University of Minnesota

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in El Salvador, Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.46, Doc. 23 rev. 1 (1978).





American Declaration:

Article XX:

Every person having legal capacity is entitle to participate in the government of his country, directly or through his representatives, and to take part in popular elections, which shall be by secret ballot, and shall be honest, periodic, and free. [1]/

A. Introduction: Fundamental importance of the right to vote and
to participate in government

1. The right to take part in the government and participate in honest, periodic, free elections by secret ballot is of fundamental importance for safeguarding the human rights dealt with in the preceding chapters. The reason for this lies in the fact that, as historical experience has shown governments derived from the will of the people, expressed in free elections, are those that provide the soundest guaranty that the basic human rights will be observed and protected.

2. The importance of these principles has been firmly recognized by the founders of the Organization of American States, who in Article 3.d of the Charter reaffirmed the following principle:

“The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy.”

3. At the time when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was established in 1959, the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs approved a resolution known as “The Declaration of Santiago, Chile,” in which it stated, in part, the following:


“Harmony among the American republics can be effective only insofar as human rights and fundamental freedoms and the exercise of representative democracy are a reality within each one of them…

“The existence of anti-democratic regimes constitutes a violation of the principles on which the Organization of American States is founded, and a danger to united and peaceful relationships in the hemisphere; …


“2. The government of the American republics should be the result of free elections.”

B. Protection of the right to vote and to participate In government

in Salvadorian law. A brief summary

4. The Constitution. The Constitution of El Salvador adopted in 1962 and now in force, provides that “The Government is republican, democratic, and representative.” (Article 3). The principle of representative government is firmly established in Article 6, which reads:

“All public power emanates from the people. The officials of the state are their delegates and have no other powers than those expressly given to them by law.”

5. The representatives elected by the people include the President of the Republic, who is elected for a single term of five years (Article 63); the members of the legislative Assembly, elected every two years and who may be reelected (Article 40); and the members of the Municipal Council (including the mayors), who serve a term of two years and also may be reelected (article 103). The governors of the several departments, for their part, are appointed by the Executive Power (Article 101).

6. All Salvadorians over eighteen years of age are citizens (Article 23), and suffrage is a right and a duty of citizenship (article 24). Except in certain cases in which citizens may lose that right: “Those of notoriously depraved conduct”; those convicted of crime; or those who restrict freedom of suffrage (Article 27). [2]/

7. The same article that guarantees the right of suffrage (Article 24) also recognizes the right of citizens to associate together to form political parties and to be candidates for public office, in the following way:

“These are rights of citizens: to associate together to form political parties in accordance with the law and to join those already formed; to be candidates for public office according to their qualifications; and others recognized by law.”

8. The requirements for being a candidate for the Presidency and for the Legislative Assembly are established in Articles 66 and 41, respectively; moreover, the qualifications for candidates for the Municipal Councils are determined by law (Article 102, paragraph 2). The impediments to eligibility for candidates to the Presidency and to the Legislative Assembly appear to be exhaustively listed in Article 67 and 42 respectively.

9. The foregoing provisions, together with the guaranties of freedom of expression and of dissemination of thought without prior censorship (Article 158) and the guaranty of the rights of association and of peaceful assembly for legitimate purposes (Article 160), would, if effective, provide broad protection for those political activities [3]/ which are essential components of the right to vote and to participate in government.

10. However, even in theory these guaranties could be threatened by prohibiting propaganda advocating anarchistic or anti-democratic doctrine (Article 158, paragraph 2), because neither of these words has any generally accepted meaning and both are subject to a very broad and subjective interpretation. [4]/

11. The Constitution provides that “voting shall be direct, equal and secret” (Article 29), and that the population is the basis of the electoral system (Article 32, paragraph 1). However, voters must register themselves in the appropriate register in order to vote (Article 30). The law “shall prescribe the time, manner and other conditions for the exercise of suffrage:” but the elections of Deputies and of President and Vice President is in no case to be held simultaneously.

