January 8, 2009
10 Days Until First Round of Salvadoran Elections –
Take Action to Oppose Dirty Campaign!
US State Department must respond to false statements threatening immigrants
On the eve of the first round of El Salvador’s most contested elections since the 1992 Peace Accords, a right-wing campaign of dirty propaganda, media misinformation, provocation and violence continues to escalate. Beginning in late October and continuing to this day, Fuerza Solidaria—a right-wing organization founded in Venezuela—has flooded the Salvadoran airwaves and streets with a series of advertisements attempting to frighten Salvadoran voters with threats of U.S. retaliation. The ads state that an FMLN victory would mean the end to good relations with the U.S. government and thus the end to remittances sent home from Salvadorans living in the U.S. They also claim that an FMLN victory would threaten the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which allows over 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the U.S. These absurd threats are similar to the ones made back in 2004 by members of the U.S. Congress, together with the governing ARENA party; such threats turned a close election into a decisive victory for the right-wing party. In the face of Fuerza Solidaria’s blatant misrepresentation of the ramifications of an FMLN victory, the U.S. State Department—which has privately pledged neutrality in El Salvador’s electoral process—has remained silent rather than refute these claims.
The right wing’s dirty campaign has not stopped at propaganda and misinformation. Over the past year, political violence carried out by ARENA and their allies has continued to rise, ranging from street attacks to uninvestigated murders of more than a half dozen FMLN and social movement leaders in 2008 alone. In September, ARENA campaigners attacked FMLN supporters conducting door-to-door visits, sending four people to the hospital in San Salvador. In response to these attacks, ARENA's mayoral candidate for San Salvador, Norman Quijano, publicly admitted that his campaigners are armed and should be "considered dangerous." Numerous other incidents of government violence have occurred since the beginning of the year.
With ten days to go until the municipal and legislative elections (the presidential election will be on March 15), the U.S. continues to be complicit in the dirty campaign by not countering right-wing propaganda related to its foreign policy. This is not neutrality! Demand that Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon make a public statement refuting the right wing’s fear-based threats and declare that the US will maintain a positive relationship with any government freely elected by the Salvadoran people.
1) CALL Hillary Thompson at the El Salvador desk of the State Department at (202) 647-4161 and tell her to urge Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon to refute the baseless threats related to U.S. policy (see call script below.) You can also email Shannon directly at shannontaB@state.gov
2) PARTICIPATE in the CISPES week of action from January 12-18. Contact your local CISPES chapter in Boston, New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Olympia, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles (go here for contact info.) Or organize your own local action - more information at www.cispes.org
3) ATTEND a delegation to monitor the March elections. More information at www.cispes.org/delegations
You can use the following script to contact Hillary Thompson at the El Salvador Desk of the State Department – (202) 647-4161
1. I am calling to urge Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon to publicly support democracy in El Salvador by refuting Fuerza Solidarida’s baseless threats, and to state the U.S. government’s intention to maintain a positive relationship with any government freely elected by the Salvadoran people
2. Recent ads in El Salvador attempt to scare voters by stating that an FMLN victory would mean the end to good relations with the U.S .government and thus an end to remittances sent home from Salvadorans living in the U.S.
· In addition to threatening remittances, the ads also threaten Salvadoran American’s Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which allows over 200,000 Salvadorans to remain in the U.S.
· Similar statements were made in 2004 by Roger Noriega of the State Department and by Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, among others.
· These statements caused many Salvadorans to vote out of fear of U.S. retaliation, rather than according to their convictions. As someone who believes in democracy, I want to make sure the U.S. does allow untrue, fear-based threats to affect elections again in 2009.
3. It is extremely important that the State Department stand up for the Salvadoran people’s right to freely elect their government, without fear of foreign retribution. I am calling on Mr. Shannon to denounce the Fuerza Solidaria’s baseless statements regarding the U.S. relationship with El Salvador, and to assert that the United States will maintain a positive relationship with any government freely elected by the Salvadoran people. When a third party lies about U.S. policy, it is the responsibility of the Department of State to correct those statements.
For more background information:
· read this CISPES article in the latest issue of Z magazine
· check out recent CISPES updates and press releases
· Read the summer CISPES fact-finding delegation report challenging the US government role in human rights violations and intervention
· watch “Unidos Por El Cambio”, the CISPES video about the upcoming elections