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News ::
El Salvador: Violent Repression Reaching Heights, Urgent Call for Solidarity! (english)
19 Sep 2002
30 health care workers fired, union leaders held at gunpoint in El Salvador as the resistance to corporate globalization surges
Thursday, September 19, 2002

Workers at the ISSS social security health care system arrived at their respective worksites this morning to find the installations completely militarized. Yesterday, some 30 workers, all members of the STISSS health care workers union, were illegally fired in what represents the right-wing government's largest attack in years in its campaign to destroy the union and privatize the ISSS social security health care system. Union members responded by walking off the job and rallying inside three hospitals, Zacamil, Specialties and Oncology. Heavily-armed riot police together with private security attempted to evict the workers inside Zacamil and arrest union leaders. Workers resisted and were attacked; some received minor injuries, and greater violence was only narrowly averted by the presence of the government's own Human Rights Defense Office. Police have issued arrest orders against Franklin Morales, Edwin Ortez and Noël Campos, all members of the STISSS board of directors, and are threatening to arrest dozens more STISSS activists including Secretary-General Ricardo Monge.

Overnight, some 15 union workers occupied the Oncology hospital. At 1:00 am, under cover of darkness, some 50 riot police invaded the hospital and dragged the workers out onto the street by their hair, their collars and even by their necks. Monge and three other members of the union's board of directors were taken into a different room, where they were held captive at gunpoint for over half an hour by masked agents who refused to show their badges. The four were made to sit on the floor, and were kicked and punched when they tried to stand. Police agents photographed and videotaped them, and then violently dragged them out onto the street.

By 10:30 am today, workers have managed to completely shut down the Oncology and Specialties hospitals. They count on the support of the SIMETRISSS doctors' union and patients' rights associations, which are beginning to rally in front of the hospitals. Across the metropolitan area whole hospital departments have walked off the job, but many hospitals, such as Zacamil and the important Medical Surgical Hospital, are occupied by riot police and private security who could attack again at any moment. Now, workers maintain a tense standoff, and are taking measures to defend themselves against arrest. The union has prioritized the tactic of "not one arrest": they will defend each other and their collective right to organize against privatization and against firings.

ISSS director Mauricio Ramos has maintained a belligerent hard line against the union. Ramos has repeatedly insisted that he has "nothing to negotiate with the union" because the concession of services is already underway, that the union should expect more firings to come soon, and that thousands of union workers will find wage deductions in their paycheck tomorrow. The union lifted its one-day strike on September 5 to show its willingness to negotiate with the government an end to the privatization of health care, but as the government still refuses to negotiate, the STISSS will continue its escalating campaign of action. As Monge puts it, "if it's war they want, war they'll get."

The STISSS has made an emergency appeal for international solidarity against police violence and arrests.


For sample text to send, go to

1. Send faxes (011.503.243.9947) or emails (fmelgar (at) to Salvadoran President Francisco Flores (go to above website for sample letters to send) to demand:
… No arrests of STISSS workers!
… Call off the riot police. Guarantee the safety of the of workers and ISSS users
… Stop the illegal firings of union workers, and rehire all fired union activists!
… No privatization of health care, including the concession of services!
… Negotiate in good faith with the STISSS union!
… Do not open official CAFTA negotiations!

2. Call Andrea Rodriguez, the El Salvador Desk Officer at the US State Department, at (202) 647-3505 or send faxes to (202) 647-2597 (go to above website for sample letters to send), and demand that she convey your demands to President Flores! Let her know that we will hold the US government responsible for any acts of violence.

3. Donate to the Emergency Fund! Union workers need money to continue their 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 union workers.

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