Maria Teresa Tula viuda de Canales, a Salvadoran woman, is seeking political asylum in the United States. In El Salvador she worked with Comadres, the “Committee of Mothers,” an organization of women formed to advocate for “disappeared,” arrested and otherwise persecuted family members. She became active in Comadres as a result of the imprisonment, torture and eventual assassination of her husband.
In 1984 Comadres was chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Award for its work in human rights, and Tula was selected to come to Washington, D.C. to accept it. The State Department denied her a visa, claiming that she had communist connections. In El Salvador, over the next two years, Tula was arrested, raped, tortured, and beaten. When she got out of jail, she and her two young children came to the U.S. and sought political asylum.
Since her arrival, Comadres has been increasingly attacked by the El Salvadoran government. In the summer of 1987 a bomb exploded in its offices, killing one of its members; and another bomb exploded there in October 1989, injuring several Comadres members.
In May 1988 the INS denied Tula’s application for political asylum, asserting in unsupported accusations that Comadres collaborated in “terrorist acts” of the FMLN.
CCR conducted research and witness preparation for the asylum application; however, after reaching a settlement in another case, American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, the government established temporary protected status for Salvadorans, and Tula will apply for it. If she is not accepted, CCR will resume efforts to demonstrate her eligibility for political asylum.
Sara E. Rfos, Michael Ratner, Claudia Slovinsky, and Judy Rabinovitz, with Diane George