Archives 2009-2010

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As Election Approaches, Increased Agression Toward Citizens in Cinquera

January 13, 2009

Cinquera, a municipality close to Suchitoto that is governed by the FMLN, has recently been the target of dangerous aggression by the ARENA party.

Last month, ARENA supporters in Cinquera sent a list of 60 community members to the head of the Armed Forces describing the people listed as ¨violent and dangerous because they are armed.¨

This list of 60 people includes the full names of each person, their personal identification number, and the exact location of their house in the municipality of Cinquera. All members of the Municipal Directive of Cinquera, the ARDM, were named on the list.

In a meeting at the Ombudsperson for Human Rights office, Rodolfo Sosa, the ARENA candidate for Mayor, said that he had been involved in making this list. The reason for sending the list, he said, was because he worried that the ARENA Presidential Candidate would be attacked when he visited Cinquera. Sosa gave no proof as to why the people listed were dangerous.

At a meeting, a representative from the Human Rights Office stated to Sosa that it is very dangerous to denounce community members as violent without proof to back the claim.  

The ARDM has denounced this list to the Attorney General´s Office, the National Civilian Police and the Criminal Court, but as of now, but none of these government bodies have accepted their declaration.

ARDM members say that they worry about the possible dangers of the publication of the list. ¨Even if the Army does not come into Cinquera looking for us, it is possible that some other person, whether they be related to the former death squads or gangs, will receive a copy of the list. Because they will have all of our personal information, they will put us in great danger,¨ said one member of the ARDM.

The list comes after, on November 27th, 2008, Sosa´s car was shot at while he was driving through one of the communities in Cinquera. ARENA party members blamed the FMLN mayor, Guillermo Rivera Contreras, staff in the Mayors office and Don Pablo Alvarenge, who is a well known  community member and the Mayor´s father-in-law. All of the accused where elsewhere in the community at the time of the shooting, including some who were participating in a church service at the time.

Sosa had no proof to back his claims, and the FMLN party in Cinquera has denounced the accusations as defamation during the electoral campaign. A witness, Miguel Artiga, saw people in an ARENA campaign truck at the location and time of the shooting.

The municipal elections will take place on Sunday.

For more elections news,
click here.

January 2009

The communities and citizen organizations of the National Table Against Metal Mining express the following:

  1. We are grateful to the prominent Archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Fernando Saenz Lacalle, for the firm position of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador (CEDES) against the exploration and exploitation of metal mining in the country.
  2. We congratulate the Archbishop elect, Monsignor Jose Luis Escobar Alas, who will assume the leadership of the Catholic Church in February, for ratifying the said position in favor of the environment and life.
  3. In front of the legislative and municipal elections on January 18, we reiterate the suggestion, sowed by Monsignor Saenz Lacalle, of identifying the parties and politicians that supported the mining of metals and to make them responsible for the damages that this will cause.
  4. In this sense, we remember the attitude of each one of the political parties before the threat of mining gold and silver.

National Conciliation Party- PCN:  It is the major promoter of mining. In December 2007, they presented a bill, elaborated by Pacific Rim, that would facilitate mining on a grand scale. Legislators like Orlando Arevalo, Roberto Angulo and Francisco Merino look like activists of this Canadian business.

Only the alternate Legislator Maria Julia Castillo and the mayor from Metapan, Juan Umanda Samayoa, were against the PCN position.

National Republican Alliance-  ARENA: They double speak: the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) expresses doubts about the coexistence of mining but the Legislators and mayors are in favor of this industry and support the PCN's bill. The mayors of San Isidro and Sensuntepeue in Cabanas are strong promoters of Pacific Rim.

Ex-minister Hugo Barrera rejects mining but his stance does not influence the government. According to the president of Pacific Rrim, Thomas Shrake, ARENA promises to guarantee the El Dorado mine.

Christian Democrat Party- PDC: Their position over with respect to this issue is low profile, but they favor the mining companies. The mayor of Texistepeque (Santa Ana) is one of the collaborators of Pacific Rim in the area.

Democratic Change – CD: They express doubts about the viability of these projects and sympathize with the exposition of the Catholic Church. But their deputy of the Central American Parliament, Jorge Villacorta, supports mining.

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front- (FMLN): Initially they were opposed to mining and supported the community resistance in the northern zone. Later they contradicted themselves with declarations from the Legislator, Benito Lara, who coincided, in a forum organized by a conservative newspaper, with Ciro Zepeda (PNC), Mario Valiente (ARENA) and Medardo Hernandez (PDC) on the possibility of permitting this industry.

