Marisela Ramirez is part of the leadership of the Resistance and Popular Rebellion Block, a cooperation of several resistance groups against the authoritarian leadership of the Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele. She learned to struggle for freedom from her mother and gets inspired by the veterans in the movement, who once waged a guerrilla struggle in the country. She talks about her struggle with Fréderike Geerdink, host of Avaşîn Podcast.
What is the source of your struggle?
Marisela Ramirez: “The initial source of my struggle, I believe, was my mother. She’s a teacher, and her work is to talk to the people about their rights and how to fight for those rights. She always spent her time visiting the communities, especially those communities that had been harshly affected by the war in our country, since the history of our country has been characterized by many military dictatorships. So her work made us get closer to this reality, to this history, and it was the first direct contact I had with the struggle of the Salvadoran people.
So, from that moment on, I became more and more involved… I became more aware of the reality and the injustice in our country.”
And how did you get involved in the Resistance and Popular Rebellion Block?
“First, I joined a student organization called Salvadoran Student Force. I decided to join because one of the fields where the inequality in El Salvador becomes visible is the lack of access to public, free and quality education. I applied to enter a university, but I didn’t get through, allegedly because my score wasn’t high enough. I decided to join a student organization to defend my right and fight for my right to education. That’s when I realized that thousands of people had the same problem and I decide to stay in that organization and promote a struggle for demands of the student movement. Afterwards, the context in our country changes; in 2019, we move from a leftist government to a fascist government lead by President Bukele. The Salvadoran Student Force decided to join the Resistance and Popular Rebellion Block, which are different organizations that fight as a block against anti-popular policies of Nayib Bukele’s dictatorial government.”
“We believe that the Nayib Bukele government is a dictatorial regime because of the policies they are taking, are affecting common people in El Salvador. Firstly, because the living conditions of people have deteriorated, eliminating social programs that minimized the impact of poverty in our country, but moreover, significant setbacks in terms of democracy. He carried out several coups in 2020 against a Congress in which he didn’t have a majority. Moreover, he militarized the country when the pandemic started; he also carried out an effective coup against the Constitutional Court, ignoring the independence of powers within a State and he has started, since he initiated his mandate, to politically persecute leaders from the popular and social movement, also from the only leftist party that exists here in El Salvador, the FMLN. He also approved several laws to facilitate eavesdropping which, in the end, seek to intrude people’s privacy. So, we believe this government of Nayib Bukele has fascistic features. The image that is being created by his overwhelming communication campaign makes him look like a progressive person, a Messiah, a savior for our country.”
What is the goal of the Block?
“The most important goal of the Block is to unmask Bukele’s government because it shows itself as a progressive government, dedicated to the people. For us it is very important to stop this neo-fascist lead encouraged by Bukele, because it is very probable that his activities lead to the total annihilation of the social forces that are pointing at and unmasking all these policies with fascist characteristics within our country. The Resistance and Popular Rebellion Block want to build a force that allows for the transformation of Salvadoran society, a more just society, a more educated and humane society, and while the Bukele government continues governing only for the richest people of our country, we won’t be able to do so, we won’t be able to build an equitable society.”
“In the beginning, demonstrations were very small. During the first one, some 400 people mobilized because people loved Bukele. They believed in the saviour-figure his media campaign managed to build; many people would even attack us at that moment! But we didn’t stop fighting, and over the year, we continued promoting our struggle through banners, through graffiti, through street blockades… All of this, combined with the policies that were implemented by Bukele, increased the feeling and made people identify and understand that Bukele is not the person he says he is and that he is not favouring the most vulnerable sectors of society.
I believe that the biggest demonstrations were in September and October, when more than 30.000 people mobilized, denouncing and unmasking all these policies. Specifically, in September, there was a big setback in terms of people’s rights in El Salvador. Now, people are asking permanently when the next protest is going to take place when we will get out on the streets again, and, in this sense, the Block plays an important role in convoking those activities. The organizations that are part of the Block are strengthening their constituencies one at a time; every organization is accumulating militancy.”
There has been a civil war in El Salvador in the past. Are you in touch with the guerrilla fighters of those days?
“Yes, there is a group within the Resistance and Social Rebellion Block who are war veterans. I personally admire these people a lot, I think that the fact that they spend their best years in the context of war and they still keep on fighting should be evaluated. They are the most beautiful reference we have within our movement, that, in spite of their illnesses and in spite of their age, in spite of their poor living conditions, they continue committed to this struggle. They are the best example of not giving up, not losing hope and not waning into resignation. They tell us so, they speak to us and say: If I don’t fix this, this won’t change. I can’t wait for somebody to arrive and save the world for me. So for me they are the most admirable expression of the movement: the war veterans.”
Listen to the whole conversation at Avaşîn Podcast!