At close to midnight on Thursday, September 21, the ARENA, PDC and PCN parties in El Salvador approved the so-called Anti-terrorist Law that imposes harsh criminal penalties for things like building occupations, street blockades, and other common popular protest tactics.
The FMLN strongly opposed the law, pointing to the ambiguity of the definition of terrorism and to its unconstitutionality in making social dissent a crime. “We don’t see this as an international measure,” said Sigfrido Reyes, FMLN deputy. “What the right-wing government is doing is planning for a scenario of growing social conflicts, given that its strategy for creating jobs and attracting investments has failed.” A coalition of social movement organizations, including the Popular Social Bloc (BPS), the Salvadoran Labor Front (FSS), the Forum for the Defense of the Constitution and the MPR-12 protested outside the Assembly throughout the day, while a group of community activists inside disrupted the vote on the Anti-terrorism law and forced the session to be temporarily suspended.
ARENA deputies themselves contradicted the official line that the law‘s intention was to guarantee public security and not criminalize social protest. During the plenary session, Walter Guzman, ARENA deputy, accused the FMLN and social organizations opposed to the government of terrorism. ARENA first tried to approve this law the day after the events on July 5th as part of its plan to turn those events into a smear campaign against the FMLN and then use them to justify increased repression. At that time, the other right-wing parties would not approve the law, but an Ad-hoc commission was created.
The Anti-terrorist Law is the latest in a series of governmental measures destined to suppress organizing and protest. Increased police violence against protesters, harsher laws against youth from marginalized communities, increased militarization of police, and the illegal approval of a US-sponsored International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) are pointed to by the Salvadoran social movement as indicators of the set-backs to the 1992 Peace Accords. According to a recent report presented by the FMLN to the United Nations, "The resurgence of