Anti-privatization Protesters from SIGEESAL Health Care Union Jailed
Eight members of the Salvadoran General Hospitals Union(SIGEESAL) were illegally arrested on September 4 for participating in ademonstration against the privatization of the national health system back onJuly 6. The eight jailedunion members are: Ana Luz Ordoñez Castro, MirianRuth Castro Lemus, Elsa Yanira Paniagua, Noemí Barrientos de Pérez, AnaGraciela de Carranza, Jorge Emilio Pérez, Manuel Trejo Artero and AnemiasArmando Cantadeiro. Allbeing charged with public disorder and damage to private property.
SIGEESAL is a member of theSalvadoran Union Front (FSS) and has strengthened itsorganizing and mobilizing following a merger with the national hospitalsassociation (ANTMPAS). The new union brings together workers in theentire national health care system, and they have organized a campaign todenounce the corruption within the system, the extreme shortage withinhospitals, and the privatization of some services within the largesthospitals.
Last week the FSS presented aresolution to the Legislative Assembly calling the captures a blatant violationof the constitutional right to protest, and more specifically, a violation ofthe recently approved International Labor Organization (ILO) agreements 87 and98 which grant workers the right to organize and unionize. The demands ofSalvadoran Union Front are for the immediate release of the protesters and forthe respect of the ILO agreements. Health Minister Guillermo Maza hasbeen clear about government intentions to privatize health care and hasdeclared zero unions as one of the goals in his administration.
These arrests have reminded thesocial movement of the extent to which Saca and his government are willing togo to fulfill their plans of water and health care privatization. Justtwo months ago, 14 people were arrested in the department of Suchitoto forprotesting against the privatization of water and will soon go to trial underthe anti-terrorism law; now, eight more members of the movement have beenjailed for protesting against the privatization of health. For moreinformation go to Action Alerts at www.cispes.org,and expect a new alert about how to respond to the SIGEESAL situation soon.
Social cleansing groupsinside Salvadoran Police
Almost a year after both the governmental Human RightsDefense Office and the Catholic Churchs Human Rights Commission reported theexistence of social cleansing groups inside the National Civilian Police (PNC),lawyers have found enough evidence to prosecute Sergeant Nelson Arriaza andpolice officer Carlos Chevez Hidalgo for the assassination of eight people inthe departments of San Miguel and La Union. In total there are six PNC officers under investigation forhaving participated in the execution of the victims and for having aided andconcealed evidence about the murders.
The western municipalityof Chalchuapa has been ina state of alarm as this past week after an anonymous letter was circulated intown calling for all citizens specially youth to obey a curfew so that theself-titled E.L. death squad can operate without obstacles. The FMLNmayor of Chalchuapa is calling for the authorities to investigate thesituation, especially since the municipal government has recorded 50 murdersfor the month of August while police records show there have only been17. PNC director Rodrigo Avila has made weak and uninformed statementsabout the nature of the investigations, calling it a case of a few badcops. Meanwhile, respected Human Rights Defense Office worker DavidMorales has publicly criticized Avilas responseand has called for a thorough investigation and a purging of the NationalPolice at the highest levels, starting with director Avila.