12. In presidential elections when no citizen “receives an absolute majority of votes of those counted,” the Legislative Assembly shall elect a president from among the two candidates who have received the most votes (Article 47 paragraph 5).

13. In order to guarantee equity and impartiality in elections, the Constitution also governs the participation of political parities in overseeing the electoral process; the establishment of the electoral mechanism under the direction of the Central Election Council; certain restrictions and duties for public officials and members of the armed forces, and sanctions to be used against those who try to interfere in the freedom and equity of the elections.

14. The precept that “the contesting political parties have the right to watch over the electoral process” (Article 34, paragraph 2) is of basic importance in guaranteeing the right of suffrage and participation in government.

15. As for elections, the Constitution provides that the “Law shall establish the necessary agencies to receive, count, and supervise votes and for other activities connected with the exercise of suffrage. A Central Election Council shall be the supreme authority in these matters.” (Article 34, paragraph 1). The Central Election Council (CEC) is composed of three members elected by the Legislative Assembly, each one chosen from a slate presented by the Office of the Chief Executive and the Supreme Court of Justice. Three alternate members are chosen in the same manner, all of whom serve for a period of three years (Article 35).

16. The Constitution establishes certain sanctions for election violations, including the following:

“Article 27. The rights of citizenship are lost:

“3. By those who buy or sell votes in the elections;

“5. Officials, authorities, or their agents, who restrict freedom of suffrage.

17. Members of the Central Election Council are liable before the Legislative Assembly for official and ordinary offenses committed by them (Article 211, paragraph 1). [5]/ Finally, the Constitution provides that “the violation, infraction, or infringement of constitutional provisions shall be specially punished by law. (Article 219).

18. The Election Law. The Election Law [6]/ as amended, [7]/ puts into force and governs the constitutional provisions cited in the preceding section. No attempt will be made here to conduct an exhaustive analysis of its provisions but rather mention will simply be made of some of its more important provisions and characteristics.

19. The establishment and registration of political parties are governed in detail under the Law. Special note should be made of the prohibition contained in Article 20, which reads as follows:

“The establishment and operation of political parties that support anarchistic or Communist doctrines or any other ideology designed to destroy or alter the democratic structure of the Government of the Republic is hereby prohibited.”

It is also prohibited to register parties whose statements of principles and objectives support the doctrines referred to in Article 20, of whose organizers, officials or prominent members include those who advocate those doctrines or ideas (Article 26). A party’s registration can be cancelled when “in the course of its political activities it propagates the doctrines referred to in Article 20” (Article 33, paragraph 5). The Central Election council may order cancellation on its own initiative or at the request of the Attorney General or of any citizen or registered party (Article 34).

20. In accordance with an amendment to the Election Law, of 1975, candidates for the offices of the President and Vice President, deputies in the constituent and Legislative Assembly and from Municipal Councils must be registered personally either individually or collectively. Heretofore the Election Law did not contain this requirement.

21. The right to contending parties to oversee the electoral process involves a series of provisions contained in the Election Law. Each contending party “has the right and obligation” to accredit a representative and alternate representative to each one of the various electoral bodies (Article 41); these will be given all the necessary powers to fulfill their duties, and can participate in deliberations and express their views (Article 43). In particular, they are authorized to “watch over the receipt, counting and scrutiny of the votes, and sign the corresponding statements.”

22. Election campaigning can be conducted only within the established period, which ends three days before the election (Article 51, paragraph 3). It should be noted that election campaigning by military personnel in active service and members of the security organs are prohibited (Article 55, paragraph 2). They are also required to vote at their headquarter (Article 122).

23. The law establishes, in detail, the responsibilities of the various electoral bodies. These organs include the Central Election Council; the Departmental Electoral boards; the Municipal Electoral Boards, and the Teller Committees, which are in charge of overseeing the vote count.

