International Community Joins Outcry Against Tutela Legal Closure
On Friday, October 4, representatives from dozens of Salvadoran and international organizations held a press conference and protest at the gates of the Archdiocese of San Salvador to denounce the closure of the historic human rights office, Tutela Legal. In a statement signed by 35 international organizations (English version HERE), CISPES joined the international community in solidarity with demands for the immediate reversal of the closure, the reinstatement of the fired workers and the protection of the office’s vast archives. Standing before walls splotched with freshly-painted-over graffiti (“the Archbishop is the lapdog of the rich” read one newly-concealed message), the fired workers, families of victims and international solidarity groups joined with human rights, community and faith organizations to condemn the Archbishops actions, chanting, “reclaiming memory, respecting the victims!” and “we want Bishops on the side of the poor!” Bethany Loberg of the SHARE Foundation read the statement on behalf of the international community condemning the Archbishop’s actions as “an attack on the historic memory of the Salvadoran people, and a bitter and cynical blow to the sacred legacy left to them by Archbishop Romero.” Loberg declared: “Given that the Tutela Legal archives comprise more than 50,000 cases of human rights violations, including 80% of those cases documented in the 1993 UN Truth Commission Report, we are very concerned that this abrupt and unexpected closure is an effort to limit access to these extensive and historic archives.”On Wednesday, October 2, Human Rights Ombudsman David Morales issued a preliminary injunction, ordering that the Archdiocese guarantee the security of the archives and allow for their inspection by the Ombudsman’s office within the next five days. To date, the Archbishop has not responded. However, he has been backpedaling from his initial assertion that Tutela Legal served no purpose and therefore should be closed to making unfounded accusations of corruption within the institution to justify the closure. On Sunday, October 6, hundreds of protesters gathered for Sunday mass at the National Cathedral, joining hands to surround the building in an “embrace for memory,” carrying images of victims of civil war violence and chanting “we don’t want imposter pastors!” Click HERE for additional photos of the Sunday action and the Friday press conference on our Facebook page, and stay tuned with CISPES for action alerts and ongoing coverage of this story.