The visit of Condoleeza Rice to El Salvador on Friday and the May Day protest marches in San Salvador offer the chance to look at some of the rhetoric and images used by the left and the right in of the country.
First, the Popular Social Block (BPS), a coalition of various labor, religious and activist organizations on the left, issued the following open letter to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:
San Salvador, 28 of April of 2005
Mrs. Condoleeza Rice:
This day you arrive in our country. We cannot welcome you. You represent a government who during the armed conflict contributed with military aid to the genocide of our people. You represent a government, the Bush Administration, that takes part in our internal affairs and threatens the life and employment of our compatriots in the United States.
Permit us to present ourselves: We are a coalition of popular sectors that includes unions that live under the threat of the repression; farmers who fight for the earth monopolized by landowners; communities that defend the right to a decent housing; students who look for the light of the knowledge; natives who refuse to be exterminated; military veterans who raise the flag of peace; women who reject gender discrimination; churches that proclaim the gospel of justice of Jesus of Nazareth.
We know that governor Saca is going to inform you that this is a province of your empire that is peaceful, that it is a colony that advances towards the modernity and is a land of opportunities. You think what you want. What we can assure you is the following:
We are a people that struggles for its independence and sovereignty. We are a people with much dignity. We are the people of Agustín Farabundo Martí and Monsignor Romero. We are a people in resistance. In the last 16 years, four governments of the ARENA party destroyed agriculture and today unemployment predominates. People come from the countryside to the city and are found there on the sidewalks as street vendors. There is much hunger and suffering. And there is much injustice. Wages of hunger are paid in the maquiladoras. And young people expelled towards your country to look for work. This is the life style that has been imposed on us with the aid of the government of the United States.
We respect the democratic traditions of your country. The examples of Frederick Douglas, WEB Dubois, Martin Luther King, of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, inspire us by their fights for democracy. But the racist campaigns of the Ku Klux Klan against Hispanics and blacks also cause us to reject. The racist attitudes of the Republican Party to which you and president Bush belong cause us to repudiate.
In the spirit of the four nuns who were assassinated in December of 1980 by the Salvadoran military and who spilled their blood so that our people would have life, through them we demand that the government you represent:
1. To request public explanations for Francisco Flores and the mockery of using him as the object of the failed diplomatic strategy of the United States towards the OAS.
2. To respect our right to the self-determination and independence.
3. Not to extradite the terrorist Posada Carriles to our country.
4. To guarantee the labor stability of the Salvadorans in the United States; Amnesty for the undocumented workers.
5. To respect the will of our people by not taking part with propaganda nor money in our electoral processes.
6. To end the criminal campaign of racist groups against our compatriots who cross the border between the United State and Mexico.
7. To stop the imposition of CAFTA.
8. To allow that the Salvadoran troops return from Iraq.
9. To close the military base of Comalapa because it is threat to the peace of the mesoamericana region. The military cost of this base to be used for education and health.
10. To restore the visa to Schafik Handal, the unquestionable leader of the main party of opposition of the country, the FMLN.
National Coordinator of the Popular Social Block of El Salvador.
Any errors in the translation are my own.
The May Day protests in San Salvador were largely peaceful. There was however a violent confrontation between alleged members of the Bloque Popular Juvenil (BPJ) and members of the press in which certain reporters and a cameraman were injured. The conservative newspapers all lead their coverage with the injuries to the reporters and President Saca's words blaming the FMLN for the disturbance. Those papers had more fun, however, with the appearance of FMLN leader Schafik Handal in Cuba at the side of Fidel Castro, in May Day celebrations in Havana.