Details: | Published: 17 September 2014 | Hits: 6847

Justice for Denis Vladimir Rivas Ramirez, 5th year Architecture student at the University of El Salvador, Scholarship student with San Francisco de Asis Parish in Mejicanos, CIS and St. Peter’s Church in Kansas City, murdered on September 2, 2014.



Denis during a visit to St. Peter’s Parish in November 2013


Denis’ Background

Denis Vladimir Rivas Ramirez, born Feb. 16, 1991, came from a humble background in the community of San Judas in Mejicanos and led an exemplary life.  He lived with his younger sisters Diana and Elsy and both of his parents who are originally from Ilobasco, Cabañas.  Denis was always kind and considerate of others and wore a sincere and calm smile.  He worked with the San Francisco de Asis Parish youth council to help guide youth at high risk of engaging in or being victimized by violence and in his spare time.   He loved to play soccer/futbol with his friends.  When his life was abruptly taken, Denis was immersed in his last year of course work for a degree in Architectural Engineering at the University of El Salvador and had advanced to the intermediate level of English at CIS where he studied for the past 2 ½ years. 


Denis entered our lives at CIS when he was admitted to the CIS scholarship program in Mejicanos, which partnered with San Francisco de Asis Parish in Mejicanos and St. Peters in Kansas City, Missouri.  Denis had a strong desire to learn but had he lacked the funds to continue higher education.  He was awarded a scholarship because of his outstanding leadership qualities and his dedication to giving back to his community and he was later selected to represent the CIS scholarship program in a visit to St. Peter’s in Kansas City in 2013.  He treasured his opportunities with the CIS to visit other Salvadoran villages like Cinquera at the CIS scholarship retreat and Isla Tasajera to visit the women’s sewing cooperative with a delegation from St. Peter’s as well as participate in English classes at the CIS.  Denis had a bright future, and he brought a tremendous amount of hope and inspiration to his family, his parish, his sister Parish in the U.S., the CIS, and his colleagues at the Architecture Engineering Department of the University of El Salvador.  His life was a symbol of hope for youth in high risk areas of the country and youth without economic resources. 


The night of Denis’ Disappearance

On Tuesday, September 2nd, after Denis’ classes at the University he stayed late to play soccer at the University Sports Arena.  The CIS English cycle had finished the previous week – where he would generally spend Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings until 7 p.m. His soccer match with his friends ended around 5 p.m. and Dennis stayed on to play soccer with professors from the University.  Then as usual he went to the bus stop near the sports arena which is also the bus stop he would take leaving the CIS.   He generally would take the 44, 31 or the 9 bus to the stop of Santa Maria in Ayutuxtepeque, and walk the principal street between Mariona, Mejicanos and Ayutuxtepeque to his home which is near the Pastoral Center Octavio Ortiz or the end of the 2A bus route.    Denis did not have his DUI – or identity card- on him when he was found. People speculate that the gangs asked to see his DUI and when they saw the address of a different gang zone they killed him. Gang members kill people as part of their initiation and take the DUI as a trophy.  Dennis was shot with projectiles from a fire arm through the cranium and presumably died quickly. His body was found on the street to Nejapa Power, Canton El Angel, Apopa, San Salvador, and registered by the local Morgue of Medicina Legal in Apopa at 3:40 a.m. on Wednesday, September 3rd, as unknown since his DUI had been taken. Later his family and students who were searching identified his body the following day on Thursday, September 4th

Salvadoran Reality

Unfortunately, the reality in El Salvador is that one cannot go from one neighborhood to another in high risk areas without securing permission first.  For the last year and 1/2 for example, the CIS scholarship program in Mejicanos had to meet in 8 separate places so that youth do not have to cross into prohibited neighborhoods.  While CIS can secure protection in local communities when delegations and foreigners visit El Salvador; it is a much different reality for people who live here and especially young people to be able to travel freely from one neighborhood to the next.  People who ride the buses are subject to robbery on a regular basis.  In addition, gang members regularly board the bus and declare they will not rob you if everyone gives them a dollar.  And since bus routes are controlled by different gangs and the drivers are obliged to pay “rent” or extortion fees on a regular basis, bus drivers are often targeted for assassination if they don’t pay the “rent” or by the rival gang.   Civilians often get caught in the crossfire.  The vast majority of Salvadorans depend on the bus for transport because vehicles and gas prices are not within reach of the vast majority of salaries.   We ask the question, if the sons and daughters, grandchildren or relatives of the legislatures – a privileged class – had to ride the bus daily, would the same insecurity exist?

What to do?

 Of course there are many things which need to be done – policies need to be developed and broadened that invest in human development, jobs, education, and recreation so youth have a future in El Salvador. We need security programs that are not based solely on repression – that carry out real investigations, find proof, and mete out punishment.   More than thirty years of U.S. policy in the region, in compliance with the wealthy elite of El Salvador, have bolstered military dictatorships and supported economic policies such as CAFTA, the Millennium Fund and the privatization of public services.  These policies principally benefit the wealthy elite and do not generate living wages for the majority. The war on drugs relies on repression and arms sales and does not stop the principle market of consumers in the U.S.  Immigration policies in the USA have broken up families and led to their disintegration. This makes the region fertile for gangs, thus contributing to a viscous cycle of violence. 

The CIS is working with other human rights groups and communities to form a plan of action, but we want to ask our brothers and sisters living outside of El Salvador for the following support in Denis’s name:

  1. Write a letter to the National Civilian Police, the Minister of Justice and Public Security and to the President of the Republic to ask for:

Letters should be quality rather than quantity – well written in Spanish from Professors, religious leaders,

Politicians or other community leaders. Letters should be on letterhead and signed, with a copy sent to:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Ministro de Justicia y Seguridad Publica, Benito Antonio Lara Fernández

Ministerio de Justicia

Alameda Juan Pablo II y 17 Ave. Norte

San Salvador, El Salvador

Fax: 011-503-2281-5959

E-mail -  Cesia Flores:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Comisionado Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde

Director Policía Nacional Civil

Fax: 011-503-2527-1144

E-mail  – Guadalupe Coto:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(Street address same as above)

Honorable Presidente Salvador Sánchez Cerén

Presidente de la Republica de El Salvador

Casa Presidencial

Alameda Doctor Manuel Enrique Araujo No. 5500

San Salvador, San Salvador

El Salvador, Central América

Email  - Dora Ligia Iraheta:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  1. For those who want to give opportunities to study for young people like Denis, you can make a tax-deductible contribution in Denis’s name to the CIS scholarship fund (or to your local church or community fund if you have a local program supporting a CIS community scholarship program), which will give the opportunity for more youth to study and have the tools to develop public policies and programs in favor of the majority.  CIS provides an average scholarship of $300 for one year to go to high school and $1,000 per year to go to university - these may vary depending on the location of the village and travel costs to get to school.  Tax deductible donations can be made out to:  LOS OLIVOS CIS/ PO BOX 76 / WESTMONT, IL 60559 or online:

San Salvador, September 9, 2014.