Vendors Movement Protests CAFTA Reforms

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The Salvadoran Market Vendors Movement (Movimiento de Vendedores de CD-DVD y Otros Productos de Marcas) held peaceful protests yesterday morning to denounce police confiscation and repression. In the last three weeks, the National Civilian Police (PNC) has increased the seizing of vendors' products and the capture of vendors, despite agreements to suspend these actions until a viable solution to the crisis in that sector was reached. The PNC has tried to justify its escalation of intimidation against the informal sector by claiming that vendors are involved in child pornography and extortion, an allegation that the Movement categorically denies.

The work of market vendors were criminalized last December when the right wing in the Legislative Assembly - pressured by the US Trade Representative - pushed through dozens of reforms to bring El Salvador into compliance with the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA.) "We defend the work and food of 60,000 people that are able to live from this activity. The Government defends the interests of a couple of transnational corporations," said Martin Montoya, leader of the Movement, at yesterday's downtown street protest. "The government's negotiation table is a farce; they don't want to talk about real solutions," he added. The government has attempted to divide the movement by sponsoring a parallel Association of Vendors. This Association also took to the streets yesterday afternoon, and their protest ended in the burning of a bus, which the Movement denounced in a press conference today as a tactic to de-legitimize their recent action. Meanwhile in Washington DC, CISPES Executive Director Burke Stansbury praised the Salvadoran vendors' struggle during a press conference about CAFTA implementation on Tuesday: "Thousands of poor people are being denied their right to make a living in the informal sector because of the implementation of CAFTA. This is one of the reasons that we opposed the ratification of the agreement and continue to challenge its implementation." (see www.stopcafta.org for the press release, and download the full monitoring report "DR-CAFTA in Year One" here)

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