By Daniella Mackey
Upside Down World
SAN SALVADOR – The global Occupy Movement arrived in El Salvador on Thursday, as about 70 people, roughly half Salvadoran and half U.S. citizens, engaged in a transnational protest in front of the United States Embassy. The movement has designated itself “Los Encachimbados,” which is a colloquial Salvadoran word meaning “indignant.”
The group distributed a press release delineating the local context of damage that they believe to be caused by the current international economic system. They call the attention of both the U.S. and Salvadoran governments to the free trade model, regional militarization strategies, and environmental destruction and climate change—all policies that theEncachimbados see as designed by a transnational elite, and which result in a low quality of life for the majority of the population of the Americas. “People all over the world are tired of these economic and political policies that benefit only 1% of our world. We’re here in front of the U.S. Embassy because no world-wide change can be generated if the U.S. doesn’t change, too,” explains Alfredo Carias, a Salvadoran Encachimbados spokesperson.
The free trade model between Central America and its northern neighbor “is pushing Central American producers out of the market, now that local companies are having to compete directly against U.S. firms without protections, and it has also caused decreased environmental and labor regulations,” says Daniel Burridge, an Encachimbados spokesperson, U.S. citizen and resident of El Salvador. “In the end, the poor and the environment are the ones footing the bill.”
The privileges granted to foreign companies through the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), has recently yielded a torrid legal battle in El Salvador. The Salvadoran government faces twolawsuits for a total of almost $200 million for refusing to grant permissions to companies to carry out open-pit metallic mining in several regions throughout the country. (One of the two cases is still inarbitration; the other is in appeal.)