The United Church of Canada joins international organizations in call for charges against Santa Marta Five to be dropped

Group of people standing outside a building. A woman standing in the centre is speaking while another woman holds her phone up to record her.
At a January 2024 press conference. On the left is Pedro Cabezas of ACAFREMIN. In the middle is Vidalina Morales, President of ADES.
Credit: ADES
Published On: March 25, 2024

In the wake of the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Bishop Óscar Romero in El Salvador, five prominent water defenders and community leaders from Santa Marta, El Salvador, are scheduled to face trial on April 3. The case has gained international scrutiny amid allegations that the charges are politically motivated.

Out of their commitment to protect their country’s rivers, the five, known as the “Santa Marta Five,” led a successful national campaign to ban environmentally destructive mining in El Salvador that culminated in 2017 with a historic national law that prohibits mining.

The activists, arrested on January 11, 2023, represent staff and community members of United Church of Canada Mission and Service global partner the Association for Economic and Social Development (ADES); the United Church has been a partner of ADES throughout its 30-year history. On trial are:

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

The following organizations call on the Salvadoran attorney general to drop all charges against the five:

  • Central American Alliance on Mining (ACAFREMIN)
  • Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)
  • MiningWatch Canada
  • Pax Christi International
  • Public Service Alliance of Canada
  • SHARE Foundation
  • Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
  • The United Church of Canada
  • Washington Ethical Society

Elections were held in El Salvador on February 4. Social organizations fear the government will persecute community-led environmental resistance and unravel critical hard-won environmental protections in the country.

Find out more at “Report Advocates for Release of Santa Marta 5” and “United Church Calls for Release of Water Defenders.”

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