Victory in El Salvador: an inspirational sign along the path

Posted March 17, 2009

Late Sunday March 15, I listened to an English language radio broadcast from San Salvador, hopeful. The radio host provided up to the minute reporting of voting irregularities and when the polls closed at 5 PM (6 central time, here in New Orleans) reported ongoing street parties and delivered ballot box by ballot box updates––all increasingly tilted to the FMLN.

The FMLN, or Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front), formed in 1980 as El Savador entered a civil war that besieged the country for twelve years. Begun as a coalition of five leftist political parties and armed resistance movements, the FMLN has continued to represent the legacy of the tenacious left-wing resistance during the protracted civil war. It has endured as one of the two major political parties in El Salvador, the other being the right-wing (ARENA, or Nationalist Republican Alliance).

The FMLN has faced electoral disappointment and its activists have met with repression under successive post-war governments led by the hard right. But it has also played a key role in El Savador’s resolute social movements, as they have stood against privatization and US imperialism. And now, this party––a party that has transformed significantly since it was born in the white heat of civil war, akin to the the FSLN in Nicaragua––has at last won the presidency.

The FMLN has regional strongholds where it has won mayoral contests and legislative seats consistently since the conclusion of the war, and engaged in a parliamentary push-pull with ARENA on the national level. Naturally, a bedrock of its platform is opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and the dollarization of the country’s economy. It has also participated in movements against ARENA’s privatization of healthcare, water and electricity.

The fortunes of struggles around these flashpoints have been uneven. However, a hard-fought and pivotal victory came when healthcare workers and doctors––in league with the FMLN––defeated privatization of healthcare. It was the conclusion of a battle that consumed the early years of this decade, culminating in an all-out nine month long strike in 2003. Even as ARENA has tried to claw back what it had lost and deepen cuts and economic liberalization across the board, it was after this struggle that the right-wing bastion began to stagger, and a shift in the political cycle began to take place.

Unlike in previous elections, the FMLN was able to overcome fear wrought by the US government and its rightist allies, and instill hope. El Salvador is dependent upon remittances for near 20% of its GDP. ARENA and Republican legislators in the US have repeatedly threatened to cut off this infusion of cash to families of those already forced to migrate due to threats from death squads––or, more recently, the policies implemented under the regime of “free trade” agreements like CAFTA.

Four days before the election, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES, reported that five Republican Congressmen threatened Salvadorans living in the U.S. with the loss of their immigration status and a ban on remittances to their families if the FMLN proved successful on Sunday. Luckily, supporters in the US flooded the State Department with complaints, and these threats were rebuffed, and 33 members of US Congress came out publicly against past intervention. More importantly, this threat was not enough to sway voters in El Salvador, as they headed to the ballot box.

Now, the rubber meets the road, where we will see a decisive moment in the FMLN’s epochal political trajectory. How will the FMLN use its plurality in the legislature (35 of 84 seats) and the presidency? This raises questions that have confronted and tested the left when faced with the obligations inherent in managing the affairs of the capitalist state.

The newly elected president, Mauricio Funes, did not come out of the FMLN’s armed period, but is a career journalist and only recently joined the party. Many people––independent journalists, the left, and the tribunes of capital––question where Funes will take the country. A few right-wing pundits say that he is akin to Fidel Castro, or Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, though others think that he will be more like Lula, the leader of Brazil’s Workers Party, who cut his teeth as a leading trade union militant but introduced neoliberal reforms once in power. Funes has stated that he has no intentions of repealing CAFTA or dollarization, and has taken pains to assuage the fears of both the national bourgeoisie and the US ruling class that he will not make any moves that jeopardize foreign investment. In this, his actions echo Lula’s.

Funes now heads a party named for Farabundo Martí, a founder of the El Salvador’s Communist Party. The FMLN has long boasted party platforms and candidates that reflect its Marxist origins. Their 2004 presidential candidate Schafik Handal was a long-time communist leader, and a leading figure of the party’s Coriente Revolucionario y Socialista (CRS, or Revolutionary Socialist Current), which successfully fended off a sizeable current within the party accused of being friendly with led by Facundo Guardado, the party’s presidential candidate in 1999.

