October 25, 2001

El Salvador expands alcohol ban nationwide

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) --The Salvadoran Congress has banned overnight alcohol sales nationwide but exempted beer, angering alcohol producers
who say it will benefit a ruling party leader who owns the only beer company in the country.

The Congress voted Wednesday to pass a national law already in place in various cities prohibiting the sale of alcohol during pre-dawn hours.

In August, the initial laws were passed by several cities, including the capital of San Salvador, which is ruled by the leftist opposition Farabundo Marti National Liberation
Front, a former guerrilla group. The local laws prohibited alcohol sales from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.

But the Salvador Restaurant Association rebelled and found support for their cause with rightist parties in the Congress. The Congress passed a national law changing the
alcohol ban's hours to 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and limiting it to beverages containing more than 6 percent alcohol, which would exempt beer.

That provoked the ire of the country's liquor manufacturing association, which argued that national alcohol laws define alcoholic drinks as containing alcohol levels of 2
percent or higher.

"We are asking that they don't discriminate," said association vice president Eduardo Murillo, who said the organization otherwise would consider filing a lawsuit with the
Supreme Court arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Manuel Melgar, a congressman from the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, noted the law would benefit the country's only beer manufacturer and distributor, La
Constancia, owned by ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance Party president Roberto Murray Meza.

Murray did not comment on the matter.

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