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What is Going on in El Salvador?

You are cordially invited to a very intriguing conversation with Salvadoran experts, tomorrow evening. The topics we will be discuss are the Current state of Politics and Freedom of Expression in El Salvador.

If you want to directly contribute via the Zoom meeting, pre-register @ shorturl.at/goqR5

We can’t wait to see you!


Están cordialmente invitad@s a una conversación muy intrigante con expertos salvadoreños, esta noche. Los temas que trataremos son el estado actual de la política y la libertad de expresión en El Salvador.

Si desean contribuir directamente a través de la reunion de Zoom, preinscríbase @ shorturl.at/goqR5

¡Estamos ansiosos por verte!

Climate Change, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, International Relations, News Highlights, U.S. Relations

What has happened with “Fomilenio II” in El Salvador?

[fomilenioii.gob.sv]

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The government of the United States, like other entities with transnational reach—such as the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, and the European Union—have worked for decades to foment economic development and poverty reduction in “third world” or “developing” countries”. The US state has demonstrated a special interest in the development and stability of the Central American region, given its proximity and subsequent geopolitical importance. As a result, in countries such as El Salvador, billions of dollars have been invested since the 1960s in projects designed to foment “progress”, “reduce poverty”, “promote democracy”, “consolidate peace”, and most recently, to “prevent violence”, and “eradicate poverty” through a development model that seeks to incorporate the country into the global economy. These foreign investments—always in combination with the organized efforts of the Salvadoran people—have led to certain advances in the well being of the population. Nevertheless, El Salvador continues being a country with much poverty, much violence, a democratic deficit, and disastrous levels of economic inequality. This is to say that the dominant model of development—which has certainly been consolidated in El Salvador—has Benefited the very few, while it has exploited, marginalized, or expelled the vast majorities. 

Instead of changing this development model which has systematically produced poverty and inequality in the first place (and which many call “neoliberal”, for privileging the free market above and beyond other interests or factors), the recent decision of the foreign aid institutions of the US government has been to more holistically incorporate the countries who receive aid programs into the responsibilities around financing and executing these programs: that the poor countries gain “ownership” over the processes of their own development. The thinking of the US is that if these countries have to put their own money toward development programs, there won’t be as much money wasted, their won’t be as much corruption, and the poor countries will eventually no longer be poor, but rather equal counterparts in an interconnected global economy that is mutually beneficial to all, and will also no longer be sources of instability, migrants, and violence.  

And so, during the administration of George W. Bush, at the beginning of the 2000’s, the US government began implementing Millennium Challenge Account Funds across the world. These funds were not simply donations for developing countries, but rather contracts by which the funds-receiving countries had to put their own funds toward these development projects, though they would still be primarily financed by the US. Furthermore, the receiving countries would have to comply with certain requirements—such as respect for free expression, transparent democratic procedures, and the elimination of corruption, among other things—in order to continue receiving the necessary funds from the US to conclude their development projects. 

Given its close relationship with the US, El Salvador was chosen to receive a first Millennium Challenge Account fund in 2007, under the administration of Tony Saca. The funds from this contract were aimed at impacting the northern zone of the country, where the majority of the financing would go toward the construction of a “longitudinal highway” that would more effectively connect this region with the rest of the country and with neighboring countries so as to facilitate commerce, connectivity, and the continuing insertion of El Salvador into the global economy. 

The implementation of this project generated resistance from many communities residing in the northern part of the country, who feared that these infrastructural projects would destroy their communities and their livelihoods, including rivers, water sources, and farmlands. Nevertheless, the project was completed in its totality. The communities that had most resisted the construction of the highway—and who even had called it a “project of death”—eventually managed to negotiate an acceptable route for the highway that would avoid major environmental and social damages. From the institutional side, the Salvadoran government had managed to comply with all of the financial and institutional requirements that the Millennium Challenge Account Fund had demanded of it. From the perspective of ordinary inhabitants of rural communities across the region however, the project did little to change or improve their daily lives, but did bring in new, outside, trans-locally linked actors, and in broader terms, the project further deepened the neoliberal model in the region. 

By the time the first “Fomilenio” was being concluded across the northern belt of El Salvadoran in late 2012, the US and Salvadoran governments were planning the implementation of a second Fomilenio project, this one to be aimed at the southern, coastal region of the country. There too, the objective of the project as a whole would be to reduce poverty through the economic growth, as a means to the end of increasing the productivity and competitiveness of the country in international markets. 

“Fomilenio II” began on September 9, 2015 and finalized in September of 2020. It was financed with $277 million dollars from the government of the US, in addition to a counterpart contribution of $88.2 million that would come from the Salvadoran government, making a total of $365.2 million.

According to the Fomilenio II website, upon the finalization of the contract, the program had executed more than 100 interventions, divided into three larger project areas: 

The Human Capital Project, which primarily included the construction of schools, the creation of technical-vocational high school, and the training of teachers in different specialties. 

The Logistical Infrastructure Project, which included the widening of 28 kilometers of highway, improvements in a border checkpoint and other logistical infrastructure, as well as the automation of customs processes and procedures associated with foreign commerce. 

The Investment Climate Project, which led to a reported 15 private investment agreements, among which the training and certification of more than 900 aerospace technicians is notable, as well as the establishment of an irrigation system for agricultural production, and the implementation of six feasibility studies for the creation of “public-private” partnerships, among other investments. 

During the initial phase of Fomilenio II, this Investment Climate project was especially worrisome for many communities and social organizations because it had been announced that the focus would be on incentivizing private investment, simplifying commercial procedures, and making laws and regulations more flexible so as to enable private business to conduct business with as much ease as possible. 

