Advocacy, Cabanas, Corruption

“Extermination” group threatens Radio Victoria Reporters Again

Yesterday six Radio Victoria reporters, including a North American, received a death threat in their e-mail boxes.  The threat comes after a rally in Victoria City where community members from Santa Marta demanded transparency from their Mayor Juan Antonio Ramos; and 2 months before mayoral and congressional elections.

The text came from the e-mail address “exterminiottrr@hotmail.com” and says, “Warning f*@! at Radio Victoria you keep screwing around as you like filling your mouths with the sh@* you talk, like the day that those mother f*#@rs leaders of Santa Marta tricked those people to talk sh#@ in Victoria.”

The reporters have been denouncing the threat on local radio stations and are adament that the authorities investigate these threats, especially now that they are clearer than ever in their motives and possible authors.

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Advocacy, Cabanas, Mining, Organized Crime

More on Radio Victoria

On Friday, we posted an appeal for funds to help protect our friends at Radio Victoria from the threats of violence they’ve been receiving. To everyone who has already contributed – thank you! Over the weekend you helped us raise $2500! But that’s only a small part of what the Radio needs to implement additional security measures. If you haven’t donated, its not too late – please click on the donate now button to the right of this post. Its fast, secure, and tax-deductible, and 100% of your donation will go directly to the Radio for security.

In December 2010, some of the folks at the Radio made a short documentary about their current situation, which is posted below. Since they made this video, the Radio and its staff have received many, many other threats and have been terrorized by people following them home and loitering outside the Radio at night. Please watch:

We don’t know exactly who is making the threats, but members of the radio and other locals believe its a network of organized criminals, which may include local politicians, who are threatened by the Radio’s programming and the strengthening of civil society. The Radio gives a voice to the people – and the last thing organized criminals want is an empowered population and civil society interfering with their work and calling for an end of the culture of impunity upon which they depend to engage in their illicit activities.

Please join us in helping to protect the lives of these brave young journalists and ensuring that the Radio and local civil society continues to give a voice to the people of Cabanas.

Cabanas, Organized Crime, violence

Radio Victoria Needs Your Help!

This morning we received a disturbing letter (see letter below) from our friends at Radio Victoria. As we have posted over the past few months, the Radio and its team of journalists continue to receive threats. While those responsible seem to be increasing the pressure, the police and government officials responsible for ensuring public safety and investigating these crimes continue to do nothing.

It’s seldom that we use this blog to make a financial appeal, but our friends at the Radio need your support, and a lot of it. Civil society is not strong in El Salvador – for generations corrupt politicians and organized criminals have used threats and violence to squash the voice of the people so they can engage in criminal activities with impunity and maintain their political power. In the struggle for justice and democracy in El Salvaodr, Radio Victoria is at the epicenter and we in the international community must continue to support them.

Voices on the Border will contribute what we can and we ask you to do the same. There are several easy ways to donate.

The fastest is to click on the Donate Now button to the right of this article and donate through Voices – we will send 100% of your contribution to the Radio (please state that you are donating to the Radio). We use Network for Good, which has the lowest fees (pennies) of any online payment service that we have found, and all donations are tax deductible, of course.

You may also donate through International Partners, just go to their website and click on donate now, which will take you to a Pay-pal site.  You may also send a check made payable to International Partners, 1320 Fenwick Lane, suite 400, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Or you can send a check directly to Radio Victoria (made payable to Radio Victoria). Mail it to: Wendy Wallas/ARPAS, Pasaje El Rosal #117, Colonia Miramonte Pte., San Salvador, El Salvador.

In addition to financial support, the Radio is asking you to call the station to record a message of support that they can then use on-air. This is another way to let those who are threatening them that the international community is watching and that we are demanding an end to impunity and injustice. It is an international call, so dial 011-503-2-389-3093. That is the number to the Radio’s news studio. Just tell them that you want to record a message of support and they’ll take care of it.

