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Salvadoran union leaders still in jail, accused of "acts of terrorism"

CISPES ACTION ALERT
April 30, 2004

Salvadoran Union Leaders and Protestors Still Detained,
Attorney General Accuses STISSS Union of "Terrorism"
Today Ricardo Monge, Secretary General of the STISSS health care workers union, Javier Ayala, Secretary of Organization of the STISSS, and 35 other unionists and supporters remain jailed for their involvement in Wednesday s protest against government firings, the privatization of public health care, and the presence of Salvadoran troops in Iraq. Attorney General Belisario Artiga, is charging Ricardo Monge with being the intellectual author of acts of terrorism, illicit associations, public disorder, damages, injuries, and resistance. Artiga has said that he plans to "set a precedent" with Monge s case. This is the first time anyone has ever been charged with intellectual authorship of public disorder in El Salvador, so the Attorney General has appealed to the judges for "accompaniment" in the case.

In custody, Monge and Ayala have now been separated from the other detainees, and remain handcuffed to each other. Monge and Ayala remain in the Delegación Centro, while the other adults arrested have been transferred to the Monserrat police station. Among the arrested are 7 minors who have been transferred to a juvenile detention center. In order to further isolate Monge and Ayala, the police are keeping a tight ring of security around the Delegación Centro.

The right-wing ARENA government continues to use the protest and the ensuing violence to attack the opposition FMLN and accuse the party of terrorism. The FMLN is fully supporting the STISSS and the protestors, pointing out that every union has the right to peaceful forms of protest and struggle. The FMLN maintains that the government is responsible for forcing the union to occupy the cathedral, since the union had tried every avenue to dialogue with the Social Security administration to no avail. Furthermore, the FMLN denounces the police violence that injured many protestors and caused one 19-year old to lose and eye. The FMLN says that the Chief of the National Civil Police, Ricardo Menesses, is responsible for causing the violence, and they have called on Menesses to testify to the National Assembly to explain the police s actions during the protest.

The Attorney General continues to expand the care against Monge and is even looking to add charges from past strikes and actions. The STISSS is calling on solidarity activists to pressure the Attorney General and the Salvadoran government for the immediate release of all the arrested protestors.

TAKE ACTION!

1. Fax Attorney General Belisario Artiga at 011-503-249-8605 and demand the immediate release of Monge, Ayala, and the rest of the arrested protestors. (see below for sample letter)

2. Call Rene Leon, the Salvadoran Ambassador in the U.S., at (202) 265-9671, 265-9672 or 265-9675 and demand that he tell President Francisco Flores:

* to ensure the safety of all the arrested protestors and demand their immediate release
* rehire all ISSS workers fired during and since the health care strike
* stop the privatization of the health care sector in El Salvador

Sample Fax:

FAX: 011-503-249-8605


30 de abril, 2004


Estimado Sr. Belisario Artiga, Fiscal General:

Estoy altamente preocupado/a por la detención de 37 manifestantes, incluyendo a Ricardo Monge, Secretario General, y Javier Ayala del STISSS. Es urgente que Ud. asegure la liberación inmediata de todos estos manifestantes, ya que fueron detenidos por el simple acto de ejercer su libertad de expresión. Supe que se le acusa a Ricardo Monge de ser el autor intelectual de terrorismo y desorden público, entre otras cosas. Estos cargos representan una violación espantosa de los derechos civiles y humanos, ya que el único "crimen" del Sr. Monge es ser líder de un sindicato que utilizó una toma pacífica como forma de protesta contra la privatización de la salud pública y los despidos injustos de trabajadores.

El STISSS ha estado buscando el diálogo con la administración del Seguro Social por varios meses, y se vio forzado a recurrir a la protesta pública para ser escuchado. Le solicito exonerar de los cargos imputados al Sr. Monge y los demás manifestantes y liberarlos de manera inmediata. Con ello demostrarían mostrar que en El Salvador si existe la libertad de expresión y la democracia.

Atentamente,


(English version - do not send)

Dear Belisario Artiga, Attorney General:

I am extremely concerned about the detainment of 37 protestors, including Ricardo Monge, Secretary General, and Javier Ayala of the STISSS. It is urgent that you assure the immediate release of all of these protestors, since they were detained for the simple act of exercising their freedom of _expression. I have heard that Ricardo Monge is accused of being the intellectual author of terrorism and public disorder, among other things. These charges represent a frightening violation of civil rights and human rights, since Monge s only "crime" is being the leader of a union that used a peaceful occupation as a means of protest against privatization of public health and unjust firings of workers.

The STISSS has been seeking a means of dialogue with the Social Security administration for months, and finally had to resort to public protest in order to be heard. I urge you to drop the charges against Monge and the other protestors and release them immediately from detention. In this way you would demonstrate that in El Salvador there can be freedom of _expression and democracy.

Sincerely,