The FMLN has a socialist vision for society. Funes has lauded “change,” “dialogue” and “reconciliation.” Once president, he will have to contend with a number of serious challenges in ruling the smallest Central American country, including the worldwide economic re/depression (including shrinking remittances into the local economy 1), violent crime, and despite the very repressive “Mano Supo Dura” legislation, in 2004, the persistence of some of the Americas’ most notorious gangs 2. Internationally, he has said he will forge an independent foreign policy, and it seems as though he hopes to strike a balance between a continued relationship with the US (likely allying himself to the Democrats, since ARENA was very close to the Republicans).

The election represents a continuation of the “red and pink tide” that is sweeping Latin America. But will it continue to give inspiration for years to come or ultimately disappoint?

The answer depends on the power of the social movements against neoliberal policies, and continued pressure from below, led by grassroots organizations and the ranks of FLMN membership.

News and analysis hub from CISPES:


1. Émigrées sent $2.7 Billion to El Salvador in 2007, which amounts to 7 times the direct foreign investment.
2. An estimated 40% of the prison population of El Salvador is made up of gang members.


5 responses to “Victory in El Salvador: an inspirational sign along the path”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Answer: He’s a lackey of transnational capitalism.

    What is going on with Mauricio Funes?
    by Omar Montilla

    Translation by Diana Barahona

    Funes puts his hopes in the IMF, the World Bank and Mexican oligarchs

    El Salvador’s president-elect, Mauricio Funes, will participate in the joint
    general assembly of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. “I am
    going to express my opinion, present what the priorities [of the country] are,
    so that they can explain to us the state of the relationship with the
    government, what it is that they see,” Funes said in brief statements to
    journalists after meeting with business leaders of the country. He will also
    speak at a regional forum titled “Latin America and the Global Crisis.”
    Evidently pleased, he said, “So I will be the only Latin American president
    attending this forum, as a president-elect.” Has Funes asked himself why the
    rest of the presidents of Latin America won’t be at that meeting?

    These statements by Mauricio Funes are not in the bit surprising since they are
    in line with his pre- and post-election behavior. It is not necessary to go into
    a lot of detail about the quality and attributes of the institutions from which
    Funes expects so much, which in the current world crisis are among the most
    discredited because of the haughty policy they adopted toward the poorest
    countries in the world. Is this candor or ignorance? Neither one nor the other.
    Before the elections in El Salvador, Funes was distraught over the fierce
    campaign of the right against the FMLN, where the recurring theme was precisely Hugo Chavez. In order to conjure away that campaign of discredit no better notion occurred to him than to court foreign capitalists: “Mauricio Funes, the FMLN candidate for president, returned to El Salvador this Thursday after
    concluding a tour through Mexico, where he met with Mexican businessmen, among them Carlos Slim and Ricardo Salinas Pliego […] [T]he presidential hopeful of the party of the left pitched to investors the economic proposals that are part of his plan of government” (La Pagina, Feb. 19, 2008). In other words, in order to pacify the Salvadoran right he gave an accounting of his program to the rottonest Mexican oligarchy. It would be good to ask Funes if he won the
    election in spite of the shameless negative use of the figure of Chavez and the
    FMLN in the campaign, or in spite of having ingratiated himself to Slim and

    Funes worries about the remittances

    According to Telesur’s
Web site on March 18, 2009, that is to say, immediately
    after the election, “Thomas Shannon said that his country ‘will respect’ the
    sovereign decision of the government of President-elect Mauricio Funes if it
    decides to open diplomatic relations with Cuba. ‘Our focus at this time is on
    the bilateral relationship between the United States and El Salvador,’ Shannon
    said, [adding that] his country is interested in maintaining ‘that marriage’
    that the two nations have, in the hope that El Salvador brings about the advance toward democracy with President-elect Mauricio Funes … [There] is a great future for El Salvador,’ said Shannon during the meeting with Funes, at the same time that he expressed his desire to work ‘closely’ with his administration.”

    We can understand that Funes is worried about the enormous population of
    Salvadorans that the right expelled from their country to go to work in the most
    humiliating way in the United States. That’s fine. We can understand that he is
    worried about the reduction of the flow of remittances that Salvadorans send to
    their country, and one must not underestimate the importance of this source of
    revenue. But Funes knows that that reduction of the flow of dollars is due to
    the tremendous crisis that the United States is going through, which El Salvador
    has nothing to do with. To the contrary, it has been the millions of Salvadorans
    who have contributed with their hard and poorly paid work to the economic
    progress of that ungrateful country.

