A revolutionary greeting, from El Salvador to Portland
After hearing about the Portland anti-Bush protests, Salvadoran national union leader Ricardo Monge - who visited Portland this past April - writes to send both his support for our struggle and a call for solidarity with theirs. El Salvador is on the brink of national social upheaval, with unionists under attack to pave the way for "free trade." Ricardo asks for our support as his union prepares to defend their jobs, their union, and the national health care system.
Ricardo Monge, leader of the El Salvadoran National Health Care Workers Union (STISSS) writes:
"Please receive a revolutionary greeting, most dearest comrades from the city of Portland; I remember you well as a hard-working group of dedicated activists. I have been informed of the repressive measures taken by your own government against a protest in your city. Police viciously attacked a peaceful protest with senior citizens and young children. I think that every Salvadoran knows what you have experienced, and we feel good to know that even in the United States there are people fighting the same fight as we. I sympathize with you and at the same time am impressed by your bravery. In the difficult political climate after September 11, when anyone who takes to the streets is immediately labeled a “terrorist,” it takes courage to continue the struggle against imperialism.
"Here in El Salvador, we too are living through a moment of increased government repression. Partly because of the encouragement given to them by your government in its pursuit of a free trade agreement, ARENA has intensified its campaign of persecuting popular sectors struggling for a change. Our union, the STISSS, has always been the subject of government attacks because we have always been at the front lines of the struggle against the privatization of health care. Now, the government seeks to do away with us once and for all and privatize health care, which would have fatal consequences for the people of El Salvador. They have closed off all of the spaces of negotiation; they leave us with no other choice but to strike. Now, we are entering what may be the final battle against those who seek to do business with peoples’ lives.
"In the face of greater repression, the only response is greater resistance. In this critical moment, we need international solidarity more than ever. President Flores takes his orders from the US Embassy; the US Embassy will listen to you. We call on you to mobilize in your communities in political and financial support of our resistance struggle. Together, we can defeat privatization, and we can stop the free trade agreement.
Ricardo Monge Melendez
Sindicato de Trabajadores del Instituto Salvadoreño de Seguridad Social
Since the passage of "Fast Track" here in the U.S., the situation for unionists in El Salvador has gone from bad to worse. As the right wing government prepares the way to negotiating the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and then the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), they have heeded the business sector's cry that unions stand in the way of the privatization and auctioning off of the country's remaining public services. Two national unions -- the union of workers in the remaining public hospitals (STISSS) and the union of the electrical producers (STCEL) -- are at the center of the national struggle to resist privatization and the corporate "free trade" agenda that would leave an already economically poor population devestated.
Ricardo Monge's union, STISSS, is prepared to defend the country's remaining public services and the union from this major assault. Last time the STISSS went out on strike the workers took over the hospitals and ran them themselves -- providing free health care -- for three months. This time their resources are more limited but national and international attention and solidarity may be even stronger.
In Portland the Cross Border Labor Organizing Coalition is responding to the call for solidarity by getting the word out to unionists, workers, and activists and also raising money for the emergency strike fund. CBLOC will also be participating in national days of action, demanding that the U.S. State Department pressure the Salvadoran government to respect workers' and human rights. There will be an emergency planning meeting Wednesday, August 28 at 8:00 pm. The meeting will be at 616 E. Burnside. For any more information, either about the meeting or about the situation in El Salvador, please call 503-236-7916. To receive more in depth updates about the situation and developments in the union struggle in El Salvador, write to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the urgent action e-mail list.
address: 616 E. Burnside, Portland
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