International week of action to defend El Salvador´s mining ban and demand the release of the five Water Defenders of Santa Marta

As social organizations in El Salvador recently celebrated the sixth anniversary of the historic mining prohibition, approved unanimously by the Legislative Assembly in 2017, there are signs that the government of President Nayib Bukele is creating conditions to overturn the law.

Despite the president’s popularity, mostly due to his hard-line approach to gangs and crime, the Salvadoran economy is failing and the government is in desperate need to attract foreign investment. In 2021, Salvadoran environmental organizations denounced that the government had joined the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, a multilateral NGO that promotes “sustainable” mining, and shortly after, a law was passed in the a law to create a Directorate of Energy Mines and Hydrocarbons. Community leaders in Cabañas have also denounced the presence of employees of mining companies offering long-term leases on land located in areas of mining interest.

On January 11, Salvadoran police arrested 5 Water Defenders from Santa Marta in Cabañas, including Antonio Pacheco, the director of the Salvadoran Economic and Social Development Association (ADES), who was a key leader in the fight against mining for more than 12 years and had recently been sounding the alarm over Bukele’s attempts to re-open the door to multinational mining companies.

Despite the lack of evidence, the Water Defenders were quickly sentenced to six months of pre-trial detention on trumped-up charges related to an alleged crime from nearly 30 years ago. Now, like thousands of other prisoners in El Salvador, they are in grave danger of dying or being killed while awaiting an opportunity to prove their innocence. Their families and legal team are not able to denounce the case publicly because the judge has imposed a rare gag order. These arbitrary arrests are deeply concerning as they violate both El Salvador’s internationally recognized Peace Agreement and the National Reconciliation Law, both signed in 1992


As part of the international campaign to defend the historic mining ban, and to call for the immediate release of the Water Defenders, environmental organizations in El Salvador and their International Allies who have historically opposed metallic mining are calling for international days of action to start on (or around) April 22 (Earth Day) and to finish on April 30th.

We are asking groups like yours to join Salvadoran social movement organizations in organizing solidarity actions to take place in cities around the world. Together, we can help to raise international awareness of the country’s political crisis and to show urgently needed solidarity with the Salvadoran social movements and the community of Santa Marta.


  • Help us spread the word by sharing this bulletin and the social media banners below with your social networks.

  • Organize a picket in front of the Salvadoran Embassy or Consulate in your city calling for the immediate release of the Water Defenders.

  • Organize a social media event (we’ll provide the messaging and targets!)

  • Organize an event (forum, workshop, or movie night).

  • Lobby lawmakers in your country to make a statement in support of the Santa Marta 5 defenders.

  • Donate or help fundraise for the legal defense fund for the Santa Marta 5. (CLIK HERE DONATIONS IN THE US)




International Week of Action (April 20-29)


Solidarity Statement from organizations in Spain (led by Berdinak y Lumaltik) 

Solidarity stament from Organizations in Mexico (led by    

On April 18: Join us for the kickoff event! 3 PM El Salvador/México, 5 PM Ottawa/Washington, DC: International Solidarity Webinar: Free the Santa Marta Water Defenders! Protect El Salvador’s Peace Agreement! Organized by the International Allies against mining in El Salvador. In Spanish and English with simultaneous interpretation. Register to participate here. Confirm and share on Facebook here.

All week starting April 21( PHiLIPPINES) Social media soidarity campaign led by the Philippine-Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI). Please check the following Facebook . 

April 21: (CANADA) Sign on to multi-organizational solidarity statement: Add your organization's name by filling out this google form . The statement is available in EnglishFrench and Spanish Deadline to sign on is Friday, April 21st at 6 PM

April 24: (CANADA)

  • Join a Tweetstorm to sho your support for the solidarity statement. Follow MiningWatch Canada to share, tweet and re-tweet.

  • Send letters to Canadian parliamentarians and ask that they advocate with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada and the Canadian Ambassador to El Salvador for the release of the Santa Marta 5. Here is a template letter you can use.

  • Reach out to Canadian media / interviews, etc. (More information to come)

April 20: (EL SALVADOR) Press Conference in San Salvador, Official launch of the International Week of Action in El Salvador: Salvadorean environmental movements will officially announce the International Week of Action (led by ADES, Mesa Frente a la Mineria, ACAFREMIN)

April 21: (EL SALVADOR) Water March on Güija Lake in the border with Guatemala and El Salvador to demand the closing of the Cerro Blanco Mine (Led by the Ecofeminist Movement of El Salvador)

April 22: (EL SALVADOR) Earth Day Celebration in Solidarity  with Water Defenders of Santa Marta (Led by ADES)

April 22(PHILIPPINES) 10:00AM Biefing session about the case of El Salvador´s Water Defenders, 5:00PM Short creative action of unfurling banners, chanting and a solidarity statement from a youth leader at ATM Youth Network General Assembly, Baguio City, Phillippines.(Led by Alyansa Tigil Mina)

April 23 (PHILIPPINES) Joint action between the 100 ATM youth leaders and local groups DESAMA, BILEG and AMKKAS during the solidarity visit in Didipio

April 25 (BOLIVIA/PERU) Release of Solidarity Statement in by allied environmental organizations (Led by TerraJusta)  

April 27: (AUSTRIA) A picket and letter delivery demanding freedom for the santa Marta in front of the Salvadoran embassy in Vienna, Austria.

April 27: (WASHIGNTON, DC) 4:00PM Demonstration: Freedom for the Water Defenders Embassy of El Salvador, 1400 16th St., NW MORE INFORMATION HERE (CISPES, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington Ethical Society, International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador)

April 27: (PHILIPPINES) Release of Solidarity Statement by Alyanza Tigil Mina and other environmental groups.  

April 27: (EL SALVADOR) 8:00pm Twitterspace discussion "The Santa Maerta Case and Re-activiation of Metal Mining in El Salvador" (Led by Reverdes Movement)

April 28/29 (PHILIPPINES) Social Media roll out to amplify messages of the Free the Santa Marta 5 Campaign (Led by Alyansa Tigil Mina) 

May 1: (EL SALVADOR) Solidarity Action During Mayday Celebrations in El Salvador (Led by ADES)   

May 2: (CENTRAL AMERICA) Webinar: The Escazu Agreement, Environmental Rights and Criminalization against Land and Water defenders in Central America (led by the Central American Alliance on Mining ACAFREMIN)

 May 3: (ENGLAND/EUROPE) Webinar: Forum in solidarity with the detained environmental defenders in El Salvador REGISTER HERE


Read the following articles to learn more about the criminalization of the Santa Marta 5 and threats to the metal mining ban in El Salvador.

THE GUARDIAN: Salvadoran environmental defenders detained for decades-old crimes

MONGABAY: Is El Salvador preparing to reverse its landmark mining ban?

NACLA: El Salvador Arrests Prominent Anti-Mining Activists

CANADIAN DIMENSION: El Salvador arrests anti-mining activists as transnational companies eye investment

INEQUALITY: Is Mining Money Behind the Arrest of Salvadoran Water Defenders?