Protestors Face Police Repression during Mobilization on 2nd Anniversary of Saca's Presidency
While the U.S. Congress prepares to vote on funding for the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in the coming days, Salvadorans took the streets last week to demand a closure of the ILEA, as well as a roll-back of CAFTA and an end to privatizations. The protests came on June 1st, the two years anniversary of the Saca administration. As marches and highway closures happened across the country, Saca addressed the Salvadoran National Assembly, congratulating himself on making El Salvador the first country to join the U.S. in CAFTA and making more empty promises of economic gain for El Salvador.
A large coalition of social movement organizations, including campesinos, unions, community organizations and student groups, accompanied by the FMLN, organized the protests. Beginning early in the morning, a large contingent of riot police were sent out to key areas where the protests were planned - around the National Assembly, near the National University and a San Salvador major high school, and to the highway out to the main airport where protestors shut down traffic. Although it is common in protests in El Salvador for people to shut down major throughways, this time the police responded by breaking up the protest and arresting six people. Guadalupe Erazo of the Popular Social Bloc (BPS) reported that the arrestees, including youth, were mistreated by the riot police during their arrest. All six are now facing charges of public disorder. Rene Figueroa, Minister of the Interior and often considered one of the masterminds behind the increase in repression, responded to the criticisms of the police action with the justification that the state must act to ensure foreign investment. "How are we going to attract foreign investment if there are centers of instability like these road-blockings?" Figueroa stated.
There were also large protests in Los Angeles, with groups like Hommies Unidos and local FMLN committees protesting outside the Salvadoran consulate. The groups pointed to the complete failure of ARENA's policies - lack of job opportunities, as well as crime and violence - as the causes for the recent exodus of Salvadorans to the U.S. They also pointed to the ILEA as one of the worst manifestations of the relationship between the Bush and Saca administrations. "Instead of implementing programs that create jobs and help young people get involved in productive work, they want to repress people and violate their rights by militarizing the police." Despite governmental intimidations and the display of police force in El Salvador, the turnout for the marches and protest actions showed a determination to defy ARENA's massive propaganda and intimidation tactics.
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