Thursday, May 7, 2009

What We Want: An Interview with a Salvadoran Student Activist

Below is an excerpt of an interview with Oswaldo Natarén, a student activist and founding member of the Roque Dalton University Front of the University of El Salvador, with Erica Thompson. This interview is part of a series of interviews with Salvadoran activists conducted by Upside Down World.

UDW: Tell us a little bit about the founding of the FURD and why you chose Roque Dalton as a historic figure to identify with?

The FURD was envisioned as a
new chapter in the ongoing response of students in the National University to organize ourselves and to uncover the UES’ historic role in El Salvador’s revolutionary movement. The political project of the FURD arose in 2002 out of a collective need to continue that struggle. The group continues to explore and affect the life of the University through these objectives: to examine the other side of the history that is taught to us; to discover that there are many of us who think differently than the way society has trained us (as this is the case, we often think differently than one another); and to articulate both what the University’s role in society is at the moment and what it could be. The group’s name is inspired by the revolutionary Salvadoran poet, Roque Dalton Garcia. Roque was an untiring social fighter, poet, and important political architect of the revolutionary movement in El Salvador. He completed his University training at the UES and then went on to create a great literary legacy in his time of struggle throughout the 1960s and 1970s, until his assassination at age 39. It was necessary to recover the name of this poet and his struggle because of the political and personal essence of his work.

The FURD was created with a clear leftist ideological intention – we wanted to be identified as part of the anti-imperiali
st struggle, in connection with academic political struggle. Our project changed measurably when we began to delve into the study of diverse theories that have guided different people’s struggles for human rights, but we have maintained our leftist essence. Our idea is to form a political student FRONT that incorporates University youth from various disciplines as well as University workers and faculty into the struggle. To me, the word UNIVERSITY implies our potential to come together in this institution and continue the historical legacy of the glorious Salvadoran student movement.

UDW: Describe El Salvador’s coyuntura leading into elections earlier this year. What are the social realities and political frustrations in the country that, for the present time, have translated into major political gains for the leftist FMLN party?

Well, throughout the 20 years that ARENA
(National Republican Alliance) has ruled the country, Salvadorans have faced a very difficult situation. Poverty has increased under the ARENA government and policies of social exclusion have been maintained. When the government began implementing neoliberal policies in the mid-90s - including the privatization of banks, electricity, pensions and other institutions of social benefit – El Salvador entered a new period of economic crisis. Many compatriots have been forced to leave the country in search of a basic means of survival....

To read the rest of the interview click here.

*Roque Dalton stencil by Oswaldo Natarén. Photo of Natarén courtesy of Upside Down World.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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