Central America: May Day marches protest neoliberalism

In Panama, thousands of workers marched on May 1 to oppose the neoliberal economic policies of President Ricardo Martinelli’s government, which they said was seeking to “take the workers back to the labor conditions of the 19th century.” They protested an increase in prices of staple goods, an increase in consumption taxes, government plans for labor “reform,” and a law which imposes prison sentences of up to two years for blocking traffic during protests—an effort “to stop the unions and to criminalize social protest,” according to Mariano Mena, director of the National Coordinating Committee of Organized Workers.

In El Salvador, more than 75,000 people marched in San Salvador to demand that the government of President Mauricio Funes, of the leftist Farabundo MartĂ­ Front for National Liberation (FMLN), “comply with the change” that he promised and not let himself “be seduced” by the right. There were two other May Day marches in the capital, ending with a large rally in the central Gerardo Barrios plaza, where more than 100,000 people gathered, according to the unions.

In Honduras, tens of thousands of people marched in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and other cities to protest a June 28, 2009 military coup and to promote demands for a Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Constitution. The Honduran labor movement forms a large part of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP), a coalition that formed to oppose the coup.

The colorful Tegucigalpa march included protesters dressed as devils, monkeys and white gorillas; two marchers in prison uniforms wore signs identifying them as coup leaders Roberto Micheletti and Gen. Romeo Vásquez Velásquez. The rightwing Tegucigalpa daily La Tribuna estimated the crowd at more than 100,000; organizers claimed over 500,000.

In Guatemala, thousands of workers protested an anti-immigrant measure in the US state of Arizona, Immigration Law SB1070, which was signed into law on April 23. They also demonstrated their opposition to local mining and drilling operations, which they said cause “irreparable” damage to ecosystems. “We don’t want more violations in the areas around our communities,” said campesino leader Daniel Pascual. “We demand that they respect the results of the community consultations we’ve carried out, which rejected practices that go against our Mother Earth.” (El Nuevo Diario, Nicaragua, May 1 from AFP; Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador, May 1 from AFP; Vos el Soberano, Honduras, May 1; Honduras Culture and Politics, May 2)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 2.

See our last post on Central America and the May Day mobilization.