Violence racks universities, unions as U.S. considers aid
By Charley MacMartin and Aurolyn Luykx
November 1989; pages 10-11; Volume 1, No. 2
Study and Struggle at the National University of El Salvador
On Saturday, April 21, University of El Salvador Economics professor, Randolfo Tejada Heredia, exited the building where he gave a weekend course. It was a typically hot and dusty morning in the capital, San Salvador. He crossed the street to where he had left his car parked earlier in the morning. Upon opening the driver's door, his car exploded. The blast killed Tejada Heredia instantly and was powerful enough to damage nearby buildings.
Out of context, the killing has little meaning. University officials and students, though, are all too familiar with the context. Two days before Tejada's death, a University of El Salvador (UES) agronomy student was captured by armed, plain clothes men. And on the following Tuesday, April 24, a UES economics student was captured in a similar manner.
UES student leaders describe these incidents as part of a campaign of repression against the UES community. The University of El Salvador is the 149 year-old institution of higher education in El Salvador that maintains a commitment to educating El Salvador's rural and urban poor. The UES equally defends its role as the academic gadfly of Salvadoran society, analyzing social ills and their roots.
For these commitments, the UES community of 40,000 teachers and students pays a high price. Under the current National Republican Alliance (ARENA) government, this price is the closing since November last year of the UES main campus in San Salvador.
Last November, Salvadoran Army and ARENA leaders accused the UES community of harboring guerrillas of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) during their military offensive. The campus was closed and members of the UES community - including the editor of the university student newspaper - were killed.
Since that time, UES officials have attempted to reclaim the campus from Salvadoran Army occupation. UES President, Luis Argueta Antillon, explains, "ARENA uses its possession of our campus as a bargaining chip to try to replace the university leadership and turn this public institution into an expensive, private one."
During 1990, the UES community has operated "in exile," using rented office space and high school classrooms in the evening to teach classes. Conditions are a pedagogical nightmare, often with two or three classes occurring simultaneously in one room.
The University of El Salvador is not alone in its struggle to reclaim its campus. In March, all the opposition political parties in El Salvador took the unprecedented step of demanding in a paid advertisement that ARENA "respect the autonomy and educational mission of the University of El Sa1vador."
The international community has responded as well. Since January, campaigns of support have been launched by "sister universities" in the United States, Mexico, and Europe. Here at the UT Austin, Reneé Trevino participated in an end-of-April national student delegation to the UES to celebrate May Day in San Salvador and bring material aid contributions to the UES community.
Update on U.S. Aid to El Salvador
United States aid to the government of El Salvador is now a hotly debated topic in Congress, particularly in the House of Representatives. The Foreign Affairs Committee passed a supplemental aid package for Nicaragua ($300 million) and Panama ($500 million). Debate centered on an amendment that would cut 50% of military aid to El Salvador based on conditions.
Secretary of State Baker was successful in talking the Democrats out of attaching the El Salvador amendment to the supplemental package, however they did reserve the right to attach it once it reaches the House Floor. This is expected to happen in early May.
The Bush Administration, hoping to head off any debate on aid to El Salvador, will announce a proposal. This will link some U.S. resistance to specific actions by the government of El Salvador which includes internal changes in the judicial system and a commitment to the negotiations process of the United Nations. Baker will meet again with House leadership in pursuit of the elusive bipartisan consensus.
Congressman Dellums (D-CA) has an initiative that would cut all aid to El Salvador. This is supported by liberals in the House and currently has fifty-five sponsors. Dellums is expected to introduce his bill as an amendment to the Supplemental Aid Bill whether the Democratic leadership introduces an amendment or not. This will guarantee debate on the House floor on El Salvador during May.
Austin CISPES (the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) holds the position that any aid to the government of El Salvador is both immoral and a waste of U.S. taxpayers' money. Austin CISPES plans to target Congressional offices to pressure our representatives to support a cut-off of aid to El Salvador. For more information, contact Austin CISPES at [defunct phone number redacted].
Popular Movement Spotlight: ANDES
ANDES, the National Association of Salvadoran Educators, during April has fought the ARENA government over whether education in El Salvador will be a privilege of the few or the right of all Salvadorans.
ANDES leaders have been very outspoken in recent weeks in pressuring for their platform of demands. Together with 6 other associations of private and public school teachers and university professors, ANDES founded the Salvadoran Teachers Front (FMS) on March 20.
The FMS proclaimed its opposition to the proposed general education and higher education laws of ARENA being discussed by the Legislative Assembly. The teachers called the laws "fascist and anti-popular" saying that they would rollback reforms won by the teachers and promote the privatization of the education system, making it more elitist.
The FMS also stated it will struggle for the approval of the platform of demands presented recently by ANDES to the Minister of Education, which includes a salary increase and benefits for teachers as well as the creation of more teaching positions.
Because of his public role in this struggle, Jorge Villegas, leader of ANDES (National Association of Salvadoran Educators), was abducted by the National Guard on April 20. Uniformed soldiers and men in civilian dress arrived in his Soyapango home at 4:30 am and took him away in a military vehicle, according lo his wife. She said the soldiers took as evidence for his detention a public document from ANDES.
Jorge Villegas has been a leader of ANDES for many years, and has been threatened by security forces in the past. He is a past member of the ANDES executive committee.
To protest Villegas' capture, ANDES called a work stoppage on Thursday, April 26, which halted secondary school teaching in the capital, San Salvador. Villegas' capture adds to an already tense political atmosphere in El Salvador as May day - an annual workers' celebration throughout the world - approaches.
- Charley MacMartin
Popular Leader Killed in Crash
On April 8, the movement for peace and democracy in El Salvador lost a valuable organizer and a beloved friend. Jose Mazariego lived and worked knowing that his life was constantly in danger. He had been twice abducted and tortured by right-wing death squads, most recently in June of last year, days before he was supposed to come to the U.S. to testify before Congress on human rights violation in El Salvador. A flood of international pressure won his release: though he testified before Congress with the marks of torture still on his body (his legs were burned with acid so badly that for a time he was unable to walk), Congress has continued to support the military regime that carries out these barbaric acts against those who raise their voices in favor of peace.
In light of his commitment to the struggle and the many times his life had been threatened, the circumstances of Maza's death seem all the more tragic and meaningless. Such events remind us that we do not create the conditions in which we work; even while the forces of repression threaten and kill those working for peace, the risks and tragedies of everyday life continue around us, sometimes touching us where we least expect it.
Maza was well-known throughout the international solidarity movement, by those who met him in El Salvador, campaigned for his release, or heard him speak while touring the U.S. Those of us who knew him will remember a tireless organizer who, despite the obstacles and wounds that he himself suffered, was always present as a compassionate friend to those others, so many, who had also lost loved ones to government violence. Cognizant of the dangers of allowing thee movement to become dependent on a few people, Maza always worked to build leadership in others. Those efforts will live on in the brave men and women who continue the struggle for freedom and democracy, rededicating themselves through their love for their fallen companions, and for the thousands who continue to work beside them against such grave obstacles.
A memorial fund has been established by the U.S. representatives of FEASIES to carry on the work of Maza and the rest of the popular movement. Donations may be sent to: FEASIES/Mazariego Memorial Fund, PO Box 167, Corona, New York 11368. Make checks out to FEASIES/Mazariego Memorial Fund, tax deductible contributions to the NETS/Mazariego Memorial Fund. Maza, in your name we reaffirm our commitment to support the struggle for peace and freedom in El Salvador and around the world. JOSE TOMAS MAZARIEGO - ¡PRESENTE!
- Aurolyn Luykx