The Guardian 20 July, 2005

El Salvador:
Police shoot student protestors


The government of President Tony Saca who has been linked to right-wing death squads operating during the 80s and 90s is continuing its repression of progressive forces, workers and students in El Salvador.

Riot police attacked a student protest in San Salvador earlier this month, seriously injuring four students and detaining five. The high school students had shut down the streets in front of the University of El Salvador (UES) in a peaceful protest against the recent increase in bus fares in El Salvador. When the police attacked, the students took refuge inside the gates of the University, but the riot police followed them, setting off bombs of tear gas and opening fire on the students with what they claim were "safe" bullets.

The Human Rights Ombudswoman blamed the government for the attack and for causing the protests. The refusal of the government to respond to the proposal of the transportation sector to subsidise the rising cost of diesel has pitted bus riders against small-business bus owners. Both the Ombudswoman and the President of the University, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, denounced the attack. Rodriguez reported that more than 50 passers by were wounded in the police attack.

Workers end hunger strike and occupy cathedral

On their 37th day of hunger strike (Friday July 1), the eight workers representing the demands of 114 fired government workers heeded the calls of Human Right's Ombudswoman Beatrice de Carrillo to lift the hunger strike. De Carrillo denounced the government's unwillingness to dialogue, saying the strikers should protect their lives, "since the space to resolve their problems with the government remains completely closed".

The 114 fired workers are members of the public and municipal workers' union (AGEPYM) 20 worked in the public postal service and 94 in jails, both of which fall under El Salvador's "Ministerio de Gobernacion", a ministry that merged the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Justice in 2001.

That merging was used to bust unions, as it forced many workers to go from being regular, salaried workers to accepting temporary contracts. The result of that merger and union busting was the firing of these 114 workers in January of this year.

With the strikers' health and lives in jeopardy, many sectors of society had added their voices to the demand that the government negotiate with the strikers for their rehiring, or minimally for a fair severance package.

On Friday June 30, in a public event in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador, where the strikers had been stationed for over a month, the fired union workers announced that while they were ending the hunger strike, they were not giving up the fight. "We are moving from here, but the struggle is not over we are now going to dig a new trench of struggle", one of the strikers said.

Since then, the strikers, with the support of the Popular Social Bloc (BPS), have been occupying the Cathedral. While El Salvador's highly conservative Archbishop complained about what he called "drastic measures", in occupying the Cathedral, he also joined De Carrillo in calling on the government to resolve the fired workers' demands.

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