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El Salvador: the Mario Belloso case and the weakness of the Antonio Saca government

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The ruling class of El Salvador is gearing up for major class battles. Feeling the heat of the Latin American revolution, and finding itself in a weak position, the state has moved to intrigues to launch a dirty war against the left of the FMLN.

On July 5, 2006, hundreds of workers and students took part in a demonstration in the capital of El Salvador against price increases in public transport and electricity. Rank and file members of the left-wing FMLN, youth organisations, informal commerce workers, etc all participated.

The response of the government was no different from other occasions. The anti-riot police unit (UMO) opened fire on the protestors with rubber bullets and tear gas. This provoked the disbanding of the demonstration in a disorganised way as it was passing in front of the University buildings.

Taking advantage of the confusion an ultra-left element shot at the UMO. His action was captured on video and has been proven, but does not explain all that happened during the demonstration. The most widely spread version is that the person who shot at the police from within the demonstration (Mario Belloso), was responsible for the death of the two police officers. This version, apparently believable, is not complete. One of the shots that one of the police received did not come from the position where Belloso was, which indicates that other people were shooting at the police. These shots did not come from within the demonstration that was being disbanded, as was also proven by video and photographic evidence. Witnesses on the scene saw sharp shooters positioned on the rooftops of buildings next the university. The position of these sharpshooters corresponds with the trajectory of the bullets that hit the police officers that were killed. One of them was shot in the head and the other also received lethal wounds, while the other five police officers received non-lethal wounds.

Even more strange are the statements of a high commanding officer of the police, Avila, who according to reports in the press in El Salvador, said that the demonstrators carried long range and short range guns, but that "we could never imagine that they would carry rifles", and that they did know through "unspecified sources" that armed ultra-left elements were present at the demonstration, but still they took the initiative to disband the demonstration with rubber bullets. This is obviously absurd. But what even more clearly points to a provocation in this case is the following statement of the same Avila, who assured the media that despite the fact that they had seen Mario Belloso take refuge at the university, they decided not to pursue him in order to "respect University autonomy"!! In a country where the daily body count is higher than in Iraq, where the police do not care about violating any rights whatsoever and with a repressive and degenerate right-wing government like that of ARENA, it now seems that the police are scrupulous in the defence of University autonomy.

All of this shows that the regime used an ultra-left element as a smokescreen to provide them with the necessary justification for the passing of the Anti-Terrorist Law, days after the demonstration. The only result of all this was the criminalisation of the struggles of workers, peasants, students and the people of El Salvador in general.

Nearly a year under the Anti-Terrorist Law

On September 21, 2006, the anti-terrorist law was passed with the support of all ruling class parties and a weak resistance on the part of the FMLN. The FMLN did not have a parliamentary majority but did not organise a serious campaign in the streets to stop it. This law criminalises mural painting, street protests, street and road blockades, curtails the rights of organisation and reunion. The ruling class started to prepare for the inevitable struggles that are going to take place in the next period, which will have not only a parliamentary expression but will also express through mass mobilisations, general strikes and factory and land take-overs. The ruling class in El Salvador is preparing for the increase in class struggle that we have already witnessed in the rest of Latin America.

Despite the passing of this law and the increased harassment and repression against youth and working class organisations, the government is increasingly unpopular. Today, the overwhelming majority of the population of El Salvador looks forward to the victory of the FMLN in the forthcoming elections of 2008. The ruling class is increasingly desperate, faced with a worsening economic situation and the increased resistance of the population against the attacks of the Antonio Saca government.

They can feel the Latin American revolution breathing down their neck. The victory of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the Oaxaca commune in 2006 have been a source of inspiration for millions of workers who are eager to settle accounts with ARENA and the ruling class in general.

The Mario Belloso videos

Mario Belloso has made a come back into the public scene with a high profile arrest and with a video statement which is alleged to be more than 8 hours long, from which so far only a few minutes have been released. In these fragments, which we could call the Adventures of Mario Pinocchio, he involves in his actions all the main leading figures of the FMLN, confesses to flights to Cuba and Venezuela, weapons caches and other fairy tales, all of this with the alleged aim of killing two UMO officers. The moral of the story is aimed at the FMLN leaders: "Do not use the only weapon that you have in order to win the election": mass mobilisations to struggle for better conditions and to prevent the likely electoral fraud.

The main reason why ARENA has used Mario Belloso and his fairy tales is as a warning to the FMLN leaders. They are telling them to distance themselves from "radical elements". They are not referring to the ultra-left elements, but above all, they are demanding that they distance themselves from the aspirations of the working class and their methods of struggle. The ruling class want the FMLN leaders to renege on its social base of support. Their methods will include false trials, and bought witnesses who will even swear that pigs can fly if need be, like Mario Belloso.

It is interesting to note that the ruling class has enmeshed itself in this web of falsifications, instead of trying the tried and tested methods of the right wing of El Salvador by which, when there are two parties in dispute they eliminate both and problem solved. Now they are forced to resort to judges, tribunals, videos and investigations, which is a sign of weakness on their part and of fear of the response of the youth and workers' movement.

The ruling class is divided over how much they can tighten the noose. It is not by chance that Belloso's public statement has been delayed several times, they are not sure what effect open repression on the FMLN leaders will have. This is why they have concentrated their fire on other organisations on the periphery of the FMLN. In particular, they have attacked the Peoples' Youth Block (BPJ) by trying to involve them in the killings of the police officers, precisely because they know that this is a dangerous organisation, as it has the sympathy and support of thousands of FMLN members, because of its policies of firm defence of the interests of Salvadorean workers and youth.

So that the case does not go cold, they have now arrested another scapegoat, Edwin René Sánchez Canjura, 44, who was captured on July 11, accused of being a direct accomplice of Belloso. There is not much information about this case, but it seems clear that the ruling class is vacillating, as they have not yet dared accuse openly FMLN leaders.

Faced with this situation the workers movement should not be on the defensive. A national and international campaign in defence of the democratic freedoms of assembly, expression, reunion and demonstration should be organised from all layers of the FMLN. This is the only way in which the workers can defend the democratic rights they have won, linking the struggle for democratic rights with the economic demands of the working class. The FMLN, rather than giving in to the pressure of the ruling class and distancing themselves from the more radical elements in its ranks, should put itself at the head of the struggle of the workers, students, poor peasants, using the traditional methods of struggle of the working class, mass mobilisations and the general strike, this is the best way to cut across the temptation on the part of the youth to use crazy ultra-left methods which only serve to strengthen reaction.

No attacks on working class organisations!

Down with the Anti-Terrorist Law!

Freedom political prisoners!

Defend and demand democratic rights through general strike!

No to individual terrorism, for the organisation of the working class in the FMLN, trade unions and revolutionary organisations to put power in the hands of the oppressed majority!

For a policy based on workers' democracy and socialism in the FMLN


See also:
Solidarity » Solidarity Appeals