    We must note that countries such as Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia have many
    more emigrants than El Salvador, and as far as I know they have never prostrated themselves before the IMF or the World Bank asking for handouts. Funes wants these voracious international institutions to explain to him “the state of the relationship with the government.” That will never happen and as a journalist he knows it. So why all the pirouettes with those pirates?

    Funes also confirmed that before receiving the presidential sash on June 1, he
    has meetings planned with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, German Chancellor Angel Merkel, the presidents of the Central American countries and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, among others.

    Funes also puts his hopes in Felipe Calderon and distances himself from Chavez

    He was particularly cloying with Felipe Calderon with whom he said he would
    discuss an “excellent experience in combating drug trafficking [and that] he
    also has excellent experience in poverty reduction programs that we are going to share and programs of cooperation, above all cultural.” Funes: Are you a fool or are you pretending to be one? How can Mexico help you with the problem of drug trafficking when it is a drug-producing country? How can Calderon help you with that problem if he is under the guns of numerous bands of criminals, whom his government protects and supports under absolute impunity? How is Calderon going to help you to reduce poverty in El Salvador when it is growing in his own country? The Mexican government has not even dared to maintain the so-called San Jose Agreement to supply petroleum and derivatives to Central America, while the Venezuelan government implemented PetroCaribe, in which even the government of Belize participates, and assisted the Salvadoran people through FMLN mayors against the government of that country. Is it possible that this experience will be repeated with the Funes government?

    Chavez overture met with insult

    The day after Funes won the election, Chavez saluted the “unarguable and
    forceful victory of the courageous journalist, Mauricio Funes, and of the …
    FMLN. This victory consolidates the historical current that has risen up in all
    of Latin America and the Caribbean in this first decade of the twentieth century
    and opens the doors to other brother nations in the challenges they have ahead
    of them.” Funes’s response didn’t take long. On March 30 it was reported that
    “Salvadoran President-elect Mauricio Funes made his debut in the international
    arena with praise for “the changes” in the United States and the warning that
    “he will not allow the Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, to stick ‘one finger’
    into the political process in El Salvador [as] he participated with outgoing
    President Antonio Saca in a meeting of Central American leaders with U.S. Vice
    President Joe Biden.”

    As far as anybody knows, and it is known, Chavez has never intervened; he has
    only helped, and for that behavior he has been censured from inside and outside of Venezuela by the usual enemies, who are no longer concentrated in one territory but are the same everywhere. While Funes vehemently insults Chavez, whom he doesn’t even know, he allows himself to praise some “changes” that have not materialized. Can it be that he was happy about having predicted that Obama was going to “free” some restrictions so that Cubans could travel to their country, while he kept them in place against U.S. citizens?

    Uribe explains his “democratic values” to Funes

    In the Colombian magazine Semana, we read the following: “Uribe met with
    Mauricio Funes, president-elect of El Salvador, to whom he expressed his
    interest in continuing to strengthen political, economic and cultural relations
    with the Central American country. The encounter, which took place in Puerto
    España, lasted 30 minutes, during which time President Uribe explained to Funes the democratic values that the Colombian government practices. Funes
    ‘congratulated Uribe for the work he has done’” (April 18, 2009).

    Let us break it down so we don’t choke: Uribe explains to Funes the “democratic values” of his government. What would those be? Possibly they are the human rights violations, which have been so widespread that even the U.S. Senate (with a Democratic majority) refused to pass the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, mainly because of the murder of thousands of labor leaders, carried out with the vain illusion of silencing the protests of the Colombian people. It is possible that Uribe has convinced Funes that the thousands of murders of innocent victims, the so-called “false positives,” are part of the “democratic values” of his government.

    We agree that it is necessary to promote commercial exchange with any country. Business is buying and selling. But what they spoke of least, because evidently they didn’t have anything to say, was precisely commercial exchange. That is why Funes only limited himself to “congratulate him” for the work done, which not even Semana, owned by the Santos family, dared to elaborate on.

    Am I classical or romantic? I don’t know

    Question and answer from the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, who would end up explaining, “I would like to leave my verse like the captain leaves his sword:/
    famous for the virile hand that brandished it,/ not for the learned trade of the
    blacksmith honored.” But Funes has a particular appetite for etiquette. He is
    anxious to be considered a “moderate” in order to distinguish himself from
    “radicals” like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales or Daniel Ortega. Don’t even mention
    Fidel or Raul Castro. Why the eagerness? The answer came on March 21: “Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will be the model for the government of … Mauricio Funes. ‘For me President Lula and his government constitute a model of democratic practice of a leftist government that can send signals of confidence to foreign investors and also to national investors’ [and] he said that when he took office as president next June he would immediately seek bilateral accords between his government and that of Lula.

