Special Report: Salvadoran elections create buzz in Washington
This post references Hector Perla or his work - CISPES Statement on Hector Perla and Sexual/Gender Violence in our Movement
Since late October, Washington, DC has been uncharacteristically aflutter over El Salvador. Conservative think-tanks’ attention to the upcoming presidential elections in both Honduras (November 24) and El Salvador (February 2) reveals the strategic importance of Central America to the US government and corporations to maintaining economic, political, and military power in Latin America and the Caribbean, but Honduran and Salvadoran social movement leaders and their US solidarity allies are working to set a new course for US policy in the region based on respect, sovereignty and justice. On October 29, CISPES, the Center for Economic and Political Research (CEPR) co-hosted a briefing on the upcoming elections in Honduras and El Salvador with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, chaired by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Dr. Héctor Perla, professor of political science from the University of California, Santa Cruz, explained the urgent need for both members of Congress and the State Department to make public declarations of neutrality before the Salvadoran elections in order to counteract the ‘fear and smear’ campaign that U.S. Republicans have waged against the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party. (Watch video in English here) Perla was joined by outspoken Honduran human rights defenders Bertha Oliva and Victor Fernández, in Washington to testify before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission at the Organization of American States. Oliva and Fernández issued an international “SOS” regarding the on-going human rights crisis in Honduras that has seen 16 candidates from the opposition LIBRE party killed in the past year and a half. (Read more here and watch the video in Spanish here) On November 12, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), gave a speech at the pro-corporate Council on the Americas titled “Elections in Central America and Implications for US policy.” (Click here for video and text) In addition to expressing very serious concerns about the safety of human rights defenders in Honduras, noting the new wave of death threats that Bertha Oliva has received since her visit to Washington, Engel challenged the State Department to heed a series of forceful calls made by Members of Congress to re-evaluate its support for the Honduran military and police. Regarding the upcoming elections in El Salvador, the Congressman expressed his strong view that the only appropriate position for the US government to take is one of strict neutrality. Engel gave Salvadoran voters his word that he would fight for their right to cast their votes free from intimidation or fear of reprisal, a declaration that was welcomed by the Salvadoran community in the US, whose leaders were gathered in Washington to call on their elected officials to make the same commitment. On November 20, CISPES was proud to host Professor Israel Montano, President of El Salvador’s largest teachers’ union, ANDES 21 de junio, for another Congressional briefing on the education reforms that the FMLN have implemented since the 2009 election. Professor Montano was joined by a representative from the Salvadoran Embassy who outlined the new social education policy “Let’s Go to School,” which, by providing school uniforms, shoes, supplies and nutritious food, has increased the elementary school-age population from 990,000 to 1.5 million in fewer than 5 years. In the process, over 47,000 jobs have been created by contracting with local and small-scale producers. Professor Montano praised the Ministry of Education’s unprecedented collaboration with the teachers’ unions in developing and implementing the reforms, including a pilot program to extend the school day to include sports, arts and recreation as a way to address the serious challenges of youth violence and crime in El Salvador. Spanish-language press highlighted Montano’s visit to Washington to educate Members of Congress and the Salvadoran community on these under-reported achievements. Clamoring to re-gain the dominant discourse, the Salvadoran right-wing put on a veritable dog and pony show at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on November 7 in a presentation called “Elections in El Salvador: What’s at stake?” Dr. Juan José Daboub, the former president of El Salvador’s National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), took the opportunity to laud the privatization, dollarization and free trade policies he implemented during various ARENA administrations. Accusing the Funes administration of leading the country into greater poverty, Daboub reiterated the same skewed statistics presented by right-wing think tank FUSADES, which were debunked and refuted by the IMF as “a manipulation [of] the facts”. Daboub was questioned by Salvadoran audience members regarding allegations of international interference into the elections on behalf of the ARENA party, as well as an IRS investigation into a $10 million money laundering scheme, in which he and his former boss, former President Francisco Flores, are rumored to be implicated; he claimed ignorance of the investigation. Daboub was joined by Roger Noriega, who, as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under Bush, traveled to El Salvador before the 2004 presidential elections to denounce the FMLN, and lobbyist Otto Reich, who was recently hired by the Pacific Rim mining company, which is currently suing the Funes government for $315 million suit for not granting gold exploitation permits for the El Dorado mine in the Salvadoran province of Cabañas. Despite efforts by the right-wing business and political interest to manipulate the upcoming elections and maintain their hold over El Salvador, the fight to defend El Salvador’s nascent democracy is gathering steam as the elections approach. U.S. Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) are currently circulating a Congressional sign-on letter calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to issue a public declaration of neutrality and respect for El Salvador’s democratic process. Click here to ask your Representative to join the call for non-intervention.