Job Opportunities: El Salvador Co-Coordinator



The U.S. El Salvador Sister Cities Network is excited to announce the search for a new member of our team.  This position will be based in the U.S., and begins in June of 2012. The newest member of our team will work closely with El Salvador staff, our Board of Directors and U.S. committees to ensure the strength and growth of our network.


The U.S. Coordinator will be responsible for the following:

Financial and Legal Administration:
Documenting network finances with Quickbooks and preparing financial reports
Processing donations and sending donor thank yous and tax receipts
Tracking & managing monthly donor program
Assuring that organization is fulfilling national and state legal requirements
Processing payroll and national and state taxes 

Fundraising and Development:
Coordinating fundraising strategies with board and finance committee.Overseeing yearly fundraising campaign 
Preparing print and online fundraising appeals
Managing donor database
Outreach to major donors and work with board on major donor strategy
Writing content of Annual Report and other promotional materials
Researching, proposing and implementing new fundraising opportunities

U.S. Grassroots Outreach:
Direct & frequent communication with Sister Cities committees
Outreach to target committees as specified by Sister Cities board
Supporting committees’ fundraising and organizational capacities
Travel to visit committees in U.S. when possible
Encouraging and helping plan and prepare for delegations 
Planning speaking tours in coordination with El Salvador staff
Building relationships with new contacts and establishing new sistering relationships. 

Network Coordination
Weekly team meetings with El Salvador staff
Monthly board and finance committee calls
Participation in October National Gathering and Sister Cities U.S. tour 
Participation in U.S. Spring board meeting

Position Requirements

    •       Ability to work well independently, self-supervise and problem-solve is essential.

    •       Experience working with grassroots organizations in the United States.

    •       Experience in Latin America, especially in El Salvador is a plus.

    •       Fluency in Spanish and English is preferred.

    •       Strong cultural sensitivity and willingness to adapt in cross-cultural environments.

    •       Strong written and spoken communication skills.

    •       The ability and willingness to travel both domestically and internationally as needed.

    •       Ability to work in a team.

    •       Experience with fundraising or administration is a plus.

    •       Experience with accounting or willingness to learn accounting software

    •       Familiarity with the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities network preferred.



It is strongly preferred that the coordinator be based close to any of the following Sister City committees:

Arlington, MA, Austin, TX, Bangor, ME, Binghamton, NY, Cambridge, MA, Concord, NH, Crystal Lake, IL, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, Lawrence, KS, Manhattan, KS, Madison, WI, Watertown, MA or Wichita, KS.


Salary and Benefits:

The position is part time 20 hours/week  (Possibility of increasing to 25/week in 2013) with a gross pay of $1480 per month. Monthly healthcare stipend.


Job Commitment:

The job commitment is a minimum of 2 years.


Process and Timeline:

The person hired will begin working in June, 2012. We will be accepting applications until May 7th. We will arrange a telephone and /or in-person interview after receiving the application.


To apply:

Please send a cover letter, resume and two letters of reference to: Jesse Kates-Chinoy at




Sister Cities Presidential Election Observation Report

By United States-El Salvador Sister Cities and the Social Initiative for Democracy

Presidential Elections March 15th, 2009

For the presidential elections on March 15th, 2009, U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities, together with the Social Initiative for Democracy, coordinated a delegation of 24 observers, among them international and Salvadoran national observers.  The group consisted of social workers, students, psychologists, union representatives, teachers, university professors, and others.  The participants came from sixteen cities across the United States.The delegation observed in the following municipalities:  El Puerto de la Libertad in the Department of La Libertad, Arcatao in the Department of Chalatenango, Cinquera in the Department of Cabanas, Tecoluca in the Department of San Vicente, and Suchitoto in the Department of Cuscutlan.

The objective of the delegation was to observe the electoral process of the March 15th, 2009 elections in an objective, neutral and impartial manner, for the purpose of presenting the observations to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and to the U.S. Sister Cities national network.  We will submit a copy to our respective U.S. Congressional representatives and to those that have collaborated with our organization.  We will also present a copy to President Barack Obama’s Administration, specifically to the Department of State and to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador.

Foremost, we would like to give special recognition to the Salvadoran people who came out in large numbers to exercise their right to elect their president and vice-president.  In particular, we would like to thank all the JEM (Municipal Electoral Boards), the JED (Departamental Electoral Boards), the JRV (Voting Receiving Boards), and the National Civil Police for the orientation, assistance and support provided to us before, during and after the elections.

As an electoral observation group that has been present in the country since the beginning of January 2009, we would like to emphasize that in comparison to the January elections, the elections in March were better organized, fluid and orderly.  We observed that various problems and anomalies that existed in January did not occur in March.  The general environment during the elections was one of tranquility, order and harmony between the members of the JRVs (Vote Receiving Boards).  Nonetheless, we observed some anomalies and incoherencies that were not resolved befor the March elections.

Tecoluca, San Vicente
    Katherine Greenman
    Jessica Newcomb
    Catherine Hoffman
    Don McClain
    Vanessa Cardinale

Over the course of Election Day, our electoral observation delegation observed:

Opening and set-up
-    All the tables had their electoral packages at 6:45 a.m., however the Voting Center did not open until 7:30 a.m. The delay resulted from the fact that table #08478 was missing one of the members of the JRV (Junta Receptora de Votos, or Vote Receiving Board) from the FMLN. There was an argument over whether the table could begin without all its members. The table did not set up, and it did not open until 7:45 a.m., even though the rest of the center was already open.
-    Four tables were in dispute during the set-up because the names on the credentials of the members of the JRVs were misspelled.
-    The set-up was done in an orderly and calm manner.
-    Voting by the members of the JRV was done in an incoherent manner. Some voted in secret and others did not. Some JRV members and vigilantes voted after the voting center had opened.
-    The physical conditions of the voting center made voting difficult for disabled people and seniors, and there was not adequate help for these voters.
-    Before the center opened, while it was still dark, there was a projector displaying ARENA party images on a wall.

The voting process
-    There were very long lines in the morning for the majority of the tables.
-    There were many inconsistencies in the application of the indelible ink and with the application of the ink of illiterate voters.
-    The curtains of the voting booths were not sufficient to insure the secrecy of the vote. In many cases, the party overseers could see citizens’ votes, due to the fact that, for lack of space, the party overseers were positioned close to the booths instead of behind the tables. In addition, many voters didn’t know how to correctly use the curtain.
-    In the cases in which the JRV couldn’t resolve disputes over the validity of DUIs (Documento Unico de Identidad, or Universal Identity Document), they called the JEM (Municipal Electoral Board). However, the JEMs argued a lot.
-    In general there was little party propaganda inside the voting center. There were some cases of bags with the ARENA flag and inconsistency in the decisions to let people enter who carried the FMLN flag. The person who interviewed voters in the exit poll had the ARENA flag on her clipboard.

