Apr 04, 2012 Walt Shepperd Uncategorized
Born and raised in Syracuse, Ursula Rozum developed a conscience about El Salvador in a religion class at Bishop Ludden High School. “There was a lot of focus on social justice and peace,” she recalls. “In the tenth grade we watched the film Romero, about the Archbishop of El Salvador, killed by a Salvadoran army officer, a graduate of the U.S. based School of the Americas.” Her interest expanded through involvement with a Central New York support network for the people of Columbia. She traveled to that country, now the top recipient of U.S. military aide in the Americas, to observe what she describes as a totally disastrous War on Drugs.
Rozum is recently returned from a trip to the country of her initial interest as an election observer with the Committee in Solidarity with the people of El Salvador. Raising about $1,700 for the journey, she reflects, “As an elections observer I really didn’t have many expectations. I’m involved in electoral politics in Syracuse [she will, at some point, be a candidate for the local Green Party] and wanted to see how elections functioned, and how parties mobilized for elections in Salvador, where left wing parties have been successful in making inroads in the government.”
Not much fraud, not much violence, not much turnout
“We did expect fraud,” she observes, “basically because there had been fraud in previous years, but we were very surprised that this year there were very low instances of recorded instances of fraud, or recorded instances of violence. The ballots used to have flags on them [representing the political parties’, part of that has to do with the high illiteracy rate in El Salvador. This year was the first year where candidates’ faces appeared on the ballot. In the city of San Salvador there were over 200 candidates. The ballot was huge, like about an 11 by 17 piece of paper. There were some electoral reforms. El Salvador receives a significant amount of aide from the U.S. toward democracy in governance. The new ballots are part of that, to make the process more transparent.”
Rozum was disappointed by the turnout. “The turnout was very low,” she notes, “disappointing, 50 percent of those eligible didn’t vote, despite the expanded presidential voting. People have little faith in their political parties, partially because the FMLN [the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] finally came into power as a political party and hasn’t been able to expand the benefits of its reforms to the majority of Salvadorians. They’ve only been able to really reach out to the people who have been most marginalized. There is serious abject poverty in rural areas, no health clinics, no schools, no sanitation.”
What to do with an expanded conscience
Rozum says that pursuing these issues is not part of her day job as an organizer at the Syracuse Peace Council, although she finds a supportive environment there. “I would like to meet with people who have struggled with the issues of drugs and decriminalization in relation to Central American policies,” she maintains. “El Salvador is now the newest front in the U.S. War on Drugs. We’re spending so much money on building prisons and sending weapons to Central America, and it’s not working to stop drug use in the U.S. I haven’t figured out how to make it happen yet, but we’ll start with a forum at la Casita on the Westside, 109 Otisco Street, May 17 at 6:30 p.m.” For information, call Ursula at 472-5478.