    One can infer, then, that the success of Funes’s government will depend on
    “foreign investors.” If that’s the way it is, he had better be prepared for some
    tough times. El Salvador is not the best territory for maquiladoras, a stage
    that frankly has been surpassed on this continent, which can be verified by
    merely looking next door at Guatemala. It is necessary to remember Uruguayan
    patriot Jose Gervasio Artigas, who advised us to depend on our strengths, not on what others may or may not do, not on what may or may not happen to others, and who would have driven the point home with this, his expression: “A country for all or a country for none.”

    On March 23 Funes ratified his closeness to the “moderate left” and the
    “analysts” believe that he will have the dilemma of following Chavez or Lula:
    “Funes’s first trip … was to Brazil to meet with Lula … Funes will soon have
    to face a dilemma in his style of government: follow the model of the moderate
    left in the style of Lula in Brazil, or the radical left in the style of Hugo
    Chavez … Funes has said that his model will be the Brazilian one and not the
    Venezuelan one.” The “analyst” is Moises Naim, who was a minister under Carlos Andres Perez, member of that economic team that plunged Venezuela into the most serious economic crisis of the twentieth century. The Spanish newspaper El Pais publishes this analysis, titled “The axis of Lula and the axis of Hugo,” where it says that the crossroads that Funes will face “now boils down to this alternative [align himself with Chavez or Lula]. His party is to the left of him and will pressure him to lean towards the Axis of Hugo.” To this day Funes has not said anything about these views, possibly because he shares them.

    But in this terrain Funes is, as in football, playing forward of the game,
    because nobody has brought up this alternative to him. Quite the opposite; it
    has been the object of attention, of deliberation, of interest and of
    comprehension on the part of many. The newspaper La Prensa Grafica published this headline on April 16: “Funes receives invitation to meet with Chavez,” and the article said Funes “revealed today that he has received an invitation from Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to hold a meeting before taking office on June 1. ‘There is talk of a meeting that has not yet been arranged.’”
 In order to immunize himself and avoid comments that could damage his hypersensitive skin, he clarified, “The meeting was requested by him, I have not requested it. He has to be the one explaining to the press what topics he is interested in discussing with me.”

    At the same time, Funes did explain that the meeting he has planned with Lula
    would serve to “review the possibility” that the National Social Development
    Bank of Brazil could finance “some” social project in El Salvador. Nobody seems
    to understand, not even Salvadorans, the reason for this evasiveness of Funes
    with Chavez, as seen when Salvadoran legislative deputy Roberto Lorenzana said that as a party “we cannot but be respectful of the diplomatic initiatives of
    each country” and that the only thing they know about them is that Funes has
    kept a distance from policies coming from Caracas.


    Nobody has asked Funes to align himself with Chavez, who never mentioned it
    during the electoral campaign, in spite of the fact that he was mentioned as
    often as the candidate himself. The Salvadoran daily La Prensa said on March 17
    that “On his first day as president-elect of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes
    reaffirmed his commitment to ‘not align himself under the leadership of
    Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, to build a government of national unity and not allow the … FMLN to interfere in affairs of state beyond what the law

    In an interview given to CNN in Spanish, the corporation he worked for as a
    correspondent from 1991 to 2007 (16 years!), Funes insisted over and over that
    he had no obligation to follow Chavez: “The Salvadoran left has its own identity
    and will respond to its own circumstances. It has to respond to the demand, the
    aspiration and the desire for change that the Salvadoran people have expressed
    to it. It has no reason to align itself with the process of the Bolivarian
    revolution that Chavez leads; that process responds to Venezuela. The elections
    were in El Salvador, not in Venezuela.” That is correct, but is that the real
    reason for so many protests of innocence to the gringos? 

    On March 21, the Web site El points out that “In the FMLN no leader wants to give his opinion about the statements of President-elect Mauricio Funes, in which he claims that his “model” is Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva and not … Chavez. The mayor of Apopa, Luz Estrella Rodriguez, second-in-command in the party, declined yesterday to give an opinion. Her argument was that they haven’t discussed that subject in the FMLN.”


    … and so what am I?