Close and Revision
-    The voting center was closed at 5:00 on the dot, and the majority of the people who were not officials left.
-    There was a lot of inconsistency in the vote count process. Some JRVs stamped the unused ballots before 5 p.m. Some JRVs did not take out all the contents of the electoral package before beginning the count. Some presidents did not check the signatures on the backs of the ballots. The method of counting the ballots of each party was different at every table.
-    In spite of some arguments, the majority of the members of the JRVs cooperated very well in the vote count process.

Arcatao, Chalatenango
JRVs 07713-07717
    Robert Skloot
    Marc Becker
    Robert Blum
    Anna Esther Levenson-Falk

Over the course of Election Day, our electoral observation delegation observed:

Before set-up
-    People began to gather at the voting center at 4:00 a.m. The representatives of the FMLN arrived first and later, at 4:55 a.m., the ARENA party representatives arrived.

 Opening and set-up
-    Set-up began on time – at 5:00 a.m. – and the voting center opened at 6:45 a.m.
-    JRV #07715 was missing a member and a substitute from the ARENA party at 6:30 a.m. The problem was resolved before 7:00 a.m. and did not cause any delay.
-    There were disputes over whether the members of the JRV should vote publicly or in the booths. The ARENA party representatives said that everyone had to vote in the booths. At some tables, the ARENA representatives voted in the booths while the FMLN representatives voted publicly.
-    Some tables had to use flashlights during the set-up because the overhead lights were out, including JRV #07713.
-    The Voting Center Coordinator gave reminders of the DUI numbers that were too high to be valid to vote in these elections.

The voting process
-    In the first hours of voting, there were long lines, however at 11:00 a.m. there were no longer as many people.
-    The voting center was located outdoors. There was no delineation between the voting center and the street.
-    Vote secrecy was not respected. Many citizens voted publicly, perhaps even more than voted inside the booths. When questioned, members of JRV #07716 suggested to voters that they vote on the table instead of inside the booth. After voting, one citizen showed his marked ballot to the crowd.
-    The party overseers were very willing to help voters. They came quickly when people appeared to hesitate and have trouble with the voting process (such as seniors or voters who could not read), and they asked if these voters needed help. Sometimes, the party overseers even marked the ballots instead of the voter. This generally took place on the table rather than inside the booth.
-    The curtains on the voting booths were inadequate to protect the secrecy of the vote.
-    The party overseers of JRV #07715, among others, folded the marked ballots for voters. They folded the ballots in a way that citizens’ votes were visible.
-    Application of the ink was inconsistent. At some tables, ink was applied to the thumb and in others to other fingers. Many people cleaned their fingers after voting. The JRVs did not check voters’ fingers before giving them ballots. The indelible ink was not very visible.
-    Observers from other institutions interfered quite a bit in the process. In one case, an observer took a crayon away from an ARENA party overseer, accusing him of having used it to mark ballots. In reality, the party overseer had the crayon because a voter had passed it to him after voting. Another observer consulted with the members of the JRV about how to the process should be run during the vote count.
-    We received denouncements that names were found on the electoral registry of people who had died or who lived in other municipalities.
-    Even though the PNC was present, they did not enter the voting center or interfere with the process.
-    We received many denouncements of Hondurans voting, including the President of JRV #07714. We saw that a national observer from the PDDH (Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, or the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights) called the Attorney General of the Republic so that it would be investigated, but we do not know the result. There was a lot of confusion over whether people with dual citizenship could vote.
-    A member of the PNC arrived to vote at JRV #07715. He had taken off his gun but was still in uniform. There was confusion over whether or not he could vote, and in the end it was agreed that he could vote if he took of his uniform shirt.
-    There was a lot of FMLN party propaganda inside the voting center, including: signs, posters, a pickup parked between two voting tables playing partisan programs and flying FMLN flags.
-    The Attorney General of the Republic was hardly present during the election process.
-    Preparations for the close of voting were begun at 4:15 p.m., including counting the detached corners of used ballots and beginning to stamp some of the unused ballots. This did not cause any inconvenience.

Close and Revision
-    The close and count process was done in an orderly and clear manner.
-    In JRV #07715, there was a ballot without the seal of the Secretary, but it had all the necessary signatures and was of the same paper as the other ballots. The JRV decided to count the vote.
-    In JRV #07715, there was a moment when a member of the JEM wanted to intervene in the process, but he was reminded that he could not unless the JRV asked for his help.
-    In JRV #07714, the president did not show the back side of ballots to the rest of the JRV.

Suchitoto, Cuscatlán
Voting Centers: Centro Escolar Isaac Ruiz Aramo-Suchitoto
    Centro de Votación Residencial- Comunidad de Ichanqueso
    Centro de Votación Residencial- Comunidad de Las Américas 
    Maria Teresa Díaz Alba
    Maria Belén Arrondo
    Enrique Garbayo Ibero

Over the course of election day, our electoral observation delegation observed:

Opening and set-up
Various members of the JRV representing the ARENA party arrived late and, despite of this, tried to assume the positions and vote as members of the JRV.
A party overseer representing the ARENA party arrived without their credential and was given the seat, but in the end the party overseer was not permitted to vote.

Voting process:
The ARENA party headquarters was in the same door as the voting center. Because of this circumstance, there was party propaganda, groups of activists entering and leaving, cars with partisan signs, etc. at less that 100 meters from the voting center.
There was an argument including verbal aggression and insults on the part of an ARENA vigilante towards the chief of the voting center, who was from the FMLN. This aggression showed contempt and intent to humiliate the center chief.
One of the JRVs was missing 10 ballots
There were some cases of one person signing for another person.
The voting center did not have sufficient space for some of the tables.

Cinquera, Cabanas
    Diana Maritza Guelespe
    Abel Enrique Nunez Aguilar
    Sean Hallisey

During Election Day our delegation observed:

Before voting center installation
-    The Municipal Electoral Board (JEM) decided to meet with the members of the JRV the night before, instead of the morning of Election Day, to assure that the voting center opened on time.  The JEM invited the electoral observers to the meeting.
-    During the meeting there was an argument between representatives of the ARENA party and representatives of the FMLN because some supervisors of the ARENA party had not assigned themselves to voting tables.  The Secretary of the JEM confirmed that each supervisor had to have a specific table.  The disagreement was resolved when the president of the JEM began to assign tables to all the supervisors.
-    After the meeting with the JRVs finished, the JEM had their own meeting. During this meeting two disagreements arose: The president of the JEM stated that he himself and his substitute had the right to vote in Cinquera, even though their names did not appear in the electoral registry.  He said that because he lives in Cinquera and because he had voted in Cinquera in previous elections, he should have the right to vote in Cinquera for the presidential elections.  The representatives from the FMLN stated that they did not have the right to vote in Cinquera because their names were not in the electoral registry.  The argument lasted an hour, until the Secretary of the JEM called a member of the JED, who explained to the president of the JEM why he could not vote in Cinquera.
-    The other dispute concerned Sonido Local, a youth radio station.  The president of the JEM stated that the radio had to close the day of the elections because they transmitted party propaganda of the FMLN and that it could be heard inside the voting center.  The secretary responded that it was not FMLN propaganda and that they only reported on the electoral process.  The argument lasted an hour, and they agreed to not close the radio station.