24. The Central Election committee is responsible for appointing three members from each one of the subordinate organs. The selection of members, however, is conducted in accordance with the terms of Article 99, which reads as follows:

“The members of the Electoral Board and of the Teller Committees shall be appointed by the Central Election Council from among slates to be presented by the political parties or registered coalitions. Within eight days of the date on which the elections are called, so that the appointees shall not be members of the same party; Should such slates not be presented within the prescribed period, the Central Election Council shall make the appointment, and make an effort to see to it that the appointees are from differing parities or coalitions, as the case may be.


25. The Teller Committee shall be responsible for the actual examination of votes. After counting the votes, an official statement or certificate is signed by the members of the Teller Committee and a signed copy is turned over to each representative of the parties that have been present. (Article 134).

26. As soon as the Teller Committee completes its count of the votes. It forwards the results to the Central Election and to the Departmental Electoral Board (Article 135).

27. The Official ballots and certificates are then taken to the chain of electoral councils until the final results are tallied by the Departmental Electoral Board in the case of elections for members of the Assembly or Municipal Councils (Article 138 and 139) or by the Central Election Council in the case of Presidential elections (Articles 140-141).

28. Throughout the process, form the point at which the blank ballots are forwarded to the respective Board prior to the election up through the return and final examination of the ballots by the Departmental Electoral Board or the CCE itself, the representatives of the contending political parties have the right to oversee the electoral process and sign the corresponding documents or certificates. One notable and potentially important exception, however, is the certificate of election itself, which it would seem must be singed only by the members of the Teller Committee, a signed copy of which is then sent to the representatives of the political parties (Article 134).

29. An election can be declared null and void under certain conditions. Among these Article 150 specifies the following:

4. When more than half of the votes received have been declared null and void; and

5. When through fraud, coercion or violence on the part of the authorities, members of the electoral bodies of the contending political parties or their authorized representatives, the outcome of the election has been altered.

Only the parties can demand that the CCE declare an election null and void (Article 152).

30. Other legal provisions. In addition to the crimes against the right to suffrage stipulated in the Election Law (Article 158 through 164), the Criminal Code established a number of “crimes against the exercise of political rights and suffrage” (Article 412 through 420). [8]/ Among the most important infractions are the following:

“Obstruction of the exercise of political rights:

Article 412. he who by whatever means obstructs or impedes, either totally or partially, the exercise of any of the political rights established by the Constitution, shall be punished by one to three years imprisonment.

“Disturbance of the electoral process:

Article 415. he who through the use of violence, intimidation, threat or by any other means seriously disrupts the election or obstructs the voting or examination of any type of vote, shall be punished by one to three years imprisonment.”

31. Furthermore, he who commits any of the acts specified above, designed to alter the voting lists of falsify the results of the election, shall be sentenced to one to four years imprisonment (Article 419). Moreover, with regard to all the electoral offenses established in this chapter of the Code, the penalty may be increased by as much as one third of the maximum sentence if the individual responsible is a public official or election official or an individual with military authority” (Article 420).

C. Information received on violations of these rights

The Special Committee’s Visit

33. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received extensive documentation from a variety of sources alleging violation of the right of suffrage and the right to participate in the government of El Salvador. Members of the Special Committee who conducted the onsite observation in January of 1978 had occasion to meet with leaders of the various political parties [9]/ and had an opportunity to hear their views and the views of other leaders on the degree to which the right of suffrage and the right to participate in government are respected in El Salvador.

34. At one of these meetings, the Special Committee heard the following allegations:

“As for elections, repression is of course more intense during these periods, especially in rural areas.”

“Many political leaders are abroad because they were expelled by the President of the Republic when he was Minister of Defense; therefore, he is responsible.”

As for the statement in the news media against the Catholic Church, this source went on to say the following:

“the communication media’s practice of publishing these reports is notorious, nevertheless, they do not publish statements by legally constituted political parties and organizations.”

