Investigation Reveals Patterns of Obstruction and Threats to Social Organizations

San Salvador, November 28, 2023. Social organizations in El Salvador face one of the most difficult environments since the signing of the Peace Accords: closing of spaces for citizen participation, obstacles to their legalization, harassment on social networks, censorship, obstruction, police harassment and threats of closure are some of the patterns that have been identified.

These denunciations form part of the report Ā«Civil Society on Alert: an investigation into violations against the right to organize in El SalvadorĀ» (Spanish version) in which Cristosal documented the experience of 71 organizations from across the country, organizing the patterns of violations into three categories of rights: participation, expression and association.

For decades, civil society organizations have contributed to social development through law proposals, guarantee of services, defense of the environment, empowerment of women, community organization, defense of victims and rescue of historical memory, as part of their contributions.

Despite the importance of their work, the organizations are currently in danger. According to the investigation, there are very serious practices, such as police harassment. One example is the arbitrary search and abuse of authority at the offices of organizations and in the homes of their representatives, including threats to enforce the regime of exception. It is also common for the representatives of these organizations to suffer harassment and attacks on social networks.

Other patterns include the closing of spaces for citizen participation in public administration, the denial of access to information and the delay or obstruction of granting legal status to organizations. The latter has a significant impact, as it prevents some organizations from accessing funding and aid projects.

As to the outlook for the future, the organizations anticipate a climate of increasingly hostile and complicated conditions, including concerns about the closure of their organizations, due to administrative and legal harassment from state institutions. They also envisage the possibility that many organizations will be forced to leave the country. The general expectation is that the situation will worsen, especially after next year’s elections.

Civil society organizations are demanding that the Salvadoran State cease the harassment and obstruction of their work and establish spaces that promote dialogue and cooperation, recognizing that the organizations are a collective force that promotes social development. They call on the international community to be vigilant and support their work.

*English version not yet available.