Privatization is going to bring about massive lay-offs in all of the affected governmental organizations.
Franklin Sanchez, ANTEL technician. (8)
Faced with the threat by the U.S. government to cut back economic aid, various labor groups announced their opposition to the new economic measures and privatization that will be carried out by the Calderon Sol Administration. The first group to protest were the workers of ANTEL who concentrated around the Central Roma building.
Franklin Sanchez, a technician with ANTEL, said, "privatization is going to bring about massive lay-offs in all of the affected governmental organizations. On the other hand, we think that the transnational [corporations] who will take over communications are not interested in servicing all of El Salvador." (9) Workers from the Ministry of Public Works, affiliated with the ATMOP union were represented by their secretary general who warned the government of their need to negotiate "the policies [and] measures that they are trying to implement within the ministry. [Therefore], we are giving them until Monday of next week." (10) General Secretary of the Association of Workers of the Ministry of Agriculture reminded people of the promise made by the ministry's commission "that no worker will be fired, transferred, or demoted arbitrarily." (11)
According to Treasury Minister, Manuel Enrique Hinds the speed of modernizing the nation should accelerate and include the privatization of various institutions as well as the creation of competition between sectors who provide the nation's infrastructure. He announced that next March he will have a law ready to regulate competition for communications and electricity. Hinds seemed to be satisfied by the response given by distinct Salvadoran sectors to the economic plan, because they have been willing to discuss it thoroughly while contributing their ideas. (12)
"The government's economic proposal in search of the Salvadoran dream." Report from Salvadoran newspaper, La Prensa Grafica. (13)
The economic program that the Calderon Sol Administration will implement this year has been rejected by practically every sector in the country from private enterprises to union groups and from parties on the left to parties on the right. Only members of ARENA, officials who support them, and a few deputies are in favor of the new policies, but even they have shown opposition to those changes they claim as necessary.
La Prensa Grafica said that the government's program is "the economic proposal in search of the Salvadoran dream, [which] can only be summed up in one word, liberty....In spite of the fact that the bonanza of dollars will not last long and neither will the current price of coffee." According to them, another factor to take into consideration is the amount of "remittances sent to Salvadoran families which put millions of dollars every year into our economy. These funds will decrease and in turn the umbilical cord that unites Salvadorans [in the United States] to their homeland will become more fragile." (14) Apparently, the National University of El Salvador (UES) shares this analysis. "The money exchange system seems attractive. Nevertheless, it has been conceived as an aislated measure and is not necessary for the nation's process of development." (15)
Treasury Minister, Manual Hinds in an attempt to support the new economic measures stated that raising the sales tax (IVA) is necessary, because it is "linked not only to the new measures, but to the past as well....because you have to pay the price of peace and it costs 1.53 billion dollars. It would be irresponsible of the government to say that it will not raise taxes, knowing we will have a problem in the long run if we do not." (16)
"We are looking for a consensus to put the economic plan in action." Salvadoran President, Armando Calderon Sol. (17)
"What good is it to [express our opinion] about the plan if they are planning all along to carry it out?" Mario Cabrera, leader of the National Union of Salvadoran Workers (UNTS). (18)
President Armando calderon Sol affirmed that he is not trying to impose his economic plan upon the nation and on the contrary "we are looking for a consensus to put the economic plan into action." During his trip to Costa Rica to attend the Central American Economic Institute (INCAE) Forum, he said that he would "ask other presidents from the region what they think about the plan." Nevertheless, a member of the Executive Council of the National Union of Salvadoran Workers (UNTS), Mario Cabrera does not agree with the president. "What good is it to [express our opinion] about the plan if they are planning all along to carry it out even though we have made counter proposals?" he stated. (19) Furthermore, the group expressed their complete rejection of the economic measures in a press release, because they consider them an "economic punch" that will hit agricultural, commercial and industrial workers directly. They said that more attention must be placed on the fact that "if taxes are raised then the prices of basic consumer goods, water and electricity will go up." (20)
Different union groups including those that represent the agro- export market and industry are worried over the possible implementation of the economic plan. The Corporation of Salvadoran Exporters (COEXPORT) stated that although the plan follows their general objectives it requires brusque changes that might generate "social, commercial, economic, and labor destabilization." (21) They said that just the "fact that the [government] is trying to obtain results from a financial policy based on a fixed exchange rate for a currency that does not coincide with its purchasing power" gives enough reason for the plan to be newly revised. (22) Similarly, spokespeople from the Salvadoran Association of Bus Companies (AEAS) pointed out that "once the economic reforms are approved" their operating costs will increase and this would "cause serious problems for transportation services." (23)