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El Salvador, The New Battleground for the Global War

A discussion of the escalating situation surrounding privatization in El Salvador, the attacks on unions, and an urgent plea to action.
El Salvador, The New Battleground for the Global War
El Salvador, The New Battleground for the Global War
Todd Goodenow

In the 1980s-90s El Salvador witnessed some of the most terrifying displays of brutality on the continent, if not the world. All but the U.S. government in name, the totalitarian government of El Salvador killed somewhere around 70,000 people in death camps, massacres, and assassinations. The current right-wing party in El Salvador [ARENA] is the same group that unleashed terror across the country for decades. Again the horns of war blow in El Salvador.

The war is that of globalization, development, and the control of capital. It is waged against local autonomy, self-governance, and the rights of people as workers and human beings. The Unites States government and ARENA seek to force more privatization, foreign loans, crippling inequity, and extreme exploitation on the people of El Salvador. Currently the United States is negotiating trade agreements with Central America in the name of economic development and stimulus. After the passing of the TPA [aka fast track] or the Trade Promotion Authority, ARENA is moving forward to crush the unions that oppose privatization, privatize health care and electricity, and prepare the country for the Central American Free Trade Agreement [CAFTA].

Since 9/11, the government of El Salvador has grown increasingly militant, aggressive, and confrontational to opposition of such neo-liberal policies. Due largely to massive popular opposition, their new war has met great resistance. The government sees a few key unions as the major obstacles to their "free trade". The unions of electrical workers, health services, and social security are in the forefront of the battle against the colonialism of our day. They also represent the last social services in El Salvador poised to be sold off to foreign business in an already collapsing society. The government has begun building a mega-project called Anillo Periferico, or the San Salvador beltway. Driving through the poorer sectors of the country, the construction leaves forests cleared, the land polluted, and the people displaced. In a site familiar to many of us in Portland, the people have taken to chaining themselves to trees, setting up road blockades, and standing in front of bulldozers. The police and military are prepared with rubber bullets, pepper spray tear gas, and live ammunition. Union leaders and members have received death threats and have been subjected to a mass sweep of firings. There is talk of paramilitary assassinations, abuse, and build up. Now strikes are immanent and social unrest is rising.

The workers and citizens of El Salvador rightly see the union's struggles and the acts of resistance by citizens as the official beginning of renewed efforts against CAFTA and foreign domination.

Recently (see the full letter here  http://portland.indymedia.org:8081/front.php3?article_id=18653&group=webcast
) a Salvadoran national union leader Ricardo Monge, leader of the El Salvadoran National Health Care Workers Union (STISSS), sent us a letter of solidarity in our struggle against our own government's repression. The Cross-Border Labor Organizing Committee [CBLOC] and the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador [CISPES] have taken the initiative and are waging a campaign to support the unions and stop the corporate globalization. You can help by:

-Calling the U.S. State Department, demanding that they suspend all CAFTA negotiations since worker's rights are not respected in El Salvador. [Call Andrea Rodriguez, the El Salvador Desk Officer at the US State Department, at (202) 647-3505 or send faxes to (202) 647-2597]
-Calling the Salvadoran Ambassador to the U.S., demanding that they stop privatization and respect workers' rights [Address: 2308 California Street NW
Washington, DC 20008 Phone :(202) 265-9671, 265-9672, 265-9675 Fax :(202) 234-3834]
-Donate to the strike fund for the Salvadoran workers [we are mainly soliciting Organizations] via the CISPES site.

Please visit the CISPES website at  http://www.cispes.org/english/index.html or email  cispes@cispes.org, or CBLOC/PCASC [Portland Central American Solidarity Coalition] at  pcasc@pcasc.org and see the URL  http://www.jwjpdx.org/cbloc.htm

Reposted from CISPES [not by Todd Goodenow]

Friday, August 30, 2002

Right: DEA agents from the United States direct a joint training session with members of the Salvadoran police and armed forces in a semi-populated area near a cooperative in Ahuachapán. Already, one US soldier has died in training in a helicopter accident. Yesterday, the US announced that it would expand its military base at the Comalapa airport in El Salvador. The base, which is used to stage US military operations in all of Central America and into northern Colombia, is an integral part of the Plan Colombia anti-insurgency operation. US military presence in El Salvador serves as an implicit approval of the Salvadoran government's "iron fist" policy of violently repressing any popular protests against CAFTA, and also threatens a return to the US military intervention of the 1980's. The new National Defense Law, currently under revision in the Legislative Assembly, grants the military and the police broad powers of surveillance and repression, which the FMLN has denounced to the United Nations as a violation of the 1992 peace accords. A new anti-terrorism law being studied would allow for preventive detentions without an arrest order from a judge, and would allow extradition of Salvadoran citizens to the US to be tried on terrorism charges; this law could include a category of "economic terrorism," or any act designed to stop the advance of "economic development" [read: neoliberal globalization]. But the people of El Salvador are not intimidated by ARENA's scare tactics: mobilizations and direct action protests continue through the San Salvador metropolitan area, and the possibility of strikes and increased social upheaval during the following weeks remains strong.