Possible privatization of water sparks outcry in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR – Thousands of people protested in El Salvador against a proposal that could privatize water services. Protesters demanded that the government won’t give the private sector the management of the service. The public concern is mainly based on the repercussions the law could bring to the poor.

The streets were filled with thousands protesters marching against the integral water bill, which comprises the privatization of water service in El Salvador. Protesters denounced the attempt of right-wing coalitions to take control of the water service. That would be possible by giving the private sector the management of water and sanitation services. The protest was led by the Alliance Against Privatization of Water, composed of several organizations in defense of society like the “Water Forum,” the “Social Alliance for Governance and Justice,” the “National Health Forum,” and many others.

According to the news website Solo Noticias, protesters took Masferrer square as a starting point for a march through the streets of San Salvador. The arrival point was “Salvador del Mundo” square where the crowd claimed “we ask the international community to pronounce against the integral water bill, which implies privatization of water. Water shouldn’t become a commodity.”

The University of El Salvador also joined the protest against the law. A multitude of students marched from the university’s headquarters to the legislative palace. The aim is to make politicians reconsider the law. Roger Arias, the rector of the university, was the leader of the protest. According to the university’s website El Universitario, Arias said “as well as education and health, water is a human right. Therefore, we can’t just sit back and do nothing about this threat against water.”

Moreover, the rector explained how privatization of water would affect the poorest. “When you put a price to a service that is essential for life, there are two options left: paying the price or dying of thirst. No doubt there will be people who won’t be able to pay the price, so coming wars around the world will be for water and not for ideologies or social classes,” said Arias. Finally, Arias delivered the assembly a letter demanding not to continue discussing the water bill.

Privatization of water also has a background in Chile; the Canadian NGO Blue Planet Project BPP considers Chile as the country with the most privatized water worldwide. According to the NGO, privatization began in 1981, when the Water Code was set. According to that law, water was defined as a “national public good” but also defined as a “market asset,” making its privatization possible. Ever since, water in Chile has been a commodity, resulting in a violation of the fundamental right to water. As a growing country, it is expected that within the following years, a new law for free water is set up in Chile.

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