Fourth attack against Community defending its water

Fourth attack against Community defending its water

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December 4, 2007

For months now, the community of Cutumay Camones, which resides near Santa Ana, El Salvador, has been protesting against the construction of a new landfill site that threatens to contaminate their drinking water. The landfill is positioned directly above a local aquifer, just 700 meters away from the community spring.

The government doesn’t care in the least. Not about the thousands of threatened families that make up the community, not about the Ombudsman’s recommendations to immediately halt construction because of the forthcoming water contamination, and not even about the Court of Accounts who found the deal with Presys (the private company to run the site) to be completely illegal.

The government just seems to hold everybody in contempt. Unfortunately, for the community that’s meant violence. Since September 15, the government has repeatedly sent in riot police to attack them. The most recent attack occurred a little over a week ago.

On November 22, more than 300 police descended on the community, firing tear gas from surrounding helicopters. They went on to arrest 39 people, some of them children under the age of 18.

The attack also directly caused the death of 14-year old William Alfredo Ventura, who was suffering from bronchitis and pneumonia when he found himself surrounded with tear gas.

The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), sends the following communique regarding this recent attack.

Brutal Government Attacks on Community of Cutumay Camones Continue
On November 22, the community of Cutumay Camones was again brutally attacked by the Salvadoran riot police (UMO). The community, in their continuous resistance to the construction of a garbage dump, blocked the entrance of the construction site. Orlando Mena, Santa Ana’s mayor, joined with Police Director Rodrigo Avila in sending more than 300 riot police to “dissolve the protest,” attacking the community with tear gas fired from surrounding helicopters.

The attack on the community likely caused the death of 14-year old William Alfredo Ventura who died from bronchitis and pneumonia complications provoked by the tear gas. At the same time, 39 people, including children under the age of 18, have been arrested and are under police custody. The community is demanding the immediate release of all community members captured last week and continues to demand an end to the construction of the garbage damp as well the end of police intervention on behalf of the private company Presys.

Given that the death of Ventura could have been directly related to the use of tear gas, Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna called for an investigation into his death. “We are questioning the police abusive use of force, for which there must be an investigation into the actions of the National Civilian Police,” said Ombudsman Luna. Social organizations that make up the Forum for the Defense and Sustainability of Water are joining in the demand that the death of Ventura to be investigated. They are calling for solidarity with the community against the repressive acts of the National Civilian Police. Also, the Legislative Assembly called for Police Director Rodrigo Avila to visit the Assembly on Wednesday November 28 to explain the police procedure implemented in Cutumay Camones.

Previously, social organizations such as the Water Workers Union SETA organized an activity to accompany the community in their resistance against the building of the garbage dump which will contaminate local water resources. Various communities in resistance gathered at the event to show their support. The case is similar to that of the community of Tacuba where community leaders were targets of state repression for defending the administration of water earlier this year.

Right-wing parties such as the PCN recently voted in favor of a resolution in the Legislative Assembly which includes a series of recommendations on the Cutumay Camones case. First, the resolution demands that the General Attorney’s office investigate the series of irregularities in the concession of construction and operating permits that the Environmental Ministry awarded the private company Presys. Second, it asks the National Civilian Police to stop intervention in the community, saying that a national security entity cannot serve the interests of a private company, nor should it be applying excessive force. Lastly, the resolution calls for the suspension of the garbage dump.

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