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Campesino Debtors March in El Salvador
Weekly News Update on the Americas, No.406, 9 November 1997
More than 5,000 campesinos demonstrated on Nov. 6 in El Salvador's capital to demand that President Armando Calderon Sol give his approval to a debt forgiveness law approved by the opposition-dominated Congress on Oct. 30. The law would benefit 45,000 small, medium and large-scale farmers with agricultural debts estimated to total more than $168 million. It forgives the debts of producers whose total amount owed is not greater than $57,339; those with larger debts can only cancel 7% over a 12- year period, with a two-year grace period and 6% annual interest. According to congressional deputies, the agrarian debt is keeping more than 100,000 Salvadoran families in poverty.
"Our struggle is for justice, and this demonstration has as its only demand that the president not veto the law," campesino leader Marcos Salazar told Agence France-Presse. The march, called by the Salvadoran Agricultural Front (FAS), departed from near the Flor Blanca stadium in western San Salvador, and ended up in front of the main government building, where authorities met with campesino representatives. There were no incidents.
The rightwing ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) rejected the debt forgiveness initiative, arguing that the resulting reduction in resources will make it difficult to pay bonds to people affected by the agrarian reform of the early 1980s. Before leaving for the Central American presidential summit held in Santo Domingo Nov. 5-7, President Calderon told the press that he will make his decision after he returns and studies the decree. [La Prensa (Honduras) 11/7/97 from AFP]
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