    The right-wing Spanish daily, ABC, under the headline, “Funes insists on
    demarcating himself from Chavez” published the following commentary: “My
    discourse is not that of the traditional left, because I don’t represent it. I
    do not come from there. El Salvador cannot become a socialist nation because it is not even capitalist; it is almost a feudal society. We have to build. And
    afterwards, a long time afterwards, we can begin to imagine a socialist
    country.” The same newspaper notes, “Mauricio Funes, the president-elect of the small Central American nation, insists on demarcating himself from the club founded by the Venezuelan Hugo Chavez, which has more and more members on this continent, which poverty and the failure of neoliberal policies progressively tilted leftward.”

    But Funes returned to the subject: “My government has to respond to its own
    identity. It has no reason to align itself with the Bolivarian revolution.”

    Unfortunately for Funes, in spite of all of his protests they still don’t
    believe him. To his fright, the same daily ABC states, “More than a few see in
    Funes a straw man behind which is hiding the hard core of a guerrilla … that
    achieved through the ballot box what it didn’t with arms. A revolutionary
    movement that, according to predictions of its rivals during the electoral
    campaign, will lose no time in copying its Sandinista neighbor, which in barely
    two years has turned Nicaragua into the private farm of Daniel Ortega. And for
    that they remind people that many city halls ruled by the FMLN have been
    receiving direct aid from Caracas for years.”

    The vice president-elect of El Salvador, a bit disappointed, and I don’t dare
    guess the reason, indicates that “Everything will not be carried out in full as
    the FMLN thinks.” Further on he says, “The next government will not be of the
    FMLN, but one that will give room to other thoughts,” and clarifies that he will
    not arrive at the vice presidency to be the guardian of the faith of the FMLN in
    the Funes government. The same journalist, somewhat surprised, says that Mr.
    Sanchez Ceren “may disappoint in this interview [both] followers and
    detractors.” The surprising thing is that he can cede so much territory to the
    adversary when he says, “My position is not going to be that of a defender of
    the ideology.” If that is true, what is it that he is going to defend?

    El Nuevo Diario of Nicaragua reports that in Puerto España Funes supported the
    idea of “proposing to the U.S. government that it contribute to the
    strengthening of regional banks, particularly the Interamerican Development Bank and the Central American Bank of Economic Integration,” and that “he expressed his confidence that the democratic transition that he and President Saca are carrying out in El Salvador constitutes the best calling card in the
    consolidation of democracy in the country. Funes shared the opinion of Saca that the economic crisis may cause a setback to development in El Salvador.”
    Definitively in ideological questions, Funes is, as the popular saying goes, “as
    confused as a chicken without a head.” How can he expect Obama, who is up to his ears with his banks, most of them in bankruptcy or on the verge, to “strengthen” the Central American banks? The last straw is asking for “aid” for the IDB, where absolutely nothing is done without the consent of the boss.

    On its part, the daily La Prensa Grafica says, “Funes requests aid for regional
    banks at summit,” insisting again on the theme, with which the way the president elect is going is made clear, even though doesn’t seem to understand what is happening in the world, where the banking institutions that docilely serve capital and the capitalists are collapsing. 


    Epilogue in adagio, ma non troppo

    The first “unsolicited” interview of Barack Obama in Trinidad was with Chavez,
    which caused an international sensation because of the “warmth of the
    encounter,” and about which the international press still comments in all
    aspects. Obama had no embarassment about meeting with Chavez.
 Funes on his part explained that “because of scheduling problems” it was not possible to set up a meeting in Puerto España with Chavez. Whatever happened? Can it be that Chavez finally tired of so much inconsistency? What we do know is what La Prensa Grafica says: “[Funes’s] broad schedule leaves Chavez out of encounters [because Funes] is not sure that he will be able to comply with some additional
    invitations that have arrived at his office. One of them is that of Venezuelan
    President Hugo Chavez.” The curious note is what the article says farther down:
    “Funes had planned a bilateral [meeting] with Chavez at the V Americas Summit, which was held in Trinidad and Tobago, but it was cancelled. ‘Because of scheduling reasons, he [Chavez] ended up cancelling it,’ he explained.”

