Death squads target Salvadoran journalists (as in the bad old days of Reagan/Bush)

For some background on the Pacific Rim Mining Co., see



COHA Memorandum: ‘Death Squads’ Target Salvadoran Journalists
by COHA Research Associate Gabriela Acosta

Death threats targeting journalists were distressingly common during the tumultuous Salvadoran Civil War that took place in the late seventies and eighties. Over the course of the war, a total of twenty-five to thirty journalists fell victim to the various death squads operating in the country. Alarmingly, today in El Salvador, journalists are once again the objects of threats aimed at silencing human rights advocates working within its borders. On May 5th, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) posted an urgent notice stating that death threats have been issued against Radio Victoria journalists.

Radio Victoria, based in the department of Cabañas, provides a critical source of news and information concerning the social, environmental, and controversial labor impacts of The Pacific Rim Mining Company.1 Radio Victoria’s forthright journalistic style and its tenacious anti-mining stance, as well as its vigorous investigative journalism, may have prompted these threats, which were issued undoubtedly in an effort to stifle freedom of expression. Despite national police security officers posted to stand guard outside the station, the anonymous “extermination group” has successfully delivered a series of threats both to the Cabañas office of the radio station and to the journalists’ personal phones via text message.

Journalists Maricela Ramos, Pablo Ayala, Oscar Beltrán and Manuel Navarrete were sent threatening messages that demanded that they must leave the Cabañas community by May 4th or face certain death.2 On that day, journalists received additional text-message intimidations, however, the death squads had not yet chosen to act on their threats by that time. This shadow group is not the only reporters’ group being threatened by a variety of death squads. Anti-free speech groups that have proven that they are prepared to resort to murder to intimidate the free dissemination of information also exist today in Morocco, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. The Inter-American Press Association has deemed Honduras, a neighboring country of El Salvador, one of the most dangerous nations for journalists in the Americas, seeing that the assassination of approximately 13 journalists has taken place in the last eighteen months.3

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