Installation and Opening
-    At 4:30 am members of the JEM, the JRV, and members of the National Civil Police were present in the voting center.  Representatives of the Federal District Attorney’s Office arrived at 6 am.
-    The president of the JEM declared that he had the right to vote in Cinquera, even though his name did not appear in the electoral registry and that if anyone denied him his right to vote he was going to have them arrested.  Both attorneys from the FMLN and ARENA argued over the problem.  Finally, they called a representative of the District Attorney to resolve the dispute.  The decision was that the president of the JEM could not vote in Cinquera.
-    Representatives of the FMLN complained that there was a Honduran citizen sitting as a member of a JRVand thus he did not have the right to vote at the table.  Also, they stated that he did not appear in the national electoral registry.  The dispute was argued inside the JEM for twenty minutes, while the JRVs installed the voting tables. After much frustration, representatives from the FMLN suggested that everyone go to look up his name in the electoral registry on the Internet.  All members of the JEM, the District Attorney’s office and a Sister Cities observer, (Sean Hallisey), went to the Municipal Office of the Association for Development and Reconstruction where they looked up the name of the person on the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal) site.  They found the person’s name in the electoral registry and the dispute was resolved.
-    The representative from the Federal Attorney General’s Office was very frustrated with the dispute continuing amongst members of the JEM and he gave a warning that if they continued to argue and delay the electoral process he would have them arrested.

Closing and Revision
-    The count was done in an efficient manner and    the results were turned in correctly.

After Closing
-    Though we did not observe this, we received information that between 7 pm and 10 pm there was a fight between two women in the Plaza where someone shot a gun into the air.  They identified the women as sympathizers of the FMLN and sympathizers of ARENA.  Our observers were accompanied to the office of the National Civil Police (PNC) to document the testimony of Marta, an FMLN sympathizer.  She was trying to make a complaint to the Police against her attackers.  Marta stated they beat her and a woman named Yancey kicked her while she tried to enter a store.  Marta said that the father of Yancey shot the gun in the air and threatened to kill her and a boy named Milton, from the radio station Sonido Local, who was recording the ongoing events.
-    After asking about the process, the Police explained that they could not enter Yancey and her father’s house without an arrest warrant.  The Police officers mentioned that this type of incident had never happened in Cinquera before.  When our observers left the Police were still outside the house waiting for a detective to arrive.

Puerto de La Libertad, La Libertad
Two voting centers; larger voting center with 57 JRVs and smaller with 8 JRVs.

    Michael Ring, Sr.
    Michael Ring, Jr.
    Coralia Ring-Martinez
    Michael Ring-Martinez
    Esther Chavez
    Joaquin Cruz
    Susan Kingsland
    Patricia Arvidson
    Kira Vinke
    Emily Carpenter
    Leigh Hardy
During Election Day our delegation observed:

1.  Installation and Opening
-  In general, the voting centers were well-prepared and started on time. The registry was posted outside the center from very early in the opening process.  Police checked bags at the door, which slowed and finally stopped throughout the day.
-  Outside the voting center, lines were not long at this point in the day.  Street vendors did not respect the rule of staying 100 meters from the entrance, but did not slow people’s entrance into the voting center. 
-  There was a wait while the JEM went to each table checking credentials.  The head of the JEM went personally to each table.
-  Some JRVs were in a state of confusion, did not know the steps to take; did not know in what order to sit.
-  It became apparent in the closing and counting that some tables did not properly check over their materials – some were missing materials in their electoral packages, but did not notice until the end of the day.
-  At some tables, the table workers voted in private, and at others, showed their vote; there was confusion about when and how table workers ought to vote.
-  At  JRV 05072, the substitute for Vocal 2 (ARENA) attempted to take the place of the Vocal 1 (FMLN), who had not yet arrived.  The head of the JRV did not allow this to happen, and later on the Vocal 1 position was filled by an FMLN worker.
-  At some tables, the ballot boxes were not sufficiently taped closed.
-  At some tables, party overseers (rather than table workers) were observed counting the blank ballots.

2.  Voting process:
-  Flow of people through the voting center was very smooth and well-organized, with no collective confusion.  We observed that the orientation of voters was good, with vigilantes and supervisors helping voters find their proper table.
-  Outside the voting center, there were information tents for both parties.
-  At times, the line to vote was blocks long; particularly in the mid-to-late morning.
-  As observers, we were treated very well by TSE, JEM, and JRVs.
-  Disputes over one vote often delayed voting for all voters in line at that table for a disproportionate amount of time.
-  JRV #05028 documented two names on the registry that were from different municipalities.  Both people voted.  The names and DUI numbers are: Alicia Ann Alvarez Guthrie, #02415319-2; Rene Edgardo Alvarez Contrero, #00749508-6.
JRV #05034 documented three names on the registry that were from different municipalities.  These people voted.  The names and DUI numbers are: Maria de los Angeles, #03152670-4 (Santa Tecla); Ana Maria Campos Castillo, #03840674-3 (Urdes Colon); Ana Edith  Carballo de Penoi, #01208700-0 (Via de Mar).
JRV #5040 it was observed that the son of the president was acting as a substitute without credentials.
-  At JRV #5041 the substitute for the secretary was handing voters ballots while saying “con todo” [the slogan of the ARENA campaign].  The substitute was removed from the table by the FMLN supervisor.
JRV #5042 was filling out opening paperwork at 11 am
-  At JRV #5036, the secretary was pre-signing and tearing the corners of the ballots, then would leave the table, while the president distributed the ballots
-  At JRV #5041, the secretary was tearing the corners off several ballots at once, which would have made it possible to give multiple ballots to one voter
-  At some tables, there was confusion about the process of checking and keeping DUIs during voting
-  The indelible ink system was observed to be faulty in several different ways.  At some tables, the cap was left off the ink jar and the ink dried.  At some tables, voters did not push the inked sponge hard enough to ink their finger.  At some tables, voters wiped the ink off their finger before it could dry.  At many tables, voters’ hands were not checked for ink before they voted.
-  Several tables were observed not checking the backs of DUIs (JRV #5075 and others).
-  At JRV #5071 a voter arrived to vote, but someone had already voted using his DUI number.  The signature on the signature registry did not match the signature on the DUI, and the signature of the voter (when asked to sign his name on a piece of paper) matched the DUI signature perfectly.  JRV workers and observers concluded that someone else must have voted in his place with a false DUI.  The voter was not allowed to vote.  The voter’s name was Jose Adilio Paz Menjivar, DUI #03882665-0.
-  A similar event happened at JRV #5067, where a woman arrived to vote and someone had already signed in her place.  The voter’s name was Julieta Lopez de Ramirez, DUI #01051084-5.
-  At one JRV, the ballot box was in front of the secretary – the secretary had access to all the materials needed to vote.
-  At JRV #5078, the president was observed not stamping the registry at all.
-  At JRV #5057, a DUI with a sticker back, instead of a printed back,  was contested but eventually accepted and permitted to vote by the JRV.
-  At JRV #5058, a person voted although they had used a photocopied DUI.  The JRV decided this vote would be nullified, but in the closing, the vote was never nullified.
Several other tables (JRV #5049, #5050, #5025, among others) turned away voters who came with photocopied DUIs, and several tables turned away voters for having deteriorated, illegible DUIs (JRV #5032, #5042, #5046, #5049, #5027, among others).  At JRV #5046, a voter was not permitted to vote because according to his DUI he was married, and according to the registry, single.
-  However, the majority of tables had zero voters turned away for any reason.
-  Several tables, including JRV #05039 and #05035, voters were observed photographing their ballots after voting.
-  At several tables, including JRV#05035, vigilantes were watching voters vote.
-  Police who came to vote were in uniform and armed; police who were not TSE security loitered in the voting center
-  The JEM and TSE fulfilled well their role of pointing out problems that the tables needed help resolving.  One JEM member was intimidating with JRV workers, but most JEM members were calm and helpful to JRV workers.