Nevertheless they rectified and incorporated the prohibition of metal mining in their Legislative Proposal 2009-2012, through a reform to the Mining Law. In spite of this, candidates to the municipalities like Texistepeque, sympathize with the Pacific Rim projects.

The proposal of the National Table Against Metal Mining is not suggesting which party or candidate to vote for to citizens, but to remember their positions. So we want to ask the population to vote and to vote conscientiously thinking of the necessity of defending the environment and the lives of generations currently and to come.

Our aspiration is that the legislators and mayors that will be elected on Sunday take their positions as patriotic functionaries committed to sustainable development, complete democracy, national sovereignty and human dignity.

CRIPDES Position Regarding Pacific Rim Notice of Intent

January 2009

Confronting the threat of the suit from the Mining Corporations (Pacific Rim) under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), the Association for the Development of El Salvador CRIPDES, states:

At the end of 2001 the political parties ARENA, PCN, PDC signed the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, behind the Salvadoran people’s back.   Said agreement was never consulted with the Salvadoran population.

The Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES, in coordination with other urban and rural organizations of campesinos, cooperatives, of youth and women who make up the Popular Resistance Movement October 12th (MPR 12), state our position at this moment, considering that said trade agreement doesn’t respond to the interests of our people and violates the Constitution of the Republic.  The aforementioned political parties did not taken notice of the different petitions that the Salvadoran population made at that moment. 

After signing the free trade agreement, it was expected that the transnational corporations would be interested in exploiting the natural resources and would protect themselves with said trade agreement, knowing that the Salvadoran people would defend their sovereignty and their resources.             

Now, the mining company Pacific Rim is trying to put pressure on the Salvadoran government to obtain the precious metals extraction license or compensation for damages that would reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the conflict resolution mechanism established in CAFTA, the parties have the possibility to resolve the dispute in a “friendly” manner during a three month period.  The “friendly solution” that Pacific Rim is looking for is authorization from the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN in Spanish) which has been denied until now.

This “friendly solution” is favorable for the mining company and unfavorable for our country, as different sectors of our country have stated, including churches, as well as experts in mineral exploitation, due to the huge environmental, social and economic damage that mineral exploitation would cause in El Salvador. 

As communities we have made concrete proposals to the different fractions of the political parties, as well as different government officials like the ministries of the economy, and of the environment and natural resources, through which he have shared technical information about the consequences of mineral exploitation in our country.  Also, we have presented visual and written documentation of the health and environmental problems that mineral exploitation causes, which come from the experiences of destruction, contamination, and social conflicts that the people of neighboring counties like Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua are living. 

Therefore,

As the rural communities that will be directly affected by the mineral exploitation, CRIPDES, the MPR 12, as well as the National Table Against Metallic Mining:

1. We reiterate our position of rejecting metallic mining in our country, because it is not viable in our small territory.

2. We hold responsible in advance all those officials that approve laws or push forward measure that create more destruction in our country, therefore putting in danger the health of people today and future generations.

3. We call all the social sectors, churches, political parties, universities, professional organizations and the whole population to protest the intentions of Pacific Rim. 

 

                                                           YES TO LIFE

NO TO METALLIC MINERAL EXPLOITATION IN EL SALVADOR

ORGANIZATION AND RURAL COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

By Leigh Hardy

The political slogan “Yes We Can” has contextualized my understanding of democracy since I was born, but in its original language of Spanish.   During high school, my mother was active in supporting the United Farm Workers movement, where the slogan “Si Se Puede” has its origins.  When we visited her small New York State town of Lithuanian immigrants, I would hear tales of how my mother worked hard as a young girl to “save the grapes.”  Growing up in the 1980s with a photojournalist father, I was surrounded by the images of political struggles in Latin America founded on the value “Si Se Puede.”  Through my involvement in youth organizing, I have seen how “Si Se Puede” has been adopted by people in social movements around the world. 

This experience with “Si Se Puede” only makes me more hopeful about its adaptation to the U.S. political mainstream as “Yes We Can.”  But my knowledge of political struggle also makes me skeptical.  While “Yes We Can” has been mainstreamed, the history of “Si Se Puede” has not. 

“Yes We Can” is not an original concept, which is exactly why it is so powerful.  It links us to a rich history of political struggle and hope and, most importantly, it links us most intimately to a Latin American context.  The only way we can most benefit from this slogan’s power is if we understand the relationship between Latin America, the U.S., and democracy.  Only then will we appreciate the tremendous responsibility that comes with adopting this slogan. 

“Yes We Can” can only be transformative when “we” is in a constant process of widening.  It is the U.S.’s dedication to this widening that concerns me.  As I watch Obama’s inauguration in El Salvador, two days after the Salvadoran municipal elections, this concern is deeply felt.  U.S. democracy has greatly benefited from the power of “Yes We Can,” but we continue to suppress the democratic rights of
Salvadorans who share this slogan with us.

