Large Protests Against CAFTA on the Day of the "Cry of the Excluded"
October 14, 2004
Throughout El Salvador thousands of people participated on October 12 in peaceful protests against the US-Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA). The Popular Social Bloc (BPS) combined with FMLN communities and the MPR-12 - as well as student, campesino, and indigenous groups - in organizing highway takeovers, marches, and community events in many strategic points around the country. In the FMLN municipality of San Pedro Perulapán a large group of local community members stopped traffic on the Pan-American Highway for hours, holding their ground until the riot police finally attacked with tear gas. In the Bajo Lempa, thousands of campesinos took over the "Bridge of Gold," also blocking a major highway through the country. In the department of Sonsonate, another numerous group of protestors blocked a critical highway intersection that connects the route from El Salvador's major port with the highway between Guatemala City and San Salvador.
There were also numerous protests around the city of San Salvador. Students at the National University and the UCA (the Jesuit University) stopped traffic in front of both universities, demanding that CAFTA not be ratified, and their protests were also met with police repression. In another area of the city members of the BPS held an indigenous ceremony to honor both the memory and continued struggle of the indigenous people of El Salvador. In Soyapango members of the communal movement also participated in protests, blocking another important highway out of the city. Another estimated 1,500-2000 people tried to march to the Presidential residence, but the police stopped them en route.
The actions were part of a hemisphere-wide day of resistance that falls on Dia de La Raz/ Dia del Grito de los Excluidos/ "Columbus Day," asserting Latin America-wide resistance to U.S. efforts to maintain the global south as a colony for transnational companies to exploit. Though ARENA attempted to blame the FMLN for organizing the "disruptive" protests, in fact the actions were convoked by a broad array of groups and organizations, including FMLN communities, and represented the fortified opposition to CAFTA in El Salvador. Large action took place as well in the rest of Central America on October 12: 30,000 people marched in Costa Rica, while another 20,000 took to the streets in Guatemala. Anti-CAFTA actions also occurred in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.