Right-wing legislators block ratification of Constitutional rights to food and water in El Salvador

Press Release

Right-wing legislators block ratification of Constitutional rights to food and water in El Salvador

Incoming legislature will take up similar amendment

Contact: Laura Jean Embree-Lowry, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador +1 202-521-2510 or [email protected]

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – On April 29, legislators from three of El Salvador’s right-wing parties blocked the ratification of a Constitutional reform to protect water and food as fundamental human rights, despite polls showing 85% of the population in favor of the initiative and endorsements from El Salvador’s President and Human Rights Ombudsman, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, as well as two United Nations Special Rapporteurs.

After a two-hour debate during the last plenary of the 2012-2015 legislative session, representatives from El Salvador’s major opposition party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), and the smaller National Conciliation (PCN) and Christian Democrats (PDC) parties refused to vote for its ratification leaving the remaining parties, including the governing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), unable to assemble the necessary two-thirds majority.

The proposed constitutional reform would have required the state to enact laws and policies to guarantee that all Salvadorans had access to adequate clean water and nutritious food. One and a half million Salvadorans currently lack access to potable water and nationwide, one in five children suffers chronic malnutrition.

Activists from El Salvador’s Environmental Alliance, a coalition of environmental, religious, labor, community, family farmer and youth organizations, expressed disappointment. “The right-wing parties demonstrated that they don’t stand with the people,” said Xenia Marroquín of the Alliance. “They would rather continue with the current situation, where companies contaminate and use excessive quantities of water while impoverished families walk miles to bring jugs of water back to their homes. They would prefer poor families spend two-thirds of their income on expensive, imported foods rather than empower and assist our farmers in revitalizing local agriculture.”

Faced with the right-wing parties’ refusal to ratify the reform before it expires at the close of the 2012-2015 legislative session on Thursday, FMLN legislators changed gears, introducing an identical reform that was approved by a simple majority. This new reform will similarly require a two-thirds ratification by the incoming legislature that takes office on Friday.

The campaign to declare food and water human rights in El Salvador has received worldwide attention. In April, one hundred and thirty-five organizations from eighteen different countries sent a letter to El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly calling for the reform’s ratification. Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) sent letters expressing support for the protection of water as a human right and a public good while over 5,000 US residents added their names to a petition signed by over 35,000 Salvadorans demanding immediate ratification of the reform.

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