Corruption, El Salvador Government, transparency

Visit from Gerson Martinez, Minister of Public Works

Gerson Martinez, Minister of Public Works, is visiting Washington DC this weekend and invited local solidarity groups and interested parties to join him for a brown bag lunch today. For background on Mr. Martinez, the Ministry of Public Works (MOP), and it’s relationship with Transparency International (TI) see our article from August of last year.

The discussion reviewed many of the current MOP projects, the ministry’s short and long term goals, and its ongoing relationship with TI.

Mr. Martinez reviewed a variety of MOP projects, focusing mainly on the construction of sufficient and adequate housing, the improvement of roads, highways and bridges, recovery from Hurricane Ida, and the creation of an international high-speed train to connect all of Central America. Mr. Martinez stressed that it is impossible to accomplish these goals in a 5 or 10 year plan, and the only realistic way to approach the issues is with a vision of 15 years or more. However, he also understands that many Salvadorans are currently in desperate need of these services, and that the problems must be tackled with both immediate and long-term programs.  Provisional housing and support is currently being provided, and disaster recovery is happening as quickly as resources permit. Mr. Martinez stated that the MOP does not expect to fully complete these projects until 2024.

The conversation also reviewed El Salvador’s growing relationship with Transparency International, an organization focused on decreasing  government corruption worldwide. MOP has historically been one of the most corrupt ministries, and Mr. Martinez is committed to  reversing this trend. His dedication has been inspirational, as President Funes and his entire administration have signed the observation agreements provided by TI. The Cámara de Empresas Privadas, a group of private business owners, has also agreed to the observations. Mr. Martinez hopes that by creating greater transparency in the national government resources will be used more appropriately and citizens will be empowered to participate fully in their government. His main concern with the initiative is that TI lacks the resources to observe all proceedings, and currently only witnesses a handful of the 100s of noteworthy events. TI also lacks the power to enforce its guidelines, leaving room for corrupt officials to only participate in the proceedings without outside observers.

Mr. Martinez ended the luncheon with the words “La transparencia es clave” (transparency is key), and a statement of appreciation for all in attendance.

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