Thursday, June 02, 2005

Competing views of Saca's first year

Tony Saca delivered a report to the country on the first year of his administration, while thousands of demonstrators in various cities across the country sent a different message. Basking in polls showing that he has high approval rates among the population, Saca delivered the upbeat message which is his trademark. He claimed that policies like Super Firm Hand were improving the security of the people. The president repeated his call for opposition parties to meet him around the table to discuss problems of the country. He emphasized the importance of continuing strong relations with the US. Although acknowledging that CAFTA alone would not be a panacea, he predicted an improvement in economic development.

Outside the demonstrators painted a different picture. Demonstrators protested over the economic conditions in the country, particularly high levels of poverty, unemployment and the rising cost of living in the country. They pointed to the thousands of Salvadorans who seek to emigrate, legally or illegally, for a better life in the US or elsewhere. They point to the high murder rates and gang problems and a sense that the ARENA government is run for the benefit of a small group of business people. They protested against the government's inability to provide safe drinking water throughout the country and demonstrated against CAFTA.

Crime statistics released on the same day as Saca's speech seriously undermined his assertion that progress was being made on the crime and gang problem in the country. Homicides in May were at the highest level since January, and the country was on a pace to significantly exceed the 2768 murders committed in 2004:

MonthNumber of murders
2004 Total2768

Source: PNC statistics published in El Mundo

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