    The Salvadoran daily El Mundo refers to “The five greatest challenges of Funes,”
    which would be: 1. Crisis management; 2. The government for the crisis; 3.
    Relations with the FMLN; 4. The crisis in public finances and 5. Relations with
    the other parties. Independently of the posture that Mauricio Funes may maintain regarding Hugo Chavez, the important thing would be, it is hoped, that he rise to the occasion to confront what is coming, which will not be at all good, because during four long months the outgoing president, Antonio Saca, has had more than enough time to “scrape the pot clean.” Funes should not believe his own words when he said that “the democratic transition that he and President Saca are carrying out in El Salvador constitutes the best calling card in the consolidation of democracy in the country.” 

    It is good to remember in these moments Shafik Handal, whose shadow blanketed Mauricio Funes: “We do not come like lost sheep returning to the pen, but like vigorous reformers and fighters for changes;” and never forget either the exemplary words of Bolivar: “Let us no longer be the mockery of these miserable ones who are only superior in wickedness, such that they do not surpass us in valor; if they seem big to us it is because we are on our knees.”

    “If we do not bring an end to the capitalist system, it will be impossible to
    save the Earth.” Evo Morales

  2. Dianne Avatar

    The social movements in El Salvador have opposed the imposition of a neoliberal agenda. The far-right ARENA party lost in the recent election last march, but the critical factor is that these movements continue to grow. That means we in the United States need to express our solidarity whenever that’s needed.

    Below is a call from CISPES, the U.S. organization in solidarity with the people of El Salvador, asking that we write to Adidas and demand that the company compensate the workers whose plant was shut down in 2005. Please read the message below and take action today.


    On Sunday, March 15, the people of El Salvador mobilized to defend democracy, resulting in the election of the FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes — the very first leftist head of state in the county’s history. This historical shift in power is due to the Salvadoran social movement’s resistance to the right wing’s repressive economic and military policies.

    Labor unions and solidarity organizations’ fight against neoliberal free-trade agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) have been a primary manifestation of this resistance. Integral to El Salvador’s resistance movement is a group of workers from the Las Hermosas maquila (or sweatshop) who are currently holding multinational corporations, like Nike, Adidas, and Russell, accountable for the myriad of labor rights violations in El Salvador’s maquila industry.

    In May 2005, the Las Hermosas workers began to organize to change unjust working conditions in the factory. However, immediately after the workers began to organize, the factory owner closed the factory, leaving over 64 workers and organizers unemployed, blacklisted from neighboring maquilas, and owed over $825,000 of unpaid wages, social security, and severance pay.

    Four years since the closure of the Las Hermosa’s factory, organizers are still without formal jobs or access to basic medical care through the state medical system; moreover, they have only received a very limited contribution towards the $825,000 of outstanding wages, overtime payments, and severance legally owed to the workers.

    As a contractor at Las Hermosa’s factory, the Adidas corporation has the responsibility to ensure the workers are compensated or directly compensate them for the money owed and to reinstate blacklisted and fired workers. In fact, at meetings held with President Antonio Saca in December of 2005 and April of 2006, Adidas committed to ensuring that the Las Hermosa’s case is a clear example of CAFTA’s promotion of labor “flexibility”: corporations profiting from the hiring and firing of cheap labor, while suppressing workers’ right to organize in the maquila industry throughout Central America.

    The success of the new Funes government in standing up to neo-liberal free trade agreements like CAFTA will be dependent on the mobilization of the social movement to demand change and accountability not only from officials but from the transnational corporate system. workers would receive full compensation, but have never followed through with their promise.

    In the wake of this historical moment in El Salvador, join CISPES in standing in solidarity with the Las Hermosas workers by calling Adidas and demanding that they comply with the workers’ demands. Your action is critical in defending workers’ rights to organize, and in supporting the social movement’s continued struggle for change in El Salvador.


    1) Fax or email Adidas Corporate Social Responsibility Officer Gregg Nebel at (360) 394-1661 or and demand that he comply with the Las Hermosas Workers’ demands.

    2) Get your organization to sign on to a letter to Adidas. You can download the letter here:


    You can use the following sample letter to contact Gregg Nebel

    Dear Gregg Nebel and Adidas Corporate Responsibility Office:

    I am writing because I am very concerned about the Adidas corporation’s role in the Las Hermosas Manufacturing Case in El Salvador. Four years since the sudden closure of their factory the workers that were involved in defending their rights at Hermosa Manufacturing are still without formal jobs, not do they have access to the state medical system for employees. Meanwhile, they have only received a very limited contribution to their outstanding wages, overtime payments and severance pay.

