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San Salvador government evicts 500 vendors to build National Library

After El Salvador's government denounced Taiwan and swore allegiance to Beijing, the Chinese government promised to build a new National Library. With the project underway and a form of martial law in place, hundreds of self-employed vendors have nowhere to go.

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — As the government of San Salvador revitalizes the Historic City Center and constructs a National Library, self-employed street vendors become forcibly evicted. In April, the mayor’s office evicted more than 2,000 vendors. A new announcement from the mayor points to the removal of another 500 vendors.

The National Library project came as the result of a promise made by the People’s Republic of China in 2019. President Xi Jinping committed to building the library and a stadium. He also entered tourism agreements when El Salvador changed its public allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing.

Now, the streets that housed hundreds of vendors for years remain empty. The San Salvador mayor’s office says it reached an agreement with the evicted vendors. However, the government failed to share a clear plan for the vendors. The vendors demonstrated with posters stating they were not withdrawing willingly. Some reports claimed vendors had to vacate in a day of the announcement.

Projects receive resources from China

Back in March 2022, El Salvador implemented an Exception Regime. Akin to martial law in some countries, it seeks to battle increasing homicide rates. Some vendors held posters saying citing threats made by the regime to forcibly remove them. While the Exception Regime initially had a 30-day expiration, the government has renewed it five times.

According to the Human Rights Commission, multiple agencies “have raised concerns about human rights violations.” They directly cite the implementation of the state of exception.

The Chinese-funded National Library represents one of several cooperation projects with Bukele’s government after the meeting with the Chinese President. Bukele met Xi Jinping in Beijing in December 2019. Government officials said the old building led to constant loss of books and archives. In addition to the modern library, China has donated the resources to make a tourist pier in La Libertad. They also provided resources for a national stadium and a water treatment plant on Lake Ilopango.

All photographs by Fatima Lourdes Padilla Acosta.

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Fatima Lourdes Padilla Acosta, 23, goes by the nickname Amaranta. Armanta has worked primarily in audiovisual mediums for agencies, foundations, and on short films. She is passionate about producing documentaries and the audiovisual process around themes of social reality, human rights, and gender perspective. Armanta has worked as a camera assistant, in lighting, and photography for short films about forced motherhood in adolescents and young people, lesbian visibility, and the prevention of gender violence. She currently works as a Communicator and Audiovisual Production Consultant for the "I Control - Stop Violence" program with UN Women, the Many More Foundation, and the Spotlight Initiative.