The journalists at Radio Victoria have put their lives on the line to stand up for civil society, freedom of speech, and justice. Other than writing emails and make phone calls to Salvadoran officials they have never asked for a thing. Let’s support them now!

Here is the text of the letter we received this morning:

Hello Friends

I just want you all to know that the situation in our community station Radio Victoria continues with problems, pressure, tension and a lot of worry.

During the last 3 days Radio Victoria workers have received another death threat on a cell phone, different forms of intimidation like luxury 4 wheel drive cars repeatedly driving around communities and asking where certain radio workers live, harassment of family members, people visiting homes of radio workers and asking for unknown people, unfounded comments like gossip, unusual noises at night outside workers´homes and strange tattooed youth wandering around close to workers´ houses.

All of this has our spirits plummeting and many Radio team members suffering from a delicate state of mind.

We are taking steps to insure the security of our Radio workers and of our building which as always implies many things: resources, transporting people, cell phone cards, changes in our infrastructure among others.

We feel we can no long have confidence in, or count on, authorities here and that we must take steps ourselves.

We are trying to get Marixela and her 3 year old daughter out of the country to Ecuador where Elvis, father and husband, is on an internship. Marixela and her daughter have directly received death threats and are under an intense emotional stress.

At the same time we want to guarantee the safety of all Radio members and of our building.

WE ARE ASKING FOR 2 FORMS OF SUPPORT:

  • recorded voice messages expressing support for the Radio and denouncing the death threats and the lack of response by local authorities. This will help boost our morale and also show the breadth of support we have from different organizations in different parts of the world.
  • economic support for the immediate needs we are facing which are shown below:

MARIXELA AND DAUGHTER’S TRIP TO ECUADOR AND EXPENSES DURING 3 MONTHS AND ELVIS’S CONTINUED STAY FOR 2 MORE MONTHS:

  • 2 airplane tickets…………………………………………………………..$ 2,400.00
  • airport taxes………………………………………………………………….       80.00
  • rent for 2 months (one month is already covered for Elvis)……..  600.00
  • food and personal needs for (3 months-Marix, 2-Elvis)………….2,500.00
  • transportation for 3 months………………………………………………..   300.00
  • health or other emergencies………………………………………………   200.00

                                                   TOTAL………………. $ 6,080.00

IT IS POSSIBLE THAT REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS WILL COVER MARIXELA AND HER DAUGHTER’S PLANE TICKETS AND THAT ALER (Latin American Radiofonic Education Association) WILL COVER THE COST OF RENT SO THE TOTAL SUM COULD BE: $3,080.00.

SAFETY FOR RADIO VICTORIA WORKERS’ FOR 6 MONTHS:

  • security cameras………………………………………………… $    950.00
  • personal protectors …………………………………………….    4,200.00
  • resources to guarantee safety………………………………     2,100.00
  • transportation, telephones & legal costs…………………        800.00

                                                  TOTAL……….. $ 8,050.00

*******************************************************************************************
HOW TO MAKE DONATIONS TO RADIO VICTORIA:

1)  SEND CHECKS DIRECTLY TO RADIO VICTORIA:

Mail your checks made out to Radio Victoria (or Wendy Wallas) to:
Wendy Wallas / ARPAS
Pasaje El Rosal # 117
Colonia Miramonte Pte.
San Salvador, El Salvador

2 )  PAYPAL WITH A CREDIT CARD:

1 – Go to International Partners’ website:  http://www.internationalpartners.org <http://www.internationalpartners.org/>      and click on “Donate Funds”

2 – Look under “Step 2: Choose your method of payment” – click where it says  “Donate by credit card using Paypal”

3 – Where it says “Designation” use the drop down window and choose Project and in the next window where it says “Name” put “Radio Victoria”

3)  FOR TAX DEDUCTIBLE CHECKS:

Mail your check made out to International Partners WITH RADIO VICTORIA ON THE SUBJECT LINE and send to :
International Partners
1320 Fenwick Lane
Suite 400
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

AND PLEASE LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU SEND THE CHECK OR DONATION AND THE AMOUNT SO THE RADIO CAN KEEP A RECORD, THANKS SO MUCH, SEND INFORMATION TO:   cstarr.ww@gmail.com <mailto:cstarr.ww@gmail.com>

mil gracias, your support is greatly appreciated!!!

