El Salvador

With more than 99% of polling places reporting, the candidate for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, easily won the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2.

Sanchez Ceren scored nearly 49% of the vote, more than ten-points higher than Norman Quijano of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), who placed second with 39%. Former president Tony Saca garnered just over 11% of the vote. The FMLN and ARENA will head to a run-off on March 9.

“The Canadian government is forcing me to divorce my wife.” With these words, Salvadoran refugee and long-time Canadian resident Jose Figueroa sums up the devastatingly cruel situation he and his family find themselves in.

The human rights situation in El Salvador from the 1970s to the '90s was dire. A vicious right-wing military dictatorship, supported financially and morally by the United States government. Widespread murder and torture of innocent people, often through the use of death squads, which were trained in the US.

United States President Barack Obama’s visit to El Salvador on March 22 became a focal point for protests.

Protests were organised that day by Central American social movement organisations and their North American allies outraged by US trade policy and military meddling in the region.

Local environmental and community organisations joined with allies such as US-El Salvador Sister Cities and Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador to mobilise students and workers for rallies in the US and El Salvador on March 22.

Pacific Rim Mining held its annual general meeting in downtown Vancouver on August 28. It was attended by a few directors and more than a dozen protesters.

Most of the demonstrators were from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) in the US Pacific Northwest. They wore tags describing themselves as shareholders in democracy, human rights, access to clean water and “our future”.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of San Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed on March 24, 1980 by one of El Salvador’s infamous government-backed “death squads”.

As archbishop, Romero spoke out about economic inequality and violent government repression. The anniversary of his murder always triggers reflection on the nightmare the country experienced during the 1980-’92 civil war, which left 75,000 people (mainly civilians) dead, 8000 “disappeared” and 50,000 permanently disabled.

El Salvador is a country where supermarket prices are comparable to those in developed countries, yet a sugar cane cutter earns $5 a day.

This small, predominantly rural, yet densely populated country has a violent history of colonial oppression and the attempted genocide of the indigenous people. More recently, it went through the 1980-92 civil war.

La Lucha” is a phrase you hear a lot in El Salvador. It means “the struggle”.

Below is a July 10 statement from the Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). For more information, visit http://cispes.org.

Hector Antonio Ventura and 13 others, now known as the Suchitoto 14, were arrested in July last year for their participation in an anti-water privatisation forum in the town of Suchitoto.

Below is an abridged sign-on statement initiated by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, http://cispes.org. To add you organisation, please email sistercities@gmail.com The context for the violence is the increasing likelihood of a victory in the elections for early next year of the left-wing Farabundo Marti Liberation Front.

Below is an abridged April 30 Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) article. Visit http://cispes.org.

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