Saying that the Salvadoran government receives much of its financing for death squads from the sale of coffee, members of three organizations Friday urged county residents and businesses not to buy Folgers or Hills Brothers coffee.
Members of a national group, Broad Movement in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, and the Orange County Committee on Central America said at a press conference they held in Santa Ana that the coffee is a vital source of income for the government of the war-torn Central American nation.
About 60% of El Salvador's coffee, worth $400 million, is shipped to the United States. U.S. aid also helps finance the squads, members say.
Folgers, the country's best-selling coffee brand, and Hills Brothers are the focal point of the boycott because they are two of the largest manufacturers of coffee, though most coffee manufacturers buy some of their beans from El Salvador.
"We choose them because they are the big guys, and if they stop, smaller brands will hopefully follow suit," said Genevieve Crawford of the organization, Neighbor to Neighbor, a national group which started the boycott.
Crawford said the coffee earnings help finance the Salvadoran military, which is linked to death squads that are accused of killing more than 70,000 suspected rebels, their families and sympathizers over the past 10 years.
Neighbor to Neighbor began the boycott in November, shortly after the assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their cook and her teen-age daughter.
"I think it has been proven time and time again that U.S. policy in that country is a failure," Crawford said.
In a response to the boycott, Folgers said in a letter to the group that it buys coffee beans from more than 30 countries and that less than 2% of the beans it buys come from El Salvador.
The letter also said that the company agreed with the U.S. government's decision to support the government of El Salvador. The groups also plan to demonstrate Saturday outside Gelson's Market in Newport Beach.