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Saca's First Day as President Met with Mass Condemnation in El Salvador

On Tuesday, June 1,Tony Saca was sworn in as the new president of El Salvador. In what sounded like a joke that went from bad to worse, Saca former president of the National Association of Private Business (ANEP) gave a speech applauding economic policies like CAFTA while throwing around the jargon of "human development," "social responsibility", "liberty" and "justice." All of the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration was made possible due to a giant militarized zone that prevented any protestors from getting close enough to deface the carefully crafted image of Saca as a populist president. All told, over 5000 troops and police forces were deployed to "protect" the ceremony from protesters and other would-be terrorists.
Saca's First Day as President Met with Mass Condemnation
FMLN Joins Popular Protests, Pledges to Carry on Struggle
June 2, 2004

On Tuesday, June 1,Tony Saca was sworn in as the new president of El Salvador. In what sounded like a joke that went from bad to worse, Saca former president of the National Association of Private Business (ANEP) gave a speech applauding economic policies like CAFTA while throwing around the jargon of "human development," "social responsibility", "liberty" and "justice." All of the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration was made possible due to a giant militarized zone that prevented any protestors from getting close enough to deface the carefully crafted image of Saca as a populist president.

Meanwhile, thousands of Salvadorans took to the streets to protest what they consider an illegitimate election. In San Salvador, students, unions, governments from outlying municipalities, and social movement groups marched from various points in the city, converging in the Central Plaza. Hundreds of residents from the municipality of Soyapango, including the mayor, marched along the Boulevard del Ejército; students marched from the National University, and the STISSS healthcare workers union marched from the eastern edge of the city. The police were out in force: large squads of riot police joined the Salvadoran military's Special Antiterrorist Brigade (CEAT) in completely fortifying the area around the Feria Internacional, where the inauguration took place. All told, over 5000 troops and police forces were deployed to "protect" the ceremony from protesters and other would-be terrorists. Within the city and around the perimeter; they set up check-points on highways, harassed passengers, and in some cases, denied whole buses of protestors access to the city.

Despite the attempts to diminish the protests, people were determined and the marches were a success, not only in denouncing Saca but also in condemning the continued presence of Salvadoran troops in Iraq. Groups of protesters organized by the Popular Social Bloc (BPS) closed down highways across the country, from Chalatenango in the north to Santa Ana in the west to Usulutan in the east. In downtown San Salvador, protesters converged at the site of an FMLN's "National Assembly." Former FMLN presidential candidate Schafik Hándal spoke to the crowd, calling for continued mobilization during the coming five years years in which he said the economic crisis in El Salvador will continue to worsen under another ARENA government. Schafik committed the FMLN s continued support to the social movement in general and to the anti-privatization struggle of unions in particular. He also spoke against El Salvador s signing of CAFTA on May 28 and reminded the crowd that the FMLN will not sign any agreements that fail to address the pressing needs of the impoverished Salvadoran population. The party recently presented a letter to the US Congress that outlined its opposition to CAFTA and its pledge to fight the agreement in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly. Next week, the FMLN will present its proposal for working with the new ARENA government, starting with the challenge of approving the national budget for this year. The FMLN has stated its willingness to dialogue with the executive on certain pressing issues, while maintaining a strong counter-force to the policies of privatization and "free" trade.

The FMLN and many other sectors of society have made clear that they consider Saca s presidency illegitimate because his campaign moved people to vote for the ARENA party out of fear and economic blackmail. In a poll published today by the right-wing newspaper La Prensa Gráfica, 37.7% of the population asserted that Saca s election was illegitimate, a high number coming from a newspaper that significantly downplays any anti-ARENA opposition. According to a BPS communiqué, in which the coalition made known its 10-point Platform Of Struggle (see attachment), "This new regime is the son of fraud and manipulation, a government that is the product of Bush Administration intervention, and one that will defend the interests of the rich while lashing out at the popular sectors."

Finally, the mass of supporters in red received Secretary General of the STISSS Ricardo Monge like a hero in light of the recent 9-day hunger strike by Monge and other STISSS activists that concluded with the release of Monge and Javier Ayala after a month in jail. Monge thanked the crowd and the STISSS's national and international supporters for their overwhelming solidarity during his time in jail, and for the constant political pressure that led to his release.
El Salvador's real problem is gang violence 04.Jun.2004 14:40

MR

That's what really hurts that country the most. San Salvador has a higher murder rate than Johannesburg or Bogota. The violence is explosive. All this talk of economics is secondary in a country where you can have someone shot dead for $75. The solution is probably a military takeover of the bad neighborhoods, mass executions of known gang leaders, then massive development aid. But I doubt either candidate has the guts to do that.