US Conditioning of Development Aid Meets Resistance in El Salvador

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On June 6, representatives of US-based solidarity organizations joined a diverse coalition of campesino, union and community groups for a lively march and press conference outside the US Embassy in El Salvador to denounce US pressure on the Salvadoran government to cease any preference for locally-sourced corn and bean seeds purchased for its much-lauded Family Agriculture Program. This latest requirement for El Salvador to receive nearly $300 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development aid, which was announced in April, appears to favor the interests of multinational corporations.

“It has exhausted our patience that now the US government, by way of its Ambassador, Mari Carmen Aponte, is threatening the MCC funds because we aren’t buying corn seeds from Monsanto,said Miguel Alemán of the Confederation of Federations of Salvadoran Agrarian Reform (CONFRAS).

Voicing solidarity with their Salvadoran allies, CISPES, the Share Foundation, US-El Salvador Sister Cities and Joining Hands Against Hunger El Salvador condemned the US’s actions: “As US citizens, we are outraged that the Embassy is invoking the Central America free trade agreement (CAFTA) to demand that the government of El Salvador remove the provision that promotes seed production by small domestic producers, with clear intentions to advance the interests of transnational agricultural companies.” The groups then delivered a petition signed by some 1,000 individuals demanding that the US respect El Salvador’s right to promote successful policies that encourage agricultural self-sufficiency and stimulate local economies.

The US Embassy has invoked the threat of CAFTA, which grants foreign corporations the right to be treated as national entities in terms of government procurement, investment and other contracts, as justification for the continued delay on the MCC approval. However, the US State Department has provided no evidence that the government’s current method of purchasing seeds for the Family Agriculture Plan actually violates CAFTA in any way, thus suggesting that the State Department is simply pressing its advantage to curry favors for US agribusiness and prevent the new Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) administration from advancing deepter structural changes to the economy.

“To accept this imposition would mean a rude setback in the achievements made in food security and poverty reduction in rural areas,” explained CONFRAS’s Ricardo Ramírez. “The total volume of seeds bought by the state doesn’t justify this level of aggressiveness. It’s clear that we’re dealing with a political blackmailing that has much deeper objectivities and that aims to send a strong message to the incoming FMLN government.”

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