Israel Quintanilla, President of ALGES, and his son Alberto Zavala Found Dead

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Voices on the Border is sad to report that officials have found the bodies Mr. Ismael Quintanilla, the President of the Salvadoran Association of War Wounded (ALGES) and his son Alberto Zavala. They were disappeared Friday Afternoon, and their bodies found Monday.

ALGES, has been a historic partner of Voices on the Border and this tragic news causes us great sadness. We express our solidarity with the family and ALGES.

We also express our great concern for the growing violence in El Salvador, and the danger that citizens and social organizations experience daily.

Voices on the Border testifies to Mr. Quintanilla and ALGES’s tireless and courageous work over the decades, advocating for the rights of all people with disabilities from El Salvador’s 12-year civil war. Their work has put ALGES leaders at great risk over the years.

We would like to rule out that Mr. Quintanilla and his son were killed for the political advocacy work that ALGES has been involved in over the years, and demand that the Salvadoran Government take immediate action to find those responsible for their deaths.

News Highlights

Urgent! President of ALGES (Association of War Wounded) and Son Kidnapped

On Friday afternoon, the President of ALGES (Association of War Wounded) and his son were disappeared between Zacatecaluca and San Vicente. His family, friends, and compas at ALGES are very concerned for their safety and this morning published this Press Release: This is a serious issue and we call on the Salvadoran Diaspora and members of the international community to call for his release, or contact ALGES with any information about their whereabouts. We will post more information as it becomes available.

ALGES Press Release

The Association of War Wounded of El Salvador, Heroes of November 1989, ALGES publicly denounces the disappearance of our president, Mr. Israel Quintanilla and his son Carlos Alberto Zavala.

Click here for Spanish and Photos
Click here for Spanish and Photos

Mr. Israel Antonio Quintanilla and his son Carlos Alberto Zavala disappeared on Friday May 1, 2015 around 3:30 pm while driving near the Litoral Highway between San Carlos Lempa (where they live) and capital of the province of San Vicente. They were traveling in a grey 4×4 Double Cabin Toyota Hilux, license plate 129950-2011.

Related to the acts related to the disappearance of the President of our Association and his son, we demand the following:

  1. The competent security authorities open an exhaustive investigation to resolve the situation that has left the family, friends, and workmates worried about the President of the Association.
  2. That they increase the area in which they are searching to include the entire country and search until they have determined the whereabouts of the President of their Association and his son.
  3. That they use all the resources available in order to guarantee the physical wellbeing of our friend and his son.
  4. To the persons that have custody of them, we ask that they please respect his physical integrity of our friend and his son, and that you communicate with the family or with our Association at these numbers: (503) 2225-5726 or (503) 2226-7217.
  5. To the social organizations, unite with us in solidarity and have helped us disseminate information of the disappearance at all your contacts at the national level.
  6. To the general population, be aware that this event occurred and share any information related to this case.

Mr. Israel Quintanilla is a disabled person due to the armed conflict, and who since the signing of the Peace Accords has dedicated his life to the defense of human rights of this population and all disabled people. His son Carlos Zavala recently graduated in Agriculture from the National School of Agriculture and is studying agricultural engineering at the University of Monsignor Romero in Chaletenango. “They took them alive; we want them alive.” Please share any information by calling: (503) 2225-5726 or (503) 2226-7217.

For our right to work, the struggle continues!

ALGES, Unity, Solidarity, and Struggle



Advocacy, El Salvador Government, Politics

El Salvador’s Armed Forces Veterans Take the Streets

On January 8, 2013, Salvadoran police clashed with military veterans who had blockaded several of El Salvador’s busiest highways in protest over pensions and benefits.

For more than a year, veterans groups have been negotiating with the Funes Administration to secure benefits they believe they were due for their service during the civil war. Some veterans groups are demanding that the government pay each veteran $10,000 for indemnification and begin disbursing $700 per month pension. These groups said that if the government did not start making payments by the end of 2012 they would start protesting, which they did on January 8 and have promised to continue doing.

Among the busiest roads protestors blocked was the Comalapa Highway that runs between the Comalapa International Airport and San Salvador. After protestors had blocked the highway for a couple hours causing major disruptions the police used their batons and teargas to break them up. They arrested 37 protestors in the process.

