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Why El Salvador?
Monday Nov 11th, 2002 8:29 PM
To many it may seem that the people who pursue international struggles operate in a piecemeal fashion. One minute they rush to the aid of the Kurds, another it is Indonesian sweatshop workers, and yet another the people of Burma. There is, however, order to the chaos.

Why El Salvador?

To many it may seem that the people who pursue international struggles operate in a piecemeal fashion. One minute they rush to the aid of the Kurds, another it is Indonesian sweatshop workers, and yet another the people of Burma. There is, however, order to the chaos. With the rise of international or global visions of trade, commerce, and corporate enterprise (that is, corporate rule), a global struggle has arisen against age-old problems. What may seem, then, like disconnected projects, in fact represent the growth of a worldwide movement of people against the dominating and repressive status quo. The apparent multitude of struggles really is one common struggle.

With the expanding scope of the problems and solutions comes a wider understanding of what we must do to fight back. Wherever people are abused, exploited, unfairly treated, and bureaucracy sets itself up against the knowledge, interests, and concerns of those affected, there is the struggle.

The goal then is to fight back and stop it in whatever country, town, factory, forest, or rule of law where it grows. That doesn't mean that we should just pick up any old cause at any old time. Just because the problem is global doesn't mean we have to throw away strategy. Instead we should work to fight when we know or believe we have a fighting chance. Being on the side with fairly limited resources, we can't afford to spread ourselves thin.

This brings me to El Salvador. Right now International (mostly European and American) businessmen and politicians are trying to impose economic policies onto the peoples of South and Central America. Under the headline of 'free trade', these policies would gut the nations of their capitol, services, and power to decide how to run the industries that determine their life and death in many instances. The onset of the dictates of Western (and now Eastern business too) interests means that the services become too expensive for anyone to buy, working conditions become lethal, and unthinkable poverty spreads across the continents. We have seen this in Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil, and we have this un-free trade to blame. The collapsing economies of the South have rightly been referred to as the IMF-contagion (International Monetary Fund).

The programs of free trade for El Salvador are made up of, roughly, the Plan Puebla Panama [PPP], the Central American Free Trade Agreement [CAFTA], and the Free Trade Area of the Americas [FTAA]. The PPP is a beltway seeking to supply the infrastructure like roads, electrical lines, etc. necessary for the transport and supply of the corporations. This has meant bulldozed homes, environmental destruction, mass pollution, threats, and intimidation for those unfortunate enough to end up in the way of the massive project. CAFTA and the PPP are supposed to be the transition to the larger free trade project the FTAA, which would be a massive area of (virtually) unrestricted trade covering all of North and South America. It is unrestricted in the sense that once free trade is in effect the governments of the nations therein are legally disempowered to the extent that they will be unable to stop corporations from polluting, exploiting labor, and hampering their profits by seeking reparations. Once it gets signed, there is no recourse to law, no financial or military strikes against robbing corporations. One can only plea to the same thieves [aka CEOs, Corporate bigwigs, and their Political cronies] who have robbed America and every other nation they set their hands on of hard earned income, healthy living conditions, our dignity, our respect, and our humanity.

Needless to say the people of El Salvador are not happy with the invasion of the country by the powerful economic forces of piracy. From the Spanish colonization to the U.S. backed death camps and terror war against the Salvadoran people (which left over 70,000 dead from the ARENA party's terror regime), imperialism and human rights violations are familiar foes in El Salvador. Enduring some 400+ years of exploitation and hardship taught them well. One might venture to say that El Salvador has one of the most experienced and knowledgeable resistance movements in the world. Dating at least to the 1970s there has been a continual popular movement to address social and economic problems in their country. Through fighting superior U.S. Military forces, extermination camps, economic terrorism, and the aristocracy left as a gift from departing Spain, the people of El Salvador have seen it all and are ready to fight back.

This also means that in El Salvador the world has an immense ally. Very few places have such a strong chance of actually stopping the onslaught of economic attacks waged from Washington and beyond. Let me give an example. To stop privatization of health care, social security, and electricity, a massive strike has been lead for about 40 days by the unions in those industries. Their strike has brought solidarity from the universities, farmers, the doctors, unions, etc. The health care system is essentially shut down (don't worry they still help people even though they are on strike). There have been many marches encompassing record numbers of participants. The right wing media (backed by the radical right ARENA party, the same fellows who brought you extermination death camps which massacred huge numbers of their own citizens) gives a conservative estimate of 200,000 people, which is 4% of the total population at one march. That would be equivalent to 11 million Americans. Students recently occupied the University at San Salvador in opposition to free trade. The government has felt so much heat from the populace that the congress has already twice passed bills making the sale of public industries to corporations illegal and postponed the PPP beltway till 2004. Currently the congress is lead by the ARENA right-wing party, despite majority support for the FMLN leftist-resistance. With elections approaching, it appears that the opposition to free trade may take the congress in El Salvador. In retaliation the President has vetoed the legislation, militarized San Salvador, and has breached the Peace Accords established at the end of the war. Massive social unrest and resistance has frightened the ruling class so much that union leaders have been beaten and held at gun point, there have been mass firings, death threats, and a new publicly announced death squad ready to crush any opposition. Human rights observers have been called to the University as police and military personnel appear ready for a siege or worse.

The state of affairs in El Salvador suggest two conclusions, the struggle is both imperative and hopeful. With wide popular support and community strength, El Salvador is a campaign, with some help, that can be won. We must act quickly before things get seriously and violently out of hand. The threat of US intervention is real. El Salvador has often been considered militarily and economically strategic, hence the "Vietnam of the 80's" image it has retained. We may in fact see US military and economic terror against the people of El Salvador in the name of the "war on terror" and filling the coffers of US companies.

What would a success mean? It would mean a precedent to show to the world, a way to fight corporate attacks generally. Once one piece falls, the dominoes come tumbling. With economic collapse came massive social unrest and resistance all over South and Central America. If the strategic nation of El Salvador manages to hold out, it will serve as a rally point for struggles in near-by areas. Nations from all over can witness the success and figure out ways to help their movement grow in their own land.

Before we jump the gun, let us discuss what we can do to stop the economic pirates. Returning to the beginning of my article, you will notice a common sentiment that people involved in these struggles are always far off dealing with someone else's problems and fights. I think this sentiment is wrong, but the point is taken. What we need to do is connect the struggle in El Salvador with our own. Here in America we have witnessed the collapse of job security, social services, respect on the job, valuing workers as a human beings, and the rise of economic instability, unemployment, skyrocketing health care costs, mass layoffs, excessive overtime, and a surge in CEO and executive salaries. We have a lot to learn about struggle from El Salvador. They are mobilized, organized, and prepared for when the corporations and government fight dirty. They have a community-based movement where struggle for a better world is deeply connected with your interests and those of your neighbors. They also need our support, be that in words, with money, with training and supplies, and with visitors coming down to witness, learn, and show solidarity with their struggles. We all stand to learn a lot from each other.

For more information don't check the corporate media. There has been a complete media blackout on the uprising and resistance to the extent that when Earl Blumenauer (Rep. Oregon) was asked in a conversation with a CBLOC organizer about Human Rights issues in El Salvador he said he honestly hadn't heard anything about it in the media and didn't know. Instead look here

Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador
Stop the FTAA, No ALCA

To get involved contact:
Bay Area C.I.S.P.E.S.
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador

3382 26th St. (between Mission and Capp), SF
(415) 648-8222 * ba-cispes [at] *

No al ALCA, TLC y Plan Puebla Panama!

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