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News :: Globalization
Thousands March Against Water Privatization in El Salvador—In Solidarity, Boston Demonstrators Oppose Free Trade
18 Oct 2006
Yesterday, October 17th, Boston solidarity activists presented to the Salvadoran consul a symbolic “People’s Reprieve” signifying the rejection of the CAFTA free trade agreement with the U.S. that opponents have dubbed a “Death Sentence” for the people of Central America.

The Boston demonstration was a show of solidarity with the thousands of people who took to the streets in El Salvador to defend the right of all Salvadorans to access water. The marchers, led by the public water workers union SETA, and including over 40 organizations, denounced the rightist ARENA government’s plan to privatize the public water system.
Thousands March Against Water Privatization in El Salvador—In Solidarity, Boston Demonstrators Present “People’s Reprieve” to Salvadoran Consul in Opposition to Free Trade “Death Sentence”
10.17 agua march el salvador.jpg
Thousands March Against Water Privatization in El Salvador—In Solidarity, Boston Demonstrators Present “People’s Reprieve” to Salvadoran Consul in Opposition to Free Trade “Death Sentence”
Opponents of the water privatization plan claim that privatization will amount to the loss of access and deterioration in quality of water available to the poor majority in El Salvador because they lack the resources to pay. “In El Salvador, they call privatization a ‘Pay or Die scheme,” says Lisa Fuller, member of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). “By pushing the privatization of water through CAFTA, Bush and Salvadoran President Tony Saca have signed a death sentence for the people of El Salvador.”

The anti-privatization march in El Salvador is part of a growing protest movement rejecting the free trade reforms favored by the U.S. This opposition movement has encompassed a broad section of the population including small farmers, social organizations, informal sector workers, labor unions, and the main opposition party, the FMLN. In recent months, demonstrations have gained support and become more frequent in El Salvador as the ARENA government has sought to cut social spending—by eliminating public subsidies and selling off state-run service industries—thereby raising the cost of living for all Salvadorans.

The “People’s Reprieve” presented to the consul bore the signatures of individuals calling on Salvadoran President Tony Saca, to immediately cease his government’s attempts to privatize El Salvador’s water system and to respect the opposition’s right to organize. “The people of El Salvador are taking to the streets to defend the right to water, and we will be out here in Boston to make sure their voices are heard,” says Lisa Fuller, also a member of CISPES.

The growth of the movement in opposition to U.S.-backed free trade policies has also sparked a sharp increase in violence toward social organizers and members of the leftist FMLN party. Police have used increasingly violent methods to repress opposition demonstrations even corralling and indiscriminately firing on a student demonstration on July 5th. Beatrice de Carillo, the head of the largely independent government Office of the Human Rights Ombudswoman, called this police response the “worst violation of human rights since the signing of the Peace Accords.”

Early in the summer, De Carillo’s office also reported on the existence of “social extermination groups” similar to the paramilitary bands found closely tied to the Salvadoran government and held responsible for the extrajudicial killings of suspected leftists during the war years of the 1980s and early 1990s. The report also detailed evidence of death-squad activity within the National Civilian Police in the municipality of Sonsonate.

SETA members and opposition organizers have received death threats attributed to these resurgent death squads. Since early July, four FMLN party activists have been murdered in common death squad fashion—an elderly couple were tortured and burned, and the second pair shot in the back of the head and their bodies dumped by a roadside.

“The failure of the ARENA government to investigate these murders of social movement activists implicates them in those deaths,” says Shane Stewart, also of CISPES. “The ARENA government is trying to terrorize the opposition out of existence—that’s been shown through the police’s routine violent response to demonstrations.”

Solidarity demonstrations also occurred in other U.S. cities including New York City, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland.

This work is in the public domain.
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18 Oct 2006
The original article's title read: Thousands March Against Water Privatization in El Salvador—In Solidarity, Boston Demonstrators Present “People’s Reprieve” to Salvadoran Consul in Opposition to Free Trade “Death Sentence.” We shortened it for web design purposes.
Don\'t wate your time with CISPES.
22 Oct 2006
CISPES is undemocratic. Males are shunted aside in the name of feminism. If you\'re a straight male, you will be smeared and libeled by CISPES goons.

If you travel to El Salvador with them, they will charge you a flat rate for lodging and place you in a run-down, roach infested, whore house in San Salvador while their leaders use the difference in hotel prices to finance their own lodging at nice hotels. Your spending money will be confiscated and donated, without your input, into their feminist organization de jour when you leave.

The majority of the people of El Salvador DO NOT want you there. They do not want gringos interfering in their political process. They currently have a pretty good process and the FMLN is a legal political party. The days when CISPES made sense have ended. It is time for CISPES to let Salvadorans take the helm without their patronizing (or matronizing) influence.

If you are a real revolutionary, you live in a government deserving overthrow. Why not apply your skills here, in the USA?
re: Don't waste your time with CISPES
23 Oct 2006
Clearly, the writer of the previous posting has an axe to grind with CISPES and the continuing solidarity work CISPES is conducting with the social movement in El Salvador.

Unfortunately, the writer has apparently not been following the situation in El Salvador. Following the terrorist war waged by the Rightwing with the full backing of the U.S. government the Salvadoran government has remained in the hands of that same rightwing party (ARENA) founded by the most notorious leader of the deathsquads that killed thousands in El Salvador.