As for publication of the election results, it was noted that the Official Report of the Central Election Council containing the outcome of the elections had not been published since 1968.

35. One Political leader of the Salvadoran People Party (PPS) spoke of his party’s failure to participate in the 1976 elections for members of the legislative Assembly, and the 1977 presidential elections; his explanation was as follows:

“… the overwhelming atmosphere of violence and the absence of guaranties did not create a climate favorable to our participation.”

However, he went on to say that the situation has improved since the new government of Carlos Romero assumed power in July of 1977 and that his party now plans to take part in the elections for the Assembly and the Municipal Elections to be held in March of 1978.

36. In a written statement addressed to the Special Committee however, one representative of another party expressed a different view:

“Application, by way of interpretation of the law, made by the electoral agencies, mainly the highest organ, the Central Election Council, has been changing in the sense that it has become more and more unfavorable to the truly opposition parties. Since 1968 the Central Election Council has been involved much less at the local level, in other words, by department or municipality, because otherwise it would have to show the massive fraud.”

This same source pointed out that a draft amendment to the Election Law sponsored by four government parties had been placed before the Legislative Assembly in 1971; he noted that the draft had not been discussed and had been permanently shelved.

37. One political representative also reported to the Committee that the Restoration Action Party (PAR), founded in 1950, had its official registration cancelled in 1967, after participating in that year’s presidential election. The reason given for the cancellation of its registration, according to this source, was that its program supported principles “contrary to the Constitution,” such as the principle of agrarian reform.

38. As for the amendment introduced in Article 63 of the Election Law of 1975, the Special Committee was told that the amendment had the following effect:

“… now requires that requests for registration of a candidate be presented personally by all the candidates on a given ticket… In this way, the candidacy of José Napoleón Duarte was blocked, when he was not permitted to enter the country.”

The communication goes on to say the following:

“The amendment is also an attempt to block the registration of opposition tickets by capturing or threatening candidates of the UNO, who under such circumstances no longer present the request for registration in person. In accordance with the Election Law only one candidate need be absent for registration to be denied.

39. In accordance with information received by the Special Committee in El Salvador, another means of attacking the democratic process is one tactic used by the Central Election Council, which is “to mulligy opposition tickets, thereby guaranteeing a priori that it will not obtain a majority of deputies or win places on certain municipal councils.”

This source alleges that the Law obligates electoral bodies to refuse to register a ticket if that ticket does not meet the real legal requirements; in this case, the affected party corrects the problem and can even change the candidates. However, since 1972 the Central Election Council has used the practice of registering opposition tickets so that once registered, the official party (PNC) may demand that the tickets be declared null and void and the Council so decrees. In this manner, it is no longer possible to correct the ticket or change candidates. Correspondingly, the Central Election Council always decides these cases when the deadline for registration has already passed by delaying its decisions.

Information received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

40. In addition to the information obtained by the Special Committee, during its on-site observation in January of 1978. The Inter-American Commission on Human rights has received numerous communications and statements, from a variety of sources, which denounce serious violations of the right of suffrage and the right to participate in the government in El Salvador. Some of the more important allegations, including statements made by leaders of opposition political parties, are mentioned below.

41. The 1972 elections. In accordance with public statements made by Dr. Fabio Castillo, former rector of the National University of El Salvador, 1972 marked the beginning of an era that was even bloodier than that which preceded it. The presidential elections in February and the legislative elections in March were accompanied by the cruelest persecution conducted by the Government.

42. During the presidential campaign, according to Dr. Castillo, the major opposition candidate, Dr. Napoleón Duarte, “was the target of an attempt on his life as he was traveling in an automobile form San Miguel to Morazan.” Duarte was fired upon a number of times during an ambush which, according to Dr. Castillo, led to the death of Duarte’s chauffeur.

