Monday, September 15, 2008

El Salvador report card

Our friend and occasional guest blogger Carlos X provides today's post about the necessity to acknowledge that real progress has been made in El Salvador over the past 15 years, even if much is left to be done:

The Salvadoran government has published a celebratory summary of post-war gains entitled Una Historia de Progreso (“A History of Progress”). A version of the color pamphet is available online at

The booklet contains a series of charts comparing the country conditions in 1992 and 2007 along various factors. Needless to say, the charts show a much improved situation. Nevertheless, many of the statistics reveal gaping challenges, which the government presents as astonishing “gains,” but as we look at them here, they can be seen as lingering failures.

Still, these statistics drop a major gauntlet before the Left, which deserves a serious answer. We can dissect and nitpick the statistics (hopefully, we do more than that here), but there is one number which requires sober and serious reflection: according to the government figures, poverty rates declined from 65.8% in 1992 to 30.7% last year. Granted, having thirty percent of your population in poverty is no cause for jubilation. However, for that 35% of Salvadoran families who migrated from the poor to the middle classes, there is much reason to celebrate. According to Fr. José María Tojeira, the UCA rector, his predecessor, the martyred Ignacio Ellacuría, had misgivings about an FMLN triumph, because he was not convinced that they possessed the competence to govern. After 20 years out of power, experience is not a trifling question, and the preceding figure has to be taken as a challenge to the FMLN, whether they are up to the important task of reducing poverty, or whether they may squander the gains that have been thus far accomplished.

We all know the old Mark Twain line, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Well, “A History of Progress,” which begins with color pictures of the ARENA presidents, has its fair share of what we can charitably call “packaging.” Presented differently, many of the figures it contains tell a rather gloomy story. Take a look.

By the numbers:

  • 96.3 % of Salvadoran homes without internet access (84% of all Salvadoran email addresses are registered to the departments of San Salvador and La Libertad)
  • 15.2 % of Salvadoran homes with a microwave oven
  • 30.4 % of Salvadoran homes using firewood to cook
  • 22.8 % of Salvadoran homes without residential water service
  • 27.6 % of Salvadoran homes without phone service
  • 11.6 % of Salvadoran homes using candles and kerosene lamps to light their homes
  • 23.8 % of Salvadoran homes without permanent flooring
  • 22.0 % of Salvadoran homes without a TV set
  • 13.1 % of Salvadoran homes with a washing machine
  • 16.7 % of Salvadoran homes with a car
  • 7.9 Average number of school years completed in El Salvador

One last statistic. Percentage of Salvadoran homes receiving family remittances from abroad: 19%.

The percentage of U.S. families receiving government “welfare” assistance was 15% in the year 2004. I have a thesis that remittances operate like welfare did, and that we need remesa reform. (But, that’s for another day!)

Tim: Let me start out with a few comments of my own. First, the reduction in poverty from the end of the civil war in 1992 until 2007 corresponds with (a) a "peace dividend" and (b) the dramatic rise in migration out of the country and the corresponding increase in remittances. It strikes me that there is a greater correlation between the outflow of persons from the country and the reduction of poverty than there is a correlation between any ARENA policy and the reduction of poverty. Second, the statistics cited are the government's calculation of the poverty level based on a flawed "market basket" cost of living. Many would argue that the poverty line and the number of people below it is higher than the government is willing to admit. Third, this recent article in El Faro points out that, even using the government statistics, the country in 2008 has now fallen back to the level of poverty which existed in 2004 when Tony Saca took office -- with rural poverty particularly severe at almost 44%.


El-Visitador said...

«the reduction in poverty from the end of the civil war in 1992 until 2007 corresponds with (a) a "peace dividend"»

Exactly right.

By starting their bloody war of kidnapping, extortion, torture, and murder of civilians in February 1971, the Marxist guerrillas imposed a 20-year period of poverty and disinvestment in El Salvador.

You who recognize a doubling of the middle class as a Peace Dividend must therefore realize that the terrorists imposed at least a doubling of poverty WAR TAX on Salvadorean society.

- * -

Worldwide, life expectancy increases directly with people's ability to purchase healthy foods, healthy entertainment, and medical care.

