Activists Renew Push to Protect Water from Privatization in El Salvador

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The broad coalition of social movement groups that make up El Salvador’s Water Forum have increased pressure for the passage of a General Water Law that would regulate water management and safeguard against privatization. Right wing parties have stalled discussions of the bill in the Legislative Assembly since it was proposed by the Water Forum and the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party in 2006.

On September 29, the Water Forum released a statement urging the President to use his position to personally advocate for the Water Law to, “generate a more dynamic, demanding and diligent position on behalf of the administration.” Carlos Flores, of the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), explained to the media that the Water Forum wants “a firmer and more systematic position [from the president] that can demand that the Legislative Assembly construct a General Water and Sanitation Law that guarantees sustainability, but above all public management to help eliminate all inequalities, given that inequitable access to water has historically been a human rights problem.”

Two days later, President Sánchez Cerén met personally with representatives of the Water Forum, accompanied by high-ranking cabinet members including the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture, and the president of the public water utility. “We are committed to legislating about the issue of water,” the President told the Water Forum, acknowledging the inconsistencies and gaps in the laws currently governing water in the country: “We know that there is a mess which must be regulated.”

Following the election of a new legislature in March, the fight for the General Water Law is just one piece among several important measures that El Salvador’s social movement is pushing to ensure the right to food and water in the country. The Environmental Alliance, in which the Water Forum also participates, is mounting campaigns for the passage of a Food Sovereignty Law as well as the ratification of the human right to food and water in the Salvadoran constitution. 

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