The Guardian 2 November, 2005

El Salvador:
Youths jailed for aid protest

On October 21, people from Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador, which was devastated by Hurricane Stan, organised a protest at the Presidential Palace in the national capital of San Salvador. Residents demanded relief for their devastated community and denounced the government's misuse of relief aid.

They protested that such aid was only reaching municipalities governed by the ruling right-wing ARENA party. Many university students and youth joined the protest in an act of solidarity with the community. The youth felt compelled to stand by the residents because they had witnessed first hand the destruction wrought on Bajo Lempa while working in voluntary rescue brigades throughout the country in the aftermath of Hurricane Stan.

Rather than being honoured for their heroic deeds they were met, on the orders of President Antonio Saca, with special anti-Riot battalions that arbitrarily beat protestors and arrested 14 youths.

Disturbingly, National Civilian Police officials tried to conceal the whereabouts of the young prisoners and tried to intimidate congressional deputies from the opposition FMLN who had sought to meet with the detainees while in police custody. The 14 youths have been held incommunicado for more than 75 hours, in clear violation of the Salvadoran Constitution and are being accused of serious acts of vandalism.

The imprisonment of the youths raises grave concerns for their safety given reports by the government of El Salvador's own human rights institution, the Procurator for the Defence of Human Rights (PDDH). The PDDH has issued several reports to the international community of the growing climate of political repression in El Salvador as well as the inhuman conditions in Salvadoran detention facilities. These are extremely overcrowded and increasingly employ physical and psychological torture for extracting incriminating evidence from detainees.J

The Guardian urges readers to send protests about the detention of the detainees to:

The President of the Republic of El Salvador, Elias Antonio Saca,
Casa Presidencial, San Salvador Central America.
Fax: 0011-503-248-9370

Please send a copy of the letter to

Further protests should be directed to:
Honorary Consul-General for El Salvador in Melbourne,
Mr Erving ORTIZ. Fax: (03) 9867 4455. E-mail:

The Ambassador for El Salvador in the region:
His Excellency Mr Alfredo Francisco. Fax: (82-2) 753 3456. Email:

Appeals for action from the Australian government should be addressed to:
Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Tel: 02 6277 7500. Fax: 02 6273 4112. E-mail:

Please note: e-mail correspondence should include your postal address.
Responses will not be made via e-mail.

DFAT Latin American Desk:
Tel: 02 6261 3334. Fax: 02 6261 3629. E-mail:

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