Saturday, February 12, 2005

Proceso - On Poverty and 13 years since the peace accords

The 13th anniversary of the Salvadoran peace accords was in January 2005.
Proceso
, a newsletter of the Jesuit-run University of Central America, published an article to commemorate the anniversary which looks at the political and economic progress in the country since 1992. Proceso is no fan of the current ARENA government, but will also criticize the FMLN party of the left:


In order to come closer to the actual meaning of the Peace Accords, it is necessary to take a closer look at its most important achievements.

1. The civil war ended. No one will be able, ever, to say how good it was for the society to end with the civil war.

2. The Armed Forces were purged and now they are no longer a part of the political life.

3. The FMLN dissolved the guerrilla structure, and it became a legally established political party.

4. The Office for the Defense of the Human Rights and the National Civilian Police were created.

5. The reform process of the judicial system began.

All of these important achievements would be unthinkable without the Peace Accords. All of these achievements were fundamentally political, and have been the key to keep, for thirteen years and with all of the problems that come along with it, the incipient Salvadoran democratic order. The Salvadoran democracy can be as weak as anyone might think it is, but it surely would not even exist if the Peace Accords had not ended with the war, if they had not purged the Armed Forces, and allowed the conversion of the FMLN into a political party.


But the essay goes on to note that these changes were not matched by changes in the economic structures of society in El Salvador. The absence of such reform has left El Salvador continuing to struggle with the social problems stemming from the inequality in the distribution of the resources of the country:

When the Peace Accords were signed no one detected the terrible mistake committed by the FMLN. In the discussions held with the government, the FMLN was seen at an equal level, an institution able to paralyze the country, an institution that had to be part of an agreement. It had both territorial and military power; in fact, the best aspect of the political reform cannot be understood without the capacity that the FMLN had to make a military political pressure. The FMLN was never in better conditions to conceive, articulate, and execute the political reform along with the economic one. However, they approached these subjects as a couple of parallel realities, not as a couple of realities that had to be blended together.

As a result of all this, we not only have an extremely weak democracy, always threatened by the lack of governance, but also an economic model that, through the exclusion and the poverty that it creates, undermines and debilitates the advances of democracy. In other words, we have the consolidation of an economic model that, far from being coherent with the political achievements of the Peace Accords, it is actually a threat for such goals. This is the drama of El Salvador: a violent peace prevails, not the violence of the war, but the violence of poverty, the exclusion, and marginalization. There are reasons to celebrate the 13th Anniversary of the Peace Accords, but also there are reasons to complain for losing a great opportunity -to build a new socioeconomic order- because of the myopia and the ambitions of those who time and time and again had proclaimed not to be interested in anything but the well-being of the majorities.

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