Wednesday, March 22, 2017

El Salvador Attorney General opens new war crimes case

Since the nullifcation of the 1993 Amnesty Law in July, El Salvador's attorney general has been noticeably quiet concerning any cases he might actually bring involving crimes and atrocities during the war.     Although the El Mozote massacre case is moving forward, it is the lawyers for the victims and the court who have reopened and moved that case forward and not any actions by the FGR.

This week, attorney general Douglas Meléndez announced that his office is reopening a case from the civil war.   This first case involves the 1987 assassination of human rights advocate Herbert Anaya Sanabria.   Although a trial convicted an ERP guerrilla member for the murder, most believe that the assassination in the city of Mejicanos was carried out by government forces.   The man convicted was subsequently freed after the Amnesty Law was passed.

According to an Amnesty International Report in 1988:
His killing, carried out by men in plain clothes using silencers on their guns, followed repeated harassment and threats directed at Anaya himself and at other independent human rights monitors in El Salvador.  Anaya had previously been arrested in May 1986 on charges of collaboration with the armed opposition, and was released without trial in February 1987.
The murder of Herbert Anaya was investigated by the UN Truth Commission which was unable to determine which party had been responsible.  This is the UN Truth Commission Report summary of its findings:

Herbert Ernesto Anaya Sanabria, leader of the Human Rights Commission (nongovernmental), was shot and killed on the morning of 26 October 1987 in the parking lot outside his home in San Salvador.  
Two months later, National Police arrested a young man, Jorge Alberto Miranda Arévalo, a member of ERP, who initially stated that he had taken part in the murder as the look-out. He later retracted his confession. In 1991, a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to the maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.  
The Commission finds that:  
1. For this case, it did not have sufficient time to resolve the following dilemma: the fact that there was evidence that a State security force or a death squad might have been responsible, and also evidence that the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) might have been responsible for the murder of Herbert Ernesto Anaya Sanabria.  
2. Miranda's trial and his treatment by the police violated his basic rights.  
3. The State failed in its duty under international law to protect human rights, properly investigate the murder of Herbert Anaya and bring to trial and punish the culprits.
Herbert Anaya's widow has always maintained that the government was responsible for killing her husband.

In announcing his decision to reopen the assassination case, attorney general Meléndez stated that Jorge Miranda would need to be tried again, but that if any relative or other interested persons had information about other material actors or intellectual authors of the crime, the prosecutors would pursue any leads.

The decision to make this the first case to be reopened is an interesting one.   Rather than choosing one of the emblematic massacre cases, like El Mozote or Rio Sumpul or El Calabozo, the attorney general has chosen, an important, but less well known case with facts which will be difficult to prove without the cooperating testimony of one of the participants.   We will have to wait and see what develops.

The next case to watch is the El Mozote hearings on March 29-30 to see what role the FGR's office plays in that case before the court in San Francisco Gotera.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

More than 10 people per day "disappeared" in 2016 in El Salvador

The mother spoke in a quiet voice in the small office of the human rights lawyer.  She told the story of her daughter's disappearance.  Her daughter had gotten in a pick-up for the ride to the highway and the bus which would take her home.   Three hours later, the girl had not arrived.   Calls to her cell phone went unanswered.   The mother was told that the pick-up had been stopped and her daughter removed.    That was all she knew.

Relatives had advised the mother not to report the event to the police.   There was probably gang involvement and getting the police involved would endanger the rest of the family.   The mother did not go to the police.   This visit to the human rights lawyers was the first time she had told the story to anyone outside of the family.   When eventually she went to the police accompanied by the lawyers, the police indicated it was unlikely there was much they could do.    Disappeared, presumed dead.

The daughter in this family is one of at least 3859 persons "disappeared" or missing in El Salvador during 2016.   That's a total of more than ten disappearances per day according to statistics reported by the country's attorney general Douglas Meléndez in a report to the National Assembly.   So far in 2017, there have been reports of 650 disappearances.   Meléndez also indicated there were probably more cases than these totals. These are just the reported cases. They are situations of unimaginable pain for the families.

