Update on El Salvador’s Transparency Law

Proponents of a Transparency and Public Access to Information Law in El Salvador currently under review by the Legislative Assembly worry that President Funes does not genuinely support passage of the legislation. In a recent statement Funes expressed some hesitation in supporting the transparency law, and Raúl Torres of Transparency International fears the President’s strategy is to delay the bill as long as possible by beginning the consultation process without a specific timeline for completion.

With the support of legislators and pro-transparency organizations, the Legislative Commission working on the bill recently combined two proposed bills to produce the one that is currently under review. However, the Secretary of the President’s Strategic Affairs, and the Undersecretary of Transparency asked them not to proceed with the legislative process until they could gather more information. Pro-transparency organizations familiar with the process suspect that the administration’s hesitations are just the beginning of his resistance to a Transparency Law.  Distrust and concern among proponents of the bill escalated last week after Funes said he is not interested in prosecuting or investigating corruption in his administration. Some organizations believe he wants to block passage of the bill, which has already won broad support within the legislature.

Our September 14, 2009 post outlined the FMLN party’s support of transparency legislation, but without the cooperation of the president, the success of this bill looks less likely. Many Salvadorians who support the President expressed feelings of betrayal following his statements. During his campaign, Funes promised that transparency would be a sacred, respected element of his administration. However, since he has been in power, Funes’ administration has repeatedly hidden information regarding government spending on publicity and propaganda.

Raúl Torres also said that transparency and public access to information was not negotiable. In a recent press conference held by The Promotion Group for the Transparency Law, various civil society representatives voiced their concern for the lack of transparency and their vehement support for the passing of this law. Claudia Umaña, Director of Legal Studies for FUSADES, stated “each day that goes by that the law is not passed is a bad day in which our politicians are in debt to all of the Salvadoran citizens.”



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