The murder of Marcelo Rivera, and other recent incidents of threats and intimidation against journalists and activists in Cabañas, are troubling. Unknown persons or groups are waging a campaign of intimidation against environmental activists and reporters in the region.
More than 100 international organizations signed a letter to El Salvador's acting attorney general demanding that a more thorough investigation of the Marcelo Rivera murder and its possible political motives be conducted. The letter concludes:
As members of the international community in solidarity with the people of El Salvador, we are calling on the Office of the Attorney General to carry out an impartial, exhaustive, and effective investigation in order to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of this horrendous crime. If Marcelo’s murder is left in a state of impunity, it will generate a climate of intimidation and uncertainty for social leaders and activists, undermining the advances in the democratic process in El Salvador.
Journalists covering the Marcelo Rivera murder have received death threats. According to Journalism in the Americas:
[Oscar Luna, the Ombudsman] for the Defense of Human Rights in El Salvador has asked for protective measures for three radio journalists who have received death threats, ANSA reports.
According to the Diario CoLatino, José Beltrán, Ludwing Iraheta, and Vladimir Abarca – reporters for Radio Victoria’s Cabañas office – have received several telephone threats following coverage of the disappearance and recovery of the body of a well-known environmental activist in the region. “You’re next,” they have been told.
The director of Radio Victoria said that due to the social nature of its broadcasts, it has received threats for several years. They have increased since the coverage of the environmentalist, however, which prompted the complaint.
The Radio Victoria station has reportedly been sabotaged twice in recent nights.
Another activist in the region, Father Luis Quintanilla, reports receiving death threats and then escaped a kidnapping attempt:
The priest, who was driving his vehicle on the road from the City of Victoria to Sensuntepeque (Department of Cabanas), was intercepted by four armed and masked men, who took him from his vehicle with the intention to kidnap and murder him. However the criminals did not achieve their objective, and the Priest was able to escape by jumping into a ravine.
This incident happened one month after the kidnapping, torture and murder of the environmental activist and social leader Gustavo Marcelo Rivera, and only a few days after the public denouncement of the death threats received by four Radio Victoria reporters.
Father Luis Quintanilla, like Marcelo Rivera and the journalists of Radio Victoria, has played a protagonist role in the defense of human rights and the opposition to all projects against the environment and democracy, like mining exploitation and electoral fraud in San Isidro.
Like the reporters in Radio Victoria, in recent days the priest had receive phone messages that threatened him with death, some of them said “there will be an end to the damned reds dressed up as priests” and “Keep quiet if you don't want what happened to Marcelo to happen to you,” making reference to the assassination of Marcelo Rivera and demonstrating the ties between these incidents of intimidation.
Many are saying these events are the product of the successful opposition to gold mining in the Cabañas region. One article looking at those links and other developments in El Salvador is Clfton Ross's Return to El Salvador in Counterpunch.