Everyone seems to acknowledge that the vast majority of these cases relate to gang activity.  Meléndez did say that some of the cases could be common crime, or run-aways, or people leaving to migrate north without notifying anyone.   Other cases can be the result of disappearances caused by the security forces, or caused by vigilante death squads.    Because of a lack of investigation, however, no one really knows the break down.

El Diario de Hoy requested and received statistics from both the police and the attorney general.   Almost twice as many disappearances are being reported to the attorney general.  I am not sure of the reason for the disparity, but a criminologist quoted in the EDH report said this was the result of a lack of confidence in the police.  Both sets of statistics show the number of disappearances increasing every year from 2010 through 2014 and then declining in 2015 and 2016:



The police reported to EDH, that of the 11,252 disappearance cases reported to the police in the past 10 years, they had located only 1445 persons.   The police do not keep data on whether the persons were found alive or dead.

The question of disappearances has been one of significant political jockeying since the 2012 gang truce.    When murder rates fell by more than 50% during the truce, skeptics and opponents of the government asserted that disappearances had increased and that the decline in the murder rate simply meant that the police were not finding the bodies.    As murder rates decline with the "exceptional measures" put in place in March 2016, we can expect to see the same arguments being made.   The statistics reported yesterday do show the rate of disappearances declining, but not as quickly as the homicide rate.

The numbers of the missing are alarming, and they are rarely reported.    Compounding the situation, these cases get little attention from the government.    There is scarcely any support for the families with missing relatives.   The cases seem to have low priority for investigation and prosecution.  

The missing and their families need advocates.







Monday, March 20, 2017

New research on gang membership in El Salvador

There is important new research about gang membership in El Salvador and the possibilities of gang members leaving the gang life behind.    The US State Department funded study was performed by Florida International University along with FUNDE in El Salvador and produced a report titled The New Face of Street Gangs in Central America based on almost 1200 interviews with former and current gang members during 2016.   Find the English version of the report here and the Spanish version here.

First the study had to look at why youth join the gangs in the first place.   From the executive summary:
The results of the study suggest that Salvadoran youths keep joining the gangs as a result of problematic families, lack of opportunities, and a heightened perception of deprivation of social respect and affection in their communities. Gang organizations tap into such shortages to recruit and maintain an army that becomes instrumental in the control of new territories and the waging of war with enemies, including the police and security forces. However, from the standpoint of the gang members and former gang members, the main reasons why people continue joining the gang still revolve around the excitement from hanging out with peers and the development of social respect and public recognition. Young kids continue joining gang organizations because they provide assets that were not provided by their families and community, namely: friendship, protection, resources, and self-confidence. Thus, the gang becomes the center of the lives of the youngsters who joined at early ages. This view of the gangs remains unchallenged during the adolescent years, but starts to fade as the person matures, forms a family of his/her own, and faces the hardships brought by gang violence and law enforcement persecution.
When can gang members leave the gang?   From the executive summary:
Gang desistance is possible and it seems more common than usually believed. However, the findings of this research also indicate that although the decision to leave the gang is seemingly an individual choice, it also depends on the gang organization’s acquiescence. In El Salvador, the progression toward gang desistance has to be constantly negotiated with the overwhelming power of the gang. This entails a delicate and lengthy process of negotiation with gang leaders. In most cases, desistance is a delicate process of separation: gang members expecting to leave the gang reduce their participation in gang meetings and gang activities, start 7 visiting the church, or devote more time to their families. All of these extra-gang activities are conducted with utmost attention to the sensibilities of the gang organization by sending clear signals of loyalty and disposition to cooperate.  
According to the results of the survey, intentions to leave the gang are associated with the following circumstances. First, gang members harbor greater intentions to exit the gang if they experience their first incarceration at an older age. Second, plans to abandon the gang increase with time while inside the gang and as the person is exposed to the hardships of gang life at an adult age. In other words, intentions to abandon the gang do not appear just as a function of age, but as a result of the duration of active gang membership. However, the willingness to leave a gang becomes especially pressing if the gang member manages to find a job in the informal economy and is touched by a religious experience, usually in the Evangelical churches. Both occurrences—informal jobs and religious affiliation—seem to play the most significant role in convincing people to leave the gang.  
Having the desire to leave a gang is not enough as former gang members face a litany of challenges and obstacles, the main one being the gang organizations themselves. The results of the survey show that an important percentage of former gang members said that they were threatened by their own peers when they decided to leave the gang. According to the data, more than 58% of former gang members have received threats against themselves or their families for abandoning the gang. Other challenges include the total absence of personal skills to work in a stable job, the lack of viable opportunities for training and employment, the constant threat from former gang rivals, the harassment of the police and security forces, and social discrimination for their past deeds and appearances (tattoos).  
The religious experience plays a major role in the path toward gang desistance. It provides a protective space that allows aspiring deserters to reestablish links with the community, build their families, and seek educational and labor opportunities without the harassment of the gang organization. It is not surprising, then, that many of the successful cases of desistance that occur in El Salvador occur under the path of religious conversion and integration to an Evangelical church. However, gang members willing to leave the gang need to show an absolute commitment not only to their religious faith but also to the values associated with a pious life. Results show that this is not easy for many individuals. Gang organizations tend to police the moral life of their former gang members and, in many cases, exert an unrelenting control on the life of desisters, even when they no longer belong to the organization. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Can El Salvador's historic center be rescued?



