Take Action to Support the Mobilization Against Water Privatization in El Salvador
Join CISPES in Publicly Defending the Right to Organize!
On Tuesday, October 17, thousands of people took to the streets of San Salvador in the first major, national mobilization to protest the government’s plans to privatize water. This protest comes just weeks after the Salvadoran right wing party ARENA forced passage of the draconian “anti-terrorist” law in the National Assembly (more info here.) The legislation leaves the definition of terrorism up to broad interpretation, while specifically naming some common protest practices – such as the occupation of public buildings – as terrorist acts punishable with decades of imprisonment.
Political repression has been on the rise in El Salvador ; over the past four months a number people connected with opposition to the ARENA government have been brutally murdered in the style of death squads, while the Salvadoran Human Rights Office has denounced the existence of extermination groups functioning within the National Civilian Police (PNC). A student protest in July resulted in deaths and the invasion of the autonomous National University by the PNC. Meanwhile, the government has done nothing to investigate these crimes and violations of the 1992 Peace Accords.
The social movement in El Salvador is mobilizing despite the repression, and despite the government’s attempts to equate protest with terrorism. Last week social movement organizations marched to denounce the “social crisis” in El Salvador and to demand the repeal of the anti-terrorism law. On October 17 they are marching to send a strong message that the movement against the imposition of CAFTA and other neoliberal policies – including the privatization of such a basic necessity as water – will not be intimidated into silence. The march will be a major test of the government’s intentions to utilize the anti-terrorist law.
One October 17, CISPES is publishing a paid ad in two Salvadoran newspapers signed by over 40 U.S. and Canadian organizations. In it, we demand that President Saca respect human rights and the right to organize (view the open letter to Saca here.) Join Salvadoran organizations in pressing for our demands!
1. Call the Salvadoran Embassy, or your local Salvadoran Consular Officer, to demand that they protect the right to organize and protest in El Salvador (see below for talking points)
- Salvadoran Ambassador Rene Leon at (202) 265-9672
- Or, go to www.elsalvador.org/home.nsf/consularinfo and click on the city nearest you for the name and phone number of the nearest Consular Officer.
2. Donate directly to the Salvadoran union leading the struggle to stop privatization of water. Donate online at https://secure.people-link.com/~cissecure/, or send a check marked to CISPES, PO Box 8650 , New York , NY 10001 . Be sure to mark your donation as “material aid”!
**When you contact the Salvadoran Embassy or Consulate**
- Investigate and put and end to the death squad-style threats and murders.
Beginning with the July murder of the Manzanares couple, the parents of long-time activist “Mariposa”, threats and assaults on activists has been on the increase. Death threats have been sent to SETA, the water workers’ union; two FMLN activists were murdered in Coatepeque; Rev. Antonio Romero was murdered in September; and student activist and son of well known FMLN activist Luis Edgardo Osorto Gomez was disappeared for 8 days. These political attacks are reminiscent of intimidation tactics used in the 80s, and we call for immediate investigation of this repression!
- Reverse the militarization of the police, which is a direct violation of the Peace Accords. The separation between police and military in El Salvador has declined dramatically since originally established by Peace Accords in El Salvador . It is now common to have groups of soldiers “patrolling” rural and urban neighborhoods in El Salvador , something that current President Saca has promoted. El Salvador ’s National Civilian Police, or PNC, was created by the 1992 Peace Accords to do the work of law enforcement in El Salvador . However, the PNC has increasingly been used to violently repress protests in El Salvador , especially the protests against the CAFTA free trade agreement.
- Repeal the anti-terrorism law and halt government repression of protest. This mobilization is one of the first major actions since the passing of this law, and criminalizes various protest tactics. The language in the law is also very vague, therefore incredibly open to interpretation and application. The anti-terrorism law is similar to the Patriot Act in that it threatens civil liberties supposedly protected by the constitution of El Salvador . We call on the government of El Salvador to repeal this law and to keep protest legal.
- Close the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA). El Salvador is already the second largest recipient of military training in Central America, is the host of a U.S. military base at the Comalapa airport, and in early 2005 an FBI office was opened in San Salvador. ILEA has the capacity to train 1500 students per year, more than the current Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation, also known as the SOA. Salvadorans fear a return to the sort of torture and repression practices used by the graduates of that US-sponsored school in the 1980s. More surveillance does not make Salvadorans safer, it threatens daily life and the right to protest!