Delegates of academic, civil society, and faith-based groups from the United States and Canada to El Salvador release fact-finding report.

A sign in Spanish advocating for the release of the Santa Marta 5
Credit: ADES Santa Marta Facebook
Published On: January 4, 2024

On January 11, 2023, five human rights and Water Defenders who played a key role in El Salvador’s 2017 historic ban on metals mining were detained in Santa Marta, El Salvador.

A year later, they remain detained.

After spending almost eight months in prison under deplorable conditions, the men were released to house arrest in late August 2023 with a court date scheduled for March 2024. The five men represent staff and community members of United Church of Canada Mission and Service global partner, Association for Economic and Social Development (ADES), and the community of Santa Marta:

  • Teodoro Antonio Pacheco, executive director ADES, and Saúl Agustín Rivas Ortega, ADES legal advisor;
  • Miguel Ángel Gámez, Alejandro Laínez García and Pedro Antonio Rivas Laínez, community leaders.

On January 11, the report, “State of Deception: Fact Finding Report on the Detained Santa Marta Water Defenders, Mining, and the State of Human Rights under the Bukele Administration,” will be released during a virtual press conference (register for this event), hosted by MiningWatch Canada.

The report was compiled by eight delegates from the United States and Canada, including Heather White of Guelph, Ontario, who represented The United Church of Canada. The delegation held 19 meetings with leaders of civil society groups, human rights groups, lawyers, economists, a member of the legislature, and others in El Salvador.

The report, which will be available on the Institute for Policy Studies website on January 11, finds that the arrest of the Santa Marta 5 is not only linked to their key role in an historic metals mining ban in 2017, but also that the charges against the five have no basis and should be dropped because the men are covered by a 1992 amnesty brokered by the UN.

Join a Rally

On January 10, 2024, at 4 p.m. local time, we invite you to join us in support of the five imprisoned Water Defenders’ release:

  • OTTAWA, Embassy of El Salvador, 209 Kent St., Ottawa ON
  • TORONTO, Consulate of El Salvador, 425 Bloor St. E., Toronto, ON
  • VANCOUVER, Consulate of El Salvador, 1111 Melville St, Vancouver, BC.
  • WASHINGTON, DC: Embassy of El Salvador, 1400 16th St. NW, Washington, DC, USA

The United Church continues to advocate with officials for the release of the Santa Marta 5.  We invite you to continue to hold the detained, their families and their entire community in prayer.

For more information, follow ADES and United in Action for Justice on Facebook, or e-mail

Read our January 2023 news article about the arrest.

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