Fortunately, the creation of public-private associations and the implementation of large-scale tourism projects was not carried out the way that had been feared. It is very possible that this was due to the fact that the private sector of the country was simply not yet ready to make these types of investments. 

A third Fomilenio could however unleash an offensive of projects associated with tourist infrastructure, which undoubtedly would provoke a large ecological impact in the fragile ecosystems on the Salvadoran coast. Nevertheless, everything indicates that a third Millennium Challenge Account contract is not likely to happen. 

This is the case first and foremost because there were irregularities in the final phase of Fomilenio II. As mentioned above, part of the contract required the Salvadoran state to assign counterpart funding to the project. In 2020 however, these funds were not included in the government’s national operating budget. For this reason, on September 9th, 2020, the Legislative Assembly assigned $55 million from a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank to honor the country’s commitment to Fomilenio II. But these funds did not end up going toward Fomilenio II because, according to the Executive Branch, led by young president Nayib Bukele, these funds had to be prioritized for attending to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Subsequently, at the end of November, the Ministry of the Treasury of El Salvador, solicited the approval of $50 million from the Legislative Assembly to be assigned to Fomilenio II obligations. On November 26th, the Assembly approved—for the second time—the allocation of these funds, but this approval was vetoed by the President of the Republic, who argued that it would not be possible to obtain these funds from the financial source established by the legislators. 

In response to this controversy, the Millennium Challenge Account Corporation in El Salvador emitted a communique on December 1, 2020 that informed of the suspension of various projects and warned of the possibility that El Salvador might enter into the list of “countries that cannot honor their commitments,” given the country’s inability to allocate the necessary funds to Fomilenio II. And although the contract technically ended on September 9, 2020, a 120-day period had been established to enable the closing down of offices and final operations, so that all of the actual infrastructure projects would be done by January 2021. However, this communique also announced that given the Salvadoran government’s lack of allocation of funds, various projects would not be finished. 

But then, on December 24th, the Legislative Assembly, after a long debate, approved the country’s general budget for 2021. As a result, on January 20, 2021, the Ministry of the Treasury—together with Millennium Challenge Account officials—announced that the previously suspended projects would be restarted with funds from the Salvadoran Ministry of Public Works, and would be finished by the following April. 

In order to be eligible for a third Millennium Challenge Account however, the country was required to comply with at least 10 of a list of 20 indicators. In El Salvador’s last evaluation, it complied with 12 of the indicators, but the problem was that the indicator of “control of corruption and good democratic government”, was of obligatory compliance, and was not met. According to the resident director of the Millennium Challenge Account Corporation in El Salvador, Preston Winter, over the last four years, El Salvador has consecutively maintained a lack of control over corruption, thereby implicating both Bukele’s current government, and the previous government administered by Sanchez Ceren of the FMLN in acts of corruption. 

So although the contributions of this second Millennium Challenge Account contract for the coastal zone of El Salvador cannot be denied—the construction of infrastructure, the training of teachers, the improvements in logistics for private investment—these are measures that contribute little or nothing to poverty reduction. Rather, these measures deepen an economic model that for decades has generated poverty and inequality. In order to reduce poverty, social inequality must also be reduced, and this requires deep reforms to the tax system and effective measures to combat corruption, so that the Salvadoran state can leverage more resources for social investment. Universal access to quality education, effective health coverage, strategic support to family-based agriculture, protection of the environment, universal access to dignified housing, and the provision of quality basic services are all measures that would actually contribute toward significantly reducing poverty.

verdaddigital.com

Qué ha pasado con Fomilenio II, en El Salvador.

El gobierno de EEUU, como otras entidades con alcance trasnacional, como el Banco Mundial, El Fondo Monetario Internacional, y la Unión Europea, se han esforzado por décadas en las tareas de fomentar el desarrollo económico y la reducción de la pobreza en los países “del tercer mundo” o “en vías de desarrollo”.  Estados Unidos ha demostrado un interés especial en el desarrollo y la estabilidad de la región Centroamericana dado su proximidad y su consecuente importancia geopolítica. Como resultado, en países como El Salvador, se ha invertido miles de millones de dólares desde la década de los 60 en proyectos orientados a “fomentar el progreso”, “disminuir la pobreza”, “promover la democracia”, “consolidar la paz” y más últimamente “prevenir la violencia” y “erradicar la pobreza” mediante un modelo de desarrollo que busca incorporar el país en la economía mundial. 

Estas inversiones extranjeras—combinadas siempre con los esfuerzos organizados del pueblo salvadoreño han logrado ciertos avances en el bienestar de la población. Sin embargo, El Salvador sigue siendo un país con mucha pobreza, mucha violencia, un déficit democrático, y niveles nefastos de desigualdad económica. Es decir, el modelo de desarrollo dominante que se ha logrado consolidar en el país, ha beneficiado a pocos, mientras ha explotado, marginado, o expulsado a grandes mayorías. 

En vez de cambiar este modelo de desarrollo—que muchos llaman “neoliberal”, por privilegiar siempre un libre mercado por encima de otros intereses o factores—el cual sistemáticamente produce pobreza y fomenta la desigualdad en primer lugar, la reciente decisión de las instituciones de ayuda” extranjera de los EEUU, ha sido de incorporar más integralmente a los países receptores de fondos de ayuda en la responsabilidad de financiar y ejecutar programas de desarrollo económico y reducción de la pobreza: que los países pobres asuman con propiedad los procesos de su propio desarrollo. La idea de Los Estados Unidos es que si estos países tienen que invertir hacia sus propios caminos de desarrollo, ya no habrá tanto dinero desperdiciado, no habrá tanta corrupción, y los países pobres ya no serán pobres sino que se desarrollarían económicamente y serian contrapartes iguales en una economía mundial interconectada y mutuamente beneficiosa para todos los países, y ya no serian fuentes de inestabilidad, migrantes, y violencia. 

