Threats and Attacks to Religious Leader in Cabañas

January 2012

A new series of threats towards environmentalists have disrupted the uneasy calm that had settled over Cabañas after almost eight months without violence or intimidation. 

On Friday January 20th, around noon, Father Neftalí Ruiz, Priest of Salvadoran Apostolic Catholic Church (ICAS), Secretary of the board of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas (CAC) and member of the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa, in Spanish) allowed two young men, claiming to be university students into his house.   They said they were interested in the social work that Father Neftalí does and the organizations he works with.  However, once inside they tied him up by his hands and feet, asked him where his weapons were.  When Father Neftalí responded he didn’t have any weapons the men began to search his computer and all his possessions. 

In the end, the criminals stole his laptop, cell phones, and an external hard drive.  Father Neftalí stated that at no point during the incident did the assailants ask for money.  He also told the press that the young men were in constant communication during the robbery with someone who seemed to be organizing it from afar.  During a press conference organized by the Mesa, Catholic Bishop Monsignor Francisco Sol said that this was not a crime of common delinquency. 

Because Father Neftalí has been receiving death threats since 2008-2009, he already has a file open with the Attorney General’s Office and Civilian National Police.  Last year the Attorney General’s Office took his phone as evidence after he received a series of death threats by text messages.  However, he has yet to hear anything for the authorities regarding that case.  During the Mesa press conference he questioned the investigations of the Police and Attorney General by saying: “What are they waiting for? For there to be more deaths, more bloodshed?”

In their press statement the Mesa said:  This new attack on the life, integrity and work of the CAC and National Roundtable against Metallic Mining forces us, once again, to express our energetic disapproval, as well as condemn the wave of persecution against environmentalists and human rights defenders who like, Father Neftalí, have suffered similar treatment since the beginning of the anti-mining struggle in El Salvador.”

To date there have been four environmentalist opposed to mining in El Salvador that have been murdered since 2009.  Also, numerous other community organizers, leaders, priests, and local radio station staff have received threats and been attacked and intimidated during that time.   The new threats to Father Neftalí follow on the heels of another wave of threats and intimidation tactics towards the staff of Radio Victoria, apparently stemming from recent tension between the community of Santa Marta and the local right wing mayor, Juan Antonio Ramos.  The threats, from an email address with the name “Exterminator,” are yet another attack on independent journalism in El Salvador.

The CAC, the Mesa and the communities organized against mining demand that the government, through its corresponding institutions, ensure that in El Salvador metallic mining never be allowed and that the opposition by citizens to extractive projects should not be the motive for persecution, threats or death.

For more information:

The Mesa press release in Spanish and English

Video coverage of the press conference " style="color: #1b57b1; text-decoration: none; font-weight: normal;">here and " style="color: #1b57b1; text-decoration: none; font-weight: normal;">here

A Update from the SHARE Foundation and Voices on the Border and Upside Down World

Spanish press coverage in the CoLatino and Contrapunto


Support their struggle by calling for investigations in the case of Father Neftalí and Email the Attorney General’s Office and the Minister of Justice and Security.

To Contact the Attorney General’s Office email Hector Burgos, assistant to Attorney General Romeo Barahona.

To Contact the Minister of Justice and Public Security email his assistant Yessenia Lopez and secretary Sandra Lazo. and

Sample Email Text (Choose one heading from below and send): 

Estimado Señor Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad Pública / Señor Fiscal General De la República

Como miembro de la comunidad internacional, quiero expresar mi profunda preocupación sobre el nuevo caso de robo, amenazas e intimidación contra un miembro del Comité Ambiental de Cabañas en Defensa del Agua y la Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica.

El viernes pasado dos jóvenes, que se hicieron pasar por universitarios, llegaron en la casa del Padre Neftalí Ruiz,  Sacerdote de la Iglesia Católica Apostólica Salvadoreña ICAS, Secretario de la Junta directiva de la asociación Comité Ambiental de Cabañas y miembro de la Mesa Nacional frente a la Minería Metálica.  Le ataron los pies y las manos del Padre Neftalí y robaron su computadora personal, teléfono móvil y soportes de almacenamiento de información.  Sin embargo, no robaron ningún otro objeto de valor y nunca le pidieron dinero.

Tomando en cuenta que el Padre Neftalí ya tiene un expediente abierto con la Fiscalía General de la República y la Policía Nacional Civil por una serie de amenazas de muerte que ha recibido desde el 2009, y el hecho de que desde el mismo año se han dado cuatro asesinatos de ambientalistas que oponía proyectos de minería en el mismo departamento de Cabañas, es urgente que:

1.  Haya una investigación exhaustiva de este caso y todos los casos anteriores de amenaza y violencia contra el Padre Neftalí Ruiz y que sean llevado a juicio todos los autores materiales e intelectuales.

2.  Que se asegure  la protección adecuada para los y las ambientalistas que han recibido amenazas o han sido blancos de ataque, incluyendo Padre Neftalí, así que también para las comunidades de Cabañas donde las compañías mineras han creado conflictividad. 

3.  Que la FGR y la PNC investiguen los autores intelectuales de todos los crímenes de violencia, asesinato, ataques, y amenazas que se ha dado en Cabañas desde el 2009 a raíz de la conflictividad alrededor de la situación minera. 

Acciones concretas de las instituciones del gobierno son sumamente necesarias, porque al quedar en impunidad este caso, se abre la puerta para más casos al futuro.

Agradezco de antemano sus gestiones para agilizar las investigaciones y espero que pronto se haga justicia en estos casos. Estaré pendiente de las acciones de la PNC y Fiscalía General y seguiré informando a los y las funcionarias de gobierno en mi país sobre estos casos. 

Your Name

Dear Minister of Justice and Public Security / Attorney General of the Republic

As a member of the international community, I want to express my deep concern over the latest case of robbery, threats and intimidation towards a member of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas in Defense of Water and the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining. 

Last Friday, two young men, who were pretending to be university students, entered the house of Father Neftalí Ruiz, priest with the Salvadoran Apostolic Catholic Church, Secretary of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas and member of the National Roundtable against Metallic Mining.  They tied Father Neftalí up by his hands and feet and stole his personal computer, cell phone and external hard drives.  However, they did not steal any other valuables nor ask for money. 

Taking into account that Father Neftalí already has a file open with the Attorney General of the Republic and the Civilian National Police resulting from a series of death threats that he has received since 2009, and the fact that since that same year there have been four environmentalists who oppose mining in the department of Cabañas murdered, it’s urgent that:

1.  There is a thorough investigation of this case and all the prior cases of threats and violence towards Father Neftalí and that the material and intellectual authors be brought to trial. 

2.  That adequate protection is provided for the environmentalists who have received threats or who have been targets of attacks, including Father Neftalí, as well as for the communities in Cabañas where mining companies have created conflict. 

3.  That the Attorney General’s Office and the Police investigate the intellectual authors of all the crimes of violence, murder, attacks, and threats that have happened in Cabañas since 2009 as a result of the conflict around the mining situation.

Concrete actions from government institutions are extremely necessary, because by leaving these cases in impunity, the door is left open for future cases.

Thank you in advance for actions to facilitate the investigations and I hope that there will soon be justice in these cases.  I will be paying attention of the actions of the Police and Attorney General’s Office and will continue to inform my government officials about these cases.


Your Name