El Salvador: Political killings marks rise of right-wing violence

June 7, 2008

Hector Antonio Ventura and 13 others, now known as the Suchitoto 14, were arrested in July last year for their participation in an anti-water privatisation forum in the town of Suchitoto.

The Suchitoto 14 were then charged with terrorism. Their case was marked by tremendous national and international outcry against the grave misuse of anti-terror statutes against legitimate political expression. All charges were finally dismissed on April 16.

Two weeks later, on May 2, 19-year-old Ventura was brutally stabbed to death at night in a house where he and a 14-year-old friend were sleeping. Ventura was stabbed in the head and the heart. The 14-year-old survived the attack.

Ventura's murder came just two days after he had met with the Suchitoto mayor, where he agreed to speak about the Suchitoto case at the public "Day Against Impunity" event planned for the anniversary of the Suchitoto 14 arrests.

These circumstances, including the fact that Ventura was a young social activist, and particularly the fact that he was a recently released political prisoner, create grave concerns that his assassination was committed for political reasons, with the intention of destabilising and intimidating members of the left-wing opposition to the current right-wing government.

Current polls suggest the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) are likely to win the 2009 elections.

On June 3, over 100 international organisations joined a coalition of more than 40 Salvadoran groups in calling for an investigation into Ventura's assassinations as well as over 15 other assassinations in the past two years. Authorities routinely attribute political murders to the gang crime prevalent in El Salvador, when in fact there is evidence that gangs are actually being used for political assassinations.

It appears the right-wing forces, who were forced into a negotiated peace to end the civil war in 1992, are now reverting to their old tricks of intimidation and violence in a bid to hold onto power.

It is imperative that the democratic gains associated with the peace accords are upheld. For the Salvadoran people, these gains came at the expense of many lives.

This is an important time to build solidarity with El Salvador. One way Australians can assist is by helping to ensure there is as large a presence of international observers for the 2009 elections as possible to help minimise the risk of right-wing fraud — either by travelling there directly or helping fund others to go.

To help, contact your local FMLN committee or phone Bernardo on 0409 151 099 or (02) 6286 3985, or email zamora@netspeed.com.au.

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