El Salvador: bakers march against high price of grain

From the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), March 3:
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On February 20 more than three thousand Salvadoran bakers participated in a march to protest the high cost of flour and other commodities used by their sector. The marchers demanded that the government step in to alleviate the crisis by means of a subsidy. Thousands of Salvadoran families remain unable to put bread on the table, in part due to the rising cost of flour, which bakers are then forced to pass along to their customers.

Heriberto Hernández, vice-president of an independent bakers’ organization, declared that “it is a lie that we can compete with the transnational companies, and for this reason we are motivated to be in the streets exerting pressure.” Hernández based his organization’s demand of a government subsidy on the precedent set in December 2007 when the Legislative Assembly approved a specific subsidy to offset rising fuel costs in the transportation sector. The bakers seek a similar subsidy to ensure that bread is affordable in the country.

According to official statistics, the prices of flour, butter and yeast have doubled in the past year. According to El Salvador’s Minster of the Economy, Yolanda de Gavidia, the skyrocketing costs for bakers are the result of high prices for wheat on the international market. In her statement, de Gavidia did not mention the broader economic crisis facing the country.

In support of the bakers’ demands, legislators representing the FMLN opposition party put forward a law providing for a wheat subsidy in the Legislative Assembly on February 21. The right wing bloc in the Assembly promptly defeated the proposal, recommending instead that a “more technical study” be carried out, according to Francisco Merino, deputy from the PCN party. FMLN deputy Gerson MartĂ­nez stated that the proposal seeks “to defend the bread on the table of the Salvadoran family,” and that its approval should not be put off until a later date.

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