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CAFTA Negotiations officially Begin

"Season of Protests" as Salvadoran Healthcare Strike enters 111th day
Social Movement Calls for Political Pressure and Material Aid
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Today's ceremony in Washington DC marks the official opening of negotiations for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, (CAFTA). In response the people of El Salvador have declared a "Season of Protests," demanding an end to privatization and a stop to CAFTA. The FMLN, (left opposition party) has publicly declared its opposition to CAFTA and all free trade agreements that would hurt the people and benefit the wealthy few. The Central American Bishops Conference (SEDAC), hearing the peoples' cry, has also come out publicly against unfair trade agreements. As legislative and municipal elections approach, mobilizations are sure to escalate, and State repression increase as ARENA struggles to hold on to its power.

The current levels of mobilization and repression in El Salvador are unprecedented since the height of the war in the 1980's. Doctors and healthcare workers have been on strike for over three months fighting for the rights of all Salvadorans to quality affordable healthcare. The ARENA government has refused to negotiate with the striking workers and has responded instead with violence. In addition to threatening to fire 5000 doctors and workers, they have sent in swat teams and armed military into the four largest hospitals in the country allowing scab workers and doctors to run the facilities. The FMLN and the Healthcare workers won a major victory in November 2002 when the legislative assembly passed Article 1024 outlawing the privatization of healthcare. On December 19, 2002 the ARENA members of the Assembly unconstitutionally introduced legislation and through corrupt measures passed a revised Bill that stripped Article 1024 of all the healthcare protections the people had won.

The FMLN is demanding the demilitarization of the hospitals, the rehiring of all fired workers and the granting of amnesty to all those involved in the strike, as well as a thorough investigation of the circumstances around the overturning of Article 1024. In addition the FMLN has introduced new legislation that seeks to restore the anti-privatization law in tact. The doctors of El Salvador are continuing to treat their patients in schools and community centers, they are committed to people and healthcare and refuse to make them the victims of the struggle. The strikers have broad-based support and thousands will participate in actions being planned throughout the country in the next several weeks. The threat of real violence and repression at these actions is real. We must accompany the people of El Salvador at this critical juncture in the fight against CAFTA by sending down much needed material aid, and placing Political pressure calls to your Local Rep. And the US State Department.

TAKE ACTION!
1. Donate to the Emergency Fund! The Social Movement needs money to continue the fight! Make tax-deductible checks out to "CISPES Education Fund," with "Emergency Fund" marked in the memo line, and send to: 130 W. 29th St, 9th Fl, NYC, NY 10001. Or call in a credit card donation at 212-465-8115, press '0'. 100% of all funds go directly to support the workers.


COMMITTEE IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF EL SALVADOR

130 West 29th St 9th Floor, New York, NY 10001 o 212-465-8115 o FAX: 212-465-8998 o  cispes@cispes.org o www.cispes.org


2. Call your Local Representative and ask her/him to call Flores with the following demands:

1. NO TO CAFTA!
2. Rehire all fired workers and grant Amnesty to all those involved in the strike
3. Stop the privatization of key services
4. Restrain from using force on peaceful protestors

3. Call Andrea Rodriguez, the El Salvador Desk Officer at the US State Department, at (202) 647-3505 or send faxes to (202) 647-2597 (print and fax sample letter below), and request that she convey the above demands to President Flores! Let her know that we expect the US government to influence the Salvadoran government to respect Human Rights.

4. Respond to CAFTA Coalition Action Alert


Sample letter

Andrea Rodriguez
US State Department
January 8, 2003


Dear Andrea Rodriguez:

I am writing to express my concern about the grave situation of labor in El Salvador. The ARENA governments' use of force and violence against peaceful protestors, their violation of the Salvadoran constitution as well as their threat to fire thousands of unionized doctors and healthcare workers has led to a state of chaos in El Salvador. The current state of social unrest, weeks before the upcoming legislative and municipal elections are proof that the current government is in no position to be negotiating free trade agreements. I intend to inform my Congressional Representatives of these labor and human rights violations, and general chaos that has erupted as a result of the unfair ARENA policies. I am sure that my representative will agree that ARENA's actions are strong indications that the current situation in El Salvador is in no way amenable to the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States.

I closely follow the labor and human rights situation in El Salvador and am appalled by these actions. I demand that you urge the Salvadoran government to:

1. Stop CAFTA negotiations
2. Rehire all fired workers and grant Amnesty to all those involved in the strike
3 Stop the privatization of key services
4 Restrain from using force on peaceful protestors

We strongly encourage you to pressure the Salvadoran government to respect human rights. I will continue to closely monitor the situation of labor violations in El Salvador, and will continue to report my findings to my Congressional Representatives.



Sincerely,





Sample letter

Representative X
US House of representatives
January 8, 2003


Dear Representative:

I am writing to express my concern about the grave situation of labor in El Salvador. The ARENA governments' use of force and violence against peaceful protestors, their violation of the Salvadoran constitution as well as their threat to fire thousands of unionized doctors and healthcare workers has led to a state of chaos in El Salvador. The current state of social unrest, weeks before the upcoming legislative and municipal elections are proof that the current government is in no position to be negotiating free trade agreements. I intend to inform the US State Department of these labor and human rights' violations, as they are a strong indication that the current situation in El Salvador is in no way amenable to the signing of a free trade agreement with the United States.

I closely follow the labor and human rights situation in El Salvador and am appalled by these actions. I would like you to call President Flores and pressure him to:

2. Stop CAFTA negotiations
2. Rehire all fired workers and grant Amnesty to all those involved in the strike
5 Stop the privatization of key services
6 Restrain from using force on peaceful protestors

We strongly encourage you to pressure the Salvadoran government to respect human rights. I will continue to closely monitor the situation of labor violations in El Salvador, and keep you updated on my findings.



Sincerely,






-- CISPES - Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
130 W. 29th Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10001
212-465-8115 phone
212-465-8998 fax
 cispes@cispes.org www.cispes.org

Steffan A. Spencer
National Field Organizer
Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
215 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003
(P) 202-454-5129 (F) 202-547-7392
 sspencer@citizen.org
www.citizen.org