Monday, December 27, 2010

Evicting street vendors for a more "orderly" San Salvador

It is one of the perpetual themes of life in San Salvador --the clash between street vendors and the municipal government which wants to impose some order on the stalls which clog the streets and sidewalks of the city's historic center.

An article titled Street Vendors Defend Right to Make a Living in San Salvador from IPS does a good job of describing the ongoing conflict:

Since June, the mayor has ordered the forced eviction of 1,053 hawkers, as part of an attempt to regulate street vending in a city where more than 16,000 street vendors hawk their wares, occupying many streets and plazas.

Several of the evictions, which form part of what the metropolitan police has dubbed "Operation Thunder", have ended in pitched battles, with dozens of people arrested or injured.

Civil society organisations, the Catholic Church, legislators and the human rights ombudsman have called for talks, in order for the two sides to come up with a negotiated solution to address their opposing needs: an orderly, functional city centre and the right of vendors to make a living.

"The problem isn't going to be solved by means of violent evictions," Saúl Baños, a lawyer with the Foundation for the Study and Application of Law (FESPAD), a local human rights organisation, told IPS. "Negotiations should be held, to come up with the best compromise between these two needs."

The archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar, stated this month that "this issue is of great concern to the Catholic Church.

"We understand the need to bring more order to the city, but it is important for people not to lose their source of work, and to be able to continue making an honest living," he said.

Forced evictions are frequent in cities of Latin America and in other developing regions, where the proliferation of street stalls crashes up against plans to clean up cities and make them more orderly.
The IPS article explains that El Salvador's mayor, Norman Quijano, has such plans for the city's center:
Relocating many of the 16,000 street vendors in this city of 2.1 million and strictly regulating the rest are at the centre of the plans of Mayor Quijano, of the opposition right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

"All of the countries of Latin America have had this problem in their capitals, and all of them have addressed it," Carolina Ramírez, head of municipal development in the San Salvador city government, told IPS.

"We want to cause the least possible collateral damage to all of the vendors who make an honest living," she said.

She explained that in the short term, the city government plans to remodel and expand several existing markets, for which it has a four million dollar loan from the Inter-American Development Bank. It is also seeking financing to build new markets, as part of the longer term plan, she added.
There will be an informal economy and street vendors so long as the country produces too few jobs.   Building market places for the vendors will only alleviate the congestion of San Salvador's central district if the vendors find customers in these new markets.   Otherwise, the imperative to feed their families will keep these vendors returning to the streets where customers can still be found.

1 comment:

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