The refusal of the government led by the ARENA party to investigate responsibility for the extent of damage caused by natural disasters is similar to its refusal to look at responsibility for atrocities committed during the civil war. This critique is made in the October 19, 2005 issue of Proceso, the publication of the University of Central America, now available on its web site:
According to the present ARENA administration, both God and nature would be mainly responsible for the last national tragedy. God, because he created things in an imperfect manner, he created a country in a high-risk area, subjected to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and eruptions. Surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, many inhabitants had no choice but to build their houses in the outskirts or by a river, and these conditions make peopleÂs lives even more vulnerable. Nature, on the other hand, would play the role assigned by God and punish the population in a merciless way. This is how, with such a misleading interpretation, the country is under a permanent threat, and, therefore, people have to learn to live at risk, in a country that could become an enormous shelter full of victims. The administration of ARENA rejects any sort of investigation to establish the identity of the responsible ones. According to this party, no one is responsible for the present tragedy. This is the old argument that tries to run away from any kind of explanations. Since the war was an issue that involved everybody, nobody is responsible for it; since so many people are killing each other, no one has to give any explanations about the crimes against humankind. In summary, it is better not to wonder about whose responsibility this is, and resign ourselves to our own destiny, whatever it might be.
It is very common to try and make God responsible for the catastrophes, but this is wrong. The spirit of creation is not our enemy, or different from humankind. People, with their actions, do turn it into a menace. Therefore, it is unacceptable to say, just like President Saca does, that "we Salvadorans have been created in adversity". We are the ones that have turned the environment into adversity. To blame God for this is to overlook the irresponsible manner in which urbanizations, shopping malls, and roads have been built, an explanation that the ARENA government avoids every time its actions are questioned. The same institutional weakness, an evident factor in the lack of territorial planning and urban development, also governmental responsibilities, is another aspect that explains what happened. The governments of ARENA have under appreciated the development of the nucleus of informal power, which has replaced the juridical and the social organization of the State. The institutional weakness is the responsibility of the Executive authority, with its President leading the way, it is also the responsibility of the other two powers, of the local governments, and of some of the construction companies (those companies that the system allows to act without any boundaries, and that are not sanctioned when there are deaths or damages).
Thousands of Salvadoran families live in high-risk areas, not because God wants them to live like that, but because they have no choice. They do not have access to a safe home. They do not qualify for a loan, and the governmental housing programs do not count them among their beneficiaries. Their members do not have a permanent job, and if they do, their income hardly allows to them purchase the bare essentials. The few possessions that they have are all part of a personal sacrifice. That is why they refuse to leave their homes. They know very well that if they lose their few personal belongings, no one will support them to replace what might get lost. To lose these things means more misery. It is easy to order that people have to be evacuated, but for those who have no place to go, these orders are very hard to accept. These families do not live like this because they want to, but because they have been forced into this situation through different mechanisms.
The refusal of the powers which rule El Salvador to look at those mechanisms, structures and policies which exacerbate the human suffering each time a natural disaster strikes, guarantees that history will repeat itself in tragic ways.