43. With regard to the 1972 presidential election, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights received allegations of major irregularities. These include the following: First, the CCE issued a preliminary count of the vote form the Department of San Salvador which differed significantly form the UNO’s (opposition coalition) estimate and the final results announced by the CCE itself. Second, the Departmental Election Council in La Unión was, according to an allegation, occupied by troops during the vote count and all opposition representatives were taken from the building.

“This document was sent to the Diario de Hoy on the 24th and appeared in that morning newspaper on the 25th, before the CCE had completed the vote count. The Legislative Assembly filed a petition that the members of the CCE be dismissed. [10]/ For its part, the CCE did not admit as evidence the copies of statements by the Teller Committees which, duly signed and sealed by the members of said committees, were in the hands of the UNO through its observers.”

45. According to the final official results, presidential candidate Arturo Armando Molina won the election by a margin of 9,844 votes, out of a total of 806,357 votes cast. When Molina did not receive an absolute majority, the Assembly elected him on February 25. The fact that the candidate was elected by the Assembly so rapidly revealed, as was denounce the lack of attention given to the UNO’s denunciation of electoral irregularities.

46. After the elections held on March 12, 1972, to elect deputies and council members, there was a military uprising on March 25, during which the defeated presidential candidate, Napoleón Duarte, made an announcement over the radio supporting the revolutionary forces. But the coup detat attempt failed that very day and Duarte was expelled from the country. Constitutional guaranties were suspended beginning on March 25 and were not reestablished until June 3, 1972.

47. The 1974 and 1976 election. According to information received by the Commission the Government never published the results of the 1974 municipal elections and legislative elections. The CCE only announced the names of the winners, but did not publish any figures.

48. In the 1976 municipal and legislative elections, it was alleged again that there were major irregularities before the announced elections, which involved intimidation and other irregularities allegedly so extensive that the opposition was forced to withdraw.

49. The examples cited by one political leader [11]/ are such that if they actually did occur on a large scale, it would have certainly meant that the election was neither honest nor free. Among the examples cited are the following:

“In the city of Juayua, the President of the Legislative Assembly and Secretary General of the Government party, Mr. Rubén Alfonso Rodríguez, went to the home of the candidate for the office of mayor so that the latter would withdraw his candidacy under the threat of punitive action. The next day Dr. Rodríguez returned and threatened him by saying that the nest time he would be the target for bullets.

“Mrs. Alicia de Cañizales, a candidate for the office of mayor in the town of Sonsonate... was forced to withdraw her candidacy when FALANGE (which is alleged to be a clandestine pro-government organization) threatened to kill her children.

In Chalatenango, Mr. Sergio Mena, a local PCN leader, accompanied by members of the paramilitary organization ORDEN, took over the office of the Electoral Board and made it impossible for opposition candidates to register.

“In San Miguel, police agents arrested candidate Salvador Alvarado Montesino, took him to the Electoral Board and destroyed his registration papers in his presence. They then arrested him and did not reveal his whereabouts.

“In Santiago Texacuangos, the mayor, who was a member of the PCN, used a weapon to expel Deputy Marianella García Villas from the premises of the Town hall when she asked that a number of opposition candidates be issued papers.

“Unscrupulous judges handed down sentences that made it impossible for a number of candidates to seek office. Many mayors did not issue papers to opposition candidates under the pretext that they were carrying out orders received form Mr. Rodríguez, Secretary General of the PCN. In many places, the National Guard held candidates under arrest during the registration period. The candidate for the office of the Mayor of Chalchuapa, who at that time was in the United Stated, was told that if he returned his establishment would be burnt.

“A magistrate of the Supreme Court of Justice, accompanied by a Justice of the Peace from Armenia and various guards. Traveled throughout the Department of Sonsonate in order to threaten candidates and order the arrest of those who refused to withdraw their candidacies.

“Dozen of mayors went into hiding for many days and many mayors offices were closed and the employees disappeared, as they did not want to issue to the opposition candidates the papers that they needed.”