Aside from those they murdered directly, how many people did the Communists kill by sinking the country into chaos and poverty?

440 said...

I didn't know that ARENA/ PCN and death squads were marxists and terrorists!

I learned something today.

Anonymous said...

Jeepers, I love the Visitador Arena spook here.

Best years of ecominc growth were 93-98 imho. That is when everyone started getting a cellphone too /gasp In the movie cinema españa down by the hula hula I remember whistles when cellphones would be answered, "Si mi amor, ya voy comprando un pollito".jaja we also used to hear cell conversations of Mororola dispatch radios while riding with los -(si mi carmelo ya voy para la playa donde sos).
Was a great time. and also the real probs with MS13 in 96 was thick, and just became more "hollywoody" as time went on.
The dolarizacion in January 2001 (Earthquake just a coincidence??)*) with international funds that went to ARENA blew el sal to Hell.

I would say the Midle class has moved up. The poorer gets poorer.
But, hey who cares about those poor commie indio bastardos anyway right "El-Visitador">?

Peace tim. wicked blog.

Jorge Somoza said...

"The Marxist guerrillas imposed a 20-year period of poverty and disinvestment in El Salvador".

This Visitador is still living in the 70's his mind and thoughts are trapped and obsolete.

This Visitador sees Commies even on his underwear, he got some type of trauma, he developped a common pathology for ancient minds... insanity... well he's just an elder looking and claimming for atention... right old abuelito?

This Visitador is the same ARENETO Riguas... the same plumífero.

Nobody believes you El-Visitador, go back to your never visited blog.

aighmeigh said...

Great information! I've always wondered about the numbers, especially since I was there during when all of the census folks were walking around collecting there info.

Every time the economy here in the states takes another hit I wonder what the ramifications will be in El Salvador... As I'm moving there at the end of the year, I guess I'll know firsthand soon enough!

Anonymous said...

“Ávila era casi un bicho virgo cuando se metió a la Defensa Civil, en la Primera Brigada. Allí el Coronel Elena Fuentes se encargaba personalmente de los entrenamientos de esa unidad. Entrenábamos en la cancha de fútbol. “Tiren a pegar, no importa si son mujeres o niños, todos son o serán terroristas en el futuro”, nos decía con su vos de terremoto. Desde que Elena Fuentes vio a Ávila, le dijo: Creés que vas a aguantar, culero?”.

Lo agarró de pato, como se dice. “Vos marica, vení”, -le decía el coronel-, Tiráte allí y haceme 50 pechadas. Y el pobre Ávila se tiraba al suelo y hacía la maldita, pero apenas llegaba a 40”.

“Entonces el Coronel le decía: como no las hiciste, andá lustrame las botas, y ojalá no me las dejés como espejo de brillantes, ya vas a ver cómo soy cuando de verdad me encabrono, pendejo. -Disculpe las palabrotas, pero así hablaba el Coronel".

“De verdad que Elena Fuentes sí era cabrón. Ya no digamos las cosas que hacía con los pobres capturados, esos catequistas, sindicalistas, universitarios de la UES… esos pobres daban lástima, torturas y todo”.

“Bueno, el caso es que la agarraba con Ávila, le gustaba joderlo sólo por divertirse. Es que Ávila… pues sí, era un poco lento para todo, y algo torpe”. “¿Ha visto esas películas de La Pantera Rosa? Allí salía Peter Sellers haciendo de un investigador, el Inspector Clouseau, creo que se llama, un tipo que va metiendo la pata a cada rato. Pues así era el Ávila, torpe”.

“Un día, cuando estábamos practicando tiro, le dijo el Coronel: Mirá culero, si no le pegás al blanco, ya vas a ver. Y por joderlo lo puso a que tirara desde más lejos. Al pobre chamaco le sudaban y temblaban las manos. Apuntó y disparó”.

“Y como todo nervioso, el tiro no pegó en el blanco, ni siquiera en el bolado de madera. Fue a pegar a un tanque de agua que estaba algo retirado de allí, y salió un chorrito de agua del hoyo”.

“El Coronel le dijo: mirá gran cerote, ya te cagaste en todo el agua del cuartel, ahora te bañas chulón en ese chorro, ¡ya! Y así fue, el pobre chavo se desnudó y se tuvo que bañar en aquel chorrito de agua, y las mujeres que trabajaban en el cuartel lo veían y aquello fue una jodarria tremenda”.