3.  Closing and Revision
-  The voting center closed on time, at 5:02. No voters were locked out.
-  The closing and revision process was orderly and clear. 
-  Many tables had trouble lining up the numbers of unused ballots, voters, ballot corners, etc.  In some cases this was resolved through recounts and in other cases it was resolved in a way that wasn’t obvious to an observer.
-  Approximately four tables did not have adequate lighting and needed to count votes by flashlight.
-  There were several prolonged disputes over particular null or impugned votes, but in total a low percentage of votes were nullified.
-  The TSE at the larger voting center installed a system of numbers and queuing to return the sealed boxes to the JEM. This system failed, but the JEM responded with another system that was more effective.  However, the return of boxes to the JEM was very long, with many boxes yet to be delivered at 8:30 pm.
-  The JRVs at the larger voting center had a number of problems with the closing notes: not having them filled properly; missing forms from the electoral package, etc.
The JEM checked over the closing notes very briefly, without calculators.
-  At a number of tables it was observed that the JRV was not thoroughly checking the backs of the ballots for the signature and stamp.
-  At the JRV #05028 there were many ballots missing the Secretary’s signature, which the JRV sealed and signed during the count.
-  Several tables were observed counting ballots before the unused ballots had been stamped as unused.
-  In the larger voting center, there were announcements of which party was winning before the counting was complete in the center.

Chilama, La Libertad:
Testimony of attempted vote-buying taken March 14, 2009, in Chilama, La Libertad.
Witness:  Juan Francisco Trujillo Guardado, President of Community Directive, Chilama         DUI # 03428276-5         Cel: 7531-2688

Testimony: There are 120 registered voters in Chilama. Three people went to his office in the Puerto de la Libertad on March 3rd.  They said they wanted at least 35 people to go vote in Soyapango.  They wanted Juan Francisco to send people from his community.  In total they wanted 2,000 voters from the municipality to be at the voting tables. They wanted these people to vote at the tables and afterwards return to their own municipality and vote again. They were going to give out agricultural products in Soyapango, provide transportation and food. Juan Francisco told them “no” many times.  He told them that he had to speak with the people of his community.  “I can’t send them.  It depends on them.”  He said. He informed the community about the incident. In the end, no one from the town went.
Our evaluation of the work done by the different institutions is:   

1. The Vote Receiving Boards (JRVs) 
In Tecoluca: The system of party representation in the JRV make up enabled an impartial procedure. Everyone on the JRV collaborated together and focused on the work. The JRVs created a welcoming environment for many of the illiterate and disabled voters. 
In Suchitoto:  The members of the JRVs didn’t have enough training about their roles and the electoral process.

2. The Political Parties
In Tecoluca: The political parties acted in an orderly manner and there were many sympathizers from both parties helping people vote. 
In Arcatao: The political parties promoted political propaganda inside the voting center.
    3. The Municipal Electoral Boards (JEM)
In Tecoluca: There were many party motivated disputes within the JEM and the JRVs asked for help when the decisions should have been made by the JRVs themselves.  However, the JEMs gave very clear instructions to the JRVs and the observers about their role.  . 
In Cinquera:  There was a lot of conflict and dispute between the members of the JEM, which affected the electoral process. 

Observations about Information being Censured

Also, we think it is important to point out that the efforts made by our organization and other organizations to provide neutral information to citizens, like the position of the government of the United States with respect to the elections or the content of Article 203 of the Electoral Code, were suspended.  However, we did not observe the same attitude towards campaigns like “I Won’t Turn Over El Salvador,” which had a political goal and continued up until March 15th.


The voting process from the opening until the count was calm and orderly, and despite some observed irregularities, at no time could it be said that they affected the overall process. As an electoral observation delegation that has had a presence in the country since the beginning of January, we want to highlight that, in comparison with the January elections, the March elections were carried out with a much higher level of organization, fluidity, and order.

There was confusion and a lack of understanding on the part of the JRVs about the process and the electoral code. However, the members of the JRVs worked well as teams. The fact that the JRVs were composed of members of both parties assured an impartial process.

The physical conditions of the voting centers were not adequate and caused problems with vote secrecy and difficulties for disabled people and seniors.

There were problems with vote secrecy, which in many cases was not respected, at times because of physical condition or the curtains, and at times as a result of the actions of the members of the JRVs, party overseers, and the votes themselves.

The worries that our and other electoral observation delegations expressed after the January elections about the indelible ink had not been resolved. The ink still did not adequately stain voters’ fingers, and the JRVs did not check voters’ fingers in a consistent manner.

We still received denouncements about inconsistencies and problems in the electoral registry, even though the majority of the national and international observers called this out as a problem in the January elections.

The members of the JEM made themselves very available to help the JRVs resolve conflicts or answer questions about the electoral code.

Even though the fluidity and efficiency of the opening and set-up of the voting centers was improved since the January elections, there were still many problems at the time of the close and count, principally with the count and the completion of the acts


Purge and update the electoral registry in accordance with the most recent census to ensure that all citizens have the right to vote in the municipality where they live, and that there are not names on the registry of people who have died or are from other countries.

The training for the members of the JRV should be more extensive, detailed and comprehensive to avoid inconsistencies and anomalies.

Improve conditions in the voting centers and surrounding areas to facilitate voting for disabled people and senior citizens, and to insure the secrecy of the vote, with a clear delineation between the voting center and the outside boundaries.  Also, improve the structure of the voting booths to insure privacy.

There should be more public education on the voting process.

Review the restrictions on information before the election.  Neutral and impartial information should be distributed if it does not contain any political message, and party propaganda should be restricted after the campaign deadline.

Consistent enforcement of restrictions on the presence of party propaganda inside the voting centers.


