This Sunday, February 28th, legislative and municipal elections are scheduled in El Salvador. They will take place in an alarming situation of political violence, governmental authoritarianism, and repetitive, systematic attacks, both physical and digital, against organizations and persons engaging in their rights to free speech, to inform and to defend human rights. In addition, we are witnessing the consolidation of misogynous hate speech promoted by the government itself and other political and social actors. This hostility generates a climate of threats and intimidation that is a serious obstacle to the exercise by Salvadoran women of their right to political participation in proper conditions of freedom and security.
Let’s remember that on Sunday, January 31, two people on their way to a rally of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front – FMLN, Gloria Rojel del Cid and Juan de Dios Tejada, were killed in an attack in which three other people were wounded. The Association of Journalists in El Salvador – APES, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have charged that during recent weeks, attacks against journalists have escalated as they have collectively confronted the hostility of the government and its sympathizers. Political violence against women has also been on the rise, especially in the digital sphere, which has led some to speak out before the Ombudsman of Human Rights.
All this has taken place alongside the increasing authoritarianism of the administration of Nayib Bukele since he took power in 2019, as expressed in actions and statements by the president himself and by high office holders, which are aimed at disparaging, defaming and denigrating the work of organizations and persons working for human rights. Their smear campaigns have often included the collaboration of trolls and the use of bots. The occupation of Parliament by the Army on February 9, 2020 is perhaps the most explicit and troublesome expression of this authoritarianism.
We of the Salvadoran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders and IM-Defensoras, given the situation we have described, are concerned about the elections slated for this Sunday, February 28th being held with full guarantees of political participation, freedom of expression, and the right to information and the right to defend rights under conditions of security for the women candidates of different parties, journalists, and women human rights defenders who will be involved in their work of monitoring and oversight of the process. For this reason, we demand that the Salvadoran government comply with its obligation to guarantee free, transparent, secure elections, and we hereby express our intention to be vigilant and willing to document and denounce any irregularity whatsoever as well as any infringement on the human rights of our Salvadoran women comrades.
We reaffirm that Salvadoran women defenders and journalists are not alone, and that those of us in Mesoamerica and other regions in the world will be attentive and watchful of the actions of the government, the diverse political parties, and the society in general in this situation.
And finally, we call on all concerned people to document, register and denounce any attack whatsoever against women journalists and human rights defenders that takes place in this context.