CISPES Launches International Solidarity Campaign in Defense of Water

Press Release

On July 31, a delegation of Salvadorans from the United States held a press conference in San Salvador to express international solidarity with the struggle against water privatization in El Salvador.

The delegation, organized by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), met with a number of environmental, community and student groups organizing to stop the right-wing ARENA party's "Comprehensive Water Law" proposal, which was recently re-introduced in the Environmental and Climate Change Commission of the Legislative Assembly.

Written by the National Association of Private Enterprise, the law would bring corporate entities into the management of the country's water system, raising alarm bells in a country where many communities already lack access to water due to unregulated use and abuse by corporations like Coca-Cola, gated communities, agro-industry and more.

Since June, protests in rejection of the right-wing's proposal have been near-constant. Social movement organizations instead support a General Water Law that was introduced by the leftist governing FMLN party to protect water as a human right, strengthen public administration and incorporate communities, environmental organizations and labor unions into decision-making regarding water use.

In their statement to the press, CISPES delegates explained that "since the 90s, the oligarchy and big business, backed by the U.S. Embassy and the government of the United States, have tried to privatize water as part of the neo-liberal agenda. But the just as the Salvadoran people organized to say no to the privatization of health care, they are saying no to the privatization of water. It has been an inspiration to learn about the struggle of the Salvadoran people, which is also our people, to defend the country's water."

The delegates announced the launch of an international solidarity campaign directed especially "towards Salvadorans in the diaspora to join the struggle against the privatization of water and to support the General Water Law," including by way of letters that will be delivered as official correspondence to the Environmental and Climate Change Commission.

They also called on Attorney General Douglas Meléndez to "put an end to the persecution of and attacks against water defenders and to respect their civil, political and Constitutional rights to organize their communities and mobilize themselves to defend water and the environment."  After police raided their homes in 2016, a number of community organizers in Tacuba continue to face outlandish fines for resisting the right-wing mayor’s attempted takeover of their community-controlled water system.

Social movement organizations have repeatedly denounced Meléndez, who is up for re-election in the Legislative Assembly, for protecting the interests of the political and economic elite, especially those with deep ties to the ARENA party.

The delegates, hailing from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York, also issued a demand to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador, to "not take any action that could be seen as support for the privatization of water, nor to invest in projects that seek to create the conditions for the privatization of water."

In order to receive $277 million in U.S. development funds through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the U.S. required that El Salvador introduce and approve a public-private partnerships law that would put all major public resources up for auction. Through legislative action, the FMLN was ultimately able to exempt essential public services like water, health care, education and public security.

The delegates told the Salvadoran press that they would return to the U.S. to spread the word, declaring, "As part of the diaspora, we have the responsibility to join with the struggle against the privatization of water in El Salvador. We make a call to all Salvadorans living outside the country to pay attention to this urgent issue in the coming months as the 2019 presidential elections approach, to support the General Water Law and to demand that all of the presidential candidates oppose any privatization of this vital resource. We recognize that water is life and the struggle of the Salvadoran people is not new but rather a historic struggle for self-determination and sovereignty that continues today."

Check out photos and online coverage (in Spanish) from Verdad Digital and ContraPunto.

For media inquiries, please contact Alexis Stoumbelis at (202) 521-2510 or alexis@cispes.org

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