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Popular mobilizations in El Salvador oppose ARENA’s Comprehensive Water Law

Meera Karunananthan of the Blue Planet Project took part in this March 2014 rally in San Salvador in support of the General Water Law now being undermined by ARENA.

Popular mobilizations are taking place in El Salvador as ARENA creates the conditions for the corporate control of water through legislation introduced in the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly following the March 2018 election.

International Allies against Metal Mining coordinator Pedro Cabezas writes, “The results of the March 4th legislative elections strengthened the balance of power in favor of ARENA and the pro-business right-wing block of the legislature. With a total of 61 out of 84 seats, the right has more than 50 percent of the votes needed to pass simple legislation without debate, and more than the two-thirds majority required to approve the national budget, make constitutional amendments, appoint heads of key government institutions and members of the judiciary, rule out presidential vetoes, and even impeach the president.”

Telesur reports, “In early June … lawmakers [in El Salvador] began to approve measures within the right-wing ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance) ‘Comprehensive Water Law’ that would privatize water. Their bill would also create a water management oversight committee, but stacked with private business leaders.”

The article adds, “[Opposition groups] are demanding that legislators not privatize water and approve the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) ‘General Water Law’. The FMLN bill, originally put forth in 2006, would define and protect water as a human right, ensure its universal access, and calls for the water management oversight committee to consist of state institutions, not corporations.”

Upside Down World notes, “Ninety-two articles [of a 2013 version of the ‘General Water Law’ that was introduced in the Environmental and Climate Change Commission of the Legislative Assembly] had been approved before the discussions ground to a halt when right-wing parties insisted that the private sector be brought in to the new regulatory bodies proposed by the law.” The current Legislative Assembly has now dismissed those 92 articles.

Furthermore, Upside Down World adds, “On June 5, … the Legislative Assembly’s Environmental and Climate Change Commission, now headed by ARENA, began approving significant articles of the ‘Comprehensive Water Law’, including those regarding the Board of Directors [an autonomous five-member body – that would regulate water use – made up for four private sector appointees, two from ANEP (the National Association of Private Enterprise) and two from the Corporation of Municipalities of El Salvador, and only one government representative, the President].”

The fight for water justice in El Salvador has extended over the past several years.

The Guardian has reported, “In March 2014, thousands of people marched to the legislative assembly in San Salvador, to demand that those inside revive stalled negotiations on a long-debated general water law which would, among other things, establish a hierarchy of use and prioritise water for human consumption over that for industry or commerce.”

The Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan took part in that march.

To read her March 2015 commentary in The Guardian on the human right to water in El Salvador, please click here. In it she highlights three key fights: “a national ban on metal mining [that became law in April 2017], a constitutional amendment recognising the human right to water [now stalled], and a general water law that would legally establish social control of water resources and services [the focus of this current fight].”