50. Due to intimidation of this kind, according to the allegations, in all 261 municipalities the UNO (opposition coalition) was capable of nominating only 89 candidates for inclusion on the ballot. As a result of these alleged circumstances, the opposition coalition UNO withdraws from the election.

51. The 1977, presidential election. The main thrust of the allegation of election fraud filed by representatives of the opposition party is that there in no freedom of elections due to the impact of many individual acts of coercion and fraud. The following excerpts from a statement prepared by the UNO provides some idea of the general system of irregularities repeatedly denounced:

“The purpose of this statement is to explain briefly, how the Government party (PCN) corrupted the elections and its outcome. With the direct connivance of the military authorities, the mayors of the cities, commandants of zones, national guardsmen, police forces, government officials form the national Water Authority (ANDA) and representatives of the Central Election Council. (CCE)

“Prior to the elections, the PCN and the Government established a system of radio communication in code by using members of ORDEN, a paramilitary force organized by the Minister of Defense as a tool of repression in rural areas. The radio equipment belongs to ANDA, the independent water supply agency whose chairman and other key officials worked with ORDEN from command post (three central broadcasting points)

“This radio communication system was used by the PCN and the military Government on election day to issue all types of instructions to voting centers established in the 19 municipal divisions of San Salvador, the Department in which the capital city is located.

“The opposition was able to intercept the communications and from a number of points tape-recorded the instructions issued by the PCN, ORDEN, the Central Government (The Presidential House) and other military authorities.

“The code used assigned a number to the municipalities: M_1 to M-19. The central command post established in the Presidential House, ANDA and the central headquarters of the PCN were assigned code words: Angel 1, Angel 2, and Angel 3. These three posts also used telephone communications from numbers registered in their respective official’s names.

“The code words used to receive information and issue instructions to alter the number of votes in the ballot boxes on the voting tables during and immediately after the elections were as follow:

“Tanques” meant ballot boxes

“Tamales” meant fraudulent ballots

“Level” meant the number of boxes received

“Pinto” meant transportation vehicle

“Coffee” meant votes in favor of the opposition

“Sugar” meant votes in favor of the PCN

“Gasoline stations” meant voting tables where the opposition

parties inspectors were not present

“Little birds” meant opposition inspectors

“To teach lessons,” meant to use force against

representatives, inspectors and voters form the opposition.

“As we indicated the tape recordings (provide proof) of the enormous fraud that took place during the presidential elections in El Salvador and contained very pertinent examples of the major irregularities committed by the current military government (ORDEN and the Government party (PCN). Such irregularities occurred in the most important urban centers of the densely populated Department of San Salvador. The country has a total of 14 Departments and more than 260 municipalities.

“On February 23, 1977, the coalition of opposition parties, UNO, made public in all the newspapers the nature of the fraud and printed excepts from the tape recording as proof of the corruption that has existed and continues to exist in the electoral process. Once again, the military government that “inherited” power through that same fraudulent process, played an active role in backing these activities and conspired with the government party whose candidate, now an illegal winner, was another member of the military, Carlos H. Romero… former Minister of Defense.

“No rational individual nor any well informed politician in El Salvador can believe or accept the figures issued y the Election Council. These figures merely illustrate the enormous fraud.

“Finally, a few examples of the typical kinds of irregularities, which are described in detail on the tapes… (Appear below):

1) In response to inquires, one of the command post issued instructions to accept votes from voters whose papers might be irregular in some way only if the individuals in question were “positive” voters (for the PCN). If they were “negative” voters (for the UNO) the instructions were to refuse them.

2) In response to request from various voting tables set up in the towns or schools, the command post emphasized “reinforcements” of security agents and additional voters (tamales), by using government transportation facilities.

3) The command post under Colonel Rodríguez, the chief of ORDEN, issued direct instructions to the mayors of the cities, commandants of jurisdictions, national guardsmen, chiefs of local patrols, to cooperate with representatives of the PCN and the CCE and to harass UNO inspectors and voters.