Seven of the protestors arrested at the Comalapa Highway blockade are from Nuevo Amanecer, a small community in the Lower Lempa of Usulután that was settled in 1991 by demobilized armed forces veterans. After being detained for 72 hours, the protestors were released on probation. The Nuevo Amanecer veterans are not new to protests and blockades. In 2011, the same group blocked the coastal highway that runs through San Maros de Lempa in protest of the government’s mis-management of dams on the Lempa River and their weak response to flooding caused by Tropical Storm 12-E.

Voices staff spoke with several of the Nuevo Amanecer veterans arrested during the protests. Daniel Benavides Martinez said he is a veteran of the Armed Forces and was demobilized in February 1992 after the Peace Accords were signed. He says he never received any of the benefits promised to veterans following the war. His father, who is also a veteran, received a piece of land in the Lower Lempa, but none in the family have received any other pension payments or benefits. Mr. Benavides Martinez also recalled that towards the end of the war military leaders mistreated soldiers in an effort to get them to desert the Armed Forces without collecting salaries, pensions, or other benefits.

Another of the Nueveo Amanecer veterans arrested during the protests spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. He said “there were funds assigned to us (veterans) after the Peace Accords, and [former Presidents] Cristiani and Calderon Sol and other members of the Tandona (military leadership) split it up amongst themselves.”

We also spoke with Pedro Martinez, a former FMLN militant and friend of those arrested. He explained that many veterans were cheated after the war, but are just now learning how to organize and advocate for their rights. Martinez, who is part of a veteran’s association that represents both armed forces and guerilla veterans, is working to distribute resources to veterans in need through the War Wounded Fund. However Martinez says that people try to take advantage of the limited fund. He said, “now someone who maybe just got bit by a horse is out on the street saying they were wounded from the war.”

Not all of the veterans are on board with the protests. José Amaya heads a veteran’s association that has been negotiating with the Funes Administration since November 2011. He disagrees that the administration has not done anything and apologized to Salvadorans for the protests, ensuring that they were not involved.

The day after the protests, Alex Segovia, the President’s Technical Secretary, emphasized that the government had never promised the veterans monetary compensation. “They say the government has made a commitment and this is false. We are never going to accept the amount [of pension] that they are proposing because it would break the State and we are not going to bend to pressure from anyone who makes demands.”

Retired Army Colonel Ochoa Perez, who is now serving as a legislative representative, disputes Alex Segovia’s claim that the administration has not made any promises. He said that in the past few months the Funes Administration has made promises of an indemnification package (the $10,000), a pension fund, land grants, and agricultural packages, but they have not followed through on any of them. In an interview just after the protests, he told La Pagina that he has documentation that proves they made promises. Perez unabashedly supports the protests, stating that he is a soldier before he is a politician. He even visited the veterans who were arrested while they were in jail, and gave them $160 to buy food while they were detained.

In January 2012, President Funes and Segovia promised a law that would provide more benefits to FLMN and Armed Forces veterans. And the general consensus seems to be that the FMLN and Armed Forces Associations agree that since the Funes Administration took office, they have begun to receive more pensions and social and economic support, especially for the war wounds, who are represented by ALGES. The Instituto de Previsión Social de la Fuerza Armada (IPSFA) has provided pensions and services for Armed Forces veterans for over 30 years, but getting benefits can be a long and tedious process, and the resources available are quite limited. In October of 2012, IPSFA announced that they were running a $4 million a month deficit and would be selling off a lot of their assets, which include beach resorts, hotels, and other properties. (The comment sections at the end of these articles are full of interesting comments and accusations of corruption within IPFSA).

In his response to the protests, Alex Segovia alleged that the protests were an effort by other political parties to destabilize the government and the FMLN party in what is essentially an election year (presidential elections are scheduled for January 2014). This would not be the first time that the military and veterans have been used for political gains. Even Ochoa Perez said after the protests that “they have used veterans and thrown them in the trash like sugarcane pulp.”

Pedro Martinez says that anger and protests targeting the current administration are a little misplaced considering that there were four conservative ARENA governments that failed to adequately address the needs of military veterans.

Advocacy, News Highlights, Voices Developments

Voices’ Partner Community Updates

Voices recently published a spring 2009 newsletter. Below are excerpts of the community updates.  To view the full newsletter click here.