The historic center of San Salvador is the location of many important historic and cultural sites including the Metropolitan Cathedral with the crypt of Blessed Oscar Romero, the former National Palace, the National Theater, Plaza Libertad, Plaza Gerardo Barrios, El Rosario Church, the National Library, the Museum of the Central Reserve Bank and more.  The historic center is also the location of a huge sprawling formal and informal market which spills out of market buildings and onto the streets and sidewalks for many blocks.   Finally, the historic center has been a place where El Salvador's street gangs are deeply entrenched and where extortion demands backed up with threats of deadly violence predominate.

Restoring the historic center has been one of the focal points of San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele's time in office.   Currently the city government is remodeling the two most important plazas in the sector, Plaza Libertad and Plaza Gerardo Barrios, seeking to make them visitor friendly and secure.

Bukele has also worked to relocate some of the informal vendors in the sector who clog the streets and sidewalks.  The construction of a new metropolitan market is intended to give vendors and their customers a safe and clean environment, although the first market is not nearly large enough to make much of a dent in the thousands of vendors who take their posts in the city center.

In an effort to reduce violence in the city's center, in June the national government also made a significant deployment of military troops to the area to work with the National Civilian Police.  Heavily armed soldiers can be seen throughout the zone these days.

In the context of all this work by the city government under Bukele, comes last week's mid-day shoot-out which killed six.  According to news reports, gang members came into the market areas on Wednesday and killed one of the private security guards (vigilantes)  who work in the zone.    In reprisal for the killing, fellow security guards banded together and went searching for the gang members responsible. When the killing stopped, five gang members had been killed in different parts of the city's center in addition to the original slaying of a security guard.

The shootout comes at a bad time for mayor Bukele.  The FMLN has just announced that it will back Bukele for another term as mayor in the 2018 elections (although Bukele has not announced that he will run).   Bukele is regularly mentioned as a 2019 candidate for president, although El Faro reports that the FMLN will choose its chief Medardo Gonzalez as its candidate, and Bukele said in an interview that he would need to compromise too many principles in order to run as the FMLN's candidate for president.    At the same time, La Prensa Grafica, one of the country's major newspapers which has an ongoing bitter feud with Bukele, has been running articles highlighting perceptions of danger in the historic center.

Bukele complained about the coverage in a tweet, pointing out that prior to Wednesday there had not been a single murder this year in the historic center of San Salvador.


Bukele has also been pointing to an overall reduction of 60% in the crime rate in the zone.

