In a December 4 televised press statement, Salvadoran President
Calderon Sol denounced Ana Maria Romero (Organizational Secretary of
the Union of Gabo Workers) and Wilmer Erroa Argueta (Relations
Secretary of ASTTEL) as "traitors and inhuman, [who] are attacking
the Salvadoran family"; this statement was also published in
today's Diario de Hoy. Ms Romero and Mr. Argueta have been on a 4
week US tour sponsored by CISPES. They have traveled to more than 20
cities, speaking to labor unions, the media, solidarity activists and
the US public about violations of labor rights in El Salvador. This
week they participated in a congressional hearing sponsored by the
Congressional Human Rights Caucus and met with the US Agency for
International Development. This attack is reminiscent of the past when
unionists, teachers, and priests would be found missing or dead
following verbal attacks by leading government officials.
This attack came after 3 articles from 2 Salvadoran newspapers were
published over the past 3 days falsely stating that CISPES is calling
for a boycott of Salvadoran-made products and of Salvadoran maquilas.
In addition, according to the El Diario article, ARENA plans to send a
letter to the US Congress asking them to "repudiate and denounce
these practices." The articles also falsely claim that a recent US
Labor Department investigation found no violations in the maquilas. In
fact, the investigation, whose report will be released this month,
only covered child labor and did not state that there are no labor
violations in the Salvadoran Free Trade Zones.
In today's Diario de Hoy article, the Vice Minister of Commerce and
Industry, Rolando Alverenga states that "..(CISPES) is a committee
that wants to hurt the country and destroy everything that we've built
after the signing of the Peace Accords."
This attack is clearly in response to weeks of intense pressure on the
Salvadoran government to improve labor conditions, mounted by CISPES
and others through the tour, and through our campaign to stop the
massive firings of maquila workers by factory owners who seek to avoid
paying the legally required Christmas bonus.
NOTE: Following is the Press Statement that we have sent to the media
in El Salvador to be published. Also enclosed is a statement by one of
the panelists from the congressional hearing in Washington DC on
Monday, December 2nd where Ms. Romero and Mr. Argueta spoke in
response to the attacks.
"There is No Anti-Maquila
Boycott" Says CISPES
Leaders of the ARENA Party and the Salvadoran textile industry
recently accused CISPES of encouraging US consumers to boycott
clothing made in El Salvador.
There is no boycott.
What does exist is a campaign by CISPES and Salvadoran labor
organizations to urge the Salvadoran government to enforce its own
labor code and abide by internationally recognized standards for human
and labor rights, and to urge corporations to responsibly abide by
these laws -- so that Salvadorans are paid a decent wage, are not
abused, are not forced to work overtime, are not fired by bosses who
don't want to pay the legally-required Christmas bonuses, and are free
We have seen poverty and massive unemployment first hand during our
trips to El Salvador. We are well aware that Salvadorans need jobs and
that the maquilas are a large source of employment in El
Salvador. However, we, as well as the workers and the labor movement
in El Salvador, want these to be jobs with dignity.
Our "Sweat Gear" catalog is a satire that is being used to
educate US citizens. Nowhere in it do we tell people not to purchase
clothes made in El Salvador.
In addition, CISPES has supported the FMLN for years, that fact is
well known and we are proud of it. We support them because they are
fighting for the rights of working people. CISPES has many projects:
our campaign for working people's rights, fighting for immigrant
rights in the US and supporting organizations which are struggling for
social justice, including the FMLN. While many of these are related in
their subject matter, they are also separate projects.
CISPES renews our commitment of support for the Salvadoran people in
their just struggle for better living and working conditions and the
creation of a truly democratic country.
CISPES 19 West 21st Street, #502 New York, NY 10010 Tel: (212)
229-1290 Fax: (212) 645-7280 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement of Benjamin Davis,
Attorney and Representative of the
International Labor Rights Fund
December 5, 1996
As a member of the panel on labor rights violations in El Salvador,
which testified before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on
Monday, I would like to correct incorrect statements which appeared in
the Salvadoran media yesterday.
At no moment in the briefing did Ana Maria Romero, Wilmer Erroa or
anyone else advocate a boycott of Salvadoran products, or urge North
Americans not to buy clothing made in El Salvador.
Rather, the focus of the briefing was the Salvadoran government's
failure to enforce its own labor code, which leads to exploitation,
and even death for Salvadoran workers.
Ms. Romero described twelve-hour days, with forced (and unpaid)
overtime up to 17 hours a day, two to three times a week. She
described the experience of enduring insults and blows from
supervisors, which resulted in the loss of her baby and the babies of
other pregnant women. She described the blacklist which her supervisor
showed her, and told her was sold to him by officials of the Ministry
of Labor. The blacklist contained names and photographs of union
sympathizers, so that factory managers could avoid hiring them.
All this agrees with my investigations in El Salvador, which show
well-documented practices of forced overtime and firing of large
numbers of workers to prevent them from exercising their right to
Ms. Romero said: "We do need these jobs, but we need them to be
jobs with justice, with adequate salaries, with the right to organize
as we choose. We need jobs, but not at the cost of our lives and the
lives of the beings we carry in our wombs."
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