4) The repeated use of fraudulent ballots (tamales) in order to fill the “tanks” with “adequate levels of sugar” (PCN) and keep the UNO level of “coffee” low.

5) Instructions to arrest UNO inspectors at the voting tables. The case of beating (teaching lessons) in the M-3 city of Mejicanos.

6) Instructions to intimidate CCE representatives who were “not cooperating” with PCN inspectors at the voting tables.

7) Instructions from the Legal Council of ANDA with regard to the nature (for example, composition and acceptability of members who inspect the voting tables.

8) Various cases of denunciations to the effect that the UNO was winning at ballot boxes and that it was necessary to obtain the fraudulent ballots (tamales) in favor of the PCN in order to fill the “tanks”.

9) A request for more “tamales” and National Guard Forces.

10) Denunciations to the effect that the local authorities “were not cooperating” with the PCN. The ORDEN forces were set up to “correct the situation.”

11) Instructions to transport and deliver mobile ballot boxes in “certain” places.

12) One UNO inspector arrested and another beaten

13) The premature closing of ballot boxes due to a “lack” of electric light (1:00 p.m.).

14) Direct instructions form the Chief of ORDEN (Angel 1) to the local ¢commandant¢ to cooperate with the PCN and to remain at his post until the closing hour.

15) Various reports indicate the existence of ballot boxes containing more UNO votes than PCN votes. Instructions to prepare the “Final Operation” which was to tamper with the final count at the end of the day by adding more “tamales” or y eliminating UNO votes.

16) Use and abuse by the PCN and the national security forces in order to assist them at various polling stations.

17) Use of the Antel telephone system to repot “detailed results” which should not have been transmitted to the command post via the ANDA radio.

18) Reference to “previous written instructions” as to how to deal with the ballots and ballot boxes when “problems” arose, and to add “tamales” if necessary.

19) Intimidation and removal by force of UNO inspectors. Threats

20) Repeated requests for “reinforcements” of security agents to put down UNO protesters at the polls. Instructions from Colonel Rodríguez, Chief of ORDEN.

21) Abuses committed by the authorities (National Guardsmen, ORDEN, etc.) against representatives and inspectors on the Central Election Council and UNO inspectors and voters.

“Through the use of this system of coded radio messages, the command posts wee able to receive detailed progress reports from 10:00 p.m. on February 20, 1977, issued by PCN agents at the voting polls, and reports which contained partial results form “their” counts. Access to this information during those early moments enabled them to focus their efforts in certain places, in order to change what might have been a democratic outcome.

52. In accordance with allegations from various sources, representatives of the opposition were authorized to remain at their post at only 920 polling stations, out of a total of 3,540 Teller Committees; it was said that 400 of these were in the capital area. The UNO representatives signed the document that closed the polling station at only 920 of those stations, according to the allegations.

53. The Commission has received copies of numerous complaints presented by the UNO to the CCE on February 20, 1977, on alleged irregularities, that took place during that day. According to the allegations, intimidation, violence and fraud occurred on a massive scale, with the complicity of the CCE and subordinate electoral bodies.

Therefore, apparently the opposition had little faith that the corresponding provisions of the Election Law would be applied correctly, and went into the streets the day after the elections.

54. On February 27, according to public statements made by the UNO candidate for Vice president, Antonio Morales Ehrlich (former mayor of San Salvador), he himself was forced to seek diplomatic asylum in the Embassy of Costa Rica out of fear for his life. According to the allegations, the minister of Foreign Affairs confirmed his fear; who sent a message to Morales Ehrlich to the effect that his life was truly in danger. His exile was the culmination of one week of massive protests against the alleged election fraud.

55. In addition to the harassment and fraud at the ballot boxes, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received allegations to the effect that the petitions presented to the regular electoral bodies to put a stop to the abuses or to nullify the fraudulent elections were useless.

