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Salvadoran Consulates shut down in Solidarity with 100,000 + march in El Salvador
Friday Feb 7th, 2003 6:03 PM
5th March in Solidarity with Striking Health Care Workers and to Protest Privatization took place in El Salvador yesterday! Over 100,000 Salvadorans were in the streets.
Fifth "White March": 100,000 Protest Privatization In El Salvador
CISPES Activists Shut Down Consulates in San Francisco, New York
Friday, February 7, 2003

Nearly 100,000 protesters came together in San Salvador yesterday to celebrate the fifth doctor-led "White March" against the privatization of health care. Some 100 unions and organizations from across the Salvadoran social movement turned out to oppose privatization, known in this country as the "Pay or Die" system because it denies health care to those without the means to pay. Police, who had previously threatened violent repression against the march, attempted unsuccessfully to prevent dozens of busses from entering San Salvador, but found their roadblocks overwhelmed by protesters. At the closing rally, many speakers emphasized the need to oppose the CAFTA free trade agreement between the US and El Salvador. Salvadoran President Francisco Flores had hoped to break the strike within the next two weeks, but the strong turnout for yesterday’s march is a clear indication that the Salvadoran social movement has no intention of backing down.

Responding to a call for increased international solidarity during this critical moment in the struggle against privatization and CAFTA, CISPES activists yesterday occupied the Salvadoran consulates in San Francisco and New York City, and rallied outside the consulate in Boston. At all three sites, activists from different sectors demonstrated their rejection of the Salvadoran government’s attacks on workers’ right to organize and the US government’s complicity in these attacks. In San Francisco, two activists occupied the consulate and chained themselves to a display board, refusing to leave until the Salvadoran government ended the privatization of health care and rehired all fired strikers.

Five activists also occupied the Salvadoran consulate in New York City, and forced the consul to communicate their demands directly to Flores’s office. "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," explained one activists, who was arrested on charges of trespassing along with four other women, and released later that afternoon. A participant in the rally outside the consulate in Boston said, "We're here today to send a message to the people of El Salvador: Your struggle is our struggle. We oppose CAFTA and the government-imposed privatization of essential services."

Yesterday’s actions in the US had a strong impact in El Salvador. When STISSS Secretary-General Ricardo Monge announced the consulate takeovers during the march’s closing rally, a massive cheer rose up from among the 100,000 assembled protesters. All of the major TV channels ran the story on their nightly news programs, and today the two major daily newspapers each ran a full-page story with color photos of the action. Salvadoran Vice-President Carlos Quintanilla Schmidt described the CISPES solidarity actions as "life in the jungle, that has no place in the twenty-first century," and the Ministry of Foreign Relations also condemned activists. One paper said that the protests "sent a clear message to the US government to stop promoting policies that destabilize the democratic transition in Central America."

That’s the news this morning from El Salvador, San Francisco, New York and Boston…

For photos of SF Action:
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