The day of the shoot-out, supporters in the Bukele camp suggested that the violence could have been instigated by the conservative media or political forces who want to denigrate progress made in the city center and who want to damage Bukele's prospects.    While I doubt that the shoot-outs were politically sponsored, there is no doubt that the spin which major media sources put on these events has a political slant.

After the shootout, Bukele announced that the municipal police (CAM) would support the efforts of the PNC in bringing security to the zone.  A group of vendors in the zone, however, denounced the presence of CAM officers, claiming that they abused and stole from the vendors in the zone.   The vendors want security to continue to be provided by private security guards hired by the vendors association.  On Sunday, Bukele demonstrated his considerable political skills in calling a meeting with representatives of the vendors within the National Palace, where they reached an accord on security measures.

The status of the historic center of San Salvador is of great practical, symbolic and psychological importance for the country.    Hundreds of thousands of people work or travel through its streets on a weekly basis.   Major historical events occurred there.   The country's beloved Oscar Romero is entombed there.   The efforts of Nayib Bukele to restore the city's heart and to restore a sense of civic pride are significant, and the country's press should wish him well, rather than continuing to demonize the historic center and those who live and work there. 






Saturday, March 18, 2017

Murderous day a reality check for El Salvador government

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime.org 
Written by Tristan Clavel  Friday, 17 March 2017

The killing of dozens in El Salvador in a single day, despite government claims that a hardline policy against violent gangs is working, shows these criminal groups maintain their lethal power, and may signal a resurgence of spiking violence in the country.

El Salvador's head of National Police Howard Cotto announced during a press conference on March 16 that 30 individuals were killed during the previous day, reported La Prensa. According to Cotto, at least 17 of the deaths were directly linked to the country's powerful gangs.

Hours before the announcement, authorities had praised the more than 62 percent decrease in homicides between January 1st and March 14th 2017 and the same period in 2016. El Salvador witnessed 651 murders during those dates this year, a significant drop from last year's 1,722.

Among the lethal incidents on March 16 were the deaths of six individuals in the capital city's historic centre following a shootout between gang members and private security guards over extortion activities.

Another incident took place in the San Martín municipality of the San Salvador department, where gang members murdered three individuals. In their attempt to flee, six suspects, allegedly members of the Barrio 18 gang, were killed by elements of the Special Reactionary Forces (Fuerzas Especializadas de Reacción El Salvador - FES), reported El Mundo. Four of them were shot in their escape vehicle.

According to the Nicaraguan media La Prensa, Cotto refuted the notion that these incidents signalled a new wave of violence and insecurity. This stance was echoed by the Justice and Public Security Minister Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, who chose to describe the murderous day as "abnormal."
InSight Crime Analysis

These recent violent events show that the maras still possess the power to wreak havoc in the country, despite the government's anti-gang strategy.

Cotto in February praised the extraordinary measures implemented in 2016 against gangs for their alleged impact on the decrease of homicides that year. But as InSight Crime had noted then, the fall in violence may have been as much the result of a decision by the gangs to ease their attacks than of a government policy.

The killing of the six suspects in San Martín, including four within their own vehicle, indicates that the government is maintaining its hardline crackdown on the gangs. Authorities asserted that the gang members opened fire first, but there is growing evidence of increased extrajudicial killings by El Salvadoran security forces, and the FES was set up with the explicit purpose of violently cracking down on gangs.

Given this context, the latest incidents could constitute early signs of an end to the 2016 trend of decreasing homicides.

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime.org 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Court cites high military commanders in El Mozote massacre case

Twenty ex-members of El Salvador's military, including high-ranking generals, have been cited to appear in court in San Francisco Gotera, in Morazan department, in connection with the 1981 El Mozote massacre.    This is the first case in a court in El Salvador involving El Mozote and the first case to proceed after last year's nullification of the 1993 Amnesty Law.   The ex-military have court dates on the 29th and 30th of March to hear the charges against them, but can send attorneys rather than appearing in person.

The cited officers include  general José Guillermo García, ex-minister of defense; general Rafael Flores Lima, ex-chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces; Colonel Jaime Flores Grijalva, ex-commander of the Third Infantry Brigade, General Juan Rafael Bustillo, ex-commander of the Salvadoran Air Force and other lower ranking officers involved in the events.

