Wednesday, June 16, 2010

“Linked to the FMLN? Get out of Canada.”

So says Canadian authorities in case of Salvadorean refugee claimant
by René Guerra Salazar
BASICS Issue #20 July/Aug 2010

In a Kafkaesque turn of events, Salvadorean refugee claimant José Figueroa, a married father of three Canadian-born children, was ordered deported by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for his past ties to the Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation (FMLN). The FMLN is El Salvador’s current governing party and was the opposition guerrilla coalition during the country’s 12-year civil war. IRB member Otto Nupponen issued the deportation order based on arguments from Ministry of Public Safety lawyers and a Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) report claiming that the FMLN “is or was engaged in terrorism and/or subversion”.

For thousands of Canadians of Salvadorean origin this is an outrage. Proud of their ties to the FMLN, Salvadorean-Canadians are bewildered at the decisions made by the relevant Canadian authorities in this case.

During El Salvador’s civil war, the FMLN insurgency was a broad leftist coalition of political and guerrilla forces struggling against a murderous right wing Salvadorean military regime that targeted its own civilian population, violated human rights with impunity, and sustained entrenched socio-economic injustice. José Figueroa and tens of thousands of others made the heroic choice to stand up and fight tyranny. Indeed, the FMLN insurgency was quickly recognized internationally as legitimate and representative, as per the 1981 joint declaration by the French and Mexican governments. In 1992, peace and democracy came to El Salvador precisely because of the FMLN’s dogged resistance, which ultimately forced the U.S.-financed Salvadorean state to negotiate an end to hostilities under the auspices of the United Nations.

Since then, the FMLN transitioned into a political party that has steadily become the country’s leading political force. Since 2006, it has the most seats of all parties in the Salvadorean Legislature and governs more than half the Salvadorean population at the municipal level. And on March 15, 2009, Salvadoreans elected FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes as their President, a historic moment for Salvadoreans everywhere. Indeed, the Canadian government recognized that election process as “free and fair” and was represented during President Funes’ inauguration by Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas) Peter Kent.

So what gives?

For José, the situation is almost laughable, were it not for the very real, if ludicrous, deportation order hanging over his, and consequently, his family’s heads. As he continues his fight to stay in Canada (he’s applied for a Federal Court judicial review of the IRB’s decision), José has found several other cases of Salvadoreans caught in the same contradictory bureaucratic and ideological web. In one prominent case, Eugenio Chicas, a Salvadorean judge and president of El Salvador’s equivalent to Elections Canada, was detained at Pearson airport for several hours after being flagged by CBSA agents for his current and past association with the FMLN. Over the course of the civil war, Chicas was a high-ranking guerrilla commander. He was eventually released and reports suggest that the Canadian government apologized to the judge.

Can we trust that the Canadian government will be so gracious in the Figueroa case? Perhaps. But just in case, Salvadorean-Canadians and their allies across Canada are mobilizing to pressure the relevant Canadian authorities to reverse the deportation order against Mr. Figueroa and to clearly and categorically recognize that the FMLN is not, and never has been, a terrorist organization!

René Guerra Salazar is an FMLN party member and organizer with Barrio Nuevo, which has launched a campaign in support of the Figueroa family.

1 comment:

  1. Just to add to what Rene wrote regarding Jose Figueroa. If anyone wants to help with the campaign to support the Figueroa family there are a number of things you can do

    1. Download a copy of the petition and gather signatures from friends and family members... see link for petition

    2. Contact your MP and ask them if they will bring the petition to Parliment.

    2. Help support Jose's legal fees -send a donation c/o Jose to the Walnut Grove Luthern church in Langley BC where Jose is a member

    3. Write to the Minister of Immigration, Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Foreign affairs and demand that this mistkae be fixed and Jose's deportation order be revoked.

    4. There are many ways to help...

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions