We represent the largest democratic trade union organizations in El Salvador, representing 360,000 workers and campesinos, recently united under the umbrella of the National Union of Workers and Campesinos.
Right-wing oligarchs and Marxist-Leninist elitists are collaborating to destroy the independent trade union movement in El Salvador. They each claim to speak for us and seek to rule over us, whether we like it or not.
Our most effective weapon in the struggle for democracy is the chance to speak for ourselves. So we are particularly disappointed when a newspaper like The Post gives such inaccurate reports as the March 25 article by Rob C. McCartney, "Duarte Loses Union Backing."
McCartney claims that "organized labor, once a major source of backing for Duarte, has swung against him." His source for the misleading claim is a small group of union dissidents who organized an anti-Duarte demonstration of 7,000 people on Feb. 21 with the help of some university students. Their demonstration was openly supported by the Communist FMLN guerrillas on Radio Venceremos. Some of the union leaders, according to McCartney, "also accused the American Institute for Free Labor Development of weakening Duarte's union base."
McCartney should spend more time in El Salvador. He would then understand that there are some unions in our country, allied with the FMLN guerrillas, whose program has nothing to do with advancing the cause of workers and campesinos. They use trade union organizations to destabilize the government. They attack AIFLD because they do not want to see independent, democratic trade unions, which they cannot control. In addition, there are individuals who have lost elections in their own union organizations and who persist in claiming titles for themselves to maintain the appearance of influence.
When The Post quotes these "union leaders" it suggests that they speak for the trade union movement in El Salvador. We assure you they do not speak for the democratic trade union movement, our 360,000 members, or for us.
On March 15 our democratic union movement organized a demonstration of 65,000 people to press for reforms, democracy and peace in El Salvador. McCartney acknowledges that our demonstration was larger than the earlier one. But he claims incorrectly that our march was a "pro-Duarte demonstration," and he suggests that it was organized by the government.
The truth is that our march was sponsored and organized by trade unionists, joined together in the National Union of Workers and Campesinos. No government funds or buses were used. There were no political party banners present. We two trade unionists were the only speakers at the demonstration. We criticized the economic policies of the Duarte administration, a fact that McCartney admits. So how can he claim that our demonstration was organized by the government if it criticized the government?
We have been successful in changing some aspects of the government's economic program. We still oppose other parts of the program. That doesn't mean, as McCartney claims, that "the labor movement has become the focus of nonviolent opposition to the government in recent months."
We wish he had reported one additional fact. A few days before our demonstration, Roberto D'Aubuisson, leader of the extreme right ARENA Party, attacked our demonstration on Salvadoran television. He also spoke favorably of the FMLN guerrilla-backed union organization -- the National Unity of Salvadoran Workers (UNTS) -- which has attacked the Duarte government's land reform program. D'Aubuisson said: "Let Duarte answer the UNTS."
North Americans may think it is strange that the far right and the far left are allies against the Duarte government and the democratic trade unions. But to us, it is an old story. Both extremes know that if democracy wins in El Salvador, they lose. With enemies like that, we know we must be doing something right.