Así que durante la administración de George W. Bush a principios de los 2000, se empezó a implementar los Millenium Challenge Accounts (Cuentas de Reto de Milenio), al nivel global. Estas “cuentas” ya no eran simples donaciones desde la USA hacia los países en vías de desarrollo, sino contratos en que los países receptores de fondos tenían que poner fondos propios hacia proyectos de desarrollo que serian financiados mayoritariamente por EEUU. Además, los países receptores tendrían que cumplir con ciertos requisitos—como respeto a la libre expresión, procedimientos democráticos transparentes, eliminación de la corrupción entre otros. 

Dado su relación cercana con los EEUU, El Salvador fue escogido para recibir un primer contrato del Reto del Milenio, en 2007, bajo la administración de Tony Saca. Los fondos de este contrato fueron destinados a la zona norte del país, donde una mayoría del financiamiento estaría destinado a la construcción de una “carretera longitudinal” que conectaría la zona al resto del país, y a otros países vecinos para potenciar el comercio, la conectividad, y la progresiva inserción de El Salvador en la economía mundial. La implementación de este programa generó resistencia de muchas comunidades al norte del país que temían que los proyectos de infraestructura destruirían sus comunidades y sus fuentes de vida, como ríos, cuencas acuíferas, y terrenos agrícolas. Sin embargo, el proyecto fue llevado a cabo en su totalidad. Las comunidades más resistentes a la construcción de la carretera—que incluso la calificaban como un “proyecto de muerte”—al final lograron negociar una ruta aceptable para su construcción que evitara mayor destrozo social o ambiental. Desde el lado institucional, el gobierno salvadoreño logró cumplir con los requisitos, tantos financieros como institucionales. 

A finales de 2012, cuando El Salvador estaba terminando su primero contrato de Fomilenio, los gobiernos de El Salvador y Estados Unidos ya estaban negociando un segundo contrato—el Fomilenio II, y este último que estaría destinado a implementarse en la zona costera-sur. Ahí también, el objetivo sería reducir la pobreza mediante el crecimiento económico, y como meta incrementar la productividad y competitividad del país en los mercados internacionales. 

Fomilenio II empezó el 9 de septiembre de 2015 y finalizó el 9 de septiembre de 2020. Fue financiado con US$277 millones donados por el gobierno de los Estados Unidos, más una contrapartida de US$88.2 millones que deberían provenir del gobierno de El Salvador, haciendo un total de US$365.2 millones.

Según el sitio web de Fomilenio II, a la fecha de finalización del convenio reportaba haber trabajado en más de 100 intervenciones, divididas en tres grandes proyectos: 

  • Proyecto Capital Humano, que incluyó principalmente la construcción de escuelas, la creación de bachilleratos técnicos vocacionales y la capacitación de docentes en diferentes especialidades.
  • Proyecto de Infraestructura Logística, el cuál comprendió la ampliación de 28 kilómetros de carretera, mejoras en un reciento fronterizo y otra infraestructura logística, así como la automatización de procesos y trámites aduaneros relacionados con el comercio exterior.
  • Proyecto Clima de Inversión, como resultado de este proyecto se reporta 15 acuerdos de inversión privada, entre los que se destaca la formación y certificación de más de 900 técnicos en aeronáutica, construcción de plantas de tratamiento de aguas residuales, establecimiento de un sistema de riego para la producción agrícola y la realización de 6 estudios de factibilidad para la creación de asocios público privados, entre otras inversiones.

En la etapa inicial del Fomilenio, este proyecto Clima de Inversión fue de especial preocupación para muchas comunidades y organizaciones sociales, porque se anunció que la apuesta sería incentivar la inversión privada, simplificando trámites, flexibilizando leyes y regulaciones para permitir a la empresa privada, realizar negocios con todas las facilidades posibles. Afortunadamente la creación de asocios público privados y la implementación de proyectos de turismo a gran escala, no se llevó a cabo como se esperaba. Es muy posible que esto se deba a que el sector privado del país aún no estaba listo para realizar este tipo de inversiones.

Un tercer Fomilenio, si podría desencadenar una ofensiva de proyectos de infraestructura turística y de otro tipo, que indudablemente provocaría un gran impacto ecológico en los frágiles ecosistemas de la costa salvadoreña; sin embargo, todo parece indicar que una tercera intervención, tiene escasas probabilidades de suceder.

En primer lugar, porque se presentaron irregularidades en la etapa final del Fomilenio II. Como parte del convenio, el Estado salvadoreño debía asignar una contrapartida, el año 2020, pero esos fondos no fueron incluidos en el presupuesto general de la nación, por lo que el 9 de septiembre la Asamblea Legislativa asignó $55 millones provenientes de un préstamo con el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID). Para honrar dicho compromiso.  Pero esto no sucedió porque, según la versión del gobierno, los fondos se priorizaron para atender la pandemia por el Covid19.

Por lo que a finales de noviembre el Ministro de Hacienda, nuevamente solicitó a la Asamblea Legislativa la aprobación de $50 millones para el mismo fin. El 26 de noviembre la Asamblea aprobó, por segunda ocasión, dichos fondos, pero esta aprobación fue vetada por el Presidente de la República, argumentando que no era posible disponer de esos recursos, de la fuente de financiamiento establecida por los legisladores.

Ante esta controversia, El 01 de diciembre de 2020, FOMILENIO II emitió un comunicado informando la suspensión de varios proyectos y advirtió de la posibilidad de que El Salvador entre en la lista de “países que no pueden honrar sus compromisos”, por la no asignación de fondos. 

