Mayor Ernesto Gustavo Sierra and call on the Environmental Tribunals to mediate in this situation. We also call on the Secretary of the Environment to verify the process from the perspective of safeguarding community property.
We call on the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights to play the role of mediator between the local government and the community, and also call on the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the possible abuse of power and inordinate use of force by PNC and UMO agents.
We demand that the Salvadoran government guarantee the comprehensive protection of the defenders and town residents, as well as their patrimonial assets and their right to safeguard land and territory.