Salvadoran Right Take Steps to Privatize Health Care System

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CISPES Emergency Update

On October 22, right-wing party deputies in the Health and Environmental Commission of the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly hastily approved the National Health System law, a proposal created by the administration of former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores that was recently presented to the Commission. The leftist FMLN party walked out of the commission meeting to protest the quick vote before sufficient debate and assessments of the effects of law have been made. The law can now be voted on by the entire Legislative plenary on October 25. It will likely pass with the 43 votes necessary given that the ARENA and PCN parties have agreed to vote in favor of it.

The Citizens Alliance against Privatization, a coalition of social movement organizations, has joined with the FMLN in ardently rejecting the law. According to the Alliance which includes the STISSS health care workers unions, the SIMETRISS doctors union, and the SIGESAL public hospital association, among others the reforms would open the way for the privatization of the national health system, which would in turn leave the majority of the Salvadoran population without access to health care. There has been organizing and mobilizing at the national level by the social movement and the FMLN to prevent this law from being approved, and a big rally and march has been called for today (October 25), with thousands expected to descend on the Legislative Assembly to demand that deputies not ratify the law.

Leaders of the Citizens Alliance have denounced the Assemblys commission, saying that proposals by civil society were ignored. According to Margarita Posada of the Alliance, our proposal envisions the creation of a system which is completely public, while the approved resolution would bring us closer to a privatized system. Meanwhile, President Saca and his government have attempted to eliminate popular opposition to privatization measures through repression such as the arrest of 8 SIGESAL members last month and sneaky political maneuvers like Mondays hasty commission vote.

Social movement organizations have called for international solidarity in the case of government repression against the anti-privatization protesters. In the coming days CISPES will continue to monitor the situation and prepare to send an alert calling on activists to add their voices to the demands of the Salvadoran people to have access to health care as is defined in the Salvadoran Constitution.

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