Sean Hallisey
Observation Delegation
United States-El Salvador Sister Cities


Anna Esther Levenson-Falk
Robert Blum
Robert Skloot
Marc Becker
Catherine Hoffeman
Katherine Greenman
Jessica Newcomb
Don Van Valen McClain
Vanessa Cardinale
Susan C. Kingsland
Michael Patrick Ring
Michael Patrick Ring, Jr
Coralia Anele Ring-Martinez
Pat Arvidson
Kira Vinke
Emily Carpenter
Leigh Wassel Hardy
Diana Maritza Guelespe
Abel Enrique Nuñez Aguilar
Joaquin de Jesus Cruz
Esther del Carmen Chavez de Cruz
Maria Teresa Díaz Alba
Maria Belén Arrondo
Enrique Garbayo Ibero

Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners, September 20 2007

September 20



The stubborn, arbitrary and unjust attitude of the government of the Salvadoran State, against our family members captured last July 2nd in Suchitoto. 

President Elias Antonio Saca and his Attorney General, upon their inability to prove in the 3 months that the Special Tribunal gave them, the alleged acts of terrorism and injury for which they captured, tortured and tried our family members, because the accusations are false, has asked the Special Judge appointed by the President, Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz to approve a six month extensionto the special court, arguing essentially that: a) they have given orders to ANDA, FISDL and the General Director of Protocol and Orders from the Ministry of Foreign Relations, to see if their functionaries were invited to (Suchitoto) and if their lives were in danger, and they have of yet received no response, and b) due to the complexity of the events and the quantity of people that they must interview, and they haven’t done it yet. To summarize, they do not have proof to sustain their accusations and for this reason they are asking for a 6 month extension. 

The Judge chosen by the President, Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz, in record time, has decided to support the request of the Attorney General’s Office, arguing that: a) it is a serious and complex crime, and b) that they have made the request within the timeframe established by the law and with sufficient arguments, and Judge Fuentes therefore asks the Special Court to concede SIX MORE MONTHS of extension so that the Attorney General may continue to investigate the case.

Formally, the Judges of the Special Court appointed by the President’s Office, Sandra Chicas and Gloria Lizama, must rule on the request for an extension, or grant a lesser extension. 

In any case, our family members must continue to present themselves at the Special Tribunal every 2 weeks to sign in, they cannot leave the country or change their residence, creating an unjust state of alarm that exhausts all of the accused and their families. 

The Supreme Court, instead of fulfilling its constitutional obligation of administering justice, in the case of the Habeas Corpus request filed in favor of those arrested in Suchitoto, and the appeals process of unconstitutionality filed against the Special Law against Acts of Terrorism and Law Against Organized Crime, laws created to reduce social and popular protest, MAINTAINS SILENCE AND COMPLICITY. In response to the request from our Committee, Dr. Agustin García Calderón, President of the Supreme Court has responded that if we so desire we are free to go and talk with an administrative employee of the Supreme Court, who maintains an office in the basement of the building, and in this way Dr. García Calderón evades his responsibility of responding to the Salvadoran citizens when their most elemental human and civil rights are being violated.


That the Diplomatic Corps accredited in our Country, the social, communal and labor organizations, academic, professional and religious as well as national and international institutions that defend respect for human rights, act immediately, contacting the Judges of the Special Court, Licenciadas Sandra Chicas and Gloria Lizama, asking them to STOP the arbitrary and unjust repression against those captured in Suchitoto, by denying the extension maliciously requested by the Attorney General.

Likewise, we ask them to demand that the Supreme Court ends the silence and complicity with which it has acted up until now.

The Special Court receives phone calls at the Telephones: 2264-1180 and 2264-1181 and the Fax #2264-1191




San Salvador, September 20th, 2007.






Prosecution Requests Extension, Journalist Assassinated - September 24, 2007

September 24, 2007:

The Suchitoto 13 have continued to organize for freedom and economic justice despite the ongoing case against them.  Still charged with Acts of Terrorism and Injuries, and facing up to 60 years in jail, Lorena, Rosa, Haydeé, Manuel, and the rest of the accused have been continuing their work, as well as making sure to comply with the terms of their provisional liberty, including showing up at the Special Tribunal every 2 weeks.

Following the original decree of 3 months preventative detention, Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz had set a September 28th deadline for the prosecution to present its evidence.  After this September 28th date, Judge Fuentes de Paz would then set a court date within the following 30 days.

The Prosecution Requests an Extension:

Just this week, we have received news that the Attorney General’s Office, through Judge Fuentes de Paz has solicited a 6 month extension for the deadline to present evidence, which would effectively move the projected court date well into next year.  The prosecution cites the complexity of the case, saying that it has solicited information from various public institutions and has yet to carry out a quantity of interviews.  Judge Fuentes has accepted the request for an extension, and now formally the Judges of the Special Tribunal, Lic. Sandra Chicas and Lic. Gloria Lizama, must rule on the request or grant a lesser extension.

CRIPDES, the MPR-12 and the Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners, along with the accused themselves, coincide in concluding that this request for an extension is a clear indicator that the prosecution has thus far been unable to collect substantial evidence against the defendants, and a sign of the political intentions behind the case, obliging the defendants to continue to carry out the terms of their provisional liberty, and live with the fear of a steep jail sentence.

Upon the news of the extension request, CRIPDES, the MPR-12 and the Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners began a demonstration and a fast for 48 hours in front of the Legislative Assembly and Supreme Court buildings.  The defense lawyers are still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on a motion of Habeas Corpus as well as an appeal to declare unconstitutional the Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism, and the Law against Organized Crime.  Dr. Agustín García Calderón, the President of the Supreme Court, declined to meet with the fasters.

Journalist Assassinated:

The morning of September 20th, as he was leaving his home the journalist Salvador Sánchez was brutally assassinated.  Sánchez worked as a reporter for Mayavision Radio, the YSUCA Radio and the Radio Cadena “Mi Gente”.

Salvador Sánchez  had been one of the journalists that had given the most direct and honest coverage of the events leading up to and following the arrest of the Suchitoto 13, and had been in direct contact with leaders from CRIPDES and the Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners.  Officials have alluded to personal enemies and delinquency as the possible explanations of Sanchez’s assassination, though the Director of the Natinal Civilian Police Force (PNC) also said Sanchez had received death threats.  Social movement leaders are worried that political motives may hide behind the high levels of crime and violence prevalent in Salvadoran society.  In an official statement the MPR-12 maintains that they “do not discard the idea that the recent [assassination] may be linked to the journalistic work… that Salvador Sánchez carried out.”  Salvadoran organizations are demanding that the Attorney General and the National Civilian Police force (PNC) carry out an in depth investigation into the killing of Salvador Sánchez




To read the corresponding statement from the Committee of Family Members of Political Prisoners in El Salvador, click here.

To read the corresponding statement from the Popular Resistance Movement, October 12th, MPR-12, click here.


Sample Letters to Salvadoran Officials

Please send faxes and emails to: 


1.  Excelentísimo Sr. Elías Antonio Saca, Presidente de El Salvador:

Telephone (011- 503) 2248-9000.