Si bien el convenio finalizó el 9 de septiembre de 2020, se establecía un periodo de 120 días para el cierre de oficinas y operaciones finales, por lo que todas las obras deberían ser concluidas en enero de 2021; sin embargo, en dicho comunicado se anunció que, por la falta de asignación de fondos, varios proyectos quedarían inconclusos.

Pero el 24 de diciembre la Asamblea Legislativa, después de un largo debate, aprobó el presupuesto general de la nación para el año 2021, por lo que el 20 de enero el Ministro de Hacienda, junto a funcionarios de Fomilenio anunciaron que se reanudarían los proyectos suspendidos, y que serían financiados con fondos del Ministerio de Obras Públicas, además se dijo que estos concluirían el próximo mes de abril.

En segundo lugar, para optar a un nuevo Fomilenio, se requiere que el país cumpla por lo menos 10, de una lista de 20 indicadores. En la última evaluación El Salvador cumple 12 de estos indicadores, el problema es que el indicador “control de corrupción y buena gobernanza democrática”, es de obligatorio cumplimiento y según el director residente de país de la Cooperación Reto del Milenio, Preston Winter, en los últimos cuatro años El Salvador ha mantenido de manera consecutiva un incumplimiento del control de la corrupción.

El Fomilenio I y Fomilenio II, han significado una contribución importante para El Salvador, especialmente en lo referido a la construcción de infraestructura y otras mejoras logísticas para la inversión privada. Sin embargo, estas son medidas que poco o nada contribuyen a reducir la pobreza, más bien profundizan un modelo económico que por décadas ha generado pobreza y desigualdad. Para reducir la pobreza, hay que reducir la desigualdad social, esto pasa por una reforma profunda del sistema tributario y por medidas efectivas de combate a la corrupción, de manera que el Estado pueda disponer de más recursos para financiar la política social. 

El acceso universal a una educación de calidad, una efectiva cobertura de salud, un apoyo decidido a la agricultura familiar, la protección del medio ambiente, el acceso universal a vivienda digna y la provisión de servicios básicos de calidad, constituyen medidas que si pueden tener un impacto significativo en la reducción de la pobreza.  

COVID 19, Economy, El Salvador Government, International Relations, News Highlights

Los Números Rojos de la Economía Salvadoreña

English Version

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Por décadas la economía de El Salvador ha navegado en aguas turbulentas; las medidas de ajuste estructural a inicio de los noventa; la dolarización en 2001; el impacto de terremotos, huracanes y tormentas tropicales; y la corrupción han sido grandes dificultades que han generado pobreza y llevado al país a incrementar su deuda pública hasta el límite de lo insostenible. En febrero de 2020 la deuda era de 19,845.54 millones de dólares[1], ubicándose como el cuarto país de América Latina con más endeudamiento, solo precedido por Venezuela, Argentina y Brasil. Con estos números la deuda pública de El Salvador, antes de la pandemia alcanzaba el 71.8 %, con respecto a su Producto Interno Bruto[2].

Como es de suponer, la deuda se debe pagar, aproximadamente una sexta parte del presupuesto anual del Estado se destina a este propósito, solo para el segundo semestre de 2020, El Salvador deberá pagar 400 millones en concepto de amortización de diferentes prestamos. El impacto económico del COVID19 agrava la situación, por ejemplo: al inicio del año se tenía una proyección de crecimiento por el orden del 2.5%, los nuevos cálculos establecen que habrá un decrecimiento de menos 5%. Por otra parte, se estima una caída de las remesas del 17%, significa que el país dejará de percibir en concepto de ingresos un total de 990 millones de dólares[3].

El presupuesto para el ejercicio fiscal 2020, aprobado antes de la pandemia, fue de $ 6,426 millones, el cual presentaba un déficit del 11.7%, es decir que según las proyecciones del gobierno los ingresos no serían suficientes para cubrir todos los gastos y habría necesidad de gestionar créditos por $755.9 millones[5]. Con la nueva realidad el déficit se incrementa a $1,745.9 millones, sin considerar todos los gastos extraordinarios que está demandando la atención de la emergencia.

Para enfrentar esta situación el Parlamento ha autorizado al gobierno central para contraer deuda por 3,000 millones de dólares, pero debido a la crisis, el acceso a los mercados internacionales para colocar deuda se vuelve mucho más difícil y a intereses más altos; sin embargo, el gobierno ha comunicado como buena noticia el aval de un crédito por $550 millones con el Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, BID y otro por $389 millones con el Fondo Monetario Internacional, FMI[6].

Una desventaja consiste en que estos organismos condicionan el financiamiento a exigencias de política fiscal para el futuro. En opinión de la reconocida economista Julia Evelyn Martínez, El Fondo Monetario Internacional no concede préstamos para ayudar a los pueblos en momentos de crisis, sino más bien aprovecha las crisis para que los gobiernos se comprometan a poner en marcha medidas fiscales y financieras que comprometen el futuro de los pueblos y que evitan que futuros gobiernos sucumban a la tentación de romper con el neoliberalismo.

Según Martínez el FMI ha recomendado al gobierno medidas como la disminución del gasto público en $900 millones a partir del año 2021, aumentar los impuestos a la gasolina y al diésel, aumentar el Impuesto al Valor Agregado, IVA y las contribuciones fiscales especiales, como el impuesto a las telecomunicaciones y reducir el pago de salarios en el sector público, por medio del congelamiento de plazas, suspender nuevas contrataciones y prohibir las jubilaciones anticipadas de empleados públicos.

