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El Salvador’s attorney general had recommended that charges of “acts of terrorism” be dropped against the 13 community activists arrested for protesting against water privatization last July in Suchitoto.

After a six-month investigation, the Salvadoran government of President Antonio Saca could not substantiate its original terrorism accusations. If the charges had stuck, the ‘Suchitito 13’ faced sentences of up to 60 years in prison.

The announcement comes in response to grassroots pressure, including protests from CUPE members, and human rights experts who concluded that the Suchitoto protest was lawful and denounced the terrorism charges.

The Salvadoran government will now seek to convict the 13 for public disorder and aggravated damages. These reduced charges could carry prison sentences of up to four years.

Family members of the ‘Suchitoto 13’ are calling for all charges be dropped, and have undertaken a three-day march from Suchitoto to San Salvador to draw attention to the case.

The family members and their social movement allies argue that those arrested at Suchitoto have been targeted not because they committed crimes, but in response to their opposition to the governing right-wing ARENA party’s plan to decentralize the national public water administration.

Many view the plan as a first step toward the eventual privatization of the El Salvador ’s water system. Amnesty International agreed in a statement released July 18, 2007, stating that it feared the arrests had been made “to prevent future protest.”