“Pero lo más yuca fue cuando el Coronel lo sacó de madrina de los Juegos Intramilitares”.

¿Cómo, cómo cómo?, le pregunté. Aquello me resultaba algo confuso.

“Sí, lo sacó de madrina en los juegos deportivos intramilitares. La cosa fue así: Un día le dijo: Mirá, careverga, subite a ese coco y me bajás unos mis cinco cocos. Ávila ya la destrababa para los ejercicios, pero nunca en su vida se había subido a palos de coco. Y como no pudo, el Coronel viene y le dijo: Como la cagaste, de castigo te toca salir de madrina en los juegos deportivos”.

“Así que el día de la inauguración de los juegos lo mandó a que se vistiera con trajes típicos de mujer indígena, como esos con los que visten a las niñas que las mamás llevan a las fiestas de la Virgen de Guadalupe, unos vestidos todos coloridos, rojo, verde, etc.”

“Lo maquilló como mujer, pintalabios y todo, y le puso una peluca de pelo corto, más o menos del estilo de peluca con la que salía Fredy Mercury en aquel vídeo de I want to break free, ¿se acuerda?”

Sí, yo me acordaba: Mercury disfrazado de mucama, barriendo el piso, bailando y cantando.

“A pues así era la peluca de Ávila, como la de Fredy Mercury. Y entonces el Coronel le ordenó subirse a la carroza donde iban las demás madrinas de los demás destacamentos militares, todas lindísimas, solo una horrible, que era Ávila. Y para terminar de joder le dijo: Ma esta bolsita de dulces, nos tirás unos cuando la carroza pase por aquí. Y tuvo que hacerlo. Lo hubieras visto tirando sus dulcitos. Parecía la India María”.

Pero...por qué hoy lo saluda? Debería de odiarlo, le dije...

“Creo que Ávila piensa que Elena Fuentes es un gran hombre, que le enseñó a ser un militar de verdad. Pero, como usted sabe, la Comisión de la Verdad incriminó al Coronel en el asesinato de los seis padres jesuitas y sus dos empleadas, en 1989 en la UCA, al igual que al General Ponce y a otros. Pero para Ávila es su héroe".

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim, regards from E.S.

Can you please provide me the link of Carlos X blog about Monseñor Romero.

Congratulations for your great blog.

Tim said...

Sure -- Carlos writes the Super Martyrio blog at

Anonymous said...

I guess you could give elvisitador some atention.
What he doesn't understand is the fact that there were two stolen elections before the guerrillas took up arms, 1972 and and 1977.

Michelle Ota said...

Um el-visitador, it's now 2008, not 1971. Catch up. During a visit to a recent blog that I linked from here a few weeks ago (Thanks Tim) the poverty level is extremely high. As an american woman, I am glad that I have a job that allows me to support myself without having to lie to my church congregation or family about. Check out and read ::ahem, el-visitador, this pertains to you:: about the sex workers who make $50 a day. But they have to lie to their children and husbands about how they make that much money. In a factory, they would make $15 per day. That's nothing. Yes, El Salvador is improving but not by much when you look in between the statistics, you see the hidden facts. It saddens me to think that politicians in America believe that they are doing extreme amounts of good when they really just screw El Salvador up a little more.

Anonymous said...

When I was in El Salvador a year ago, I was told that signifcant "progress" had been made with rural poverty by changing the standards of measurement -- in essence, by lowering the amount of food in the Canasta Basica (Basic Food Basket). Is this true? How can it be verified or disproven? And is it possible to find out what the Canasta Basica contains?

El-Visitador said...

«This Visitador is still living in the 70's his mind and thoughts are trapped and obsolete»

«Um el-visitador, it's now 2008, not 1971. Catch up»

So I guess it is time to "move on" anytime one brings up the incredible misery and destruction of civil society the Communist war brought, and the consequences of which endure with us still.

- * -

Talk about the 50% poverty reduction peace dividend of post-1992: politically correct.

Talk about the 100% poverty increase war tax of 1971: not politically correct. Does not match the fashionable narrative of today, uh?