And the negative U.S. influence in El Salvador is just as prominent as ever. The rightwing ARENA government is perhaps the closest Latin American ally to the Bush Administration (El Salvador is the only Latin American country with troops supporting the U.S. occupation of Iraq, for example). The U.S. government has seen to it that the rightwing has maintained its power through intervention in the political process and elections (most notably the 2004 presidential election where the leftist FMLN party took an early lead in the polls) and increasing funding and training for the national police force even as it has been implicated in the violent repression of peaceful protestors and has been linked to recent deathsquad killings.

The U.S. government has recently opened an ILEA (International Law Enforcement Academy) in El Salvador to train police (from throughout Latin America) to implement laws favorable to the functioning of the “free market”, as laid down by the new CAFTA free trade agreement with the U.S. Like NAFTA and the proposed FTAA, CAFTA promotes profit by private corporations at the expense of the poor and working majority in Central America. CAFTA promotes the sale of basic social services like healthcare, education, and water to private companies so they can profit while the poor are prevented from accessing these services because they are poor.

People in El Salvador are rejecting CAFTA and privatization and they are becoming better organized. In response, deathsquads are reemerging and assassination of social movement organizers and FMLN members is again becoming common. Police are attacking demonstrators, even firing on them with live rounds. The Peace Accords that were reached in 1992 ending the war are being rolled back by the rightwing government with the support of the U.S.

Salvadoran democracy is developing, but this is happening in the streets and in communities that are organizing to oppose the policies of the current government. Social organizers continue to recognize the need for international solidarity in fighting to end all forms of U.S. intervention in their country and that is why CISPES continues to exist. CISPES continually consults with leading organizations in the Salvadoran social movement to determine what our strategy should be and how to be most effective in supporting the Salvadoran struggle. CISPES is a grassroots solidarity organization and we reject any accusation that our work is patronizing to those struggling in El Salvador.

As Salvadorans continue organizing to defeat free trade reforms and increasing repression promoted by the U.S. government CISPES’ work now is as important as it ever was.

Also, CISPES is proud of the leadership women have taken within the organization. CISPES has an extremely democratic decision-making process and every member’s views hold equal sway.

Finally, as an active member for the past five years, I have been on numerous delegations to El Salvador and the organization’s “leaders” have always shared the same housing as the rest of the delegates.
CISPES does rob its members
23 Oct 2006
If you go on a CISPES delegation, you are there for one reason and one reason only: money. It works like this. You are told to provide your own transportation and are expected to come up with a specific amount for lodging based on a specific rate. You are also told to bring a certain amount of spending money. All of the spending money is pooled. What is left in the end is given, without your consent, to a local organization.

Let us suppose your hotel room costs $5.00 per night. You are charged $20.00. Let's suppose your hotel costs $80.00 per night (which it won't unless you are a high ranking CISPES officer), then you will still be charged $20.00 per night. The "useful idiots" staying in the dangerous but cheap hotels will subsidize the chosen.

No less than three former CISPES members have shared this information with me. They went on different delegations and had the same experience.

As for El Salvador's political situtation. Yes, it is not perfect, but don't you think Salvadorans can do this for themselves or do you think it is your "white woman's" burden to bring your influence to those brown people in El Salvador.

I've lived in El Salvador and I know that your average Salvadoran worker does not want you there interfering in their politics.
CISPES Has a Long History, with Revolutionary Principles
03 Nov 2006
CISPES has been sending delegations to El Salvador since the war years when delegates would travel through bombing zones and into rebel-held territory to deliver supplies and material aid for civilian use. Delegations are an important part of CISPES’ work as they provide the best possible situation for activists to learn about the effects of U.S. policy on people living in El Salvador, but also to learn the effectiveness of organized resistance and alternative modes of development being enacted by popular organizations in El Salvador.

A delegation is a packed week and a half of meetings with social movement leaders at the forefront of the struggle in El Salvador. In fact, CISPES delegations are continually invited to observe elections in El Salvador by the FMLN. We maintain close relationships with our partners in the Salvadoran social movement including the broad coalition, the Popular Social Bloc, women’s groups, student groups, and many progressive unions. In fact, we regularly consult with these organizations in order to gain an intimate understanding of the social and political situation in El Salvador and to take our cues from our Salvadoran partners.

As another representation of solidarity expressed toward CISPES was the FMLN’s awarding CISPES with one of twenty-five Farabundo Marti medals of solidarity during the FMLN’s 25th anniversary celebration last year. Other recipients included the historical leaders of the Cuban Revolution and the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua.

To claim that CISPES organizes delegations merely to raise money or for all-expenses-paid holidays for the organizers is ridiculous. Far from being cash cows, if not breaking even, delegations typically result in a financial loss for the organization. After all, organizing an 11-day trip that includes housing, food, and an average two round-trip bus rides per day for up to 50 people can often incur unforeseen expenses. Much fundraising is done to ensure the delegations are able to occur. This includes special appeals to supporters, friends, and family to ensure that members can attend regardless of their financial situation.

In addition, claiming CISPES is only interested in fattening its leaders is cynical and unfounded. Cynical because it shows a lack of understanding of CISPES and its historic role as committed supporters of the Salvadoran revolution and committed grassroots organizers within the progressive movement here in the United States.

I regret that the writer of the previous posting feels wronged by a CISPES-sponsored trip s/he took part in. It is true that sometimes there is money left at the end of delegations. And each delegate is allowed to choose if they would like to receive their portion back or contribute it to our partner organizations. Most volunteer their portions for material aid, but some, request theirs back—and they receive it, no questions asked.

CISPES delegations offer a great experience to learn about resistance to U.S. policy of domination toward Latin America and to learn ways to effectively support revolutionary change in El Salvador. It’s how I first got involved and what I learned in El Salvador has kept me involved all these years.