The five defenders of Santa Marta are still in prison.

As readers of A Planeta will remember, on 16 January we denounced the detention of five defenders of the Santa Marta territory on 11 January. Unfortunately, 4 months later, these community activists remain in prison. This situation coincides with the sixth anniversary of El Salvador’s historic mining ban, unanimously approved by the Legislative Assembly in 2017. Now the international campaign in their favour, which has historically opposed metal mining in El Salvador (originally comprised of 250 organisations, now many more) and local organisations, have launched a week of international action and solidarity to demand the immediate release of the Santa Marta Five from 22 April (Earth Day) until 30 April.

In addition to the local solidarity actions that you can organise, there are many others that you can join digitally. On 18 April, the campaign will be launched in a webinar which you can register for here. You can join the list of organisations, send tweets, letters to your government, to the media, etc. Meanwhile in El Salvador, communities continue to hold rallies and community bonfires. On 21 April they will hold the Water March at Lake Güija on the border with Guatemala and El Salvador to demand the closure of the Cerro Blanco Mine (led by the Ecofeminist Movement of El Salvador). See proposed activities HERE.

As we have already denounced, the arrests of Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Antonio Pacheco «Chico Montes» and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega correspond to the desire of Nayib Bukele’s government to repeal the mining law.

This arrest was arbitrary, not associated with any current crime but with an alleged crime committed 30 years ago during the civil war (1980-1992). And before anything is proven, the five will be subjected to six months of pre-trial detention, which can be fatal in the subhuman conditions of Salvadoran prisons. Moreover, in the first hearing they were subjected to, it was proven that the case is meaningless and that it is based on weak evidence and testimonies that are not sufficient to sustain an accusation. To add to these outrages, the five have been held incommunicado since the sentence was passed and have not been able to see their families.

The real and only reason for their detention was their political relevance, linked to various struggles for the defence of nature, especially against Metallic Mining and to the Association of Social Economic Development Santa Marta-ADES. The accusation also adds more cynicism to the situation suffered by this community, as for more than 30 years they have been denouncing and demanding justice for massacres committed by the Salvadoran state in their community during the war, which have never been clarified or concluded.

Afterwards, the communities continued to be ignored.

The accusation also adds more cynicism to the situation suffered by this community, as for more than 30 years they have been denouncing and demanding justice for massacres committed by the Salvadoran state in their community during that war, which were never clarified or concluded.

After the war, the communities continued to be ignored and ignored, and after the war they had to confront mining, which began to take away their territory and poison them. As a result of mining, 90% of Salvadoran surface waters were contaminated. Their struggle left three martyrs in the twelve years prior to the victory of the ban on metal mining in 2017. It was in this struggle that the organisation to which the detainees belong, ADES, was born in the Santa Marta community. The arrest in January of its director raised suspicions that the reason was to overturn one of the main architects of the ban, and in 2017 El Salvador became the only country in the world with a law against metal mining.

From here we join the international petition and organisations in El Salvador, which demands the state of El Salvador to release the five community leaders and environmental defenders; to desist from criminalising them and to ensure that in El Salvador not only human rights are respected, but also the rights of people who defend rights.

Join this petition so that the State of El Salvador stops criminalising the Santa Marta 5! Show the Santa Marta community that they are not alone! Let’s demand that the State of El Salvador respects and complies in all its forms with the Law prohibiting metallic mining!

This outrage also corresponds to a wave of repression that reached its peak at the end of March 2022 when the government declared a state of emergency, in theory as a response to a wave of violence committed by gangs, but which then led to an escalation of repression at all levels, including the political level. This was reported in the report ‘We can detain whoever we want’: Widespread human rights violations during the ‘emergency regime’ in El Salvador», which documented mass arbitrary detentions, torture and other forms of ill-treatment of detainees, enforced disappearances, deaths in custody and abusive criminal prosecutions up to December. During this period the government conducted hundreds of indiscriminate raids, mostly in low-income neighbourhoods, detaining more than 58,000 persons, including more than 1,600 children. Collective hearings were held for up to 500 detainees, and more than 51,000 people were sent to pre-trial detention under newly passed laws. The Salvadoran prison population tripled from 39,000 in March 2022 to almost 95,000 detainees in November.


Translated with (free version)


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