Advocacy, Agua/Aqua, Food Security, Water/Agua

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador (excerpt)

Versión Español

In El Salvador, environmental activists, natural resource protectors and lawmakers are still celebrating the historical victory of the Anti-Mining law which bans “prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador.”1

Parallel to this victory, a new old fight continues.

El Salvador has, in fact, enough water for its people, however a water crisis is rising from unethical and incompetent management of resources. This is evident in the distribution when we see exclusive residential areas, resorts, mono-cropping farms receive water while mountain towns situated along flowing clean rivers do not.2

Though the organized fight for the right to water began over a decade ago, civil society with the support of international solidarity and major religions have come together to intensify the demand to pass the bill, originally drafted in 2005, which has been since updated and since challenged by right-wing parties and the private business sector.

These affected communities themselves are developing their own water committees and receiving specialized training in the collection, storage and distribution of their own communal and household systems. As a proud member of MOVIAC, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations, we support strengthening these leaders capacities and promote healthy, just and sustainable social changes.

Voices have been tasked to investigate an important topic facing the communities we serve and we have chosen the life and death subject on the right to water in order to spread awareness and forge solidarity. This report is close to completion however we are releasing this excerpt due to the current climate of popular movements and political decisions.

The Human Right to Water in El Salvador   (excerpt) :
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El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto)

En El Salvador, activistas ambientales, protectores del agua y legisladores siguen celebrando el histórico triunfo de la ley antiminas que prohíbe “la prospección, exploración, explotación, extracción o procesamiento de minerales metálicos en El Salvador.”1

Paralelamente a esta victoria, una nueva / antigua pelea continúa.

El Salvador tiene, de hecho, suficiente agua para su gente, sin embargo una crisis del agua está levantando de la administración antiética e incompetente de recursos. Esto es evidente en la distribución cuando vemos zonas residenciales exclusivas, complejos, granjas monoculturales reciben agua mientras que los pueblos de montaña situados a lo largo de ríos que fluyen limpios no lo hacen.2

Aunque la lucha organizada por el derecho al agua comenzó hace más de una década, la sociedad civil con el apoyo de la solidaridad internacional y de las principales religiones se han unido para intensificar la demanda de aprobar el proyecto, redactado originalmente en 2005, desafiado por los partidos de derecha y el sector empresarial privado desde el inicio.

Estas mismas comunidades afectadas están desarrollando sus propios comités de agua y recibiendo capacitación especializada en la recolección, almacenamiento y distribución de sus propios sistemas comunitarios y domésticos. Como miembro orgulloso de MOVIAC, el Movimiento de las Víctimas Afectadas por el Cambio Climático y las Corporaciones, nosotros como Voces apoyamos el fortalecimiento de estas capacidades de líderes y promover cambios sociales saludables, justos y sostenibles.

Voces ha sido encargado de investigar un tema importante que enfrentan las comunidades a las que servimos y hemos elegido el tema del agua porque es un asunto de vida y muerte también para difundir la conciencia y forjar la solidaridad. Este informe está a punto de finalizar, sin embargo estamos publicando este fragmento debido al clima actual de movimientos populares y decisiones políticas.

El Derecho Humano al Agua en El Salvador   (extracto):
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Elections 2009

The Historic Opportunity of the Left May be Lost, by Victor Mata Tobar*

Enthusiasm for the leftist movement throughout the Americas is a sign of the times. Tired of restrictive social policies that have worsened the inequities and exclusion, the people of the Americas see hope in the left – perhaps their last in confronting a structural crisis born from a model that advances stagnation instead of investing in society, and in an unconditionally free markets instead of a stronger State to control them. If left to its own devices, the free market is destructive and produces poverty while consolidating wealth. Such a model inevitably leads to crises like the one we are currently experiencing in El Salvador.

The electorates’ turn to the left in the majority of countries in the Americas, including the democrat’s victory in the United States, leaves only a few countries such as El Salvador, with a conservative, right wing government. The people of the Americas believe in the left because their leaders have learned to demonstrate pragmatism and tolerance, with less socialist rhetoric and more liberalism, and have transformed their societies. The left seeks the possible, though they do not discard the ideal as a final goal.

In El Salvador, the left will have, for the first time in the republic’s history, a real possibility of winning the presidency. The candidate is intelligent, honest, and well intentioned. His victory, however, is not a sure thing, as has been the thought for the past four months – at least according to the polls, which, while correct the majority of the time, are not always right. In recent polls, the electorate’s preference for Funes has decreased, and I identify two factors driving the decline: one, the weak policy message of the left, and two, the intelligence demonstrated by the right in the management of their campaign. Though he insists on achieving goals such as jobs and employment, the leftist candidate does not move beyond the abstract promise of change. In the United States, the change slogan produced excellent results for the democrats, in large part because the majority of voters in the U.S. rejected President Bush, and Candidate Obama made concrete promises. In El Salvador, President Saca actually has a high approval rating among Salvadorans, and the leftist-change slogan remains abstract with little impact.

The left’s is not running a negative campaign compared to the right, and in principle this seems a positive. We should not forget, however, the right’s extreme debilities, especially the corruption that has impacted the people and systematically destroyed the environment. In addition, the left’s campaign promises ought to be concrete and attractive, such as promises to build 80,000 homes over the next five years to address the housing deficit, supply potable water to all rural homes, or provide universal health insurance (I offer these only as examples of concrete promises, not actual recommendations for projects or policies). As an independent observer who is sympathetic to the left for its humane and historic plan, I stress that the promises should not be as abstract or general as offering safe change – this is unappealing to the electorate.

Finally, the left ought to cease its internal fighting once and for all, and present a strong front. The right, which can be questioned for its cruelty and greed, is showing great pragmatism and intelligence in order to win the elections. Did the mayoral election in San Salvador not just demonstrate this?

*Victor Mata Tobar practices human rights and environmental law in San Salvador and his native home of Apaneca, Ahuachapan. Over his long career, he has been on faculty at the Colleges of Law, Philosophy, and Journalism at the National University, advised the Salvadoran Ombudsmen for Human Rights, served on the board of numerous non-profit organizations, led law reform movements, and promoted the advancement of civil society. This article first appeared in the Diario Co-Latino on February 3, 2009