US Embassy and ARENA go on offensive as Salvadoran legislature studies public-private partnerships

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Last week, the Treasury, Finance and Economy Commissions of El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly began debate on a proposed Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law, prompting US Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte to renew her public pressure campaign for the controversial law’s approval. At the same time, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party has taken the opportunity to launch a smear campaign against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, their primary rival in upcoming presidential elections.

As debates began, the FMLN voiced concerns that the P3 Law, strongly opposed by El Salvador’s labor movement, is actually a privatization policy, and objected that certain measures bypass the Constitutionally mandated process of legislative debate and approval of concessions.

That day, the US Embassy revived its aggressive campaign for the law’s passage, claiming P3s critical to the approval of a second FOMILENIO US development aid disbursement. ARENA legislator Ana Vilma de Escobar quickly echoed the Embassy’s position, threatening, “I feel that it will be very difficult for FOMILENIO to succeed without these laws that are necessary to guarantee and favor investment.”

Carmen Elena Calderón de Escalón, also an ARENA legislator, told the media that the FMLN was impeding the approval of the P3 Law “because they are waiting to be able to implement 21st century socialism, where they want Daddy the State to run everything.

As the P3 Law is studied by the legislature, the Salvadoran right-wing will likely continue taking advantage of the US’s push for the law’s approval to defame the FMLN in this pre-electoral season, using the recalcitrant Cold War rhetoric that has defined all of their past campaigns. Meanwhile, the US is expected to keep up their relentless lobbying on behalf of transnational and US corporate interests.

Only the popular resistance currently being organized by the Salvadoran labor movement has the power to halt the approval of the P3 law. Strong public outcry during a pre-electoral year could pressure ten more legislators to join the FMLN’s 33 in opposition to the law, thus comprising the necessary 43 votes to block its passage.

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