Cabanas, violence

Please Support Radio Victoria Today!

On Friday we posted information about more threats against journalists at Radio Victoria. Yesterday our friends at US Sister Cities set up an online petition that we encourage you to sign – just visit change.org and sign up.

They have also put together an email that you can send to the Attorney General Romeo Barahona’s office (hector.burgos@fgr.gob.sv) and the office of David Morales (dmorales@rree.gob.sv), the Director of Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Relations.

EMAIL TEXT IN ENGLISH:

Subject: Stop Death Threats toward Journalists

Mr. Barahona and Mr. Morales:

I am very concerned about the continued death threats that journalists at Radio Victoria have received between April 30th and May 4th of this year. Prior threats have gone uninvestigated despite numerous calls for their investigation and for the protection of the journalists. As a member of the international community, I am very worried about this attack on human rights and freedom of expression.

In January of 2011, members of the international community called on you to protect Radio Victoria journalists and community leaders in and the department of Cabañas, and to investigate cases of violence toward activists in the region since 2009. By not responding to these demands, the government  has allowed these extermination groups to continue repressing and threatening activists in Cabañas.

I demand that you conduct a full investigation of these threats toward journalists, and that you ensure specialized police protection for all Radio Victoria employees.

The international and Salvadoran community will greatly appreciate your taking steps to investigate these cases and provide protection to those whose lives are in danger.

Sincerely,

EMAIL TEXT IN SPANISH:

Subject: Alto a las Amenazas de Muerte Contra Los Periodistas de Radio Victoria

Estimados Sr. Barahona y Sr. Morales:

Estoy muy preocupado por la nueva olla de amenazas de muerte que han recibido los y las periodistas de Radio Victoria entre 30 de abril y 04 de mayo de este año. Amenazas previas no se han investigado a pesar de los numerosos llamamientos para su investigación y para la protección de los periodistas. Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, estoy muy preocupado por este nuevo ataque contra los derechos humanos y la libertad de expresión.

En enero de 2011, los miembros de la comunidad internacional pidieron que usted protegiera a periodistas de Radio Victoria y los líderes comunitarios del departamento de Cabañas, y que investigara los casos de violencia contra activistas en la región que han seguido desde 2009. La falta de acción  por parte del gobierno ha permitido que estos sigan con sus campañas de terror y represión.

Exijo que se realice una investigación completa de estas amenazas a periodistas, y que se asegure protección policíal especializada para todos los empleados de Radio Victoria.

La comunidad internacional y salvadoreña agradecerá su trabajo para investigar estos casos y asegurar protección a aquellos cuyas vidas están en peligro.

Atentamente,

And yesterday we received an email from Radio Victoria that we want to share:

Everyone at Radio Victoria would like to thank the many people and organizations that have been denouncing the death threats to our workers and also for sending emails and making phone calls to authorities here in El Salvador.

It has been a difficult and busy week, and all the support we have received keeps our spirits up and motivates us to move forward.

It is not possible to give many details about some things we are doing for security reasons. But I would like to quote one of the Radio’s workers:

“I want to say that today more than ever the news show must go forward, we must continue denouncing and making the communities’ voices heard and felt. Radio Victoria’s news team continues on even though we are afraid, I won’t deny that, but the news show can never be silenced.”

Radio Victoria exists because it was born out of and belongs to an heroic and well organized community, and because there is a network of friends and colleagues, which includes each one of you, that believe in Radio Victoria’s mission, stand by the Radio, defend the Radio and denounce cowardly attacks against the Radio.

We are very grateful for your steadfast support and know that together we can overcome the dark forces that seek to impose their will by force and intimidation.

We will continue to keep you all informed as we can.

Thank you again.