Independientemente que el gobierno asuma estas recomendaciones, un hecho concreto es que con estos y otros préstamos adicionales de los que ya se escucha hablar, la deuda pública podría llegar hasta el 90% del Producto Interno Bruto; dicho en otras palabras, de cada dólar que se produzca en el país, ya se deben noventa centavos; lo que llevará al Estado salvadoreño a una situación fiscal crítica y por tanto, la inversión en educación, salud, vivienda, agua potable y cualquier tipo de subsidio a los sectores más empobrecidos, será extremadamente limitada.

[1] https://diario.elmundo.sv/deuda-publica-llego-a-20533-millones-en-el-primer-trimestre/
[2] PNUD, COVID19 y Vulnerabilidad: Unamirada desde la pobreza multidimensional en El Salvador, San Salvador 2020,Pág. 12
[3] Nelson Fuentes, Ministro de Hacienda, entrevista, Frente a Frente, Tele corporación salvadoreña, 12 de mayo de 2020.
[4] https://www.elsalvador.com/eldiariodehoy/presupuesto-2020-es-de-6426-millones-y-requiere-creditos-por-755-millones/645093/2019/
[5] Nelson Fuentes, Ministro de Hacienda, entrevistaFrente a Frente, Tele corporación salvadoreña, 12 de mayo de 2020–
[6] https://www.diariocolatino.com/neoliberalismo-disfrazado-de-ayuda/
 


El Salvador in the Red

For decades, El Salvador’s economy has sailed in troubled waters;  structural adjustment measures in the early 1990s;  dollarization in 2001;  the impact of earthquakes, hurricanes, and tropical storms;  and corruption have been huge challenges that have generated poverty and led the country to increase its national debt to an unstainable limit.

In February 2020, the country’s debt was $19,845 million ranking El Salvador the fourth country in Latin America, after Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, with the highest national debt.  Before the pandemic even began, El Salvador’s dept reached 71.8%, with respect to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

As expected, this debt must be paid and approximately a sixth of the State’s annual budget is destined for this very purpose. For the second half of 2020, El Salvador will have to repay $400 million in different loans.

Unfortunately, the economic impact of COVID19 has only aggravated the situation. For example, at the beginning of the year, the economy was projected to grow by 2.5%, now new calculations project a decrease of -5%.  On top of that, a drop in remittances by an estimated 17%, means that the country will stop receiving a total of $990 million in annual income.

The 2020 fiscal budget, of $6,426 million was approved before the pandemic, and already presented a deficit of 11.7%. According to government projections, the income wouldn’t have been sufficient enough to cover all the year’s expenses and there would be a need to find and manage at least $755.9 million in loans.  With the new reality of a worldwide pandemic, the deficit has been increased to $1,745 million, this without even considering all of the extraordinary expenses that COVID19 related emergency care is currently demanding.

To face this situation, Parliament has authorized the central government to take on a $3 million loan, but since the crisis started, access to international market loans have become much more difficult and carry much higher interests rates than normal. Despite this, the government recently announced the endorsement of a loan for $550 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and another for $389 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

One disadvantage of being backed by these institutions, is that they make financing conditional on fiscal policy requirements for the future.  It’s the opinion of renowned Salvadoran economist, Julia Evelyn Martínez, that “the International Monetary Fund does not grant loans to help people in times of crisis, but rather takes advantage of crises so that governments commit to implement fiscal and financial measures that compromise both the nation’s future and prevents future governments from succumbing to the temptation to break with neoliberalism.”

According to Martínez, the IMF has recommended to the government measures such as: the decrease in public spending by $900 million starting in 2021, increasing taxes on gasoline and diesel, increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT) and other special tax contributions, such as the   telecommunications tax. It also proposes to reduce the payment of public sector wages, by way of freezing positions, suspending new hires and prohibiting early retirement for public employees.

Regardless of whether the government assumes these recommendations or not, a concrete fact is that with these and other additional loans that we are now hearing about, the public debt could reach 90% of our GDP.  In other words, for every dollar produced in the country, ninety cents are already owed. This will lead the Salvadoran State toward a critical fiscal situation that will result in extremely limited investments in education, health, housing, potable water and any type of subsidy previously offered to our most impoverished sectors of society.

human rights, International Relations, migration, U.S. Relations

Thousands of Migrants March Towards Saftey

S2AAFCGVLAI6RA5C2HB5UKGWWY_103943202_migrants_caravan_route_4_640-ncOn October 13, 1,500 Honduran refugees began the long arduous journey from one of the most violent capital cities in the world in search of respite and peace. The majority of those seeking a chance for survival were young people, women and their babies.

Pueblo Sin Fronteras or People without Borders, who organized the foot march says the aim is to draw attention to the plight facing the migrants at home and the dangers they run during their attempts to reach safety in the US.

Every single migrant had his or her own personal reason for fleeing. For some, especially the young people, it was direct threats or acts of violence towards themselves or their loved ones. For others, it was the oppressive Honduran government that has been opposing people’s justice movements, or it was the fear of what would become of their children because of unemployment and starvation.

Two days later on October 15th, the caravan had grown to an estimated 3,500 by the time it reached the Guatemalan border.

Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all belong to a migratory convention called The Central America-4 Free Mobility Agreement (CA-4), it is akin to the Schengen agreement in Europe, which allows nationals from 26 countries in the Schengen area to legally enter and reside in each other’s countries. Though this agreement exists, officials in Guatemala and El Salvador have met the caravan with hostility and armed suppression.

