Popular Resistance Bloc Issues Call to the Nation

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MANIFESTO TO THE NATION

Popular Resistance and Rebellion Bloc

We call on The People to prevent the consolidation of the dictatorial regime of the Bukele clan.

The government presided over by Nayib Bukele, which should have concluded in May of 2024, pretends to extend itself illegally for another five years. During these years our country has seen a series of setbacks in all aspects. Still, there is a risk that the governing family and corporate dictatorship, which is supported by the oligarchy and North American imperialism, will perpetuate itself.

I. NATIONAL POLITICAL CONTEXT

Dismantling of democratic institutionalism and electoral fraud

The democratic institutionalism instated by the 1992 Peace Accords, is being dismantled. Given that reelection is unconstitutional, if Bukele is reelected, his government will be de facto, which is to say, it will not be substantiated by legal norms. This means, also, that there would no longer be political stability in the country, rather, more state violence, and as a response, more popular struggle.

The regime also eliminated the prohibition on modifying electoral laws one year before elections to change electoral norms in its favor and guarantee its victory in 2024: votes from abroad with expired passports and DUI (Identification cards) and a concentration of the vote in San Salvador, reduction of the number of municipalities and legislatures and modifying the electoral ratio in the legislative elections, in favor of the governing party.

These actions were preceded by other violations in constitutional and legal frameworks that reinforced the regime and based itself on lies, violence, and illegality. Some of these violations include:

  • Failed Coup against the Legislative Assembly in February 2020, when the president of the republic occupied along with the military the legislative compound.
  • Illegal destitution of the Attorney General of the Republic and the illegal election of an Attorney General in favor of the regime.
  • Illegal destitution of five magistrates from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and the illegal election of magistrates at the service of the regime.
  • Illegal destitution of judges over the age of 60 and the illegal election of judges at the service of the regime.
  • Illegal control, on behalf of the regime, of the Institute for Access to Public Information.
  • Systematic violation of the human rights of many sectors of the population.
  • Political persecution against former public functionaries of previous governments and former FMLN leaders.
  • Illegal detention of millions of innocent people during the regime of exception, that has been in place for 1 year and 9 months and remains in place during the electoral campaign, restricting the exercise of fundamental rights.
  • 500 unions that are committed to defending working-class people have not received their credentials.
  • Illegal firing of 21,000 public sector workers.
  • Persecution of NGOs that advance projects and support for poor and vulnerable populations.
  • Persecution of journalists and threats against the press.
  • State violence against communities and populations historically tied to revolutionary struggles, such as those in San Vicente, Cabañas, Cuscatlán, and Chalatenango, to instill fear and subjugation.
  • Use of public funds to support President Bukele and his party.
  • Generalized corruption and lack of transparency regarding spending even while using public funds.
  • Annulling the Acquisitions and Contracting in Public Administration Law, to foment corruption and strengthen the government business clan and their allies in the oligarchy.

With all these illegalities and control of the state through fraud, Nayib Bukele counts on mechanisms to impose himself in the 2024 elections and to continue modifying the rules at his convenience.

Deterioration of the population's living conditions

One of the promises that the Government has met, was President Bukele’s promise during his swearing-in ceremony on June 1 of 2019, when he said, “we have to take bitter medicine”. Obviously, this bitter medicine is not being taken by the rich nor the governing clan, but rather, by sectors of the poor and low and medium incomes, which is the majority of the population.

Polling of homes from 2019 and 2022 demonstrates that during these years more than 200,000 people fell into absolute poverty, which means there is a precarity in provisions. In 2023 poverty increased given that there was a 7% shortage of basic stables while salaries continued to be frozen and pensions a misery.

Between 2019 (when the previous Government ended) and December of 2023, the cost of living increased by 28% in rural areas and 29% in urban areas. This increase primarily impacted low-income populations, but also middle-class sectors, who pay more for food products and services and whose incomes are nominal and do not improve.

While goods and basic services have increased, the income of 3.4 million working people and people receiving pensions remain frozen:

  • 770,000 salaried people in the private business sector.
  • 400,000 rural workers.
  • 190,000 who have not received a pay increase from the state.
  • 1 million people who labor in micro and small businesses (60% women)
  • 793,000 people who are self-employed (53% women).
  • 134,000 domestic workers.
  • 250,000 retirees from the public sector on pensions and from the non-contributory pension (112,000 war veterans who receive $100 a month and 21,000 disabled from the war with low pensions).

A 67% of the working population does not have formal employment. The majority of the population says that unemployment is the main problem in the country. Just in the maquila sector, there was a loss of 14,000 jobs in the last few years.

The healthcare system has deteriorated given cuts in funding for primary care ($12 million), the closure of healthcare units and family clinics called ECOS, the reduction of trained personnel in the Ministry of Health and the Salvadoran Institute of Social Security, the worsening shortage of medicines at hospitals and health care units, among other issues.

The regress in the education system given the closure of literacy programs and the deterioration of school centers, the elimination of the “cup of milk” program in schools (18% of students between 15 and 16 years of age don’t eat at least 1 day of the week according to the International Evaluation of Students Program of 2022), the budget reduction of the University of El Salvador (who is owed $44 million), among other reasons.

Women no longer have access to legal protection in matters of health nor the working conditions that were given to them by Cuidad Mujer (Women’s City). On top of this, they have the worst salaries and pensions and are the most impacted by the regime of exception, given that they have to take care of the children of detained family members and invest time and resources to search detention centers, legal support, buy and provide basic supply packets (for detained family members) and wait all night outside of the jails, etc. They are also the most affected emotionally given that they assume the labor of emotional support for the family and suffer the impotence and pain of not being able to guarantee adequate care for their family members.

