Right Wing Blocks Ratification Of Constitutional Right to Food and Water

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Social movement groups crowd to observe the vote on the constitutional right to food and water
photo: UNES

El Salvador’s right-wing political parties are on the offensive in their ongoing efforts to open water up to privatization. On Thursday, October 30, right-wing parties in El Salvador’s Legislative Assemblies united to block the ratification of a constitutional amendment to enshrine food and water as fundamental rights for all Salvadorans.

“It seems inconceivable that the right-wing parties don’t want to recognize water as a human right. I ask the Salvadoran population to not vote for legislators in the upcoming elections who don’t want to consider water as a right!” said Ricardo Navarro of the environmental non-profit CESTA. Constitutional amendments require a simple majority approval that must be ratified by a 2/3 majority in a consecutive legislature; the measure had passed in 2012, but has now been sent back into commission, with social movement groups fighting to bring it back to the floor before a new legislature is elected on March 1st, 2015. The Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), National Conciliation (PCN), and Christian Democrat (PDC) parties voted against the amendment’s ratification while the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), the right-wing Grand National Alliance (GANA) and the Democratic Change (CD) parties voted in favor.

The move follows recent efforts by the same right-wing parties to undermine proposed legislation to ensure water remains a public good. Ever since social movement groups first drafted a General Water Law with the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party in 2006, they have been obstructing its passage. Public outrage swelled this month when ARENA, the PCN and the PDC voted in committee to modify the proposed law to form an autonomous institution overseen by five private sector and two public entities to administer the nation’s water. “For the ARENA party, water is a commodity, a business, and for that reason what they seek to do is privatize it though the Water Law…that is why they didn’t vote to ratify this right [to water] for the population,” said FMLN legislator Lourdes Palacios.

Margarita Posada of the National Healthcare Forum voiced the social movement’s determination to defeat the right-wing’s attempts to privatize water: “The mercantilist right wing is doing what they tried with the Medications Law [in 2010] and were unable to do thanks to public pressure from social organizations; they also tried with healthcare and we carried out the White Marches [in 2003]. And so they are trying again, but they are not going to privatize our human right to life. And they should remember, the elections are coming!”

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