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In the spirit of struggle and resistance, El Salvador takes to the streets against authoritarianism

Source: CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador)

In an unprecedented event in Salvadoran history, approximately ten thousand people packed the streets of the capital city of San Salvador on September 15, El Salvador’s bicentennial anniversary, to raise their voices against the actions of the Bukele administration and his allies in other branches of government.

The massive mobilization was convened by a widely diverse group of organizations, including the Popular Resistance and Rebellion Bloc, the Popular Movement Coordination, unions, feminist and LGBTI+ organizations, churches, environmental groups, and professional associations, among others. The protests were amplified on social media using the hashtag #El15marchamos (On the 15th, we march)

According to representatives of the participating organizations, the Bukele government represents a threat on so many fronts that sectors who are otherwise on opposite sides of the political spectrum have been pushed to work together with a common objective: to prevent the consolidation of a dictatorship.

Though a significant part of the crowd were brought out by the popular movement organizations who convened the march, what was notable were the thousands of citizens who joined on their own accord, as well as the sheer diversity of sectors and social actors who came together to demand an end to the authoritarian and antidemocratic policies of the Bukele administration. Many were marching for the first time in their lives.

In a statement, the Popular Resistance Bloc reiterated their “declaration of popular resistance” to the Nayib Bukele regime and against those making money off of the Bitcoin law, the rising cost of living, illegal mass firings in the public sector, the potential re-election of the president (despite Constitutional prohibitions on consecutive terms), the mass ousting of prosecutors and judges, political persecution, lack of transparency and the use of the armed forces as a political instrument, among others.

Likewise, thousands of women, both those mobilizing with the feminist bloc and others, denounced gender-based violence and called for justice for women who have been disappeared and murdered. Hundreds more took to the streets to call for water to be protected as a human right, the end of militarization, press freedoms, respect for Constitutional law and the separation of powers. See a photo slideshow here.

For Néstor, an LGBTI+ activist, participating in the rally was a way to join with “everyone’s discontent regarding the decisions the Legislative Assembly has made,” including permanently tabling the Gender Identity Law and thereby “preventing transgender compañeras y compañeros from having an ID card” with a name that corresponds to their gender identity.

Carmen, one of the citizens marching on her own, expressed concern that “the Executive has control over all the branches of the government and even though [the president] claims to be controlling them ‘democratically,’ saying that’s what the people want, in reality, everything he is doing is illegal and illegitimate so we’re out here to defend the sovereignty of the Republic, of the State itself.” See video clips of the protests here.

The mass march ended successfully, despite the intention of some unidentified groups to undertake violent actions aimed at turning public opinion against the marchers. But spirits remained high, undeterred by accusations by President Bukele on the afternoon of the 15th that the “international community” was financing the opposition, and his suggestion that, if they continued to receive said alleged support, he may need to turn to using tear gas against those who oppose his actions.

September 15, 2021 marks a turning point in recent Salvadoran history. Not even the State’s multimillion dollar propaganda apparatus against the popular resistance was enough to stymie the people’s desire for a country in which their differences will be settled democratically, not crushed by a dictatorship.

This awakening, said youth leader Maricela Ramirez, “implies a transformation of the people’s struggles and has the potential to serve as the catalyst for a new era in the articulation of the Salvadoran popular movement, in which the struggles of diverse sectors converge and advance toward a political struggle against the State’s abuse of power and against the advance of authoritarianism in the country.”