El Salvador


Systematic violations of rights

Worse than last year


Workers' rights violations

Right to free speech and assembly

On 19 July 2022, the Congress of El Salvador approved an expansion of the exceptional regime, which had been in force since the end of March 2022, under the pretext of combating violence generated by gangs. As of March 2023, the measure remained in effect.

The emergency regime has enabled serious human rights violations in the country, because of the suspension of constitutional guarantees, arbitrary arrests and police abuse, which has generated protests from human rights organisations and insistent calls from the international community. On 3 June 2022, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights pointed out concerns about prison policy, the lack of procedural guarantees, and minimum conditions in Salvadoran detention centres. On 25 October 2022, the government of El Salvador refused to attend the Commission’s hearing about the situation.


On 26 April 2022, José Leonidas Bonilla, a union leader of the Union of Workers of the Mejicanos Mayor’s Office, in El Salvador, was detained by the police, who broke into his home and told him that an investigation was going to be carried out against him. One day after his capture, his sister went to the station where he was being held and José Leonidas mentioned that the police officers had pressured him to sign records admitting to charges of “criminal association”. José Leonidas refused to sign and was transferred to the La Esperanza Penitentiary and later to the Mariona Prison, where he was detained. On 3 September 2022, José Leonidas died in hospital because he was not given the medicine he needed to control his blood pressure and diabetes, despite the fact that a judge had ordered the prison authorities to supply it.

Right to civil liberties

In El Salvador, two trade union leaders were arrested in their homes. On 6 May 2022, Dolores Almendares, General Secretary of the Union of Workers of the Cuscatancingo Municipal Mayor’s Office, was arrested at her house by police officers claiming they wanted to “clarify a situation”. She was charged with “criminal association”. Previously, the son of the union leader, a minor, had also been arrested.

On 8 May 2022, Geovanni Aguirre, a member of the Union of Workers of the San Salvador Mayor’s Office, was detained a week after attending the 1 May march. The union member had been warned by the municipality that the government would not tolerate participation in the May Day protests. Geovanni Aguirre maintained his decision to participate and was unjustly arrested and detained in the Izalco Penal Center, Santa Ana.

These arbitrary arrests were all made under the emergency laws implemented in the country since March 2022.

Workers’ rights in law

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