CISPES celebrates May Day - You can support the movement against CAFTA, privatization, and the ILEA!
On May 1st, CISPES activists took to the streets of cities throughout the U.S. in support of immigrants rights. Meanwhile, in San Salvador, I was a member of a 16-member CISPES contingent that marched alongside Salvadoran union members, students, FMLN party activists, and other social movement organizations in one of the biggest May Day marches in recent Salvadoran history. Coming from the US I was not prepared for the incredible outpouring of spirit I witnessed on May Day in El Salvador. With participation estimated at more than75,000 people, I was inspired by the militant spirit, the high level of coordination and the breadth of organizations that came out to celebrate International Workers Day. Read an update about the march or listen to a CISPES radio interview about the huge May Day mobilization .
60,000 march in San Salvador on May 1
In addition to accompanying our allies in the streets, the CISPES delegation is traveling throughout El Salvador this week meeting with our partner organizations and hearing about their work and struggles firsthand. Among the most pressing issues we have learned about thus far is the economic crisis facing the Salvadoran people. Inflation is increasing, jobs are disappearing and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) ensures that these trends will continue. As a result, some 700 are forced to migrate to the United States every day, while others seek to provide for their families by working as vendors in the informal sector.
One particularly inspiring story I heard this week was from three CD/DVD vendors who have been adversely affected by CAFTA. Martin, Sandra and Moises met with us to discuss how the laws protecting intellectual property rights under CAFTA have criminalized their very livelihood. They discussed their long work days and the difficulty of organizing at a national level with no resources. In Tuesdays march we saw the fruition of their work, as we marched alongside street vendors who arrived from many parts of El Salvador.
Although the May Day march passed without incident, Martin discussed the ways that vendors in the informal sector have faced severe repression from the police since the implementation of CAFTA in March 2006. The structure of the police is in alliance with and for the interest of the rich of the country. They are against the public sector; when they ask for water the police come in and repress them. I have pictures from the newspaper of our friends who were captured. The riot police tied them up and sprayed them with pepper spray in the face.
Market vendors show evidence of repression
Everyone we spoke with repeated the same alarming chargethat the government is consciously using the police as a tool of repression against the opposition. Despite the Salvadoran polices disregard for human rights standards, as demonstrated by its abusive treatment of the CD and DVD vendors movement, last year the U.S. State Department opened a branch of its International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador. The ILEA grants legitimacy to the tactics of El Salvadors repressive police force, while creating a parallel institution to the School of the Americas, which has taught Latin American military personnel to carry out massacres, overthrow governments and abuse human rights for decades.
On Thursday our delegation will meet with the US officials overseeing the ILEA police academy in San Salvador to investigate the operations of this school. The State Department has thus far refused to divulge basic information about the ILEA, including course materials and the names of graduates. On top of all that, no guarantee has been made that military officials will not be involved in the training of police forces across the region. Check out more information about the ILEA here.
Well be sending a report on our trip to the ILEA later this week, and will bring a full report on our delegation to cities across the U.S. starting in mid-May. We have already arranged meetings with congressional representatives to share what we learn about the ILEA and urge them to cut the schools funding.
All of the delegates many of us members of CISPES chapters are ready to return to the US and continue the fight to shut down the ILEA and turn the tide against US militarization and intervention in El Salvador. We need your help at this critical moment in our campaign, as we expect Congress to vote on ILEA funding later this month. Please consider making a donation to support the amazing solidarity work CISPES is doing!
Viva la solidaridad internacional!
From the streets of San Salvador,
Jana Thibodeau, CISPES delegate from Boston