Around 500,000 people have immigrated to the United States at the end of 2019. So many people left the country that the Salvadoran population was reduced by 274,000 people between 2019 and 2022, according to a survey of homes from those years.

Neoliberalism, Lower Economic Growth, and an Indebted State

1. The government is implementing severe austerity measures. It closed 15 public institutions and eliminated 31 of the 40 social programs and economic development programs created by the FMLN government that benefited the low-income population. Some of these programs include literacy programs, inclusive full-time schooling, youth programs, temporary income support, universal basic pensions for 37,000 elderly in extreme poverty, family farming, and agricultural development.

2. National production has barely grown 2.1% during the current government, the lowest rate in the last seven governments. By 2024, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL, by  its acronym in Spanish) projects barely a 2% growth.

3. Income has been concentrated in a prominent business minority from the ruling family clan because in the distribution of GDP the profits increased, and the wages decreased.

4. The agricultural sector has suffered a serious downturn, especially the production of basic grains, while food imports have grown by more than 40% since 2019.

5. Industrial production has lost value in national productivity (from 16% to 15%) and until the third quarter of 2023 reported a drop of -3.6%.

6. The export sector is in crisis. Between January and November 2023, export goods fell -9%. All exports decreased: coffee, sugar, [maquilas], and those going into and outside of Central America.

7. The lack of dynamism in the economy occurs in the context of rising prices. Cumulative inflation since 2021 is 17%; in the food category, it is 30%.

8. Foreign investment has plummeted since 2019. During the second government of the FMLN recorded an annual average of $553 million and the current government averages $320 million.

9. The Government is in a precarious financial situation. It has borrowed a lot from some multilateral organizations, national banks, and pension funds, but since it has not sold bonds for three years, it cannot finance its budget and cuts investment spending, which in 2023 did not even reach 25% of what was budgeted. The 2024 budget prioritizes military, propaganda, and other negative spending and cuts to Agriculture (-35%), Local Development (-23%), and other important areas. And because it's underfunded by more than a billion dollars, it will either lead to more borrowing or it won't be executed as approved.

10. The irresponsibility of the government in the management of public finances is expressed in the lack of accountability, the signs of corruption, the high military expenditure and in propaganda, the non-payment of the pension debt until 2026 and the reduction of the investment in works and constructions.

11. Public debt has grown almost 40%, from US $19.2 million in December 2019 to US $27.5 million in November 2023: $20 million reported by the Treasury and $7.2 million with pension funds. Debt accounts for a high percentage of GDP (83%). And while debt grows, so does poverty.

12. The Bitcoin Law failed and it put the state further into debt. There are no prices, salaries, pensions, purchases, or savings in bitcoin, but the government spent $365 million to buy that digital asset, it gave away a portion of it and created ATMs that went bankrupt.

13. The economy remains dollarized, even though money launderers and speculators make their own profits using the crypto asset. If any foreign investment could attract Bitcoin, it would belong to millionaires who want to “legalize” ill-gotten money.

Government in conflict with many sectors

The ruling clan controls the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Branches, the Attorney General's Office, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and other state institutions. It instrumentalized the Armed Forces and the National Civil Police and has the support of a sector of the oligarchy and the U.S. government. But this concentration of power does not bring political stability to the country, especially because the hopes of important sectors of the population for improvement will not be fulfilled, since economic and social trends are negative, and the state is at the service of the oligarchy and the ruling business clan.

Bukele has exploited the "achievements" in public security, based on a pact with criminal groups, who reduced criminal activities in exchange for perks. It also persecutes and defames the opposition, sells the idea of a country that does not exist, and promises improvements. But as social problems worsen, important sectors of the population protest against the measures that affect them. The Government has conflicts with many sectors: victims of the regime of exception, rural inhabitants stripped of their lands, trade unionists, peasants, veterans of war, women, youth, and independent journalists, among others.

The popular movement has become stronger, it carries out important mass actions, has reorganized itself, and has incorporated new sectors. This is a very positive aspect of the current situation when the living conditions of the people worsen, and the regime aims to perpetuate itself illegally.

II. OUR POSITION AT THIS CURRENT JUNCTURE

In our proclamation of August 17, 2022, we asked "revolutionary, democratic and progressive forces (...) to create a Broad Front of social and political organizations that fights against the dictatorial regime that was enthroned in June 2019, that defeats its corrupt project and that rescues the country from the backsliding and puts it on the democratic route of the 1992 Peace Accords."

This Broad Front has not been created but it is a valid project that transcends the electoral struggle and seeks to prevent the consolidation of the authoritarian and dictatorial regime that has been taking shape since 2019.

If Nayib Bukele wins the 2024 elections, he would not be a legal president. We warned of this in a statement on November 3, 2023, where we stated that "the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to register the presidential candidacy of Nayib Bukele for the 2024 elections, violates six articles of the Constitution of the Republic that prohibit the continuous reelection of the acting president and, therefore, the 2024 presidential election will be fraudulent."

The constitution is clear. Bukele does not have the right to be a candidate and should step down from power on June 1, 2024.

In the context of the dismantling of the constitutional order, violations of human rights, repression, and setbacks in the political, social, and economic order:

a) We express our determination to strengthen the fight against the corrupt and illegal Government of the Bukele clan.

b) We call on the people to fight for the full exercise of fundamental rights that the regime is trying to suppress or manipulate, including the right to vote and to participate in the elections.

c) We call on the people to fight to prevent the continuity of the regime.

El Salvador, January 29, 2024

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Translation by Samantha Pineda and Angie Del Arca

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