Conflicts & War

Hundreds march in El Salvador on May Day

San Salvador, May 1 (EFE).- Hundreds of workers in El Salvador mobilized on Monday for International Workers’ Day and marched to demand an increase in the minimum wage to “be able to deal with the high cost of living” and expressed their opposition to the potential reelection of President Nayib Bukele.

Participating in the march were workers and union members, who set out from Cuscatlan Stadium in the capital, joined by relatives of people arrested during the so-called regime of exception, members of the Salvadoran LGBTI Federation and women from various organizations.

The demonstrators called on Salvadoran authorities “once again to review” the minimum wage, which currently stands at $365 per month, with an eye toward implementing an increase so that “workers (may be permitted) to buy the products in the basic basket (of goods) and other necessities.”

The head of the Salvadoran Union Front, Wilfredo Berrios, told EFE that “to keep up with the high cost of living and to somewhat alleviate the situation at least $600 (per month) is necessary.”

The price of the basic food basket in El Salvador rose approximately 12.9 percent in the urban areas and 15.18 percent in the rural areas in January compared to the same month last year, according to revised government figures.

Central Reserve Bank (BCR) figures show that the basic food basket in the rural zones stood at $185.26 in January, whereas in January 2022 it was $157.13.

Meanwhile, the basket of food consumed by the average Salvadoran family in the urban areas cost $245.02 in January 2023, up from $213.43 in January 2022.

Berrios also complained that El Salvador “is going through injustices and reversals that have occurred during the presidential term of Mr. Bukele.”

He said that “Currently, there is political persecution for anyone who isn’t in agreement with (the president’s) authoritarian, dictatorial thinking,” adding that “there’s no freedom of expression.”

Salvadorans also expressed their opposition to Bukele’s reelection, given that he will seek a second term in 2024.

“We’re also saying no to the reelection because it’s unconstitutional,” Berrios added.

The possibility that Bukele will be reelected for a second term next year arose last September, when the Constitutional Chamber of the Salvadoran Supreme Court (CSJ) modified a provision of electoral law in a very controversial ruling.

According to the prior wording of the rule, whoever serves as president must wait 10 years after his or her mandate ends to be able to run for reelection.

The march concluded in San Salvador’s historic quarter without any reported incidents.

Early on Monday, the social networks were buzzing with denunciations of “blockades” being imposed by security forces on people coming from different parts of the country to take part in the march.

The “blockades,” according to the complaints, were being implemented by the National Civil Police, who had set up traffic checkpoints in various areas.

Meanwhile, the Foundation for Studies for the Application of Law (Fespad) denounced the arrest of at least 20 union members, some of them taken into custody during the regime of exception put in place in El Salvador to “combat” gangs.

Fespad said in a statement, issued for International Workers’ Day, that in El Salvador “the criminalization of social protest (and) the repression of unions and their leaders have increased.”

The NGO said that it is “alarming that at least … 20 union people are under arrest or being processed by the courts for demanding their labor rights, such as payment of back salaries and other social benefits.”

“It is important to emphasize that many of these arbitrary (arrests) have come within the framework of the regime of exception and crimes they have not committed have been attributed to union leaders, which also … (is) a violation of their basic rights,” the human rights organization founded more than 30 years ago said.

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