Salvadorans Deserve Elections Free of Fear and Intimidation

El Salvador is about to hold presidential, legislative, and municipal elections under a state of exception, a situation that has only occurred previously under military dictatorships. The Salvadoran people’s right to vote freely has been curtailed under the regime as more than 75,000 people have been detained, disappeared, or more recently, dissuaded from participating in political party activities. The intimidating presence in the streets of the military and police is felt by the general population and has further hindered the work of organizations and activists. 

During the first weeks of January Cristosal monitored several communities and documented alarming reports of: 

  • Community leaders being detained
  • Soldiers and police working under daily quotas for arrests
  • Communities under military siege
  • Militarized voting centers
  • Increase in people fleeing El Salvador for fear of being arrested

The president and vice president, who should be the first to set the standard for upholding the law, are seeking reelection even though consecutive terms are expressly prohibited in six articles of the Salvadoran Constitution. The media has also reported on the illegal use of public resources for campaign purposes and questioned the legality of candidates in public office using that to their advantage.

The elections are taking place in a context in which critical voices have been criminalized, including human rights defenders, independent journalists, civil society organizations, and members of the judiciary, all of whom have been repeatedly targeted. These threats contribute to self-censorship, an atmosphere of fear, the proliferation of disinformation, and a growing tolerance for discrimination. These are conditions in which violence increasingly becomes a response to criticism and dissent. 

Despite these adverse conditions, Cristosal’s team of human rights defenders continues to be vigilant and will continue to document violations throughout the electoral process. At Cristosal we are committed to demanding respect for human rights, democracy, and justice. We stand in solidarity with all who know that a true democracy is not just the right to vote, but also the right to do so in complete freedom, without intimidation or fear.