El Salvador: Anti-privatization Protesters from Health Care Union Jailed


***Update*** (9/19/07)

Dear Friends:

We are happy to report the union members of SIGEESAL were released
from prison, due to public pressure.  However, charges stemming from a
public protest of disorderly conduct have not been dropped and under
new Salvadoran laws carry up to 8 years in prison.  Please read the
attached update/alert, available in English and Spanish and continue
your support!.

Thank you for your solidarity!

Estimad@s Amig@s.

Estamos contentos informarles que los sindicalistas miembros de
SIGEESAL fueron liberados de la carcel, debido a la presion publica.
Sin embargo, estan liberados temporalmente, bajo lebertad condicional
y no han sido absueldos de cargos de desordenes publicas.  Bajo de
nuevos leyes de El Salvador lleva hasta 8 años en la carcel.   Favor
leer la actualizacion/alerta adjunto, disponible en ingles y espanol y
continuar su apoyo y respuesta.


CIS – Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad.


Eight members of the Salvadoran General Hospitals Union (SIGEESAL) were illegally arrested on September 4 for participating in a demonstration against the privatization of the national health system back on July 6.  The eight jailed union members are: Ana Luz Ordoñez Castro, Mirian Ruth Castro Lemus, Elsa Yanira Paniagua, Noemí Barrientos de Pérez, Ana Graciela de Carranza, Jorge Emilio Pérez, Manuel Trejo Artero and Anemias Armando Cantadeiro.   All being charged with public disorder and damage to private property.

SIGEESAL is a member of the Salvadoran Union Front (FSS) and has strengthened its organizing and mobilizing following a merger with the national hospitals association (ANTMPAS).  The new union brings together workers in the entire national health care system, and they have organized a campaign to denounce the corruption within the system, the extreme shortage within hospitals, and the privatization of some services within the largest hospitals. 

Last week the FSS presented a resolution to the Legislative Assembly calling the captures a blatant violation of the constitutional right to protest, and more specifically, a violation of the recently approved International Labor Organization (ILO) agreements 87 and 98 which grant workers the right to organize and unionize. The demands of Salvadoran Union Front are for the immediate release of the protesters and for the respect of the ILO agreements.  Health Minister Guillermo Maza has been clear about government intentions to privatize health care and has declared “zero unions” as one of the goals in his administration. 

These arrests have reminded the social movement of the extent to which Saca and his government are willing to go to fulfill their plans of water and health care privatization.  Just two months ago, 14 people were arrested in the department of Suchitoto for protesting against the privatization of water and will soon go to trial under the anti-terrorism law; now, eight more members of the movement have been jailed for protesting against the privatization of health.  For more information go to “Action Alerts” at www.cispes.org, and expect a new alert about how to respond to the SIGEESAL situation soon. 

“Social cleansing” groups inside Salvadoran Police

Almost a year after both the governmental Human Rights Defense Office and the Catholic Church’s Human Rights Commission reported the existence of social cleansing groups inside the National Civilian Police (PNC), lawyers have found enough evidence to prosecute Sergeant Nelson Arriaza and police officer Carlos Chevez Hidalgo for the assassination of eight people in the departments of San Miguel and La Union.  In total there are six PNC officers under investigation for having participated in the execution of the victims and for having aided and concealed evidence about the murders.

The western municipality of Chalchuapa has been in a state of alarm as this past week after an anonymous letter was circulated in town calling for all citizens specially youth to obey a curfew so that the self-titled “E.L. death squad” can operate without obstacles.  The FMLN mayor of Chalchuapa is calling for the authorities to investigate the situation, especially since the municipal government has recorded 50 murders for the month of August while police records show there have only been 17.  PNC director Rodrigo Avila has made weak and uninformed statements about the nature of the investigations, calling it a case of “a few bad cops.”  Meanwhile, respected Human Rights Defense Office worker David Morales has publicly criticized Avila’s response and has called for a thorough investigation and a “purging of the National Police” at the highest levels, starting with director Avila.