Medio ambiente

Hundreds of Salvadorans march against water privatization

San Salvador, Mar 20 (efe-epa).- Some 500 people marched Wednesday in the Salvadoran capital to demand that lawmakers move immediately to approve a long-stalled constitutional measure making access to water a human right.

The march, from the University of El Salvador (UES) to the seat of congress, came in response to an agreement reached Monday by a key committee in the Legislative Assembly to include representatives of industry and agri-business on the board of the National Water Authority.

Organized by UES with help from a range of civic groups, the procession was led by university chancellor Roger Arias, who urged Salvadorans to remain in the streets until water is recognized as a human right and a resource exclusively under public management.

At the end of the protest, several organizers tried to enter congress, but were stopped by security guards.

The assembly speaker, Norman Quijano, had already decided to suspend Wednesday's session "to protect the integrity of the employees, visitors and lawmakers."

"Considering the background of previous protests ... today's plenary session is suspended," he wrote on Twitter.

Quijano, a member of the right-wing Arena party, was referring to disturbances that occurred at the end of a march last June, when a group of people tried to enter the assembly building by force, though without causing any injuries or damage.

The idea of including private-sector representatives in water management is supported by Arena and other parties ranging from center-right to right, while the governing leftist FMLN is opposed.

El Salvador's outgoing president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, said Tuesday that the Legislative Assembly should "heed the clamor of the people and not approve a law that privatizes water management."

Salvadoran lawmakers have spent years trying to pass a General Water Law amid opposition from many sectors, including the Catholic Church, who say the real intent behind the legislation is privatization of water.

Those sectors instead want congress to ratify a constitutional measure adopted in 2012 that proclaims access to water as a human right.

A 2016 study by the national ombud's office concluded that water shortages - which have gotten worse with climate change - will make life in El Salvador impossible within 80 years.