US Cedes Pressure against El Salvador’s Family Agriculture Program
Popular pressure from El Salvador and the US appears to have succeeded in forcing the United States to back down from its campaign to undermine El Salvador’s efforts to support impoverished family farmers and advance towards food sovereignty and security.
For months, the US has demanded that El Salvador revise a policy that allows the Ministry of Agriculture to purchase bean and corn seeds for its Family Agricultural Plan from small local producers in order to receive a $277 million development aid package from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). But last week, US Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte announced that the US is satisfied with the Salvadoran government’s commitment to a transparent procurement process, backing down from its previously aggressive position.
The US’s concession follows a mounting international campaign that drew unfavorable attention to the issue (articles here and here). CISPES and other US-based solidarity organizations as well as Salvadoran groups mobilized to defend the Family Agricultural Plan and denounce manipulation of US development aid to promote the interests of transnational agribusinesses like Monsanto. In June, Salvadoran campesino, labor and community groups joined US solidarity organizations for a rally outside the US Embassy where they delivered a petition signed by over 1000 US citizens and residents. In July, grassroots pressure in Congress resulted in 16 representatives sending a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry to denounce US pressure against the seed program, and 50 leading international, environmental, trade and food sovereignty organizations also sent a letter to Kerry calling on the US to cease to condition the MCC funds and respect El Salvador’s sovereign policy decisions.
On Saturday, July 5, El Salvador’s Minister of Agriculture Orestes Ortez assured the media that the Ministry would continue to support local agricultural producers, saying “This is one of the country’s most successful programs, with an extraordinary social outcome beyond its economic benefits.” He added, “We have received a lot of support from the North American people this week; there was an important declaration by organizations and functionaries calling on the Secretary of State of the United States not to allow the lobby of these companies [Monsanto] to undermine such a successful program in El Salvador.”