March 29, 2006

US Embassy Denies Visa to Salvadoran Unionist to Speak on Resistance to Privatization of Water

On Thursday, March 23, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador denied Salvadoran union leader Wilfredo Romero a visa to come to the U.S. to attend a conference and speak about his union’s activism in El Salvador. Romero is Secretary General of SETA, the public water workers’ union in El Salvador that is actively leading a campaign to resist attempts to privatize water under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). He went to his visa appointment on Thursday at the Embassy in San Salvador, where his application was quickly rejected. Romero had documentation showing that he is a 26-year veteran worker at the public water company and is the current SETA General Secretary. However, the Consulate denied him the visa, without even reviewing the letters of invitation from U.S. unions or the other documents he had prepared.

The organization Labor Notes invited Romero to participate in their bi-annual conference in Michigan scheduled for May 5-7, 2006. The conference brings together labor activists from the US and around the world to discuss the defense of worker rights, and Romero is scheduled to share his experience as a SETA leader who is working to defend union members from government cutbacks and the threat of water privatization. He will also speak about how SETA is participating in the larger coalition to defend public management of water for all Salvadorans.

According to Romero, “I was asked two brief questions and my application was summarily denied. I was never given the opportunity to show the ample documentation which demonstrates my lifelong dedication to my union and the workers at ANDA. In short, I was not given adequate opportunity to prove my case.” The only reason the Consulate gave for the visa denial was that he had not proved sufficient ties to El Salvador, the same excuse they have given to at least 20 other Salvadoran community organizers who have been denied visas to come to the U.S. for educational tours and exchanges over the last 12 months. Since Salvadoran labor and community organizers with the same kinds of “ties” to El Salvador as Romero has have been issued visas for these kinds of exchanges in the past, it seems that this argument is merely a pretext for a new policy at the Embassy of preventing voices of resistance in El Salvador from coming to the U.S.

With the implementation of CAFTA and the attempts to privatize remaining public services in El Salvador, it is more critical than ever that workers across borders are able to share experiences and build common strategies. Take action to demand that the U.S. Consulate grant Romero a visa to come to the U.S. for the Labor Notes conference.


1. Write to the Consul General of the US Embassy in El Salvador to demand that Romero immediately be granted a visa.

Virgina Hotchner, Consul General of the US Embassy in San Salvador -Fax: 011(503)2278-5522,

2. Report back on your discussion or send a copy of your message and any reply to Krista at the CISPES National Office:

Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador- 130 West 29th St 9th Floor, New York, NY 10001 • 212-465-8115 • FAX: 212-465-8998


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