Citizens of Honduras and other Centro American countries have been paying the price of U.S. foreign policy atrocities since the beginning of the cold war, with their lives and that of their loved ones. Since the 2009 Honduran coup d’état that put economic elites in charge of the most important sectors of society, the country has been on a never-ending binge of oppression and violence. While this instability has no doubt strengthened the rise of gang violence in the streets, the government’s own tactics of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, protest suppression and the jailing of political prisoners have added to the upheaval happening at this very moment.

On Sunday October 21, as the 7,000 person strong caravan reached the Mexican border of Tapachula in the State of Chiapas, Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets, expressing anger towards central american governments inability to halt the progression of the foot march.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump wrote.

An estimated 258 million people, approximately 3 per cent of the world’s population, currently live outside their country of origin, many of whose migration is characterized by varying degrees of compulsion. Migration is a fundamental human right. We have no right to forbid or stigmatise, we only have the power to try to do so.

Follow the stories: #CaravanaMigrante

agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Cabanas, Climate Change, Corruption, Disasters, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, Food Security, International Relations, Mining, Politics, Public Health

A Historical Vote for Environmental Justice

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Versión Español

March 29th, 2017

Despite a short 72 hour notice, some three hundred people from across the country, descended on the courtyard of the Legislative Assembly in San Salvador to be be present during one of the most historical votes in the counter’s recent history. Today was the result of a persistent movement led by communities, national and international environmental organizations, universities, politicians, lawyers, scientists, health professions and most recently, even the Pope himself, recently joined the cause.

According to the UN, El Salvador has the second highest degree of environmental deterioration in the Americas, with only 3% of intact natural forests, soils ruined by inadequate agricultural practices and more than 90% of contaminated surface waters. A recent study by the Central American University José Simeón Cañas (UCA) revealed that 90% of the population demands that the Government take immediate measures to prohibit this putrid industry.

Today was not only a victory for the Anti-Mining activists but it also gave a glimpse of hope that the Water Rights Act, another overdue, essential bill could finally be put before the same assembly and passed. Both laws go hand in hand in the protection of the most basic and important human right of Salvadorans; the right to a dignified and healthy life.

Read the Press Release


Un Voto Histórico para la Justicia Ambiental

Marzo 29, 2017

A pesar de un breve aviso de 72 horas, unas trescientas personas, representado varios regiones del país descendieron al patio de la Asamblea Legislativa en San Salvador para estar presentes durante uno de los votos más trascendentales de la historia reciente del país. Hoy en día, fue el resultado de un movimiento persistente liderado por comunidades, organizaciones ambientales nacionales e internacionales, universidades, políticos, abogados, científicos, profesiones de la salud y más recientemente, incluso el Papa mismo , se unió a la causa.

Según la ONU, El Salvador tiene el segundo mayor grado de deterioro ambiental en las Américas, con sólo el 3% de bosques naturales intactos, los suelos son arruinados por prácticas agrícolas inadecuadas y más del 90% de las aguas superficiales son contaminadas. Un reciente estudio de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) reveló que el 90% de la población exige que el Gobierno tome medidas inmediatas para prohibir esta industria pútrida.

Hoy, no sólo fue una victoria para los activistas antiminerales, sino que también dio un vistazo a la esperanza de que la Ley del Agua, otro proyecto imprescindible y atrasado, podría finalmente ser sometido a la misma asamblea y aprobado. Ambas leyes van de la mano en la protección del derecho humano más básico e importante de los salvadoreños; El derecho a una vida digna y sana.

Lea Aquí el Comunicado

agriculture, Climate Change, Corruption, Disasters, Economy, El Salvador Government, Environment, Food Security, International Relations, Mining, Partnership for Growth, Public Health, transparency, Uncategorized, violence, Voices Developments

El Salvador’s Metal Mining Debate

Versión Español

In 2002, the Canadian corporation Pacific Rim registered in El Salvador. It was invited by the Salvadoran government to exploit the potential of the country in terms of gold and silver. Pacific Rim identified at least 25 favorable sites for the extraction of gold, in the beginning of its explorations. One of these sites is known as El Dorado, in the department of Cabañas. In December 2004, the company formally requested permission to operate the El Dorado mine, but the government denied permission for inconsistencies in the environmental impact study, and because the company did not have the authorization of the owners of the land where the exploitation of gold and silver would be carried out.

In response to the Salvadoran government’s refusal to grant the El Dorado project exploitation permit, in July 2008, Pacific Rim filed a lawsuit against the Salvadoran government through the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

The company demanded El Salvador pay them $77 million for the amount invested before they were denied the authorization permit. Later this requirement was increased to $301 million and finally reduced to $250 million. At the end of 2013, Pacific Rim filed for bankruptcy and sold its shares to the Australian transnational company Oceana Gold, which continued the lawsuit process.

After a long litigation, on October 14, 2016, the international court ruled in favor of the Salvadoran government and against the mining company. The verdict also determined that the company must compensate with $8 million to the Salvadoran government to cover the procedural costs of the litigation.

Following this ruling, on November 24, 2016, the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change and Corporations (MOVIAC), submitted a letter to the Legislative Assembly requesting a ban on all metal mining in the country. This request opened an intense debate that is increasingly gaining strength. On February 6, the Central American University José Simeón Cañas (UCA) and the Catholic Church presented a proposal for a law to ban metal mining.

The request for a ban is justified by the serious social and ecological impacts caused by the mining industry and by the high degree of pollution and environmental deterioration that the country is currently suffering. According to international experts, El Salvador is the country with the most environmental deterioration in the continent, after Haiti. The United Nations has described El Salvador as the country with the least amount of water available throughout the continent, while the Ministry of the Environment has reported that more than 90% of surface water is seriously contaminated and only 10% are suitable for use as potable.

This water crisis could become much more serious if gold and silver mining projects are located in the basin of the river Lempa, which is the most important river in the country. Its basin makes up 50% of the national territory, and houses 70% of the country’s population.

