Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Events of Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez’s Brutal Torture and Assassination November 16, 2012


Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS)
Human Rights Alert

Since March of 2005, when the Romero Community settled in Tonacatepeque, community members have been threatened by farmers from the Hondonada Cooperative due to a land dispute.  There are 277 manzanas (about 478 acres) of land that form the Vertientes and Guayacán Property, which belongs to the Salvadoran Institute for Agrarian Reform-ISTA. Many communities (November 2nd, Paso Puente, Romero Community), cooperatives (Sagrisa, Distrito Italia, La Hondonada, Guayacán), and independent farmers live on and farm the land.  The government has negotiated with each community, cooperative, and independent farmer.  They have offered 8.5 manzanas (about 14 acres) for the 78 families that make up the Romero Community.  They have offered the cooperatives and independent farmers ¾ of a manzana (about 1.29 acres) per family.  The Romero Community has accepted the negotiation.  However the cooperatives want 2+ manzanas (about 3.45 acres) per family (which there is not enough land for) and they want to appropriate all of the land and will not accept the negotiations with ISTA. (For more context and history please read this section on our website.)

The needs of the Romero Community members, due to the extreme poverty in which they live, force the men and woman of the community, especially the youth to survive by gathering fire wood, green wood, and some coconuts from the nearby mountain.  This mountain is abandoned and people from many communities in the area go there to do the same thing, in order to survive. 

About six days before his death, the young 16-year-old, Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martinez, told us that he had previously been discouraged from getting fire wood from the mountain.  During the time of the mango crop he was told not to gather mangos and coconuts because he and other youth were threatened by the farmers.  Months went by and the people planted and harvested corn and beans.  During this time many community members went to the banks of the river to farm. 

At the start of November the women of Romero Community brought in the corn harvest from their small plots of land.  Despite the fact that many people told the youth not to go to the mountain, they decided to go in order to make a few dollars. They went with adult women from the community. Marco said that while they were helping the women, four men came down from the hill that surrounds the river. At that point, the only thing they could do was grab the sacks full of corn and run away.  The men were yelling at the women that they were going to kill them; they chased them all the way to the area that’s called “the trash can” in the Residencial Libertad. 

Back in the community tired, drained and worried, Marco Antonio told the men what had happened. The men said they had told him not to go. No one knew who the men were that had threatened the group because Marco could not describe them.

On Friday, November 16, the day of Marco’s disappearance, Raúl Acevedo and another neighbor warned Marco not to go out, since his mother would have to shoulder the burden of the family. Later the same day, Mr. Acevedo came back to a worried community, they told him that Marco had disappeared and they couldn’t find him. Last they had heard was that he was going to gather firewood and coconuts.

On Saturday November 17, they found his body in the south of Distrito Italia Number Three in Tonacatepque.  They found he had numerous injuries made with a machete and his hands were tied behind his back with barbed wire.  His hands, ears, and other extremities were cut off, and there were other machete cuts on his face which left him unrecognizable. He had been blindfolded.  His cranium was destroyed.  A young CIS scholarship student had to go identify the body because they would not allow the mother of the young man to see the state in which the police had found him.

After these events, Mr. Raúl Acevedo, a community leader and another youth have received threats that say “they will be next.”

For these reasons we demand:
  •   A thorough investigation of the crime
  • Protection for the community
  • Justice for Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez
  • No More Impunity!
  • Protect the youth and their human rights



Picture: Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez, December 2008

Take Action:



1.    Send letters to:


  1. Mr. President Mauricio Funes
  2. Minister Munguía Payes, Minister of Justice and Public Security
  3. PREPAZ Director, Rev. Santiago Flores
With a blind copy (bcc) to the CIS:  director@cis-elsalvador.org

2.   Send donations for the Human Rights/ Romero Community fund:  
Funds are necessary to do follow up to the investigation of Marco Antonio’s assassination; to call a public meeting; and to publicize in order to put pressure on the investigation and the provision of security for the community.  Funds may also be used for follow up with the land ownership and titles, one of the reasons for the conflict.

Los Olivos CIS (in U.S. dollars)
PO Box 76
Westmont, IL 60559-0076, USA
Debit/Credit Card Donations Can Be Made Online:

Addresses to send the below letter:
HONORABLE PRESIDENTE DE LA REPÚBLICA DE EL SALVADOR, MAURICIO FUNES
Alameda Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo no. 5500
San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.
Telephone: ++503-2248-9000
Fax: ++503-2243-9947

Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad Púbica,
Honorable Sr. General David Munguía Payes
Alameda Juan Pablo II y 17 Ave. Norte
Complejo Plan Maestro, Edificio B1, Nivel 1
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador, C.A.
Phone: ++503-2526-3084
Fax: ++503-2281-5959
Email: Sandra.lazo@seguridad.gob.sv

Presidente de PREPAZ, Reverendo Santiago Flores
Alameda Juan Pablo II y 17 Ave. Norte
Complejo Plan Maestro, Edificio B3, Nivel 3
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador, El Salvador
Telephone: ++503-2526-3257
Fax: ++503-2526-3258
Email:
santiago.flores@seguridad.gob.sv or eduviges.rivera@seguridad.gob.sv

