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On July 2, trade unionists, community development activists, and other residents blocked the streets of Suchitoto, El Salvador to protest President Tony Saca’s plan to decentralize public services, including water. Activists argue this is the first step towards privatization.

The demonstration was forcibly broken up with tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, and several protesters were arrested. They need your support now. Those arrested will probably be charged under repressive new legislation that targets social movement organizing under the guise of fighting terrorism and organized crime.
Critics of decentralization argue municipalities lack the financial and technical resources to effectively manage water on their own. They say that Saca’s plan opens the door to privatize water, and that similar schemes implemented in other Latin American countries have led to decreases in water quality and service, and an increase in water rates.

Take action now. Activists are being asked to write to El Salvador’s president and attorney general, as well as the president of the country’s supreme court.

Public Services International has an online action here, and there is more background and updates here, as well as on the web site of Canadian NGO Salvaide.

Salvaide coordinated an ad signed by many Canadian groups, including CUPE, which ran in the Colatino newspaper on July 21.

Food and Water Watch’s blog includes a podcast about the situation. News footage of the demonstrations can be viewed on YouTube.