The Fight for the Right to Water in Suchitoto, El Salvador

An Active Generation, Creating Changes

Water forum, in Suchitoto, ES. March 31, 2017.

As part of a campaign for the approval of a law for integrated water management in El Salvador, the forum “Water, public patrimony and life in Suchitoto” took place this past March 31st in the Alejandro Cotto theater, where more than 370 people gathered. They hoped to learn more about the efforts and proposals related to establishing regulations in activities that affect the integrated management of water, with the ultimate purpose of guaranteeing the sustainability of and human right to water, in a way that will also advance gender equality. Attendees and special guests included the president and secretary of the environmental and climate change commission of the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, independent consultant and defender of environmental rights Yanira Cortéz, Mayor of Suchitoto Pedrina Rivera, representatives of various non-governmental organizations, community systems independent of the administration of water, ecological groups, school centers, and community leaders.

This persistent battle began over a decade ago, as social organizations in 2006 presented a proposal for the General Law of Water, then in 2011 and 2013 they presented updates and revisions to the same law, and also brought to the Legislative Assembly a proposal for the law of the sub-sector of potable water and sanitation; up until now none of these proposals have been addressed or discussed.

This proposal to guarantee the sustainability of water in the municipality of Suchitoto is indicative of the struggle and resistance that has gone on now for over 10 years. It brings to mind the event which happened July 1 and 2, 2007, in which activists and community leaders suffered violence and repression at the hands of the armed forces and political bodies as a response to their efforts to defend their rights in the face of the intentions of President Antonio Saca to commercialize water resources and along with that the entire community’s general well-being.

Panelists at water forum in Suchitoto, ES. March 31, 2017.

Sandra Guatemala, one of the leaders arrested after protesting in defense of water in July 2007 told us about the experience.

“We were 14 people that the armed force detained without saying another word, telling us, ‘You are the activists, get out of that car.’ They made us get down and they took us to the patrol, where they took us in handcuffs to the Suchitoto delegation,” Guatemala said.

From then on the dispute for human rights has been the battle flag for many institutions and communities in the municipality.

About 370 people gathered for the water forum, in Suchitoto, ES. March 31, 2017.

“It’s important that the Law of Water includes fundamental points about: public gestation, sustainability, gender perspectives, watershed management and community rights that give legal backing to the more than 2,000 boards for water management that exist in the country,” stated Carlos Flores in the forum for water in El Salvador last Friday.

In the words of the presidente of the environmental and climate change commission of the Legislative Assembly, Dr. Guillermo Francisco Mata Bennet, action to address the topic of water in the country is necessary and urgent.

“El Salvador in this moment is experiencing a problem called hydrological stress, which means that it’s experiencing a series of situations that are making the water a scarce resource. True, there is water, but most of it is bad quality. Before we finish our legislative term we would like to approve the law of water,” said Mata.

Suchitoto will become a reference for the entire country in demanding approval for the General Law of Water

On May 28th, Suchitoto will hold a very important event, in which the people will defend their land and their rights, saying “Yes! To the Human Right of Water!”

Seeking the priorities of the territory through establishing compromises with the municipal government to ensure efficient use of the resources in all sectors, the people of Suchitoto will show their citizen muscle by participating and making their voices heard through popular demonstration and consultation, in which they’ll aim to have at least 40% of the local community in Suchitoto present, saying, “Yes!”

What is the role of the youth of Suchitoto in the context of this great event?

SERES ambassadors at the water forum, in Suchitoto, ES. March 31, 2017.

Wilson Sánchez, 22, is a youth leader and ambassador for SERES, and president of the community board of El Papaturro. He affirms that it’s very important that the youth participate in the process that is being brought to the municipal level, since they are a big part of the population that is in some senses represented by youth.  

“We need to empower ourselves and take a hold of this movement. More participation from the youth of Suchitoto will make this process considered as the motor for the emergence of an empowered generation, capable of prioritizing any effort to achieve sustainability, for this same generation and for future generations,” stated Wilson.   

-Susana Ruiz, SERES facilitator

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