Comunidad Segundo Montes

Julie (Voices volunteer) and the folks in Comunidad Segundo Montes have been working hard. ALGES (the Association of War Wounded) recently rented out a second space next to their office. The new store sells beverages and snacks, and offers photocopying services–a hit with the kids coming from and going to school. Last year ALGES built and rented out space for a small eatery that has become a favorite spot for locals.picture21

These efforts are significant. First, ALGES is taking steps to fund its own activities by engaging in a business venture. The money they earn ensures their independence and sustainability, and allows them to better serve the community. The project is also significant in its promotion of small business. El Salvador is facing a grim economic reality in the face of the global crisis, and small businesses such as these keep money circulating in the economy and provide people with jobs. Thank you to the congregation at St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte, NC for their ongoing support of Voices, ALGES and other partners in CSM.

During the recent elections, Radio Segundo Montes hired 30 interns to help them cover the voting in CSM. On election days in January and March, Radio Segundo Montes provided the youth with a press t-shirt and a $5 calling card, and drove them to different polling stations in the area. The youth called in to the radio several times while the polls were open, reporting on the number of voters and any instances of fraud or conflict. In addition to providing valuable information to the radio station, the project got youth involved in the political process, and hopefully sparked an interest in civic participation that will last long beyond Election

Salinas del Portrero

Representatives from many of the 14 cooperatives in Salinas del Portrero met on March 26th to call for a reorganization of the directiva (community council) and a re-evaluation of several initiatives with nonprofit aide groups. Calling themselves the Committee for Community Development, the group identified several issues they want to address, including security, transportation, education, roads, and health. Before this meeting, the group had already led a successful campaign to lower the fare that pick-up trucks charge to travel from Salinas to Tierra Blanca. They are now working with the local police to address the rise in crime, which has recently included car jacking, attempted rape, and aggressive drunkards. The group will soon petition the Ministry of Education to increase the grade level of their school from 6th to 9th. Currently, 40 students travel to Tierra Blanca to attend 7th-12th grades.picture6

The local health committee remains active, and is supporting Rubidia (the ASPS health promoter) in her monthly home visits to check in on patients with diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as provide prenatal care for the community’s women. Rubidia and the health committee just completed a coordinated community mapping project in which they identified each home and family, and the shrim farms in 11 local areas. They use the maps to help track their patients.comite-de-salud-salinas

Ciudad Romero

Following the elections, the Ciudad Romero directiva turned its attention to two important celebration–the commemoration of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the anniversary of the founding of their community. The directiva is also busy renovating the community park. The new design includes a new stage, a mural, a garden, a jungle gym, a new basketball court, and a plaza commemorating the nation’s history with bust of Monsenor Romero and Farabundo Marti.picture5

Marina (the ASPS health promoter) continues to address the public health issues in Ciudad Romero, providing family planning services, teaching families how to maintain their compostable toilets, and giving talks at schools on hygiene and other topics. According to Marina, the most pressing health issues in Ciudad Romero include diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney failure, asthma and respiratory problems. Diarrhea related to water-born pathogens remains an issue, though the number of cases has decreased with the use of a new model of latrines as well as access to higher quality water piped into the community.picture10

Comunidad Octavio Ortiz (La Canoa)

Comunidad Octavio Ortiz is limiting the impacts of the current economic and food crises on their community with initiatives that will increase local food production. Local farmers will increase and diversify their agricultural production so that they are more self-sufficient and less vulnerable to skyrocketing food prices. The increased production will also stabilize the local economy.

To facilitate the transportation of crops, the Directiva is planning to improve roads within the community. They are beginning to grade and gravel the main streets as well as the side roads that lead to the farmlands that surround the residential area.

The Directiva is also planning to increase their community’s cultural life, especially among youth. To accomplish this goal, they would like to build a second level onto the Casa Comunal that will be used for music and art classes, movie viewings, and many other purposes. They will also add space for a small store to sell food and other goods produced in the community.15-filling-perol-1

Early one Saturday morning in late March, community members gathered at the local trapiche (a sugar cane mill) to bring it back life after two years of dormancy. By noon, kids were playing with taffy, while adults were wrapping blocks of unrefined sugar in dried husks. Producing artesian sugar for cooking, sweets, and molasses, which is used in making cattle feed, can be a lucrative operation that brings the community together and may even result in a small, local tourist industry.24-vites-macocho

Under Arecely’s (the ASPS health promoter) leadership, the COO health committee remains strong. Working in partnership with the local Ministry of Health clinic, Arecely and the health committee have led numerous health campaigns, fundraisers, and advocacy initiatives, and participated in several trainings.

While the community is excited about the possibility of having greater access to government ministries once the new administration takes office on June 1st, they are increasingly aware of their responsibility for their own development and sustainability.