*Please send copies of your letters, faxes or emails (blind copy please - bcc) and any responses received to the CIS:
director@cis-elsalvador.org; telephone; ++503-2235-1330 ext. 104 (fax)
Copy of the letter in English for your reference below



Excelentísimo Señor Presidente de la República de El Salvador
Don Mauricio Funes
Alameda Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo, No. 5500
San Salvador, El Salvador

Excelentísimo Señor Presidente:

Yo soy un (una) ciudadano (ciudadana)  estadounidense./canadiense/australiano(na)/ETC que ha viajado a El Salvador en muchas ocasiones y tengo un profundo respeto por su país y su gente. Soy un (una) estudiante/professor(a)/abogado(da)/ETC, estoy interesado (interesada) en el estudio de temas sociales y estoy dedicado (da) a la búsqueda de la justicia social. En esta oportunidad le estoy escribiendo porque estoy alarmado (da) por la desaparición, tortura y asesinato de Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez y estoy profundamente preocupado (da) por la seguridad de las personas de la Comunidad Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, en Tonacatepeque.

Desde marzo de 2005, los miembros de la Comunidad Monseñor Romero han sido amenazados por un grupo de agricultores de la Cooperativa La Hondonada,  en relación con una disputa local por la posesión de la tierra. La tierra en disputa pertenece al Instituto Salvadoreño de Transformación Agraria (ISTA). Es urgente que el gobierno, a través del ISTA, facilite la escritura de propiedad de las 8.5 manzanas de tierra que ha sido adjudicada a la Comunidad Monseñor Romero, a fin de establecer la posesión legal de la tierra y garantizar la seguridad para los miembros de la Comunidad Romero. 

Estas amenazas desembocaron recientemente en el asesinato de Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez, un joven de 16 años de la Comunidad Romero. El 10 de noviembre de 2012 Marco fue con un grupo de mujeres a recoger la cosecha de maíz. Mientras estaba ayudando a las mujeres, cuatro hombres bajaron de la montaña gritando que iban a matar a Marco y a las mujeres. Marco fue perseguido loma abajo, pero pudo llegar a la seguridad de su casa. El 16 de noviembre, Marco desapareció después de ir a buscar leña y cocos en una zona montañosa abandonada. El 17 de noviembre, su cuerpo fue encontrado en una ribera del río Las Cañas, al sur del Distrito Italia número tres, de Tonacatepeque. El fue encontrado con sus ojos vendados y con las manos atadas por detrás de la espalda con alambre de púas. Tenía muchas heridas que le habían sido infligidas con machete. Su cara, manos, orejas y otras partes del cuerpo habían sido cortadas. Su cabeza había sido aplastada. Después de la desaparición y asesinato de Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez, el líder de la comunidad Raúl Acevedo y otro joven han recibido amenazas de que “ellos serán los próximos.”

Respetuosamente le solicito que ordene una completa investigación de la desaparición, tortura y asesinato de Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez, que haga públicos los resultados y que los que resultaren culpables sean llevados ante la justicia. También le solicito que tome urgentes medidas para garantizar la seguridad de los miembros de la Comunidad Monseñor Romero.

Gracias por su inmediata atención a este urgente asunto.
Atentamente,
___________________________________________________________________

Translation of letter above

Honorable President of the Republic of El Salvador
Mauricio Funes
Alameda Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo, no. 5500
San Salvador, El Salvador


Dear Honorable Mr. President:

I am a U.S./CANADIAN/AUSTRALIAN/ETC citizen who has travelled to El Salvador on many occasions and I have a deep respect for your country and its people. I am a STUDENT/PROFESSOR/LAWYER/ETC who is interested in the study of social issues and dedicated to social justice. I write to you today because I am alarmed by the disappearance, torture, and murder of Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez and am deeply concerned for the safety of the people of Comunidad Monseñor Arnulfo Romero in Tonacatepeque.

Since March 2005, the members of Comunidad Monseñor Romero have been threatened by a group of farmers from the Cooperativa la Hondonada regarding a local land dispute. The tract of land under dispute belongs to the Salvadoran Institute for Agrarian Reform (ISTA). It is urgent that the government through ISTA facilitate the title to the 8.5 manzanas of land that has been adjudicated in favor of Monseñor Romero Community in order to establish clear tenancy and security for the Romero Community. 

These threats recently culminated in the murder of 16-year-old Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez. On November 10, 2012 Marco went with a group of women to bring in the corn harvest. While helping the women, four men came down the hill yelling that they were going to kill Marcos and the women. Marcos was chased down the hill, but made it home safely. On November 16, 2012 Marco disappeared after going to collect firewood and coconuts from an abandoned mountain. On November 17, 2012 his body was found on the bank of the Las Cañas River at the south end of Distrito Italia Number Three in Tonacatepeque. He was found with his hands tied behind his back with barbed wire and he had been blindfolded. He had many wounds inflicted by a machete. His face, hands, ears, and other extremities had been cut. His head had also been crushed. After the disappearance and murder of Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez, community leader Raúl Acevedo and another young man have received threats that “they will be next.”

I respectfully urge you to call for a complete investigation of the disappearance, torture, and murder of Marco Antonio Sarmiento Martínez with the results made public and those responsible brought to justice. I further call on you to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the members of Comunidad Monseñor Romero.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,




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