In the Municipality of Suchitoto, according to one denunciation, the following occurred:

“The UNO observers were systematically harassed and threatened. One party official was beaten. The harassment was so serious that the local UNO chief withdrew his observers at 9:00 a.m. At around 11:00 a.m. with 50 percent of the votes not yet in, it was announced to them that all the votes had been cast. The UNO representatives on the Municipal Election Council submitted 10 separate complaints and were denied receipts on all of them…”

56. According to another source, the Central Elections Council in general refused to consider the denunciations of the fraud that was alleged to have occurred during the presidential elections of February 20, 1977.

57. According to the information received by the CIDH, one unofficial count on February 22 gave the victory to Carlos Humberto Romero, the PCN candidate, with 776,665 votes, while Colonel Claramount, the UNO candidate, only received 372,183 votes. This figure is surprising when compared with the outcome of the 1972 elections, when Molina defeated the UNO candidate Duarte by a margin of less than 10,000 votes.

58. Despite the many claims of irregularities, Romero was declared the winner officially on February 25, 1978. After his departure form El Salvador, and his arrival in San José, Costa Rica. According to information received, Claramount stated to the press that while the UNO had submitted unequivocal proof of fraud to the CCE, there was no hope that this Government-controlled electoral body would nullify the official results on the presidential elections.

59. Government authorities and leaders of the government party have flatly denied the allegations that fraud and intimidation corrupted the electoral process in any substantial way. In their opinion, the major opposition parties have ceased to compete simply because they fear defeat.



[1] American Convention on Human Rights

Article 23. Right to Participate in government

1. Every citizen shall enjoy the following rights and opportunities:

a. To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;

b. To vote and to be elected in genuine periodic elections, which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot that guarantees the free expression of the will of the voters; and

c. To have access, under general conditions of equality, to the public service of his country.

2. The law may regulate the exercise of the rights and opportunities referred to in the preceding paragraph only on the basis of age, nationality, residence, language, education, civil and mental capacity, or sentencing by a competent court in criminal proceedings.

[2] In addition to the loss of the rights of citizenship for the reasons established in Article 27, these rights may be suspended for the following reasons:

1. Formal imprisonment;

2. Mental derangement;

3. Judicial Interdiction;

4. Refusal to accept, without just cause, an elective office. In such cases, the suspension shall continue during the whole period that the said position should have been occupies. (Article 26).

[3] Election propaganda in the strict sense of the word is allowed during the four months preceding the presidential election; two months before the election for seats in the Legislative Assembly; and one month before elections for the Municipal Council (Article 33).

[4] See Chapter VI, page 123.

[5] In such cases, the following procedure shall be applied: The Assembly after hearing an accusing member and the accused official or Special defender, as the case may be, shall declare whether or not there are grounds for a trial. In the former event, the case shall be sent to the chamber of second instance specified by law for a trial in first instance; and in the latter event the case shall be dropped. (Article 211, paragraph 2).

[6] Decree No. 292 of September 12, 1961. Published in the Diario Oficial of September 12, 1961.

[7] Central Election Council, Election Law and the Amendments thereto as of 1975 (San Salvador, no date).

[8] Criminal code, Decree No. 270, February 26, 1973; compilation of Laws, Volume V (July 1972 – June 1977), pages 187, 260-261.

[9] See also Chapter VI, page 123.

[10] The UNO demanded that the elections in the Department of La Unión be declared null and void and that the members of the CCE be dismissed from their posts, because of their failure to act on the UNO complaints presented at the time the alleged irregularities occurred.

[11] As a preface to the examples cited at that time, this leader stated the following:

“During the elections for municipal posts and seats in the Legislative Assembly held in March 1976, repressive acts, persecution and fraud reached unexpected levels that forced the opposition coalition to withdraw. I would be useless to list all the acts of abuse perpetrated by the Government…”

Among the examples that he mentioned at that time, are those listed in the above text.


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