The crimes alleged include murders, aggravated rape, kidnapping, acts of terrorism and other offenses.

The actions of the judge in San Francisco Gotera responds to a petition by the legal team for the victims headed by Tutela Legal “María Julia Hernández.”    The human rights lawyers have complained about the slow, passive approach being taken by the Attorney General's office which has not moved the case forward despite the removal of the Amnesty Law and a judgment of the Inter-American Court for Human Rights requiring the government of El Salvador to investigate and prosecute these crimes against humanity.

The December 1981 El Mozote massacre was perhaps the worst atrocity of El Salvador's twelve year civil war.  All but one of the civilians taking refuge in the small village of El Mozote, more than 800 men, women, children and babies, were brutally killed by the Salvadoran army.  It is a tragedy the world must never forget.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Profile of the Salvadoran consumer

El Salvador's Consumer Protection Office released a Profile of the Salvadoran Consumer this week with a compilation of data from household surveys conducted during 2015.    The data offer a number of insights into the economic well-being of families in El Salvador.
  
Average monthly household income in 2015 in urban areas was $630.14, down from $660.90 in 2013.
Average monthly household income in 2015 in rural areas was $373.96, up from $361.82 in 2013.

Average household spending on food in urban areas was $170.26 and $129.48 in rural areas.

The statistics from the Consumer Profile show the impact of the General Medicine Law which went into effect in 2013.   The amount spent by Salvadoran households on drugs immediately dropped 67% in 2013.   In 2015, medication spending was still 41.3% lower that it had been in 2012.

In the urban areas 27.96% of households had a computer.   While in rural areas, computers are in just 5.89%, of households.   80% of Salvadorans over age 10 use a cell phone.   In 2015, only 27% of Salvadorans surveyed said they utilize the internet.


In addition to computers and cell phones, the percentage of Salvadoran households owning various items:

  • Television -- 87.08%
  • Iron --  74.33%
  • Refrigerator -- 67.04% 
  • Blender -- 55.97%
  • Sound system -- 48.43% 
  • Air Conditioner -- 1.24%
  • Clothes dryer -- 0.75%

Remittances sent from abroad totaled $4.58 billion in 2016.  20% of Salvadoran households reported receiving remittances regularly.  Almost three fourths of households which receive remittances are able to report total household income above the poverty level, showing the impact o remittances on reducing poverty in the country.

  • 15.4% receive less than $46 monthly in remittances
  • 28.9% receive between  $46 and $113 monthly 
  •  10.8% receive between $114 and $170 monthly
  • 15.9% receive between $171 and $228 monthly

Where do remittances get spend by Salvadoran households?

  • 85.5% spend their remittances on consumption such as food and clothing
  • 6.0% spend the remittances on education
  • 1.9% save their remittances
  • 1.6% spend remittances on medical needs

Monday, March 13, 2017

Proposed legislation could threaten call center industry

Call centers are big business in El Salvador employing thousands, many of whom are English-speaking Salvadorans deported from the US.

A bill recently introduced in the US Congress might threaten the growth of the call center industry, however:  

Introduced by Congressmen Gene Green from the Democratic Party and Republican David McKinley, the US Call Center and Consumer Protection Act would deter companies from shipping American jobs overseas and incentivise them to locate them in the US by creating a public list of “bad actors” consisting of those that shipped all or most of their service work overseas. 
“Being on the list would make these actors ineligible for federal grants or guaranteed loans, would require overseas call centres to disclose their locations to customers, and would require them to comply with US consumers’ request to be transferred to a service agent physically located in the US,” the two lawmakers said.
The measure is supported in the US by the Communication Workers of America union, and a version of it was first introduced in 2013.  An article about the bill in the periodical El Mundo stated that El Salvador based call centers had $80 million in sales in 2015.

