Hundreds of members of El Salvador’s largest labor union rallied Friday to protest what they called U.S. intervention in their country as senior ministers from throughout Latin America met in the capital.
While foreign ministers and their top deputies gathered on the fifth day of the Organization of American States’ annual session, about 300 members of the center-left Salvadoran Workers Unity marched through the heavily guarded streets of San Salvador.
The union activists marched to the plush Sheraton Hotel, where the 31-nation OAS was holding a general assembly session, but authorities refused to deliver a communique from them to Secretary-General Joao Clemente Baena Soares.
In the confrontation, soldiers backed by an armored military vehicle stopped the demonstrators 100 yards from the hotel, but an aide to Soares came out and received the communique.
The message, copies of which were released to reporters, urged the OAS to persuade the U.S.-backed Salvadoran government to “pressure the United States to stop participating in the war against the people.”
The protesters accused the United States of inflicting “tragedy and genocide against our people.”
The Reagan Administration has given the Salvadoran government--facing both a leftist insurgency and sporadic violence sparked by right-wing vigilantes--$3 billion in economic and military aid since 1980.
Ministers at the OAS session focused on the region’s civil wars, the Latin American debt crisis and drug trafficking.
The union protesters urged the organization “to make greater efforts to make the OAS a political forum for the autonomy of Latin American countries.”
Union leader Marco Tulio Lima said Soares “must read the note carefully” and see that “repression against cooperatives by the (Salvadoran) government and the armed forces is a constant violation of (human rights) and that arrests, disappearances and mass murders” are common.
Benjamin Cestoni, head of the federal Human Rights Commission, said the unionists’ rally proved the absence of government repression.