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Salvador Update: Press Conference Tuesday

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    ~~~ This is an update following the brutal attack on the student mobilization on July 5. The escalating human rights violations in El Salvador has resulted in
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 13, 2006
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      ~~~ This is an update following the brutal attack on
      the student mobilization on July 5. The escalating
      human rights violations in El Salvador has resulted in
      a call for a press conference on the steps of City
      Hall next Tuesday, July 18 at 11:00 a.m. The press
      conference is called by the SO CAL EMERGENCY COMMITTEE
      Dangerous Repercussions of July 5 Violence in El

      Jailed students released, but harsh threats by Saca
      Administration, U.S. Embassy continue

      CISPES Update

      July 13, 2006

      It’s been just over a week since a student protest in
      San Salvador resulted in violent police repression and
      two police deaths. The violence, which erupted during
      a student protest against bus fare hikes, also led to
      the police occupation of El Salvador’s National
      University (UES) for days, the emergency evacuation of
      more than 700 people, the capture of between 20 to 30
      students, and a university administrator being gravely
      injured. Over the weekend the students were released
      from jail due to lack of evidence, the police finally
      left the university, and on Tuesday a captured union
      leader was also released. However, the ramifications
      of last week’s repression remain frightening. The
      Human Right’s Office has called the violence
      instigated by the National Civilian Police (PNC) the
      “worst violation of human rights since the Peace
      Accords.” And although there was indeed a renegade
      within the protest that fired at police, social
      movement organizations, human rights groups, and
      student groups have all called the government’s
      response an unjustified use of force that represents a
      serious setback to the 1992 Peace Accords.

      Background – The events of July 5

      On Wednesday, July 5th an impressive array of police –
      including riot police (UMO), an elite, specialized
      group of police (known as the GRP), and snipers on the
      rooftop of a nearby children’s hospital – were
      stationed at the main entrance of the National
      University (UES) even before a student march arrived.
      The high school and university students were demanding
      reduced bus fare for students, elderly, and the
      differently-abled, a demand the students have been
      mobilizing around for at least two years. When the UMO
      violently apprehended two 15-year-old students (at
      least one of whom was later taken to the hospital
      because of the severe beatings) the other students
      responded by throwing rocks at the police. Police
      then began firing rubber bullets and tear gas, and
      advancing ominously towards the students. A
      participant in the protest pulled out an M-16 and
      fired at police. Two riot police died and nine more
      were injured. All students ran into the UES for

      Soon, police began firing real bullets
      from both the ground and from at least two artillery
      helicopters flying over the UES. A UES administrator
      was shot at from the air while inside a university
      office and remained hospitalized for a week because
      the bullet came so close to his heart. That
      afternoon, the government continued to militarize the
      surrounding streets of the UES, cordoning off entry
      and exit from the university and randomly rounding up
      students trying to evacuate the campus. At 10:00 that
      evening, the police violated the legally guaranteed
      autonomy of the National University by breaking the
      locks and occupying the campus. They remained inside
      for the next 4 days.

      Government Response: Smear, Disinformation, and more

      Within a matter of minutes of the violence, ARENA
      public officials were blaming the FMLN party, long
      before any clarification of the incident or an initial
      investigation of the events was possible. “I formally
      accuse the FMLN of being behind these actions,” said
      Saca on radio and TV stations shortly afterwards.
      “It is time Salvadorans realize that if the FMLN had
      won, there would be armed groups circulating the
      streets.” All of the mainstream media joined Saca in
      accusing the protestors and the FMLN of attacking the
      PNC, the media and the paramedics. At a press
      conference held at noon that day, the government used
      false information to justify the use of force by
      police. Officials claimed that students had AK-47s
      and snipers within the UES, and they claimed that the
      FMLN had planned to the action to distract attention
      from an internal crisis.

      Despite an understanding that the police would be
      accompanied at all times while on campus, the PNC
      broke into the university at 10:00 pm that Wednesday –
      where ARENA claimed there were weapons arsenals– and
      were not joined by university officials or Human
      Rights observers until 8:00 am the following morning.
      Simultaneously, about 30 police raided the offices of
      the Union Confederation of Salvadoran Workers (CSTS)
      in another alleged “search for weapons.” Union leader
      Daniel Ermesto Morales was beaten and detained for
      illegal gun possession, although the only gun they
      found was registered to a private security officer on
      the premises. The police raid and pillage of the CSTS
      offices came in response to a press conference held
      there by social movement organizations on July 5th in
      which they denounced the government’s repressive
      actions that morning. Initially, police refused to
      provide information about the whereabouts of Morales
      and the captured students. Morales was ultimately
      held for five days until a judge released him on
      Tuesday morning.