There might be a political environment in the US where such a bill could now pass.   With president Trump's emphasis on bringing jobs back to the US from overseas, the call center bill would seem to be consistent with Trump's view of the world.   If so, one of the few growing sources of employment in El Salvador might be threatened.

- Hat tip to Fred for this topic.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

FMLN continues attacks on Constitutional Chamber


The left wing FMLN controls the executive branch in El Salvador and has 31 seats in the 84 seat National Assembly.   For the past two years, the party has been vocally complaining that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court is acting as the tool of right wing and business interests to thwart the FMLN's agenda.    The latest complaint surrounds a Constitutional Chamber decision which removed Jesús Ulises Rivas Sánchez, a magistrate nominated by the FMLN, from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal  ("TSE" for its initials in Spanish).

To understand the dispute, you need to understand that each of the three parties which obtained the most votes in the last round of elections gets to nominate one candidate to the TSE, whose nominations are confirmed by the National Assembly.

The Constitutional Chamber removed Rivas Sánchez for a lack of public impartiality as an officer of the country's tribunal which oversees the entire election process.  From the court's decision:

The risk to the independence and the impartiality of the TSE is aggravated more when the magistrate Rivas Sánchez continues maintaining, in a public and noticeable manner, the support that in his moment he gave to the presidential ticket proposed by a political party, being obvious, in that way, the immediate risk of causing a prejudice to the objectivity and transparency of the electoral processes under way; all of which justifies, even more, the adoption of an injunction.   In effect, keeping in place, in the decision-making body that must act as independent and impartial arbiter of the electoral processes,  a person who makes repeated public manifestations of support to a political party, can affect the objectivity that sustains the indispensable confidence of the citizens in this important organ of the State.
Rivas Sánchez's argument in response is that he is not, and has never been, an FMLN party member. He argues, that like all citizens of the country, he should have the right to make up his own mind about which party he favors.  He goes on to argue that he should also have the right to express his preferences publicly.  Rivas Sánchez correctly notes that a prohibition of expressing support for someone running for office does not appear in either El Salvador's constitution or in the country's electoral code.   This requirement has been imposed by the Constitutional Chamber, starting with a ruling in 2014 which removed Eugenio Chicas from the TSE.   (Chicas is now the spokesperson for president Salvador Sanchez Ceren in the FMLN government).   Rivas Sánchez argues that his rights to free expression and political expression are being violated by the Constitutional Chamber.

The decision of the Constitutional Chamber is consistent with one regular theme in its decisions.    The court has consistently acted to diminish the power of the political parties.   It has done so in decisions which allow independent candidates, in decision which allow voting for individual candidates rather than a party ticket, and in decisions which allow voting for candidates from different parties on the same ballot.    The decision to remove a magistrate for publicly expressing partiality for a political party follows the same track.

The FMLN issued a statement and has been vigorously complaining in public forums about the decision of the Constitutional Chamber.   The statements go beyond disagreeing with the logic of the court's decision.   The statements assert that this ruling is a blow against democracy and a conspiracy with the oligarchy and its political allies so that the upcoming elections in 2018 and 2019 can be stolen through fraud.  The statement calls on the Salvadoran people to block the efforts of the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber to dismantle the fundamentals of democracy in El Salvador.   (You can read an English language version of these arguments from CISPES at this link)

I can understand both sides of the legal argument which were advanced in the Rivas Sánchez case, and both arguments were reasonable.   The important point should be that the Constitutional Chamber should be the body which makes the decision as to which argument prevails.   Having done that, the threat to El Salvador's democracy is not from the court decision, but from politicians who would actively seek to undermine the judicial branch of the government.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rutilio Grande -- martyred prophet against injustice and inequality



Sunday, March 12, is the 40th anniversary of the martyrdom of Father Rutilio Grande, S.J.   Grande was a Jesuit priest working with poor campesinos in the countryside near El Paisnal, El Salvador. On March 12, 1977, while driving on the road between El Paisnal and Aguilares, assassins from Salvadoran security forces killed Father Grande, as well as two of his campesino parishioners, Manuel Solorzano, 72, and Nelson Rutilio Lemus, 16. Rutilio Grande was a friend of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and this killing is said to have been one of the key events leading Romero to align his ministry with the cause of the poor and oppressed in El Salvador.