Two of the most important components of democracy were greatly transformed for the better during the process of the recent U.S. elections.  These two aspects were youth inclusion and propaganda control.  It is exactly these two themes that are being suppressed within the context of the Salvadoran elections.   At the same time we celebrate as citizens of a truer democracy, the U.S. role in the lives of Salvadorans is suppressing their rights to democracy.  

PROPOGANDA

The “You Tube” transformation of political propaganda has opened democratic participation in what I consider one of the greatest advancements of our society.  While there are issues with this transformation, I believe it is a tremendous step toward greater transparency of and participation in our democratic system.  However, despite the strides we have made in the U.S., in El Salvador the U.S. has played a principal part in a dirty propaganda campaign aimed at scaring people into voting for the right. 

U.S. officials have made statements saying that if the FMLN wins, the U.S. relationship to El Salvador may be in jeopardy because of supposed connections between the leftist party and the FARC in Columbia and between the FMLN and Hugo Chavez.  Some journalists claim that if the FMLN wins, El Salvador will become a crucial part of the network and expansion of armed radical Islamic groups in the Americas.  These relationships have been unsubstantiated and are unfounded. 

Claims have also been made that if the FMLN wins, remittances and immigration status of Salvadorans in the U.S. will be in jeopardy.  Again, this is absolutely unsubstantiated.  Nevertheless, these lies continue to dominate the propaganda of the Salvadoran elections.  The U.S. is actively suppressing the right of Salvadorans to accurate and honest information and is greatly interfering with El Salvador’s political process.

YOUTH INCLUSION

Young people have always had a large role in social and political transformation in El Salvador.  However, despite their significant representation in both the U.S. economy and the Salvadoran economy, Salvadoran youth continue to be marginalized by economic and political systems.

As a consequence of neoliberal policies, 700 people leave El Salvador every day for better economic opportunities.  The majority are young.  In the U.S., immigrants have no say in the political system that controls the economic system that is based on their labor.  In addition to the tremendous contribution young Salvadorans make to the U.S. economy, they are also the people who keep the Salvadoran economy from collapsing.   Their remittances are the greatest part of the Salvadoran economy, making them the foundation of the Salvadoran economy.  Despite the fact that more Salvadorans live in Los Angeles than San Salvador, no system exists for them to participate in their country’s elections.  For them to have a say, they must travel to El Salvador to vote.  This is an impossible option for most Salvadoran immigrants.  

Young people in El Salvador face another extreme form of marginalization.  Violence is a major theme in the insecurity of El Salvador.  Social and political activists, many of them young people, have been disappeared and murdered in death squad style.  Gang violence is a pressing  issue for Salvadorans, in particular young Salvadorans. The history of El Salvador’s civil war and the emergence of gangs such as MS-13 reveal that the organized violence that occurs in El Salvador would not be what it is without the policies of the U.S.  

Instead of admitting the real reasons for the existence of gangs and the way political parties have manipulated and used them, youth delinquency has become an important scapegoat for a multitude of social problems.  Young people are constantly targeted and profiled as being dangerous.  While the democratic process has become more open to many young people in the U.S., the Salvadoran political system continues to try to marginalize young people from the political system through intimidation and violence.

CONCLUSION

Despite the extreme system of marginalization Salvadoran youth face, it is these youth who most exemplify the essence of “Si Se Puede” and “Yes We Can.”  Salvadorans want just as much, if not more, of a change as what we are experiencing in the U.S.   In the municipal elections, the FMLN did very well despite the powerful and dirty tactics of the right.  During my observation of the election, I saw youth involved at all levels of the democratic processfrom putting up a blockade to prevent Hondurans from wrongfully voting in their elections to being officials on all levels of electoral boards.  Young people reported on radio stations about the elections and served as human rights observers.  But then, youth participation has always looked like this in El Salvador. 

Those of us dedicated to improving democracy in the U.S. must realize that both El Salvador and the U.S. are at one of the most historically significant points in their histories and that these histories are becoming more and more intimately linked. If one country steps down the wrong path it brings the other with it. 

 I am excited and optimistic about the U.S. finally making “Si Se Puede” our democratic context, but we must understand that we are only at the early stages of understanding this political slogan’s history and power.  Obama’s inauguration is the beginning of a long and difficult process that demands humility, dignity, and hard work.  Luckily, what lies before us is the opportunity to become the brothers and sisters of the most experienced and dedicated people who, for as long as the existence of history, have dreamed, loved, and worked for the right to believe that yes, we all can.