Salvadorans Unite on May Day to Denounce Attacks Against Democracy and the Working Class
On Monday, May 1, El Salvador’s popular social movements mobilized the Salvadoran working class to brave the streets to celebrate International Workers Day, despite the ever-present threats of arrest and political persecution under the now indefinite State of Exception. In 2022, the yearly tradition was marked by direct threats of arrest of organizers of the May Day march from top Bukele administration officials who claimed that organizers were associated with gangs and therefore liable for arrest under the new measures. This year, the march’s demands reflected the outrage of a working class that has endured an entire year of arbitrary arrests and suspension of constitutional protections applied broadly and nationwide.
The popular social movement celebrated a high degree of unity across organizations that was achieved at this year’s march and the high turn out despite dozens of military blockades set up on various highways leading into the capital. As opposed to recent years, when multiple marches were organized by different unions and social movement coalitions, this year,an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people marched together as one from Parque Cuscatlan to a rally at Plaza Berrios with demands that were “very forceful against the authoritarian regime, economic deterioration and increase in poverty.” Hundreds of organizations from the popular social movement as well as political parties and members of the academic and religious sectors participated, as well as sectors that had historically not participated in May Day given the day’s clear alignment with the left and working class, pointing to the widely-felt impacts of the Bukele administration's attacks on democracy and resonance of the popular social movement’s demands.
In the weeks leading up to the march, groups like the Popular Resistance Bloc (BRP) made a clear call for unity. The May Day activities were announced at a joint April 12 press conference, where the BRP along with Movement of Victims of the Regime (MOVIR), Committee of Relatives of Political Prisoners (COFAPPES), University Movement of Critical Thought (MUPC), Teachers in Resistance (MER), Movement for the Defense of the Land (MDT), Movement Cinquera in Resistance 8 de mayo (MCR), and the Salvadoran Left Movement (MIS) denounced:
“For the first time since the Peace Accords we are facing uncertainty in the electoral system; the cost of living, poverty and emigration are on the rise; there is land dispossession, political persecution, repression and an unjustifiable regime of exception that has been in place for more than a year.”
In their May Day statement, the Foundation for the Study of the Application of Rights (FESPAD) also denounced the Bukele administration’s attacks on workers and organized labor, including the dismissals of over 19,000 people from state agencies since the beginning of the Bukele administration in June 2019 “which have triggered other violations of their human rights and those of their families [... with] no alternatives for the workers, no due process, much less justice.” Their statement also denounced the divisive and obstructive tactics from the Minister of Labor, which has denied credentialsto over 400 labor unions, thus effectively ceasing their operations, and called on the working class to continue to fight together not just around labor rights but to also take clear positions on urgent national issues.
With demands that included: an end to the state of exception, arbitrary arrests, political persecution and murders under state custody; freedom for political prisoners; re-establishment of the rule of law; no to the reelection of Nayib Bukele in 2024, which would be in violation if the Constitution; increase in the minimum wage and pensions for war veterans and the elderly; agricultural subsidies; an end to land expropriation; and support programs for women, children, the elderly and LGBTI population among others, the popular social movements made clear that the Bukele administration’s attacks on democracy are also an attack on the Salvadoran working class, with devastating economic impacts.