el salvador: mobilizing against corporate power and free trade
The previous conservative government consistently promoted the expansion of extractive industries and international trade, as well as mega infrastructure projects, including highways, ports, dams and an electricity grid for Central America. The newly-elected left-wing government, which has pledged to fashion itself after Brazil’s business-friendly President Lula, may choose to continue these projects. Yet they all threaten to bring devastating consequences for Indigenous People, biodiversity and the climate.
Public debate around the role of Transnational Corporations (TNCs), their interests, and the negative consequences of their projects is scarce, because there is little information available to the public, and few organizations capable of fostering and facilitating debate.
Friends of the Earth El Salvador / CESTA worked to help build peoples’ sovereignty by strengthening collective leadership in grassroots organizations representing the people most affected by neoliberalism. They worked to increase coordination among grassroots organizations, social movements and state institutions; and carried out joint advocacy work to challenge damaging TNC-led projects. FoE El Salvador also engaged in regional and international networks and alliances working to reverse current trade policies.
This strategy of resistance was complemented by an agenda of supporting transformation and promoting alternatives to the neoliberal model. FoE El Salvador worked to strengthen trade networks and local markets, building new relations between producers and consumers, based on justice, and raising awareness of the impacts of corporate control and trade liberalization on food sovereignty and biodiversity. To help consolidate the use of organic agriculture in peasants’ fields, the project also supported 40 food production systems in Bajo Lempa.
FoE El Salvador organized a series of mobilizations to protest against TNC activities and to raise awareness of the negative impacts of projects such as the construction of two power plants in La Unión. Overall, more than 5,000 people took part. FoE El Salvador produced a video of the demonstration, and also organized a tour to let journalists see the impacts of those projects for themselves, which led to good media coverage.
The Political Ecology School was another pillar of the project. 60 community leaders learned about political and economic theory, the impacts of neoliberalism in El Salvador, the proposed mega projects and their impacts, international trade and power relations, and strategies for community organizing and resistance to TNCs.
FoE El Salvador also ran a public campaign challenging Monsanto, through a series of press conferences, a public forum on the impacts of GMOs on food sovereignty, and the publication of materials and press articles to inform the public. A forum on Food Sovereignty was organized in October, together with a local market in a park in central San Salvador.
FoE El Salvador has committed to continue strengthening grassroots organization, as well as building alliances with movements organized at the national level, as well as the Movement of Victims and Peoples Affected by Climate Change. These areas of activity contribute to FoE International’s campaigns on agrofuels, climate change, international trade and corporates, and help to establish the links between climate change, international trade policies and corporate interests and power.
with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)