Press Release: In opposition to Free Trade, Presentation of "People's Reprieve" to Salvadoran Consul


Press Release


October 17, 2006

Contact:  Shane Stewart, CISPES

(617) 576-1709 or (718) 757-7323 (cell)
2161 Mass Ave., Cambridge, MA
[email protected]


When:  October 17th, 2006, 12 noon

Where:  Consulate of El Salvador, 20 Meridian St., East Boston

Boston, MA.  Solidarity activists presented the Salvadoran consul with a "People¹s Reprieve" symbolizing what they say is a growing popular rejection of the CAFTA free trade agreement with the U.S. that opponents have dubbed a "Death Sentence" for the people of Central America.  The Boston demonstration was organized by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) to show international support for a march that also took place on Tuesday in El Salvador, in opposition to the rightist ARENA government¹s plan to privatize the public water system.

In El Salvador, the large-scale demonstration against water privatization is part of a growing protest movement in opposition to free trade reforms favored by the U.S. government.  This opposition movement involves a broad section of the population including small farmers, religious, student, and women¹s organizations, informal sector workers, labor unions, and the main opposition party, the FMLN.  In recent months, demonstrations have gained support and become more frequent in El Salvador as the ARENA government has sought to cut social spending‹by eliminating public subsidies and selling off state-run service industries‹thereby raising the cost of living for all Salvadorans. 

Opponents of the water privatization plan claim that privatization will amount to the loss of access and deterioration in quality of water available to the poor majority in El Salvador because they lack the resources to pay.

"In El Salvador, they call privatization a "Pay or Die scheme," says Shane Stewart, member of CISPES.  "By pushing the privatization of water through the signing of CAFTA, Bush and Salvadoran President Tony Saca have signed a death sentence for the people of El Salvador."

A small group of CISPES activists presented to the Salvadoran Consul a large colorful document entitled "A People's Reprieve: In Rejection of CAFTA's Death Sentence Placed upon the Salvadoran People."  The large prop was accompanied by petitions bearing the signatures of individuals calling on Salvadoran President Tony Saca, to cease his government¹s water privatization attempts and to respect the political opposition's right to organize in El Salvador.

"The people of El Salvador are taking to the streets to defend the right to water, and we are demonstrating here in Boston to make sure their voices are heard and their rights respected," said Lisa Fuller, also a member of

As public protest becomes more common in El Salvador, reports of attacks on the political opposition have also risen sharply.  The head of the largely independent government Human Rights Ombudswoman¹s Office, Beatrice de Carillo has repreatedly criticized the ARENA government for the increasing use of repressive tactics by police toward demonstrators.

A July 5th student demonstration opposing increasing bus fares at the National University of El Salador was fired upon by police snipers, striking one university employee in the chest, when two police agents were shot and killed by an unknown assailant.  Students were coralled into the university and detained while the police occupied the university for a number of days, ransacking the offices of student organizations and arresting the leaders.
A union leader was also arrested following a press conference held by the union to denounce the police reaction to the university protest.

Organizers of the July 5th demonstration denounced the disproportional use of force by the police such as the massing of riot police and the presence of snipers on rooftops and in helicopters as methods of intimidation used against them.  De Carillo responde to the police reaction by calling it the "worst violation of human rights since the signing of the Peace Accords."

This increase in police repression of opposition protestors also comes as political activists are seemingly being targetted by reactivated "death-squads."  Leaders of social organizations and members of the SETA water workers union, that is leading the anti-privatization battle, have regularly received death threats.  Since July, at least four activists with the FMLN political party have been killed.  On July 2nd, two activists with the FMLN political party were tortured and their bodies burned.  In August two more FMLN members were shot in the back of the head and left by a roadside.
"The failure of the ARENA government to investigate these murders of social movement activists implicates them in those deaths," says Stewart.  "The ARENA government is trying to terrorize the opposition out of existence, that¹s been shown through the police¹s routine violent response to demonstrations."
Solidarity demonstrations also occurred at Salvadoran consulates in other U.S. cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland.

*This event will feature strong visuals and opportunities to interview local activists.  Photo opportunities will be available.

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