El Salvador is the only country in Central America that does not have mineral exploitation and in an opinion poll conducted by the UCA in June 2015, 76% of the population is against the opening of mining projects. Despite this opposition, there is great pressure from transnational companies to initiate gold and silver mining projects. This of course is due to the findings from Pacific Rim that discovered approximatly 1.2 million ounces of high-purity gold and more than 7.5 million ounces of silver in the subsoil of the northern part of the country. In addition to another 558 thousand ounces of gold and 1.2 million silver of lower quality.

Apparently this is a good thing; however, experience in neighboring countries such as Guatemala and Honduras demonstrates how harmful the mining industry is to people and the environment. Especially when it comes to water resources. According to a recent UCA publication, the Marlin mine in Guatemala uses about 6 million liters of water per day; and nearby communities have reported 40 dry communal wells in the eight years of the mine’s operations. Likewise in the region of Valle de Siria in Honduras, the San Martín mine has dried 19 of the original 23 rivers in the area throughout its’ nine years of operation.

These effects could be worse in El Salvador, due to the fragility of its ecosystems and the population density of around 300 inhabitants per square kilometer. In these circumstances the human rights of the population would be seriously affected. In this regard, the Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), in a recent statement said: “The harmful effects of mining activity constitute serious violations of the human rights of the population. Among them is the right to life, health, water and food. The concern persists because the mining industry still has an interest in developing its projects in the country and there is no legislation or institutional mechanisms to guarantee the protection of the environment against mining activity.”

The interest of the mining industry to which the PDDH refers to is manifested in a series of actions carried out by the mining company Oceana Gold, which MOVIAC has repeatedly denounced. For instance, in a letter delivered to the Legislative Assembly on November 24, 2016, MOVIAC states: “We know that in all the impoverished countries of the world, transnational mining companies use the same strategies: division of communities, murder of environmentalists, bribing corrupt officials and false media campaigns such as the promises of job creation and social development. The truth is that mining does not generate more jobs than it destroys. Where there is mining there is no agriculture, there is no livestock, there is no tourism, there is no health, there are no peaceful or free communities.”

For all these reasons at the moment, in El Salvador there is a strong debate about the need to pass a law that definitively prohibits metal mining.


El Salvador Debate la Prohibición de la Minería Metálica

En el año 2002 la corporación canadiense Pacific Rim se registró en El Salvador, invitada por el gobierno, para explotar el potencial del país en cuanto a oro y  plata. Desde el inicio en sus exploraciones, la minera identificó al menos 25 sitios propicios para la extracción de oro, uno de estos es el lugar conocido como  El Dorado, en el departamento de Cabañas. En Diciembre de 2004 la empresa solicitó formalmente el permiso de explotación de la mina El Dorado, el gobierno negó el permiso por inconsistencias en el estudio de impacto ambiental y porque la empresa no contaba con la autorización de los propietarios de las tierras en donde se realizaría la explotación del oro y la plata.

Ante la negativa del gobierno salvadoreño de no conceder el permiso de explotación del proyecto El Dorado,  en julio de 2008Pacific Rim inicia una demanda contra el Estado salvadoreño, en El Centro Internacional de Arreglo de Diferencias Relativas a Inversiones (CIADI) del Banco Mundial.

La petición pedía que el Estado salvadoreño le pagara $77 millones de dólares, por el monto invertido antes de que se le negara la autorización de explotación, más tarde esta exigencia fue incrementada a $ 301 millones y finalmente se redujo a $ 250 millones. A finales de  2013, Pacific Rim se declaró en quiebra y vendió sus acciones a la transnacional Australiana Oceana Gold, quien continuó el proceso de demanda.

Después de un largo litigio, el 14 de octubre de 2016, el tribunal internacional falló a favor del Estado salvadoreño y en contra de la empresa minera. El veredicto también determinó que la empresa deberá indemnizar con 8 millones de dólares al gobierno salvadoreño para cubrir los costos procesales del litigio.

A raíz de este fallo, el 24 de noviembre de 2016 el Movimiento de Víctimas y Afectados por el Cambio Climático y Corporaciones MOVIAC, presentó un escrito a la Asamblea Legislativa solicitando la prohibición de la minería metálica en el país. Está petición abrió un intenso debate que cada vez está cobrando más fuerza. El 6 de febrero la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, UCA y la Iglesia Católica presentaron una propuesta de ley de prohibición de la minería metálica.

La solicitud de prohibición se justifica por los graves impactos sociales y ecológicos que ocasiona la industria minera y por el alto grado de contaminación y deterioro ambiental que ya sufre el país. Según expertos internacionales El Salvador es el país del continente con mayor deterioro ambiental, después de Haití. Las Naciones Unidas ha calificado a El Salvador como el país con menos disponibilidad de agua de todo el continente, y el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente ha informado que más del 90% de las agua superficiales están seriamente contaminadas y que sólo el 10%  son aptas para potabilizar por medios convencionales.

Esta situación de crisis hídrica podría ser mucho más grave si se concretan proyectos de explotación de oro y plata ubicados en la cuenca del río Lempa, que es el río más importante del país, su cuenca comprende el 50% del territorio nacional, en donde habita el 70% de la población del país.

El Salvador es el único país de Centroamérica que no posee explotación de minerales y en una encuesta de opinión realizada por la Universidad Centroamericana UCA,  en junio de 2015, el 76% de la población está en contra de la apertura de proyectos mineros; no obstante se tiene gran presión de empresas transnacionales para iniciar proyectos de extracción de oro y plata, ya que según la exploraciones realizada por la empresa Pacific Rim, en el subsuelo de la zona norte del país existe un aproximado de 1.2 millones de onzas de oro de alta pureza y más de  7.5 millones de onzas de plata. Además de otras 558 mil onzas de oro y 1.2 millones de plata de menor calidad.

