Last Tuesday Manuel Sevilla, now ex-minister of agriculture and livestock (MAG, in Spanish), announced his resignation from the Ministry due to increasing political pressure from the Central Government.
The Funes administration has been committed to creating greater transparency in government and reducing corruption since taking office in June 2009. In his resignation, Sevilla said the distribution of agricultural subsidies, which include seed and fertilizer for farmers, had been heavily influenced by senior officials and corrupted by the central government.
Historically, agricultural subsidies and other government benefits have been allocated according to political affiliation. In 2009 when Funes nominated Sevilla to head the MAG, they each promised to end the system of political party preferences and distribute government benefits equitably. Sevilla, however, cites the administration’s failure to comply with this promise as the primary reason for leaving his post. He claims that during the negotiation process central government stepped in to ensure that more subsidies went to traditionally right-wing and conservative agricultural groups, like CAMAGRO, which support political parties like the PNC, ARENA, and GANA.
Following the announcement, President Funes heartily defended his administration. In an impromptu press conference, Funes said he believes Sevilla resigned to take another job with an international organization, not due to political pressures. He restated his commitment to the equitable distribution of subsidies and greater transparency in the MAG. He believe that the subsidies could be distributed unfairly, as the more conservative MAG employees have not received any benefits with regards to the subsidies. Funes also pointed out that the distribution plan was the same as last year, and Sevilla was involved in making and implementing that plan.
Agricultural organizations are divided over the resignation and distribution of agricultural subsidies. Some that ally more with rural farmers believe that Sevilla was an excellent candidate for the position, and are impressed by his development programs, which extend all the way to 2030. Others feel that he was an inefficient and ineffective leader, and lacked the necessary experience and ability to reform the MAG and create change for Salvadoran farmers. President Funes stated that he had received complaints about Sevilla from over 120 agricultural organizations, and implied that perhaps Sevilla simply quit before he was formally relieved of his duties.