      Meanwhile, the police have arrested one man that they
      claim was giving cover to the shooter that fired the
      M-16, and have begun a massive manhunt for Mario
      Belloso Castillo, the supposed murderer of the two
      riot police. Because both men have been members of
      the FMLN, ARENA has launched a full-blown smear
      campaign claiming that the FMLN was behind the attacks
      and that it is a terrorist organization. The FMLN
      responded to the attacks on the party by condemning
      the use of violence in protests and pointing out that
      it cannot control the individual actions of the
      100,000 party members.

      However, while Belloso has indeed been identified in
      photos, only a thorough investigation can prove that
      he actually killed the two riot police. Last
      Thursday, the Human Right’s Ombudswoman Beatrice de
      Carrillo declared that “the deaths appeared to be very
      exact sniper executions that hit one police officer in
      the head and the other in the heart, to kill. This
      indicates that there has been a specific will to
      provoke this outcome.” She added that media footage
      of the shooter isn’t proof that this person was the
      author of these executions, and that the government’s
      only source of information – an anonymous informant –
      is insufficient.

      Challenged accounts, and more fallout from the

      Authorities of the National University have challenged
      claims by the PNC that there were weapons found on the
      campus. PNC officials have also asserted that police
      helicopters did not shoot, despite witnesses, pictures
      and video footage to the contrary. They also deny
      claims that there were snipers at the nearby
      children’s hospital despite equal proof, as well as
      claims that multiple air force planes flew over the
      university, in addition the helicopters. On Tuesday,
      University officials released photos showing police
      firing from helicopters.

      In defiance of the judiciary, President Saca and
      Minister of the Interior Figueroa have stated they
      will appeal the release of the students, claiming that
      there is more than enough evidence to incriminate
      them, while the union leader from CSTS will be
      prosecuted for illegal firearms possession.

      Most ominously, ARENA has repeated labeled all those
      involved in recent protests “terrorists” and used the
      justification of the violence to push the so-called
      “anti-terrorist” law, a draconian measure that would
      criminalize building occupations, street blockades,
      and other common popular protest tactics. The law is
      so outlandish that even allied right-wing parties
      refused to support it last Thursday, and the Assembly
      voted instead to create an ad hoc commission to
      further investigate the events of July 5. Still, the
      law may be presented again by ARENA in the coming

      What’s next for El Salvador?

      Without a fair, transparent investigation, it is
      possible that the whole truth about the shooting last
      Wednesday will never be known. What is clear is that
      the aftermath of the violence gives the government
      justification for a dramatic escalation of violence
      against the social movement. Already the government
      is threatening to investigate student groups and
      others because they are presumably armed. Student and
      youth groups have denounced intimidation after their
      offices were ransacked by police. Auxiliary bishop
      Gregoria Rosa Chavez demanded to know the truth this
      past Monday, echoing the demand of many Salvadorans: a
      thorough, independent investigation.

      Such an investigation, however, is even more unlikely
      given U.S. intervention into the case. U.S.
      Ambassador Douglas Barclay gave a rare interview to
      the press on Saturday in which he repeated Saca’s line
      of calling this a “terrorist act” and implying that
      the FMLN was behind the shootings. He then suggested
      that the U.S. could “help” in the investigation
      through FBI assistance. This incident makes clear
      that the U.S. should not continue its training and
      support of Salvadoran police, or legitimize their
      actions through the presence of a “police
      professionalizing” academy – the ILEA – which
      coincidently graduated its first class at the end of
      June. As social movement leader, Santiago Flores
      said, “The government is sharpening its repressive
      tools as the only answer to continue with this
      exclusionary economic model and maintain power.” Even
      though the mainstream media has concealed the original
      causes of the protest – the economic crisis that
      exists in El Salvador – it will certainly be the cause
      for more mobilizations.

      Committee In Solidarity With The People of El Salvador
      8124 West 3rd Street L.A. Ca. 90048
      Founded: 1980 - 25 Years of Solidarity

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