Fax (011-503) 2243-9947.

Email at this website: **NEW**


2.   Lic. Felix Garrid Safie,  Fiscal General de la república de El Salvador(Attorney General of El Salvador)

Telephone (011-503) 2249-8412 / (011-503) 2249-8749

Fax (011-503) 2528-6096

E -mail: fgsafie@fgr.gob.svThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


3.  Dr. Agustín García Calderón,: Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia(President of the Supreme Court of El Salvador)

Telephone (011-503) 2231-8300, (011-503) 2271-8888.
Fax (011-503) 2271-8754
Secretary's email:sandra_deolivares@csj.gob.svThis email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it  


3.  Charles L. Glazer, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador  

Telephone (011- 503) 2501-2999 or 011-503-2501-2003
Fax: (011-503) 2278-6020 (Consular department)


Sample Letter (Spanish):


(Title and Name)

Le escribo para expresar mi grave preocupación por las recientes acciones de represión realizadas en contra de la población rural en el Municipio de Suchitoto, así como la captura violenta y arbitraria de líderes de las comunidades.

La desmedida reacción policial se produjo contra la población en manifestación pacífica contra la privatización del agua, que no es otra cosa que la expresión legítima de descontento social ante las políticas anti-populares. Este tipo de acción represiva evidencia la violación de derechos humanos y amenazas a la libertad de organización y expresión. Los golpes, capturas, cateos, persecución y sobrevuelo de helicópteros traen a la memoria los momentos más difíciles para la población rural durante el conflicto armado, y veo con alarma este retroceso en el proceso de construcción de la democracia iniciado con los acuerdos de paz.

A la vez quiero denunciar la captura violenta de 13 personas incluyendo líderes de las comunidades y la organización no-gubernamental, CRIPDES, entre ellos Marta Lorena Araujo, Rosa María Centeno, María Haydee Chicas, y Manuel Antonio Rodríguez. Exijo para ellos el respeto a su integridad física y moral, y el proceso justo de ley que lleve a su inmediata liberación.

Por último quiero expresar mi solidaridad con las comunidades rurales y con CRIPDES en su labor a favor del desarrollo social y económico del país, un trabajo que he visto importante para la construcción de paz y democracia. Rechazo cualquier alegación directa o indirecta para vincular a CRIPDES con actividades terroristas, o con el caso de Mario Belloso y los sucesos del 5 de julio del 2006.


(your name)





 (Title and Name)

 I am writing to express my grave concern about the recent actions of repression carried out against the rural population in theMunicipality ofSuchitoto, as well as the violent and arbitrary capture of community leaders. 

 The disproportionate police reaction against the population came in response to a non violent protest against the privatization of water, a legitimate expression of social discontent toward policies that hurt the people. This type of repressive action gives evidence of the violation of human rights and threats to the freedom of organization and expression. Beatings, arrests, searches, persecution and helicopter fly-overs bring to memory the most difficult moments for the rural population during the past armed conflict, and I am alarmed by this step backwards in the process of building democracy that was proposed with the signing of the peace accords.

 As well I want to denounce the violent arrests of  13 people including leaders from the communities and the non-governmental organization, CRIPDES, among them Marta Lorena Araujo, Rosa María Centeno, María Haydee Chicas, and Manuel Antonio Rodríguez. I ask that you respect their physical and moral integrity, and follow the just process of law that leads to their immediate release.

 Finally, I want to express my solidarity with the rural communities and with CRIPDES in their work for the social and economic development of the country, which I have seen to be very important for the construction of lasting peace and democracy. I reject any direct or indirect allegations that try to link CRIPDES with terrorist activities, or with the case of Mario Belloso and the events ofJuly 5, 2006. 


(your name)

Latest News on 13 Charged with Terrorism


Political Prisoners in El Salvador: Citizens not Terrorists

For up to date information on the terrorism charges against CRIPDES leaders in the case of the Suchitoto 13, click on "E.S. Political Prisoners" on the menu at left. The latest updates are in "News."

You can find the most recent updates, press releases, and statements fromU.S. and Salvadoran organizations and officials, as well as ways to get involved in the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in El Salvador

Political Prisoners: Free the Suchitoto 13

test text



                       What happened

                       Sister Cities Positional Declaration

                       Current status of situation



                       How to get involved/here is an urgent action letter to send

                       Talk to your congressperson

                       Attend this vigil at a consulate




                       Press contacts if you need an interview

                      Media Bibliography (what has been published so far)



                       How to donate to CRIPDES organizing expenses and legal fees






Images from July 7 Protest

Footage of Arrests and Hearing Protests

For footage of the protest in Suchitoto, the arrests of CRIPDES leaders and the vigils outside the courthouse, click here.

Latest News : Political Prisoners in El Salvador : Take Action!

VERDICT IS OUT!  Please Take Action
The 14 detainees and CRIPDES leaders were tried today in a Special Tribunal for Acts of Terrorism.  Judge Ana Lucila Fuentes de Paz dismissed the charges for 1 detainee, and decreed "Preventative Detention" for 3 months for the other 13, maintaining the terrorism charges and allowing the prosecutors to collect more evidence.  Our action is required now, more than ever!  

Take Action to Protect Community Members and CRIPDES Leaders Wrongly Charged with "Terrorism" 

Use the contact information here rather than previous alerts, as it has been updated.


Please send faxes and emails to: 


1.  Excelentísimo Sr. Elías Antonio Saca, Presidente de El Salvador:

Telephone (011- 503) 2248-9000.

Fax (011-503) 2243-9947. **NEW AS OF THIS UPDATE**

Email at this website:**NEW**


2.   Lic. Felix Garrid Safie,  Fiscal General de la república de El Salvador(Attorney General of El Salvador)

Telephone (011-503) 2249-8412 / (011-503) 2249-8749

Fax (011-503) 2528-6096

E -mail:


3.  Dr. Agustín García Calderón,: Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia(President of the Supreme Court of El Salvador)

 Telephone (011-503) 2231-8300, (011-503) 2271-8888.
Fax (011-503) 2271-8754 **NEW, AND CORRECTED AS OF THIS UPDATE**
Secretary's email:   **CORRECTED**

4.  Charles L. Glazer, U.S. Ambassador to
El Salvador

Telephone011-503-2501-2999 or 011-503-2501-2003
Fax: (011-503) 2278-6020 (Consular department)


Thank you to all who have faxed, called, and emailed so far.  For those of you who have run into technical difficulties, this update should help.

1.  The fax numbers for Calderon's office and email addresses for Calderon's secretary and President Saca have been added/corrected.

2. Before all international phone calls or faxes, dial "011",then the country code "503", then the 8-digit number.

3.  If a fax number fails, in all likelihood it means it was busy.  Please try again.

4.  If a fax number fails repeatedly, please consider making a phone call. Make sure you dial 011 first.  Say, "Mi nombre es ____.  Hablo de los Estados Unidos.  Estoy preocupado por los trece detenidos del dos de julio. Los detenidos no son terroristas."  ("My name is____.  I'm calling from theUnited States.  I am concerned for the 13 prisoners of July 2.  The people being held are not terrorists.")  If they respond in Spanish you do not understand, simply repeat your statement.



