Over 200 Street Vendors Forcibly Displaced from San Salvador Marketplace


Also included in this update:

  • Social Security Workers Win Pay Raise After Four-Day Strike
  • Assembly Passes Sweeping Law Condemning Violence Against Women
Inthe evening of November 25, San Salvador's Municipal Security Agents (CAM) removed more than 200 street vendors' stalls and merchandise from one of the main arteries of downtown San Salvador.  The removals are part of a campaign by right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA)Mayor Norman Quijano to "restore" San Salvador's historic center through the violent evictions of informal vendors that sell their merchandise throughout the downtown area.  As twenty years of neoliberaleconomic policies failed to produce the promised growth in employment opportunities, El Salvador's population of informal vendors grew exponentially.  The high foot traffic in downtown San Salvador has made it one of the main centers for the informal sale of fruits and vegetables, electronics, clothing, CDs and DVDs.

Thevendors attempted to resist the CAM agents' forcible removal of their stalls and merchandise; security agents fired rubber bullets and launched teargas to disperse the vendors and confiscate their merchandise.  The following day, on November 26, there were multiple gatherings of vendors throughout downtown in protest of the removals.  Asmall number of the gatherings turned violent when supposed vendors burned tires and threw bottles and rocks at the National Civil Police (PNC) agents dispatched to the scene.  The demonstrations were eventually dispersed by the PNC's Maintenance of Order Unit (UMO) riot police.  Quijano accused the vendors of a later incident on December 8 when a grenade was launched into the parking lot of the municipal offices, wounding one CAM agent and damaging six vehicles.  However, vendors maintain they were not responsible for the grenade attack and the United Independent Vendors Movement (MVIU) called on the Attorney General to investigate the true perpetrators.

Quijano has announced a moratorium on the vendor displacements for the month of December, the most profitable month for informal vendors; however, he has promised to continue the removals next year, claiming the municipality has offered alternative sites for sales. According to Dolores García, one of the displaced vendors, the alternative sites are not acceptable because low foot traffic means "the vendors don't sell anything."

On Thursday, December 9, vendors went to the Legislative Assembly andwon the support of deputies from the left-wing Farabundo Martí NationalLiberation Front (FMLN) and two right-wing parties - GANA (Grand National Alliance) and the PDC (Christian Democrat Party) -who all signed a petition calling on Quijano to form a space to negotiate acceptable alternatives for San Salvador's street vendors. "The recommendation contains three elements: suspending the removals, the creation of a dialogue space between both parties [the vendors and municipality] in January and that the relocations be fully discussed [byeveryone involved]" explained FMLN legislative deputy Santiago Flores. Regarding the petition, Quijano responded that autonomous municipal governments do not need to pay heed to legislative suggestions. The Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna has also called for dialogue between the vendors and municipality to find a solution that satisfies the economic needs of the vendors as well as the effort to restore the historic city center.

Mayor Quijano has also come under scrutiny for firing 850 municipal workers since taking office on May 1, 2009. The firings have prompted regular protests at the municipal offices.  According to Domingo Orellana Canjura of the San Salvador Municipal Workers Guild, the municipality claims the firings are the result of a lack of funds, "but they are hiring members of their party [ARENA] with [monthly] salaries of  $600 to $1,000 dollars." Last January, a dialogue space was set up between fired workers and the Mayor's office; however, no agreement was reached. In October, the Human Rights Ombudsman determined that in over 200 cases of individual dismissals the municipality violated workers' right to stable employment and ruled that the 200 workers be given theirjobs back within 15 days.  Mayor Quijano has not re-hired any of the workers.

Social Security Workers Win Pay Raise After Four-Day Strike

On Friday, December 3, the Social Security Workers Union (STISSS) ended a four-day strike that shut down non-emergency services at the hospitals, clinics and administrative offices of El Salvador's Social Security Institute - the health care system for Salvadoran workers.  Thestrike was in response to the institute's failure to pay out a $200 end-of-year bonus that was negotiated between the STISSS and institute director Oscar Kattán in November.  On December 1, the second day of thestrike, President Mauricio Funes announced that the negotiated bonus had not been authorized by his administration and that the funds were not available.  He called on the workers to end the strike so that the institute's users would not be affected.  Kattán, a member of the Democratic Change (CD) party that supported President Funes' candidacy, made no comments regarding his unauthorized negotiation of the bonus.

Social Security facilities were reopened on December 3 as a sign of good faith after President Funes called for new negotiations between theSTISSS, Kattán and the Office of the President.  The agreement that wasfinally reached through this negotiation does not authorize an end-of-year bonus, but provides a raise of $37 to the workers' monthly salary - a measure the administration considers a more effective solution to the workers' economic situation than seasonal bonuses.  The STISSS workers also agreed to volunteer one unpaid workday next year as ademonstration of their commitment to improving the underfunded and under-equipped health care system.

Assembly Passes Sweeping Law Condemning Violence Against Women

On November 25, in honor of the International Day Against Violence Against Women, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed the Special Integral Law for a Life Free from Violence for Women. The new law, the triumphant result of collaboration between female legislators from all parties and prominent feminist organizations, establishes femicide as a crime punishable by up to 50 years in prison, and increases sentences for crimes like sexual assault and domestic abuse. Among other measures,the law also requires the Ministry of Education to eliminate any materials promoting, justifying or normalizing violence against women, outlaws sexist messages in advertisements and requires the Ministry of Labor to provide trainings and prevention measures to protect female workers from violence and ensure their right to work. Supporters of the law who gathered at the Assembly for the vote shouted, "Yes we did! Not one death more!"

The new law represents an important step in raising the profile of violence against women, an issue that has been ignored by the ARENA-controlled government for decades, even as the violence has been on the rise. El Salvador has the highest rate of femicide in the world, with 129 women assassinated out of every million. In the last 10 years, femicides in El Salvador have doubled. According to the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women (ISDEMU) in 2010, 702 women reported cases of sexual aggression. Of the 4,230 women reported as victims of domestic violence, 31% were young girls. Prosecution of thesecrimes has so far been miserably insufficient. The ISDEMU reported thatonly 0.06% of the 6,083 cases of sexual crimes against women filed withthe attorney general between 2008 and 2009 resulted in a jail sentence,and that of the 477 femicides this year, less than 1% have resulted in convictions. The new legislation is intended to "generate a public policy of attention to victims," said FMLN Deputy Lorena Peña, and comesas part of a broader push for legislation in defense of women's rights,led by female FMLN legislators in coordination with feminist organizations. The next item on the agenda is the Equal Opportunities and Anti- Gender Discrimination Law, which specifically outlines a national policy of gender equality. This new law is currently under debate in the Legislative Assembly.

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