Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anti-terrorism law applied against street protests

El Salvador passed an anti-terrorism law in September 2006. At the time it was passed, many opposed the law on the grounds that its harsh penalties would be used to quash dissent and protests. Now it appears that some of those concerns may have been justified.

The leader of the street vendors in San Salvador, Vicente Ramírez, has been arrested under the new anti-terrorism law for his alleged involvement in street protests which turned violent in Apopa on February 10. In those demonstrations, street vendors had been protesting the Apopa city government's restrictions on their activities on the streets of the city. The protests turned violent, and Apopa government buildings were damaged, three persons were injured and other property destroyed. (You can read about those disturbances and see a photo gallery at the LPG website).

Ramirez was arrested about one week later under the provisions of the anti-terrorism law. After an initial hearing today, a magistrate in Apopa ordered Ramírez to be confined in the notorious "Esperanza" prison for four months while the government develops additional proof for its case. At the same time, more than 5000 street vendors peacefully protested Ramírez' detention.

Conflicts between street vendors and city governments, particularly in San Salvador, are a regular theme in El Salvador. With 40% or more of Salvadorans working in the informal economy, where they take to the streets to sell something to put food on the table, it is common to see vendors filling streets, blocking sidewalks and creating congestion in downtown areas. When cities try to create order out of the chaos, tensions flare and violence sometimes erupts.

But it is not terrorism.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ramirez has the rep of being a incendiary vandal, but if I'm not mistaken if he is prosecuted under the ARENA sponsored "terror law", he has the possibility of seeing 60 years of prison. Obviously a too harsh.

El-Visitador said...

"turned violent, and Apopa government buildings were damaged, three persons were injured and other property destroyed"

"But it is not terrorism."

Let me change a few words, here, as a test:

""turned violent, and Tim's home was damaged, three relatives of Tim were injured and Tim's other property destroyed"

Does it start to look like terrorism now?

Anonymous said...

"Does it start to look like terrorism now"

NO.

POLYCARPIO said...

El-Vis, you make a clever presentation, but I'll tell you why I think you're wrong. Your point, which is well taken, is that real people are getting victimized, indeed, innocent third parties who might be at the wrong place and the wrong time. But it isn't violence and victims alone that makes for terrorism. We have disorderly conduct laws all over the U.S., but they're different than the anti-terrorism laws -- though both target violence and protect innocent bystanders. You know, soccer riots in Europe cause injury and property damage. But, if you don't distinguish between holigans and al Qaeda. Well! Who needs al Qaeda then?

Anonymous said...

Fascist regime jumping on the Bushy Bandwagon.
http://tinyurl.com/2wb44j

Tim said...

No. It doesn't look any different to me in that situation. Polycarpio makes the point well.

Silvia Porras said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silvia Porras said...

The government in El Salvador has created an anti-terrorism law. This enabled them to arrest Vicente Ramirez, accusing him of being a terrorist. Actually Vicente Ramirez is a leader of all the poor people who have no jobs and who have to go and sell things on the street in order to feed their families.

The government were negotiating throught Vicente Ramirez with the street vendors. In any negotiations there are times when people have misunderstandings, when some protest demonstrations turn violent (I'm not excusing those acts), when talks stop, when there are a lot of disagreements. They were involved in what we in "developed" countries call Democracy in Action!

What happened then? The government arrested Vicente Ramirez and accused him of being a terrorist. It is ridiculous to see how easily lawyers fail to define concepts. Perhaps because there is not the experience of real democracy, El Salvador will even request Mr. Bush to send Vicente Ramirez to Guantanamo!

As a result of the arrested of Vicente Ramirez, the negotiations are no longer going on to find common solutions for all those who have to sell things on the street. The problem isn't resolved, there is not a real solution.

Maybe International organizations can help the street vendors by funding programs and by helping them to build places where they can sell and to make their living in order to make Democracy something sustaniability for everybody.

I still believe in humankind and I think that the exercise of democracy is a right for every single person around the world, even if people have to learn how to act in a democratic way.