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 International pressure has helped secure the release of all 13 people arrested for protesting water privatization in El Salvador.

The demonstrators were arrested July 2 in a brutal crackdown by government security forces. They were charged with “acts of terrorism” under sweeping laws that target dissent.

Four prisoners were released on July 20, and the remaining 13 were expected to be freed on July 27 according to Canadian NGO Salvaide.

All 13 now await trial for the charges of “terrorism”. Proceedings will begin in the next three months. Amnesty International has criticized the charges, saying the law is being used to deter future protests. Other groups are also condemning what they call the criminalization of popular protest, including the human rights office of the Catholic archbishop in San Salvador, and the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America. 

Global solidarity kicked in the moment the 13 were arrested, as news spread quickly by email and web updates. Among the many actions, supporters from around the world sent messages to El Salvador officials through an online action run by Public Services International, and CUPE joined other Canadian groups signing an ad which ran in El Salvador in the Colatino newspaper July 21.

SETA, El Salvador’s water workers’ union, says El Salvador President Tony Saca is pushing privatization to comply with loan terms imposed by the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB). The 1998 loan gave money to “decentralize” water systems, set up smaller municipal water companies and then privatize them.

Watch cupe.ca for updates, and visit the site of the US-El Salvador Sister Cities (click on the “E.S. Political Prisoners” link for the latest news).