Update: Hundreds March for Affordable Medicines
Also included in this update:
Anti-mining Movement Campaigns for National Metallic Mining Ban
72 Migrants Massacred in Mexico, 13 Identified as Salvadoran
FMLN Begins Internal Elections with Massive Participation
On Saturday, September 4, hundreds of people from community organizations, networks promoting public health, health care workers unions and the Ministry of Public Health wore white and took to the streets for a peaceful "white march" through San Salvador, calling on right-wing party legislative deputies to approve the Medication Law,under scrutiny in the Legislative Assembly. Medications in El Salvadorare among of the most expensive in the world and public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of essential medicines. Last week's march harkened back to the massive white marches - of over 100,000 participants - that were part of the successful grassroots effort led by health care unions to defend El Salvador's public health care system from privatization in 2003 by the right-wing administration of Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) president, Francisco Flores.
The Legislative Assembly's Public Health Commission has been studyingthe Medication Law for six months, but only 4 of its 150 articles have been analyzed due to the frequent absence of the right-wing deputies.
As legislation to prohibit metallic mining makes its way through the Legislative Assembly, El Salvador's National Roundtable Against MetallicMining (the Mesa) is undertaking a vibrant campaign to secure support for the ban from right-wing legislative deputies. The campaign "We demand a law that prohibits metallic mining!" includes announcementson community radios, billboards and signs on buses, as well as demonstrations at the Legislative Assembly. The campaign outlines the four main reasons to approve new legislation: to stop the pollution and health risks mining will bring; to avoid more lawsuits like those of Pacific Rim and Commerce Group; to end the violence, murders and conflict associated with the presence of mining companies in communities; and for legal grounds to pressure Guatemala to close the Cerro Blanco mine near the Salvadoran border, which poses a severe threat to the Lempa River - the primary water source for the nation's capital.
The left-wing Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN) party fraction has also defined the metallic mining ban as a legislative priority and its highest priority for the legislature's Environment and Climate Change Commission. However, according to the Mesa,scrutiny of the new law has been held up because commission president, Ciro Cruz Zepeda of the right-wing National Conciliation Party (PCN), has delayed convening the commission. In 2007, the PCN presented a legislative proposal to facilitate the process of granting mining permits, allegedly written in coordination with Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim.
Following marches and media campaigns organized by anti-mining organizations, as well as pressure from the FMLN legislative fraction, the Environment and Climate Change Commission is planning to receive representatives of the Mesa and begin studying the proposed metallic mining ban.
On Tuesday, August 24, the bodies of 72 undocumented immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil and Ecuador were discovered in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, 112 miles from the US border. According to an Ecuadorian man who survived, the migrants were en routeto the US when members of the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas kidnapped them, offered them jobs as gunmen for the cartel and upon their refusal began shooting. Just over half of the victims have been identified, as many lacked identification documents. Among the identified victims are 13 Salvadorans ranging in age from 15-25. Two children murdered in the massacre are also suspected to be from El Salvador.
El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes and Minister of Foreign Relations Hugo Martínez immediately expressed their horror and took measures to begin identifying the Salvadoran victims. The Ministry of Foreign Relations received families who suspected their relatives were among the victims and the administration sent an investigative team fromEl Salvador's National Civil Police (PNC) to Mexico. President Funes also called for a meeting between Central American and Mexican governments to address the problem of migrant safety and the FMLN legislative fraction visited the Mexican embassy to facilitate coordination between the two countries' legislatures to protect the lives and rights of migrants.
The massacre, which has received international condemnation, is a terrifying example of the dangers faced by Latin American migrants en route to the United States. In the past 20 years, neoliberal economic policies such as the US-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and privatizations of public services imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international lenders have devastated Latin American economies, greatly increasing the number of people making the dangerous journey to the United States and Canada in search of jobs. Studies show that 500-700 Salvadorans leave their country every day to pursue the "American Dream". The massacre demonstrates the dangers these people face in search of jobs and economic opportunity. Anti-immigrant laws such as Arizona's SB 1070, which mandates racial profiling, and Department of Homeland Security program 287g, which permits local police to act as immigration enforcement, further demonstrate the unwelcome environment Latin American immigrants enter after surviving the dangerous trek to the US.
During the last two weekends of August, FMLN members elected new municipal boards and coordinators in El Salvador's 262 municipalities aswell as representatives to the National Convention, the party's highestdecision-making body. In accordance with party statutes, these leadersare directly elected by secret ballot of all party members who have been active in the party for at least six years and participate in a base committee. FMLN spokesperson Sigfrido Reyes noted that this year'sturnout was very high, with around 50,000 members participating. As theparty statutes also outline, the nomination and voting procedures ensure that at least 35% of all elected positions are filled by women and at least 25% by young adults. Later in September, departmental boards will be elected in El Salvador's 14 departments and in October the National Advisory Board, the Political Commission and National Coordinators will be elected. According to FMLN Legislative Deputy Norma Guevara, "The internal process that is in motion is evidence of the democratic and revolutionary nature of the FMLN."