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    and the Hopes of Justice and Peace in El Salvador

    By José Angel*
    In the early hours of Monday the 2nd, July 2007 in the historic city of Suchitoto (Flower-Bird in the nahuatl language), the current corrupt government of El Salvador exposes their neoliberal policy to the world that can only be carried out through state terrorism.

    This act of repression by the state forces are directed against hundreds of farmers and members of different social organizations that were expressing themselves in defense of water services and against the privatization policies. In response the army and the police mobilized vehicles with machine gun emplacement, 30 helicopters of different types and special units trained to repress the heroic social movement. These acts are a complete violation of the freedom of speech and signify a huge setback for the construction of peace and democracy in El Salvador.

    The Event

    Days before July 2nd different local organizations, women organizations, water defense committees and rural community organizations had agreed to express their position on the neoliberal initiative of privatizing the water service, an initiative which is disguised as a decentralization policy and which the government refuses to make public to this community (In Suchitoto there are 19 water systems including EMASA, the joint venture company that provides the service in the urban area). The water defense committees expressed their concern about decentralization without resources, and without giving any stake or participation in decision making would only worsen the already terrible conditions. The women organization of that city explains: “For the water decentralization to have positive effects in the population, it must be democratic and in that sense it must be constructed in consultation and dialog with the social forces and institutions, like the Municipality Governments” (which still do not know the contents of decentralization text President Antonio Saca is proposing)

    The social organizations in fact have organized themselves since long ago to promote on their own rural projects for drinking water, and they are the only ones who can defend their rights, for this reason they went out and protested that day the president traveled to the city.

    At 7:00am arrived the first squad of repressive forces to where the protesters were located, their leaders requested that the military chief be there only until 10:00 am, to this the military chief replied with a threat, giving them 5 minutes to clear out; they started launching tear gas and began firing rubber bullets. The helicopters were shooting trying to surround them and then started to try to capture the majority of the protesters who were mainly women.

    Human Rights Under Attack

    As the results of these acts they’re were more than 80 people injured and beaten and more than 30 were arrested and subject to physical and psychological abuse during detention and transportation to the headquarters. Of these, 13 remain in jail, 6 women and 7 men, to whom they want to apply a special law against “terrorist acts”, by trying to criminalize these actions and these people in an unjustified way, they are attacking fundamental rights. Amnesty International makes notice that in situations in which the fight against terrorism is invoked, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has noted to member states to “Take into account the pertinent commitments in virtue of all the international human rights bodies to which they have an obligation to”

    In attention to all this Amnesty International considers that the government should nullify all charges that imply suppression of legitimate fundamental rights and setting the persecuted persons under these charges free.

    On other accounts it is alarming that these types of actions are taken against the population that went out to pronounce itself in legitimate exercise of its’ rights, the government is using the same repression mechanisms that it used in past times. This violation to freedom of speech also disregards the spirit of the peace treaties, and also leaves no room for doubt about the current regime's strategy, which seeks to destabilize, block or destroy the social movement, an attack on the right to organize— a very unpleasant memory of the terrible violations that occurred during the last civil war.

    The husband of one of the detainees assures that the void of a missing mother in his household is worse everyday.

    “My sons already ask more frequently where their mom is, they still do not understand what happened, and why their mother doesn't comes back home at nights”

    With a broken voice he continues “That really breaks my hearth, because it’s very sad to see how my sons suffer because of their mother's absence”

    Oppose El Salvador Government Repression

    The government has implemented an authoritarian and repressive policy with which they intend through apply through special anti-terrorist acts and laws against organized crime. These laws make it possible to have legal ground to act against the representatives of organized social movements.

    As a consequence of this repressive policy the government makes use of the army to attack the population, creates non-independent tribunals and accuses the social movements that protest against their neoliberal policies of terrorism, with maximum penalties of over 15 years of prison, a law which came into effect in October 2006.

    But the people are not going to be intimidated and new mobilizations are appearing in the west of the country against the pollution that will be created by the eventual installation of 2 thermo electrical plants. A project controlled by the North American company AES which controls the power stations in the country and intends to install a carbon plant and a natural gas plant. These same projects have already been rejected by the population in Honduras, when the social organizations of that country stopped the installation of a carbon plant in 2001, because of the elevated pollution levels that carbon produces.

    The heroic social movement grows, the struggle continues.


    *Jose Angel is a founding member of the musical group Cutumay Camones of El Salvador and organizing member of Solidarity Coalition for a United Latin America in Vancouver, BC.

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