Protests in San Francisco and Los Angeles Target Salvadoran President Antonio Saca
Also in this update:
- More than 15,000 bakers hold strike to denounce government incapacity
- Rural Communities and social organizations demand water law
- Organizations celebrate life and legacy of Archbishop Romero
On April 6, a large and loud group of protesters gathered on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles to demonstrate against Antonio "Tony" Saca, the right-wing president of El Salvador. Sacas trip to L.A. followed a brief stay in San Francisco where dozens of protesters came out for two separate actions on April 4, targeting both Saca and San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, who agreed to meet with Saca, and was consequently lambasted by the local community for praising a president whose government has been guilty of numerous human rights abuses. CISPES helped organize both protests and also flooded Mayor Newsom with emails and calls demanding that he not honor Saca.
In San Francisco, cut-outs of dead bodies littered the sidewalk in front of city hall and protesters held signs calling for an end to government repression and for the U.S. Congress to cut funding to the International Law Enforcement Academy, which trains officers from the Salvadoran National Civilian Police. Back in El Salvador, Sacas visit was also denounced by the FMLN party, who said that public funds should not be used for political fundraising and foreign campaigning.
For three consecutive days, the Salvadoran Artisan Bakers Association held a national strike due to the rising costs of materials for the production of bread. The strike ended with a second demonstration at the Economic Ministry and then the Legislative Assembly to pressure the central government to find a solution to the price crisis bakers are facing.
The Artisan Baker Association, through their president Heriberto Vasquez, has made clear their demands toward the central government, which include a temporary subsidy for the extra cost of flour, a support policy for artisan bakers, the regulation of monopolistic and anti-competitive practices, and the reduction or exemption of the sales tax on most material for bread production.
The Saca government has responded negatively to their demands, insisting that there are no funds to grant bakers a subsidy. However, a few months ago, the right wing bloc in the Legislative Assembly approved a subsidy for collective transport owners (who in their majority belong to ARENAs ally, the National Conciliation Party), and without consultation passed the extra tax of 10 cents per gallon of gas which the population pays to finance the subsidy. Instead of solving the problems of the bakers association, Saca and his Economic Minister Yolanda de Gavidia communicated to the bakers that the only possible measure for the time being is to eliminate the tariff on imported flour. According to economic analysts, this measure only benefits importerslarge companies like as MOLSA and HARISAand not the artisan baker.
At the Legislative Assembly, the FMLN fraction welcomed the bakers and pledged to continue to work so that their demands are heard in the assembly. Lourdes Palacios, FMLN deputy in the Economy Commission, explained that they high cost of production materials is in part due to the monopoly in the sale of baking materials by MOLSA and HARISA, whose owners belong to the ARENA party. The legislative fraction of the FMLN has requested that the Superintendence of Competition investigate the monopoly in the sale of materials, given that this does not allow for national or regional competition, nor for lowering prices of flour and other baking materials.
In celebration of the International Water Day, the Public Water Workers Union SETA, along with various rural organizations and NGOs, marched on March 27 to demand the approval of the General Water Law presented by civil society organizations.
At the same time, the social organizations that mobilized towards the legislative assembly denounced the fact that more than 90% of water in El Salvador is polluted and that majority of the population does not have a dignified water service. According to experts on the subject, not having a law means theres more contamination. More than 95% of rivers are polluted.
According to participating organizations, the lack of a law makes it so there is no sustainability of water, which is why the population has demanded the quick passing of the General Water Law law created by community and environmental organizations. SETA mobilized some communities where people are organized in defense of this important resource to prevent, through community action, the privatization of water that ARENA is attempting to achieve.
The last week of March was dedicated to the commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, which occurred on March 24, 1980. According to reports by the post-war Truth Commission, the murder of Archbishop Romero was ordered and planned by the founder of the ARENA party, Roberto DAubuisson.
28 years after his passing, various social, community and religious organizations filled the streets of San Salvador to demand, among other things, that political crimes such as the murder of Archbishop Romero not be left in impunity.
According to Antonio Barrera of the Ecumenical Coordination of the Church and the Poor of El Salvador (CEIPES), the Salvadoran government must publicly recognize the guilt of the ruling party, and in particular Roberto DAubuisson, in this case. The Salvadoran government continues to refuse to comply with the three recommendations from the Inter-American Human Rights Court that would allow for those responsible for human rights violations during the 12 year civil war to go to trial. The recommendations are that there to be a complete or partial investigation of Romeros case, that the victims of human rights violations be compensated, and that the Amnesty Law approved in 1993 be overturned, given that this law still prevents those responsible from being brought to justice.
The social organizations, along with the general population, have retaken the words of Romero to continue their social struggle for an El Salvador with economic and social justice for all. In his last homily, Romero declared to the government In the name of God, and in the name of its suffering people, whose cries reach the heavens each day more tumultuous, I ask you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: End the repression!. These words remain profound nearly 30 years after his death, especially given the increased repression towards all sectors struggling for change in El Salvador. The murder of Archbishop Romero is part of the long list of politically motivated murders that remain in impunity, such as the more recent murder of the Mayor of Alegria, Wliber Funes, and his co-worker Zulma Rivera.