Today in El Salvador, there is hope that Rutilio will follow Oscar Romero towards sainthood. America magazine published an article this week titled El Salvador holds hope for its saint in waiting, Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande, including a description of the Salvadoran Jesuit priest's ministry to the poor:
Father Grande, a Salvadoran from the countryside, was educated mostly in Spain and Belgium and other parts of Latin America, but returned to work among his country's poor and rural masses. The mission teams he organized taught peasants to read using the Bible, but also helped the rural masses organize as workers to speak against a rich and powerful minority that paid them meager salaries and against the social maladies that befell them just because they were poor. 
Jesuit Father Salvador Carranza worked with the team of missionaries Father Grande organized, which included Jesuit priests and lay ministers. They evangelized a wide rural area in El Salvador from 1972 until Father Grande's assassination, forming small communities that would read and discuss the Bible and subsequently other goings-on in their lives. 
"Gathering as a community helped them grow tremendously," Father Carranza said in an interview with Catholic News Service. It started slowly. They began fixing a person's home, a street, and then they organized a food co-op that helped those who didn't have enough to eat, Father Carranza said. 
"He always told the community," Perla said, that "he didn't want to bring the church to them, he wanted them to become the church."
The following words of Rutilio are as relevant today as they were in El Salvador of the 1970s:
Has the wealthy minority - who hold in their hands the economy, the power of decision, the control of the press and all the media - been transfigured? There are many baptized in our country who have not completely ingested the demands of the gospel: a total transfiguration. The Christian revolution is based on a love which excludes no single human being. Jesus, after all, enfleshed himself as one of our peasants to share their miseries. Can we call ourselves his followers and not do the same?
It was this kind of "subversive" thinking which would turn Rutilio Grande into a martyr, the first of many priests in El Salvador who would be murdered in El Salvador's bloody civil conflict. On March 12, 1977, Salvadoran security forces ambushed and killed the beloved priest on his way to say mass in El Paisnal. 

The online periodical ContraPunto published an interview in 2015 with Julio Sánchez, a member of El Salvador's National Guard, who admitted to his participation in the 1977 assassination of Father Grande  Here is an English translation of a short portion of the interview:
What happened on March 12, 1977, when they ambushed the Father Rutilio Grande? 
"There were orders we received directly from the director of the National Guard (General Ramon Alfredo Alvarenga served as director general of the National Guard from 1975 to 1978). We were selected as eight members of the guard; I was not in charge of the operation. I think we were six or eight (members of the guard) that were selected to fulfill the mission." 
Did you know who you were going to kill? - I asked him, looking in his eyes for an honest answer, Julio repeatedly moves his hands and head due to Parkinson's disease.  
"We had been instructed to eliminate the priest, because he was a communist, he was raising up the peasants, and spoke ill of the government," he concludes agitated.... 
How was he ambushed? Where were you waiting? Were you dressed in civilian clothes or uniforms? 
"We were going plainclothes, but a few miles before, elements of the guard elements were uniformed. They informed us that the car was heading toward us, so we waited in the street, and when it appeared we opened fire, opened fire all at the same time from different points in the road. I saw the car go off to the side and we continued shooting."
Read the rest (in Spanish) here.
 
On Saturday, March 11, Rutilio Grande is being remembered in a memorial concert in the National Theater in central San Salvador.   On Sunday, the 40th anniversary, hundreds will march from the site of the murder on the road from Aguilares, to El Paisnal where Rutilio Grande will be celebrated with  a mass and with cultural events.

Additional resources regarding Rutilio Grande:



Statue of Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande in El Paisnal

Statue of Rutilio Grande at St. Joseph church in El Paisnal

Tombs of Rutilio Grande,  Manuel Solorzano, and Nelson Lemus in
St. Joseph Church
Monument at site of Rutilio Grande's assassination

Portrait of Rutilio Grande