Brutal Government Attacks on Community of Cutumay Camones Continue


A young Salvadoran is arrested by riot police after tear gas attacks in Cutumay Camones (photo Diario de Hoy)

On November 22, the community of Cutumay Camones was again brutally attacked by the Salvadoran riot police (UMO). The community, in their continuous resistance to the construction of a garbage dump, blocked the entrance of the construction site. Orlando Mena, Santa Anas mayor, joined with Police Director Rodrigo Avila in sending more than 300 riot police to dissolve the protest, attacking the community with tear gas fired from surrounding helicopters.

The attack on the community likely caused the death of 14-year old William Alfredo Ventura who died from bronchitis and pneumonia complications provoked by the tear gas. At the same time, 39 people, including children under the age of 18, have been arrested and are under police custody. The community is demanding the immediate release of all community members captured last week and continues to demand an end to the construction of the garbage damp as well the end of police intervention on behalf of the private company Presys.

Given that the death of Ventura cold have been directly related to the use of tear gas, Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna called for an investigation into his death. We are questioning the police abusive use of force, for which there must be an investigation into the actions of the National Civilian Police, said Ombudsman Luna. Social organizations that make up the Forum for the Defense and Sustainability of Water are joining in the demand that the death of Ventura to be investigated. They are calling for solidarity with the community against the repressive acts of the National Civilian Police. Also, the Legislative Assembly called for Police Director Rodrigo Avila to visit the Assembly on Wednesday November 28 to explain the police procedure implemented in Cutumay Camones.

Previously, social organizations such as the Water Workers Union SETA organized an activity to accompany the community in their resistance against the building of the garbage dump which will contaminate local water resources. Various communities in resistance gathered at the event to show their support. The case is similar to that of the community of Tacuba where community leaders were targets of state repression for defending the administration of water earlier this year.

Right-wing parties such as the PCN recently voted in favor of a resolution in the Legislative Assembly which includes a series of recommendations on the Cutumay Camones case. First, the resolution demands that the General Attorneys office investigate the series of irregularities in the concession of construction and operating permits that the Environmental Ministry awarded the private company Presys. Second, it asks the National Civilian Police to stop intervention in the community, saying that a national security entity cannot serve the interests of a private company, nor should it be applying excessive force. Lastly, the resolution calls for the suspension of the garbage dump.

Murder of Jesuit priests commemorated

With an ecumenical act on November 16, the Central American University (UCA) remembered the murder of six Jesuit priests who were assassinated on the same date in 1989. It is publicly known that the orders to kill Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuria came from the Salvadoran government and were executed by members of the Battalion Atlacatl trained at the School of the Americas in the United States. To accomplish the mission, the military also assassinated Jesuit priests Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Juan Ramón Moreno, Amando López, Joaquín López, as well as their housekeeper and her daughter. Students at the UCA protested against the impunity that still reigns in El Salvador around these cases and many more that occurred during and after the war.

In the United States, CISPES joined over 20,000 people at the annual vigil against the Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia. Josefina Lazo, a leader of the National Vendors Movement in El Salvador, spoke from the stage about the atrocities committed by U.S. trained soldiers in El Salvador, and about the increase in repression in El Salvador that she linked to the opening of the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). Lazo joined Father Roy Bourgious and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in leading the procession to the gates of the school.

FMLN denounces ARENAs dirty campaign

In the lead-up to the FMLNs 23rd National Convention on November 11, ARENA created the Permanent Forum for Freedom. The group is composed of and funded by ARENA members who become active during past electoral periods. During the last couple of months they have paid for a series of ads relating the FMLN with Venezuelan president Chavez, and warning the Salvadoran population that the Venezuelan model of dictatorship and evil would be imported to El Salvador if the FMLN were to win in 2009. After the convention, president Saca continued the attacks against the FMLN saying that the relationship with the U.S. would be practically ruined if the FMLN wins the presidency in 2009. Furthermore, Saca said the FMLN is all about controlling prices, closing private companies which would end all that this country has progressed in the last 20 years. The reference comes after FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes stated in his speech that more state intervention will be needed in order to improve the economic and reverse the social crisis which the country is mired in after 18 years of ARENA governance. FMLN Communications Secretary Sigfrido Reyes denounced ARENAs dirty campaign in a press conference last week, calling Saca to end this fear mongering and stating that this time around, fear will not defeat the hope for change expressed by most Salvadorans. Even Honorary President of ARENA Armando Calderon Sol admitted the advantage the FMLN currently has over his party, stating that the outcome of the FMLN convention forces ARENA to start making decisions more quickly.

Meanwhile Mauricio Funes and his running mate Salvador Sanchez Ceren, accompanied by other FMLN leaders, continue their visits to various municipalities in El Salvador. This weekend Funes visited the Lower Lempa region of the country, an area known for its economic and geographical vulnerability to annual flooding. The visit is part of the FMLNs Open Social Dialogue initiative (or Dialogo Social Abierto) to create a government platform with input from different sectors of society. The Open Dialogue will come to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington DC and New York in the next week as a way of including Salvadorans living in the U.S. in the partys creation of a presidential platform.

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