Salvadoreans and Canadians protest 2nd Roundtable with Salvadoreans in Canada
Toronto, 17 November 2007 – Salvadoreans and their Canadian allies protested inside the Toronto Board of Trade yesterday during the start of the 2nd Roundtable with Salvadoreans in Canada, organized by the Salvadorean Ministry of External Relations. The peaceful protesters denounced the Roundtable’s misleading emphasis on trade and investment, while in El Salvador the right-wing ARENA government continues to fail to address the growing socio-economic crisis gripping the country and has instead increased the violent repression of peaceful dissent.
After Canadian and Ontario government trade representatives finished their opening remarks, one of the protesters in the audience stood to ask for a minute of silence to commemorate the assassination by the Salvadorean Armed Forces of 5 Jesuit academics and their two assistants on the campus of the Central American University in San Salvador 18 years ago that day. Simultaneously, other protesters unveiled a banner denouncing the Salvadorean ARENA government’s growing human rights abuses and impunity.
When the minute of silence was interrupted by Salvadorean Consulate General of Toronto staff members, another protester stood up and denounced the Salvadorean government’s disregard for human rights in El Salvador and the absurdity of declaring El Salvador “open for business” when 500 Salvadoreans are forced to leave the country daily in search of work abroad in order to help them and the family members they must leave behind make ends meet. The protester also addressed the Canadian government trade representative directly to denounce the Canadian government’s virtually secret negotiation of a free trade agreement between Canada, El Salvador, and three other Central American countries. Others handed out a fact sheet (attached) highlighting the socio-economic and human rights crisis in El Salvador.
The Salvadorean and Canadian protesters also raised the issue of the recent violent police attacks on peaceful protesters in Cutumay Camones, a rural community in Western El Salvador. Residents of Cutumay Camones have been resisting the illegal construction of a garbage dump that they fear will contaminate their only source of potable water. This act of violent state repression follows several others recently, including one on 2 July in the town of Suchitoto where several peaceful anti-water-privatization demonstrators and activists were beaten, arrested, and charged with “terrorism” under a draconian new “Anti-Terrorism” law in El Salvador.
In the midst of the peaceful acts of civil disobedience inside the Toronto Board of Trade, one protester managed to take the podium and address the audience. “I respectfully urge you, the participants in this so-called Roundtable, to please not allow yourselves to be fooled by the Salvadorean Ministry of External Relations’ attempt to brush aside the human rights and socio-economic crisis in El Salvador,” said the protester.
After distributing their fact sheets, the group of 20 Salvadorean and Canadian demonstrators left the Toronto Board of Trade promising to continue to speak out for social justice and human rights in El Salvador.
For more information, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org