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14 Jan 2023

The Guardian,
Diario Co Latino

El Salvador: Five water defenders who led historical campaign resulting in ban on metals mining are arbitrarily detained

Marvin Recinos/AFP/Getty Images

"Salvadoran environmental defenders detained for decades-old crimes", 14 January 2023

...Five prominent environmental defenders who played a crucial role in securing a historic mining ban in El Salvador have been detained accused of civil war era and gang-related crimes, in what rights groups fear is a ruse to restart mining.

Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García, Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, Antonio Pacheco and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega were detained on Wednesday in Cabañas in northern El Salvador, accused of killing an alleged army informant more than 33 years ago during the brutal civil war that claimed 75,000 lives...

The military is accused of dozens of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Santa Marta, the community where the five detained defenders live and work, but no one has ever faced justice.

Hundreds of national and international activists and organisations have condemned the detention as politically motivated.

In a statement, the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) said the government’s decision to arrest the five men while blocking justice in high-profile cases like the El Mozote massacre “raises questions about whether the true motivation is to attempt to silence these water defenders”.

Without providing details, prosecutors have also accused the five men of illicit association – a crime which has been widely used by the Bukele regime to lock up more than 60,000 alleged gang members since March...

The detained men are renowned community organisers and water protectors, who helped lead the historic and successful campaign that convinced the Salvadoran legislature to unanimously pass a ban on metals mining in 2017 to save that nation’s rivers...