On June 18, 2009, community leader and FMLN activist Gustavo Marcelo Rivera was abducted and 12 days later found murdered in the department of Cabañas. Rivera was known for his role in the local anti-mining committee in the municipality of San Isidro, which has waged an ongoing battle against the Canadian gold mining company, Pacific Rim, due to its activities in the area and their environmental implications.
Nearly one month later, persecution of other local leaders occurs. On July 23, Jose Beltran, Oscar Beltran and Ludwin Iraheta, three young reporters of the Radio Victoria community radio station in Cabañas begin receiving death threats in writing and by phone, stating that “they will be next,” “that they are on the list,” and “they should be careful because they have spoken too much in San Isidro.” Radio Victoria has provided ongoing coverage of the human and environmental rights situation in Cabañas, including the local resistance and organizing to counter the mining company´s activities, the death of Rivera and electoral fraud in San Isidro in January 2009.
Similarly, on July 27, Father Luis Quintanilla, a local priest committed to human and environmental rights, narrowly escaped armed assault while driving on the road between the cities of Victoria and Sensuntepeque, Cabañas. During the last few days, Father Quintanilla has reportedly received death threats via telephone, including phrases such as, “the damned ¨reds¨ disguised as priests will be finished,” and “those who don’t want the same thing that happened to Marcelo should remain quiet.”
The local NGO, the Association of Social & Economic Development in Santa Marta, ADES, has played a key role in denouncing human rights violations and assisting community organization efforts in San Isidro in both environmental and local democracy issues in the historically conservative department of Cabañas. As a consequence, ADES director and renown social leader Antonio Pacheco has also received death threats along with the Radio Victoria youth and Father Quintanilla.
ADES and other social movement members believe that Salvadoran ultra-rightwing forces are responsible for the threats as well as the murder of Rivera. They are calling on the support of the international community to press Salvadoran authorities to provide protection for those persecuted, an investigation of Rivera´s death and the current threats, and for the overall respect of human and constitutional rights including the right of freedom of expression and access to information.
Source: Asociación de Desarrollo Económico y Social – ADES Santa Marta