As we have stated on this blog before, the youth at Radio Victoria embody the ongoing struggle for freedom and democracy in El Salvador. Please sign the petition and send an email – your support makes a difference!

Corruption, News Highlights, violence

Rumors Bring El Salvador to a Standstill

September 7th

Due to threats yesterday, public bus service and a large percentage of businesses ceased all activities today.  Threats were largely rumored, and the police captured six young men who were passing out flyers that expressed the threat on behalf of the M-18.

Buses that operated despite the threats in the morning were further threatened over the phone and by mid-day there was virtually no bus service nationwide.  Informal commercial sectors appeared abandoned, especially in the center of San Salvador, Soyapango, Ilopango, and San Miguel.

In a press conference this afternoon the PNC reported incidents of buses being taken hostage and burnt in Ahuachapan and in Chalchuapa.  Only the drivers and fare collectors were aboard and no one was killed.  A police vehicle was also attacked with a M-67 grenade, and PNC agents captured two suspects immediately after the incident.  A school in San Martin was also closed upon the discovery of a decapitated head in the surrounding area.  Carlos Ascencio, the National Police Chief, reminded the public that these events are not unlike what they see on any other day.

The PNC and Armed Forces mobilized 3,500 agents initially, and reported an increase of another 1,000 agents.  Helicopters were also observed circling through out the day.

Bus owners claim that the strike is indefinite.  The government plans to activate a contingency plan to provide public transportation if the buses do not resume service tomorrow, with military and police agents on every unit of transportation. They are urging the population to continue their routines as normal.

Manuel Melgar, the Minister of Public Security, reported that they consider these threats to be related to the recent capture of over 10 million dollars in cash un-earthed in barrels in Zacatecoluca.  Others have also attributed the threats to the passage of the new Anti-Gang law.

September 8th Update:

While the partial bus strike continues for the second day, the government continues to increase police and military presence.  The Minister of Public Security, Manuel Melgar, reported 3,500 PNC agents on patrol and the Minister of Defense, David Munguía Payés reported that another 2,000 army personnel have also been mobilized.  Many civilians are relying upon transportation provided by the military and PNC.

Yesterday, the legislative assembly approved the modification of article 347-A of the Penal Code, to increase jail time for persons caught providing arms to gang members.

The prison sub-director, Nelson Rauda, also confirmed ‘rebellions’ by inmates in six different jails.

September 9th Update

As discussed by the bus associations yesterday, today is the third and final day of the bus strikes.  The representative of FECOATRANS, Catalino Miranda, expected to see about 70% of the buses operating as normal by the end of the day.  The police and military trucks are also providing transportation.

The PNC also reported a drop in homicides over the past 3 days.  Nationally, nine homicides were reported on Tuesday (the same as the daily average so far this year), yesterday there were four, and so far today none have been reported.  Yesterday afternoon another M-67 grenade was thrown at a PNC check point in Mejicanos.  No one was injured.  The PNC and the press are highly publicizing the 50 arrests that have been made in the past three days, mostly for young men passing out flyers that threatened informal vendors and bus drivers.  The largest sweep captured 17 young men in Guacotecti, Cabañas for ‘illicit association, possession, and unlicensed weapons’.

Meanwhile, Douglas Moreno, the General Prison Director, has declared emergencies in five prison facilities.  Inmates have declared themselves in ‘rebellion’ and have increased inter-inmate violence and also towards guards.  30 people have been injured.  Moreno has called for the intervention of the UMO (the Order Maintenance Unit) and five days of cell confinement for the prisoners.

Supposed representatives of the MS-13 and M-18 gangs sent out a press release via e-mail yesterday afternoon.  The release apologized for the inconvenience, but that they are seeking a way to be heard by the current administration.  They demand a space for dialogue, a presidential veto of the new anti-gang law, and better conditions for the incarcerated.  Government officials either reserved comment or emphasized the importance of following through on the new legislation.  PNC director Carlos Ascencio said the law would specifically target gang leadership.