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Salvadoran bishops urge peace and democracy, not violence, ahead of elections

Activists participate in a protest against Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele at the National Congress in San Salvador. Photo: CNS

BISHOPS in El Salvador have called on citizens to show the best Salvadoran society is known for — faith, hard work and solidarity — not the rancour and violence on display during the last days of one of the most contentious political campaign periods in the country’s recent history.

Political tensions are escalating after the killings of two members of a the left-wing party on January 31 and weeks of comments by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele that human rights groups say promoted “hate and confrontation”.

For survivors of the country’s 12-year civil war that ended almost three decades  ago, the political violence has also stirred up painful memories – and fuelled concerns the country is ushering in a new era of political violence and intolerance while old scars have yet to heal.

Bishops in El Salvador hold a conference about the upcoming legislative election. Photo: CNS

“We are people who have earned the respect of those who admire us for the virtues that enhance us, such as the sense of family, love of work, strength in the face of adversity, great capacity for solidarity and our deep faith in God,” said Bishop Constantino Barrera Morales of Sonsonate, reading part of a statement from the Salvadoran bishops’ conference published on February 9, less than three weeks before the country’s February 28 legislative elections.

“But the Salvadoran family is currently going through a deep crisis, aggravated by the pandemic and the hostile climate that reigns in El Salvador.

More than 75,000 people were killed and 5,000 were disappeared when leftist fighters took up arms against the US-backed Salvadoran government in a conflict that most historians believe officially began in 1980 with the assassination of prominent Archbishop Oscar Romero.

“Anyone picking up a newspaper, turning on the radio or turning to social media is exposed to the message of intolerance transmitted, carrying out what some political leaders want voters to consume.”

“It seems that we have been losing our identity and we have allowed ourselves to be contaminated by the anti-values that are destroying the best in us as people and as a national community,” the bishops’ message said.

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