    I understand Adidas made a public commitment in 2007 to pressure the Salvadoran government to bring justice to the Las Hermosas women in the trial between the factory owner Montalvo and the workers, but your company has yet to follow through with their promise.

    I also understand some brands have made a contribution to an emergency fund set up by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), and while I appreciate the effort, I am disappointed that the fund does not explicitly intend to cover the amount legally owed to the workers.

    I urge you to meet the demands of the workers to:

    1. Contribute, or increase your contribution to the fund administered by the legal organization FESPAD for the workers until the workers have received their outstanding wages, overtime payments, and severance pay;

    2. Require your suppliers in El Salvador to hire the former Hermosa workers on a priority basis in order to facilitate these workers gaining employment and to address the illegal discrimination in the form of a “Black List” that has occurred;

    3. Prevent further retaliation against these workers by your suppliers in the form of illegal intimidation and hiring discrimination;

    4. Continue to pressure the Salvadoran government to enforce the legal rulings in favor of the workers, ensure payment of the outstanding wages, and respect the laws of their Constitution and international conventions that guarantee the right to organize in a union.

    I look forward to hearing what action you have taken in this case. I wish to inform you that I pledge solidarity to the Hermosa workers’ struggle, and I will support pressure actions against your company to comply with their demands.


  3. Redchuck Avatar

    Does anyone have information on the current state of the popular organizations in El Salvador– especially the unions? They will be crucial if the FMLN leadership begins to bow to pressure from imperialism and domestic reactions (as have the Brazilian PT, Chilean SP, Bolivian MAS, etc.). Do they have the capacity to act independently (and, if necessary, against) the FMLN?

  4. Dianne Avatar

    The election of FMLN candidate, Mauricio Funes, as president is surely an victory for the left in El Salvador. It follows the FMLN victory in the January 2009 elections where they increased the number of representatives in the legislative assembly from 32 to 35 and won 96 out of the 262 mayoral offices, including five departmental capitals. Previously the FMLN held 58 mayoral offices.

    However the extreme right ARENA party captured the mayor’s office in San Salvador, where almost 6 million of the country’s 7 million live. This was a blow to the FMLN, who had held office there for 12 years.

    The ARENA victory was won through concentrating the majority of their funds and their campaign workers on that race. They also systemically relocated their activists to the capital to increase their vote (not illegal). Additionally, they siphoned off governmental resources and most likely provided false documents to Central Americans not eligible to vote. (FMLN representatives say they have photographic and video proof to back up this accusation.) Nonetheless, ARENA only won San Salvador by 5,780 votes.

    But municipal power means relatively little and the FMLN gains in the legislature, while important, do not shift the balance of power. ARENA can add to their 32 votes (dropping from 34) those of the National Conciliation Party (PCN), which received 11 votes through the assigning of what are “leftover votes.”

    What is new and important, though, is the citizen mobilization that began with the January elections. Previously people had protested electoral fraud, but after the fact. This time around residents of towns on the Honduran border organized a people’s watch. They coordinated with Honduran municipalities to run public announcements on radio stations, warning that checkpoints would be set up to prevent illegal voting. These were set up four days before the election by community members who took turns checking vehicles that passed.

    In San Isidro, Cabanas, where the community, over the last two years, has been organizing to prevent harmful mining operations by the Pacific Rim Company, they set up a surveillance operation to monitor the election. They managed to delay the election and although they didn’t succeed in the end, just that week-long delay as a result of their organizing represented a victory.

    Obviously the FMLN victories in the January and March elections is tempered by the continued weight of the right-wing parties. Hopefully the FMLN victory will embolden the grassroots movements!

  5. Gunni Avatar

    Thanks for this excellent report. Unlike Chavez, Funes cannot rely on indigenous resources and any semblance of economic self-reliance, nor even a majority government. The FMLN will face a majority right-wing parliamentary opposition when all is added up, so expectations for Funes should be modest. It seems reasonable to expect more of the same defense of social institutions (like the health care fight) without many new gains, with a view to winning more parliamentary seats in the short term. As you note, under difficult conditions of neo-liberalism in crisis, the party and Funes, as the friend of the people, will be faced with “managing” challenges he cannot readily solve. While Obamaesque, there is a crucial difference: the FMLN is a mass party with an effectively organized base of longstanding. Along with the political pressure the party will exert from the left on the Funes government, the opportunity still remains to continue to define a long-term program for when power can be consolidated. Unlike the US example, the FMLN has credibility and offers real hope. La lucha continúa…