  The Case Takes a Dangerous Turn; CRIPDES Members and Leaders Charged with Terrorism

We learned late Wednesday night that the 13 people arrested last Monday, July 2, including CRIPDES leaders and community members, are now being charged with “Aggravated Damages, Acts of Terrorism and Injuring a Police Officer.”  They will be tried under the newAnti-Terrorism Law, (read the specificshere) created by the Salvadoran government and President Saca.  This means that they are taken out of the provincial court system and will be tried in special tribunals, created specifically for cases under this law. 

Everything seems to indicate that these arrests were strategically planned by the government to discourage social protest and take apart the Salvadoran social movement.  There are reports that the Attorney General has planned to call on witnesses from within the National Civilian Police (PNC) and Riot Police (UMO).  At the time of publication of this message, CRIPDES members and supporters from the rural communities have peacefully gathered outside the courthouse inSan Salvador, the UMO Riot Police has surrounded the entire block, with helicopters circling overhead.

Charges were heard this morning, and preliminary information puts the public hearing of the case for this Saturday, July 7, at10:00 am.

This turns up the pressure for action on our part.  Under the anti-terrorism law possible jail time can reach nearly 40 years!  We need to show our solidarity now more than ever, and let the government know that CRIPDES leaders are not terrorists!

TAKE ACTION: Repression and Arrests


Latest News, Call to Action : CRIPDES Leaders Arrested, Violent Repression of Protest inSuchitoto,El Salvador on July 2nd



July 5, 2007,16:00 EDT

Dear friends,

Thank you for your attentiveness and patience in following the news after the events of July 2 in Suchitoto,
Cuscatlán Province,El Salvador. Our partners in the social movement inEl Salvador have been organizing over the past 3 days to respond to the violent repression of a peaceful protest and the capture and detention of CRIPDES leaders, both of which occurred Monday in Suchitoto. 

What you can do:

  1. Educate yourself about the situation (read the background below).
  2. Send three international faxes or emails(sample letter below), to:

1. Excelentísimo Sr. Elías Antonio Saca, Presidente deEl Salvador:

Telephone (country code 503) 2248-9000.
Fax (503) 2243-7857 / (503) 2243-9930.

2. Lic. Felix Garrid Safie,  Fiscal General de la república de El Salvador(Attorney General of El Salvador)

Telephone (country code 503) 2249-8412 / (503) 2249-8749

Fax (503) 2528-6096



3. Dr. Agustín García Calderón,: Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia(President of the Supreme Court of El Salvador)

Telephone (country code 503) 2231-8300, (503) 2271-8888.
Fax (503) 2243-9930,  (503) 22437857.

     3. Contact media that will publicize these events. Members of CRIPDES inEl Salvador are available for telephone interviews and English-Spanish translation is available via US-El Salvador Sister Cities. Contact:,, or (585) 360-1985.

Again, thank you for your attentiveness and for your action. The remainder of this email contains background information and a sample letter. Please read on.

In solidarity,

Emily Carpenter

US-ES Sister Cities


USESSC E-Bulletin, May 29 2007

USESSC E-Bulletin
US-El Salvador Sister Cities E-Bulletin
May 29, 2007            Issue #1 Vol. 1

    Dear Friends,
    Welcome to the first-ever edition of the Sister Cities E-Bulletin.

    We are happy to have this up and running at long last. It will continue to be published twice per month to share news, announcements and calls to action among members of the Sister Cities Network and our ally organizations. Each short article is linked to a webpage or email address so you can find out more. To suggest a news item for a future edition, drop an email to Happy reading!

    Emily Carpenter
    In the U.S. office.

In This Issue:

- Take Action: Say "No Deal" to the Democrats on Trade and Immigration
- Cambridge and San José Las Flores Celebrate 20 Years of Sistering
- Join us for a Delegation in September
- Read the latest updates

Action: Say"No Deal" to the Democrats on Trade and Immigration

        In March, El Salvador marked one year since the implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The livelihoods of small farmers and street vendors have been drastically affected, adding to the estimated 500 Salvadorans per day who leave their country and their families to seek work in the United States. In the meantime, over the past few weeks Democratic congressional leaders have announced so-called "deals" with the White House on immigration and trade. While these may be good for big business, the proposals will deal a sharp blow to workers, immigrants and the environment. Take action now! Call your representative and Senators now and say: "No deal on trade and immigration. We demand justice for workers, immigrants and the environment in the U.S. and Latin America."

Call your representative and Senators by dialing the capital switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Find talking points and further information on the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee site,

Take further action! Join Sister Cities, the Quixote Center, the Alliance for Responsible Trade, and others in signing on to an ad to be printed in the New York Times against Fast Track authority, which would help Bush pass more bad trade agreements:

Cambridge and San José Las Flores Celebrate 20 Years of Sistering

        In June of 1986, 26 families from San José Las Flores, Chalatenango, left Calle Real refugee camp in San Salvador and traveled for three days to re-establish their community in the heavily militarized mountains to the north. This month, seven delegates from Las Flores took a different sort of journey: they traveled north to Cambridge, Massachusetts to celebrate the joys and accomplishments that the two cities have shared in twenty years of sistering.

The delegates and their hosts filled their days with events in Cambridge and Boston. They were warmly welcomed everywhere from the Amigos bilingual school, to the Cambridge Womens' Commission, to the offices of State Rep. Alice Wolf and State Senator Jarrett Barrios. At public events and on local radio programs (listen to it here!) they shared "A Report from Las Flores", where they spoke of the history of San José Las Flores, the current situation in Chalatenango, and the Canadian gold mining companies who threaten to rob the communities' land and poison their water supplies. Throughout the delegation, people signed postcards reminding the CEO of Tribune Resources Corporation (the Canadian gold exploration company with interests in Chalatenango) that his company's operations will not be accepted in the region.

The renewed threat to San José Las Flores of gold mining shows that the struggle of the rural communities for justice and dignity continues, and the role of international solidarity and mutual exchange is as important as ever. We look forward together to the accomplishments and gains of the next twenty years, as we congratulate Cambridge and San José Las Flores on their sistering anniversary.

Read more and see photos here.

Join us for a Delegation in September!

        Friends of the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Network,

        You are invited to join an upcoming Sister Cities delegation!

Itching to get back to El Salvador? Wanting to visit for the first time? Missing the warm welcome of your sister community and the dynamic grassroots organizing experience of CRIPDES?

Sister Cities organizes 2 trips per year for interested individuals to visit El Salvador on an 8 day delegation experience. The next one is from September 8 to 16, 2007... so clear out your calendar.

