The Fund for Global Human Rights strongly condemns the recent attacks on civil society in El Salvador.
Under President Nayib Bukele, the Salvadoran government has intimidated and harassed human rights activists, community organizers, and independent media. Now, two alarming developments suggest the government is ramping up its efforts to restrict civic space.
Restricting Funding for Grassroots Activists
The first is a proposed foreign agents law, which would require anyone who receives funding from abroad to register with the Interior Ministry as a foreign agent. It places a steep tax on foreign funds and prevents registered organizations or individuals from “realizing activities for political or other ends.” The vast scope and vague language of the law gives the government broad discretion to target their political enemies, retaliate against critical media, and shutter civil society organizations.
“The Salvadoran human rights movement has done decades of admirable and courageous work,” says Ricardo González Bernal, the Fund’s program director for Latin America. “That the Legislative Assembly is even considering such a restrictive bill sends a chilling message to human rights groups and organizations fighting against impunity and corruption.”
Persecuting Independent Human Rights Groups
The second alarming development is a set of government raids against seven social justice groups, including leading feminist organization Las Mélidas. Under the false pretext of investigating embezzlement, police ransacked the office of Las Mélidas for nearly 12 hours. Authorities seized computers, files, and even decorative plants. The raids represent a clear escalation in the government’s politically motivated crackdown on independent voices.
“The events evoke the state violence of the 1970s and 1980s,” says Azucena Ortiz, director of Las Mélidas. “This is just another episode in the ongoing attacks against civil society in El Salvador. We are ready to defend our organization and whoever may be implicated in the face of these absurd accusations.”
Standing Up for Local Civil Society
Since becoming president in 2019, Bukele has moved swiftly to consolidate power. In 2020, he sent soldiers into the Legislative Assembly in a brazen effort to bully policymakers. Earlier this year, the National Assembly—dominated by his Nuevas Ideas party—removed the country’s attorney general and five judges on the Supreme Court who had been vocal critics of Bukele. The hand-picked judges who replaced them recently ruled that a sitting president can run for a second consecutive term—a stark departure from existing precedent that drew immediate blowback from the international community.
Across El Salvador, resilient human rights defenders aren’t backing down. They continue to withstand daily harassment and hostility to advocate for the safety, security, and fundamental rights of all Salvadorans. In a country with some of the strictest anti-abortion laws on record, the Fund is proud to support activists pushing for reproductive rights and promoting women’s equality.
We call on our global community of partners, allies, and supporters to stand in solidarity with El Salvadoran civil society against these authoritarian tendencies that contradict basic democratic principles, human rights standards, international law