From Socialist Voice, September 2008

Latin America: News in brief

El Salvador

As El Salvador gears up for a presidential election in March 2009, the left-wing candidate is favoured by opinion polls to take the presidency from the fascist ARENA party. ARENA has held the presidency since 1989, when the civil war ended. Elections in El Salvador have always been close, and next year’s will be no different.
     This month, Mauricio Funes, the candidate of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), vowed that they will tackle the corruption that has become rampant under ARENA, create jobs, and give preferential treatment to the poor. He has also pledged to restore relations with Cuba. The FMLN have also stated their intention of joining the trading bloc established by Venezuela and Cuba, as well as withdrawing Salvadoran troops from Iraq.
     It is becoming clear that the Salvadoran people are not happy with the ARENA fascists’ relentless implementation of privatisation and neo-liberal policies. ARENA are responsible for privatising the banks, electricity, the pension system, and telecom industry, but their recent attempt to privatise health has been hugely unpopular with the people.
     As the elections approach, ARENA are stepping up their state terror. They already assassinated an FMLN mayor, Wilber Moses Funes, in January, and an anti-water-privatisation activist, Hector Antonio Ventura, in May. As ARENA’s party song preaches, they want El Salvador to be a tomb “where the Reds will die.”
     The great fear for FMLN is that ARENA will increase this state terror and use electoral fraud to maintain their grip on power. Election observers will be needed to make sure the oppressed people of El Salvador are not denied their chance to escape from the sphere of US imperialism and ARENA fascism.

Peru

Indigenous communities in Peru have declared themselves to be in a state of “permanent mobilisation.” The protests have stemmed from the horrendous policies of the US lapdog and puppet president Alan García. García recently introduced thirty-eight decrees that were required under Peru’s Free Trade Agreement with the United States. These will have a devastating effect in indigenous areas in Peru. They threaten indigenous land rights and are bringing about the privatisation of communal lands.
     The demonstrations have so far shut down an oil pipeline belonging to the state-owned Petroperú in Loveta province, occupied the El Muyo hydroelectric station in Bagua province, and blocked highways. In southern Peru, protesters took over buildings belonging to Petroplus, a transnational mining company.
     The García government is sending in extra police in what indigenous people claim is an attempt to crush political dissent and opposition. The indigenous people and workers alike have lost all faith in García’s pro-US free-market economics. The indigenous people—45 per cent of the population—are looking towards Bolivia and its first indigenous president, Evo Morales, for inspiration. While there are no elections until 2011, indigenous Peruvians are planning for a campaign to deliver social justice.

Colombia

Luis Mayusa Prada, a 46-year-old trade unionist, was assassinated in the town of Saravuna on the morning of 8 August. It is generally believed that this murder was carried out by the Colombian military. The Mayusa family have suffered frequently at the hands of Colombian state persecution.

Guatemala

“We don’t want any more war, more death. We will contribute for the good of the country, because we all get hungry. We are all sick and needy; there is a lot of inequality. The great wealth that we have in Guatemala is the indigenous people.” These are the words of a Mayan elder, Don Alejandro Cirilo Pérez Oxlaj, who this month was appointed Mayan Ambassador to Guatemala Indigenous people by President Álvaro Colóm. This is a very important appointment, as it comes at a time of increasing conflict between Guatemala’s indigenous Maya and the government and transnational corporations.
     Pressure is mounting on Colóm from the country’s 60 per cent Maya population to stop his support for the transnationals that are exploiting their land. Throughout Guatemala resistance is growing against the rape of indigenous areas. On 7 August the small farmers’ organisation, CONIC, organised a march in Guatemala City to demand that financial assistance promised to 32,000 indigenous small farmers be paid. They were also calling for a halt to mining exploitation and land evictions. In San Miguel Iztahuacan, fifty-nine mayors of indigenous villages have come together to oppose Mantana Exploring, a Canadian mining company operating in the area. The Guatemalan military have increased their presence in the area in support of the foreign company.
     In June, farmers attempted to reclaim land they have been losing because of the expansion of biofuel production, which is leading to deforestation. They were shot at by military helicopters. On 1 July forty-three indigenous villagers were arrested by the army for protesting against Cementos Progresso, a large cement company. Martial law has now been declared, the men are still being held, and their lawyers are being routinely harassed.
     Indigenous leaders are calling for Colóm to engage in talks with the protesters and communities, rather than using military brutality. On receiving a reward in May from Colóm for his environmental work, Pérez Oxlaj said: “As an elder of the Mayan people, I ask that you listen to the clamour of our people. We are not rich, but we have dignity. We have said many times we don’t want mining, and we are tired of you not listening to us.”
[JM]

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