MCC & Embassy Renew Privatization Push in El Salvador, with Development Aid as Bait
US Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte has resumed efforts to shackle El Salvador with privatizing policies in her latest attempt to push reforms to the controversial Public-Private Partnership (P3) Law. The P3 law was approved in May despite massive social movement opposition following threats from the Embassy to block some $300 million in Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funding for El Salvador. The leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party has denounced the privatizing reforms, saying it will not vote for such measures, but national right-wing political voices and conservative media have pounced on the chance to attack the FMLN in this heated electoral season. The 34 proposed reforms were presented by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party and are based on P3 reforms recommended by the conservative Salvadoran private sector in conjunction with the US Embassy in July. Calling the reforms a “clear signal” of “an appropriate investment climate,” on November 21 Aponte termed the reforms a requisite for the MCC deal’s final approval: “Once these conditions are in place, well, we will talk about signing [the MCC accord].” Social movement organizations, however, see the measures as a back door to the privatization of public services like water and higher education that the FMLN had managed to exclude from the original bill. So far, the FMLN has stalled legislative debate on the reforms. “We are clear in saying that we continue to be in favor of not privatizing water…we do not support promoting investments by way of these concessions,” said FMLN legislator Norma Guevara. Last week, however, members of the MCC board surprised the Legislative Assembly with a visit to increase pressure for the reforms’ passage. As the Ambassador and the MCC resumed the ransom of the funding, the MCC board recently announced that it was postponing the ultimate decision to grant funding until after El Salvador’s February 2nd presidential elections, allowing the funds to continue to be used to push US interests through the Salvadoran elections. The delay has also served as fodder for the Salvadoran right wing, eager to blame FMLN for the funding hold up - as the leftist party leads in the polls.