Sunday, June 11, 2006

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- about Tony Saca

The president of El Salvador, Tony Saca, presented a report on the first two years of his administration to the Salvadoran National Assembly on June 1. Jjmar at the Hunnapuh blog watched the proceedings and wrote with disappointment (es) about the conduct of the opposition FMLN legislators listening to Saca. Describing the atmosphere as more of a circus, than a solemn plenary session of the legislature, Jjmar told how ARENA deputies applauded at every pause in Saca's address and the FMLN deputies jeered and showed their disagreement. This led Jjmar to plead:

In a solemn plenary session, Mr. and Ms. Deputy, one has to listen with attention and respect to the principal speaker. It could be that you like or don't like what is being said, but the correct thing is to learn to listen. It would appear that we Salvadorans only hear that which we like and accept it with enthusiasm, but we jeer at and do not listen to that which we do not like.

To learn to listen to others is vital for democracy. Democracy does not signal that all think the same thing, to the contrary, democracy is learning to manage those differences. But the first we thing we have to learn is to listen with attention and respect to opinions, whether different or the same as ours.

Guillermo Mejia, general editor of the independent web-zine Raices, had much the same reaction on his blog. He expressed concern about the polarization of the political parties (es) shown in Saca's speech and its reception.
In a mature democracy, where the interests of the people are really represented in the work of the political class -- something very distant from El Salvador -- it would not cause a problem to have a such a composition [of competing political parties in the legislature], because the balance of power helps deepen democracy.

Mejia notes that the political polarization serves to paralyze the country as each side serves only its constituents and threatens something worse, a dictatorship of the party in power:
In this manner, the Salvadoran people are in the crossroads between forms of governing that in no way produce well-being, nor security, nor hope (even though the politicians tell us the opposite) and bring us to the brink, towards alternatives which are more difficult each time, such as searching for the path into the United States.

Jjmar found the actual details of Saca's address to the deputies to be long on positive sounding words, but short on specifics and concrete proposals. (es) The president spoke of families who were receiving $15 per month as part of his administration's new social programs and the creation of 30 new health clinics, but he did not explain the impact of these measures. Saca indicated a desire to start a dialogue about an increase in the minimum wage, but left the promise hanging in the air. The president indicated that the problem of unemployment would be tackled as domestic and foreign business investment increased.

On the subject of violence plaguing the country, Saca said almost nothing. He used the catch-phrases of a publicity campaign about the plan for a "Country of Safety," but Jjmar would have liked to have heard an evaluation of the current anti-crime programs "Super Firm Hand" and "Friendly Hand" and why they are not working.

In connection with the two year mark of Saca's presidency, national polls on his approval ratings were released, showing that Saca is still popular, but his approval rating has been slipping. Javier Najarro writes on his blog about the news media spin on the poll numbers with one television station focusing only on the positive approval rating, but another station which emphasized that Saca's popularity was declining.

The blog of the US-El Salvador Sister Cities project commented on the poll results in the context of political advertising in El Salvador:
The downward trend is of definite significance, as it is set against the backdrop of ongoing political maneuvering and campaigning by President Saca, that resembles an all out brand loyalty marketing campaign much more than an executive office administration. Saca's media teams put out a new slogan each month, the President inaugurates bridges, pothole repairs, or other roadwork or infrastructure projects at a rate of nearly 2 per day, most recently having his picture taken triumphantly standing on a newly finished garbage dump. El Salvador has Tony Saca for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Also posted on Global Voices.

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