The trip is made possible and made unique by Sister Cities' two decades of solidarity with the rural communities of CRIPDES, the largest peasants' movement in the country. The program includes visits and discussion with CRIPDES organizers and national leaders, as well as with other groups that dedicate their work to halting human rights violations, carrying forth Salvadoran liberation theology, and creating new, fair economic alternatives for the rural communities. We will also travel to the countryside to visit the organized communities, hear their stories of struggle and resistance, and continue to build and strengthen the solidarity relationships that have flourished for so long.

For costs and schedules, contact Trip dates are somewhat flexible, so write to us even if you can't miss that big event back home on the 15th.

Read the Latest

Visit Sister Cities' new website for recent updates and information:

Recently posted:
Central American Countries Protest Canadian Government's Role in Mining, May 21, 2007
Haymarket, McArthur Park, and the Silence that Still Speaks, May 1, 2007

The Sister Cities E-Bulletin is published the second and fourth Monday of every month. Send your suggestions for future E-Bulletin articles to

PO Box 2543, Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(585) 360-1985 .


Latest updates from the Immigration Working Group

Armed Forces Patrol Chalatenango Communities, October 3 2006

October 3, 2006 


San Salvador-Last week in Carasque, Chalatenango, a truckload of soldiers arrived without noticed, and before consulting with local authorities climbed the hill behind the village.  When members of the community board of Carasque realized what was going on, they fired up the PA system to call the community together.  Given that the inhabitants of this region were persecuted for twelve years during the Salvadoran Civil War by the same army, the presence of soldiers is seen as a threat by many.  The community decided to follow the soldiers up the hill, and confront them to find out what they were doing, and if they had permission from property owners to be on the land.  Open being questioned, the soldiers allegedly replied claiming they were surveying the land for environmental damage, deforestation, and erosion.  However, community leaders maintain that the soldiers were accompanied by foreigners linked to the mining companies operating in the region: an ominous sign for the population of North-eastern Chalatenango which has overwhelmingly voiced its opposition to mining. 

Since the July 5th shootings in the National University in San Salvador, military presence in the organized communities of the Association for the Development of El Salvador-CRIPDES has increased under an array of different justifications.  Military presence has been most pronounced in the departments of Chalatenango and San Vicente.  Riding the wave of reactions around the country to the rising violence and especially the shootings at the National University, this month the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed an anti-terrorism law, pushed by the Administration of President Tony Saca and his right wing ARENA party. 

Debate last month over the law unleashed a fierce barrage of name calling in the Legislative Assembly, calling back the ghosts of the Civil War.  While not entirely unusual, the extremes of the debate illustrate the polarized democratic spaces within the country, and the fear-mongering tactics of the Saca Administration.   Case in point was the discourse by Walter Guzmán of the right wing ARENA party during Assembly discussion of the anti-terrorism bill.  He accused the left wing parties and social organizations opposed to the Government of being terrorists, presumably for questioning the law.  Guzman's outburst is alarming, given that some of the principle concerns about the law have to do with its lack of a definition of what is considered terrorism, and consequently, who may be defined as terrorists.  Thus, the definition is left up to the Executive Branch (controlled by the same ARENA part, which after the July 5th shootings blamed its principle political opposition the FMLN for being linked to the attacks).[i]   ARENA had insisted that the law was not designed to criminalize social protest nor achieve political designs, rather to guarantee public security.  Nevertheless, Guzman's comments contradict that stance. 

The Salvadoran anti-terrorism law defines terrorist organizations as "those groupings...that try to use violent or inhuman methods with the expressed goal of causing terror, insecurity, or alarm."  This definition is vague at best, leaving much up to the interpreter.  Likewise, under the anti-terrorism bill, the occupation of public or private buildings, areas of public use, or cities which in any way affects the normal activities, and is done "partially or totally with the use of arms, explosives, or similar articles" is considered an act of terrorism.  The Salvadoran social movement and FMLN have questioned who will interpret these definitions of terrorism and what is considered a weapon, and if this clause is not an attempt by the Salvadoran Right to retract the Constitutional right to assembly and protest.  Finally, the antiterrorism law also authorizes the Salvadoran Armed Forces and Police to intercept at their discretion any sort of transportation they suspect might be connected to terrorism.  Essentially, Army or Police checkpoints now have the authority to do as they will, and then say they suspected terrorism.[ii]

The retraction of basic rights and the use of fear tactics and threats on the floor of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly create a scenario that is not so different from the debate last week on the floor of the USA Senate over the new detainee bill.  The Boston Globe on Friday quoted Senator Christopher S. Bond, a Missouri Republican, of claiming that Democrats, in questioning the new detainee antiterrorism bill, "encourage the enemy," and "demoralize our troops."

"They're not unpatriotic; they just don't understand the terrorist enemies we face," Bond said.[iii]    Mr. Bond might just be right, because with new sweeping powers granted by the so called Antiterrorism bill, his Republican colleagues of the Bush Administration, much like the Saca Administration, are in large part authorized to define who the terrorists and enemy combatants are.  Now nobody but the President can be sure who will be labelled a terrorist, or what might constitute terrorism.  Nevertheless, legislators from both parties rushed to sign the detainee bill last week.   

In our fear of terror, we fear the enemy could be anyone, and that is how they may well be defined in the future, since the recent legislation doesn't.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address in 1932 uttered that now famous lines "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself-nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."  He made this remark in the midst of the Great Depression, calling for optimism and strength in hard times.  What can be said of our fear of terror, of terrorism? 

In a fitting ending to the story in Carasque, the inhabitants of the community told the soldiers they didn't want them coming to the area, and did not disperse until the soldiers had trucked out of town.  They have since proceeded to raise the alarm in the entire province, so other communities are ready should the soldiers or miners arrive.  What might have been a retreat into fear was converted into an act of courage and popular power, a story to be told throughout the region.  Despite the machine guns, uniforms and authoritarianism-in the face of fear-the community of Carasque did not stand paralyzed, rather as they have for so many years, they continued to organize for their rights.  Roosevelt would say they advanced rather than retreating, for they overcame their fear-the first step in fighting terror.  


 [i]  Leonel Herrera.  “Aprobación de Ley Antiterrorista descompuso el debate parlamentario.”  Diario de Hoy.  22 of September, 2006.

 [ii] Sergio Arauz.  “El reality legislativo antiterrorista.”  El  25 of September, 2006.

 [iii]  Klein, Rick.  “Senate's passage of detainee bill gives Bush a win.”  Boston Globe.  Friday, 29 of September, 2006.


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Who is Sister Cities?

The U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Network is a grass-roots organization of U.S. citizens and residents who have ongoing partnerships with small rural communities in El Salvador. Those partnerships began in 1986 as a citizen-based response to the U.S. intervention in El Salvador’s civil war. Today, sixteen sister cities from across the United States are paired with Salvadoran communities in six of El Salvador’s fourteen provinces through our sister organization, the Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES.

Sister Cities works to connect and strengthen movements for social justice in the U.S. and El Salvador by sharing experiences, support, and accompaniment. We strive to build a new kind of globalization, one built from the ground up and united by human values of justice and solidarity.

Read more about our work