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News ::
Activists protest at Salvadoran Consulate in Boston (english)
15 May 2003
Solidarity activists from the Boston chapter of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) closed down the Salvadoran consulate in a protest to support striking healthcare workers in El Salvador. They also condemned the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) for its potential affects on workers rights and because it would mandate further privatization of public services like health care.
Activists Shut Down Salvadoran Consulate
In Boston, and demonstrate in Los Angeles and San Salvador
In a coordinated day of action against free trade agreements,
Privatization of health care, and attacks on labor in El Salvador

Boston, MA ? Demanding that the Salvadoran government stop violating internationally recognized labor rights, international solidarity activists have shut down the Salvadoran Consulate in Boston, MA. Support rallies, organized by CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, and the Salvadoran immigrant communities are taking place in Boston, and Los Angeles. CISPES activists are also pressuring DC based Salvadoran Ambassador Rene Leon. He has been receiving calls demanding that he take a stand against the privatization of healthcare and in support of the Salvadoran healthcare workers who want to return to work after an 8-month strike.

The consulate was being shut down in solidarity with the striking Salvadoran healthcare workers who have called for support in pressuring their legislative assembly. The President has vetoed an amnesty bill that would have ended the strike, but the legislative assembly has an opportunity to overturn the veto on Thursday May 15.

"We demand that the Salvadoran government pass this amnesty bill otherwise the workers will have no protections under the law. The government has openly admitted that they want to crush the unions and has consistently refused to negotiate. We will not leave this consulate today until we get a guarantee that international labor law will be respected. We are here in solidarity with the workers who face severe police violence while they demonstrate for their right to organize and the right to free healthcare for all." Explains Boston activist Dave Grosser

Unions representing workers of El Salvador?s Public Health system went on strike in September 2002 to stop the Government?s attempts to sell the system to private corporations. The unions are also striking in opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which is currently in its fourth round of negotiations in Guatemala. President Bush hopes to pass this agreement between the US and five Central American countries by December 2003.
"Privatization of state-provided services is a key component of CAFTA, which is being pushed by the Bush administration, multinational corporations and the wealthy in Latin America. We join a broad array of organizations across the region and the US in saying No To CAFTA!" Seattle activist David Tatro told Rene Leon?s office this morning.

Both the healthcare unions and the FMLN, the left opposition party, that has been a strong supporter of the strike, have publicly denounced CAFTA. FMLN opposition to rightwing ARENA policies has gained them much popular support throughout El Salvador, and led them to win a plurality in the March 2003 legislative and municipal elections. The unions and the FMLN have organized 6 national marches of 100,000-300,000 people at each (comparable to 10 million marching in Washington DC), and over 80% of Salvadorans are against privatization and are angry about the way ARENA President Flores has handled the strike.

The rightwing ARENA government sees these unions and the FMLN as the greatest obstacles to getting CAFTA passed and have resolved to use any means necessary to crush the strike and destroy the unions. Since the strike began, Salvadoran President Francisco Flores has refused to negotiate with the unions, and his government has become increasingly repressive in its attempts to break the strike. They have begun arresting workers, raiding clinics, and declaring strikers to be "terrorists." His latest move of vetoing the amnesty bill proves that he does not want to end the strike. As Ricardo Monge, Secretary General of the STISSS, healthcare workers union explains: "The strike continues until the amnesty decree is ratified, and until it is carried out and every last fired worker is rehired." President Flores knows that without this bill the workers will not return to work. Said Monge, "We will not allow them to break the strike. The people of El Salvador will continue to defend our public health system from any efforts to privatize it from the Salvadoran government and its international backers. We know if the system is privatized, it will mean ?pay or die? for our people."

Said Don White, Los Angeles protester, "We?re here to support the people of El Salvador, and to demand an end to CAFTA negotiations and an end to the repression against striking workers. We?re also putting the US government on notice that they must stop pushing economic policies that the people of Central America so soundly oppose."

Boston protester David Grosser concluds, "Three years ago, we shut down the Salvadoran Consulate in Boston in solidarity with the workers who were on strike to stop the first attempt at privatizing the Salvadoran health care system. We?re here again today to send the same message to the people of El Salvador: Your struggle is our struggle. Access to free health care, safe drinking water, and education are universal human rights. We will not allow the Salvadoran government or the US government to force the privatization of essential services. We will continue to work side by side to stop privatization and to stop trade agreements like CAFTA and the FTAA that put corporate interests in front of the needs of the people. Together, we will win."
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