We -and several other women human rights defenders from Latin America and Europe-, are very concerned about the situation in El Salvador. We are witnessing progressive human rights deterioration. Authoritarianism consolidates and hate speeches proliferate against those who exercise their right to inform and defend human rights.
Documented facts represent examples of this:
The President’s attempt to take over the Legislative Assembly together with the Armed forces in February 2020; the irregular and illegal destitution of members of the Constitutional Chamber and of the attorney general of the Republic; unconstitutional reforms to the Judicial Service Act, that imply the dismissal of more than 156 judges, seriously compromise judicial independence; or the ilegal and unjustified imprisonment of thousands of people at the so-called “Contention centers”, under health contingency excuses due to Covid-19.
The situation has aggravated since the last elections, which facilitated a concentration of power in the hands of President Bukele and his party, accelerating the dismantling process of institutional controls. The government uses institutions and manipulates public speech to favour the interests of affinity groups and to delegitimize and silence those who report systematic human rights violations. This has been linked to a strategy of instrumentalization of social media, supported by the use of bots as well as other intervention and digital surveillance tactics, oriented to control speeches and attack critical voices against the government.
In the meantime, corruption accentuates inequality as thousands of people continue to be poverty-stricken. Many people are also running from poverty, facing the brutality of racist and xenophobic migration policies that prevail throughout the region. They are also exposed to organized crime groups’ violence operating unpunished under the view of migratory institutions.
Territorial control policies keep entire communities terrorized by gangs and other organized crime groups as well as the terror triggered by the State’s security forces.
Feminicide rates and women’s sexual and reproductive rights violations remain among the highest in Latin America. Abortion is still completely penalized and women face penalties of up to 40 years of prison for pregnancy interruption, even if it is a spontaneous abortion.
The government has unilaterally cancelled important and necessary legislative proposals that were already under discussion within the legislative power such as the Gender Identity Law or the law for the recognition and comprehensive protection of human rights defenders as well as the warranty of the right to defend rights.
In this context, every person, organization or media that reports power abuse is pointed out as an enemy of the State, threatened and harassed. In February and May 2021 alone, the Women Human Rights Defenders Network from El Salvador, the Journalist Association from El Salvador and the Servicio Social Pasionista registered 370 digital attacks against journalists and women human rights defenders. Most of these attacks were perpetrated by public officials from the President’s close circle and by others that follow him on social media.
The Salvadorian State must halt these attacks, secure the separation of powers and the State of Law and offer a warranty for people to exercise securely their right to defend human rights, independent journalism and political participation, especially in the case of women and people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
We encourage the international community and human rights organizations to stay vigilant of these situations and to speak up emphasizing the specific risks that women human rights defenders and journalists must face.
In El Salvador and in all Mesoamerica, freedom of speech and expression and defending human rights are rights!
Participating in the video, on behalf of their organizations:
- Claudia Paz y Paz, Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional – CEJIL.
- Alejandra Burgos, Red Salvadoreña de Defensoras de Derechos Humanos.
- Marusia López, IM-Defensoras.
- Joaquín Mejía, Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación ERIC – SJ y Equipo Jurídico por los Derechos Humanos – EJDH.
- Teresa Fernández Paredes, Organización Mundial Contra la Tortura – OMCT.
- Catalina Martínez, Centro de Derechos Reproductivos.
- Gilda Rivera, Centro de Derechos de las Mujeres – CDM Honduras.
- Verónica Ferrari, Asociación para el Progreso de las Comunicaciones – APC.
- Loyda Robles, Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho – FESPAD.
- Leire Lasa, Comisión Española de Ayuda al Refugiado – CEAR Euskadi.
- Diego Carranza, Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA – IDHUCA.
- Sara García, Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto.
- Mónica Rodríguez, Colectiva de Mujeres Periodistas, Comunicadoras y Trabajadoras de la Información.
- Marcia Aguiluz, Women’s Link Worldwide.
- Gabriela Colocho, Servicio Social Pasionista – SSPAS.
- José Ignacio Gómez, Fundación Acceso.
- Gabriel Hernández, DIKÉ LGBTI+.
- Nancy Fuentes, GRUFIDES y Red Latinoamericana de Defensoras Ambientales.
- Alejandra Henríquez, Fondo de Acción Urgente de América Latina y el Caribe – FAU
- Suyapa Gómez, Código SUR.