En apariencia esto es algo bueno; sin embargo, la experiencia en países vecinos como Guatemala y Honduras demuestra lo dañina que es la industria minera para las personas y para el medio ambiente, especialmente en el recurso hídrico. Según una publicación de la Universidad Centroamericana, UCA la mina Marlín, en Guatemala utiliza unos 6 millones de litros de agua por día, las comunidades que viven cerca reportan 40 pozos comunales secos en los ocho años de operaciones de la mina; así mismo en la región Valle de Siria en Honduras la mina San Martín en nueve años de operaciones ha secado 19 de los 23 ríos originales de la zona.

Estas afectaciones podrían ser peores en El Salvador, por la fragilidad de sus ecosistemas y por la densidad poblacional cercana a los 300 habitantes por kilómetro cuadrado, en estas circunstancias los derechos humanos de la población serían gravemente afectados. Al respecto la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, en un comunicado reciente expresó que: “los efectos nocivos de la actividad minera constituyen graves violaciones a los derechos humanos de la población; entre estos al derecho a la vida, a la salud, al agua y a la alimentación. La preocupación persiste porque aún concurre el interés de la industria minera de desarrollar sus proyectos en el país y no se cuenta con una legislación  ni mecanismos institucionales que garanticen la protección del medio ambiente ante la actividad minera”

El interés de la industria minera al que hace referencia la PDDH se manifiesta en una serie de acciones que lleva a cabo la empresa minera Oceana Gold, las cuales el Movimiento de Víctimas y Afectados por e Cambio Climático y as Corporaciones, MOVIAC ha denunciado en reiterada ocasiones, por ejemplo en una carta entregada a la Asamblea Legislativa el 24 de noviembre de 2016, el MOVIAC expone: “Conocemos que en todos los países empobrecidos del mundo, las transnacionales mineras emplean las mismas estrategias: división de las comunidades, asesinato de ambientalistas, compra de funcionarios corruptos y campañas mediáticas mentirosas como lo son las promesas de generación de empleo y de desarrollo social. La verdad es que la minería no genera más empleo que el que destruye, donde hay minería no hay agricultura, no hay ganadería, no hay turismo, no hay salud, no hay comunidades pacíficas ni libres”.

Por todas estas razones en el momento actual, en El  Salvador se debate fuertemente la necesidad de aprobar una ley que prohíba definitivamente la minería metálica.

Advocacy, agriculture, Climate Change, Corruption, Economy, Environment, International Relations, Public Health, Tourism, transparency, U.S. Relations, Uncategorized

The Case of Privatizing Happiness

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Dozens of reporters, spent an entire day, braving the heat to cover a story concerning one of the major issues Voices is currently working on. The story is about the implementation of mega-tourism, sponsored by the Millennium Challenge Corporation in the Lower Lempa Region of El Salvador. The main theme is it’s negative impacts on the communities living in and around the Jiquilisco Bay.

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IMG_0040 IMG_0055  IMG_0031 An article published by the Foreign Policy Journal said: “U.S. foreign aid is expected to promote poverty alleviation and facilitate developmental growth in impoverished countries. Yet, corporations and special interest groups have permeated even the most well-intended of U.S. policies.”

The United States has $277million in aid money to grant El Salvador and much of it will promote tourism in the Jiquilisco Bay by funding infrastructure projects like wharfs ans marinas in order to encourage private investment.

IMG_0116 IMG_0108 IMG_0092 IMG_0134Voices has been working extensively with communities and NGO’s in the Lower Lempa region to ensure that residents are bring represented, rights are being protected and those in charge are being held accountable for non-ethical practices. La Tirana and El Chile are two communities most affected by the plans and have expressed concerns about the potential threats to the land, the water, the culture and the economy of their communities. Voices even collaborated with them to create a detailed report on the situation.                >> Read the report here                                                                                                        >> Read the article here

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IMG_0149  IMG_0009“They are privatizing our happiness. They are stealing our smiles.”  La Tirana’s community leader said as he looked over the bay where kids were playing. Thanks to the efforts of leaders like him, many of these people here know what’s going on. They know that this isn’t free money coming into their communities and they are banding together to demand that their lives and rights be taken into consideration.

The day’s event was a great opportunity for exposure. Many diverse, national and international journalists were able to experience the reality these communities face. These communities have been taking good care of the natural resources through climate change, contamination and even flooding with little to no help from the government. To them, these resources are their lifeline. This is something that tourists who are primed to vacation here will never understand.

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Advocacy, agriculture, El Salvador Government, International Relations

The March for True Independence of the People

Yesterday, El Salvador celebrated Independence Day. Historically, many Salvadorans have used the day as a time to ask “what independence?” This was certainly the case yesterday in the Bajo Lempa. As they have in past years, communities came together and held a march down the main road through the Bajo Lempa, to demand true independence. After the march, several community leaders came together and drafted a declaration to highlight the various ways in which the Salvadoran Government has forfeited independence to other countries and international corporations.

Marchers on the main Road through the Bajo Lempa - their banner reads, "March for True Independence for the People."
Marchers on the main Road through the Bajo Lempa – their banner reads, “March for True Independence for the People.”

We translated the declaration and have posted it along with the original Spanish below.

FOR TRUE INDEPENDENCE

THE BAJO LEMPA OUR LIFE AND TERRITORY

 With the sound of tambourines, school parades, and military exercises, yesterday El Salvador celebrated 192 years of independence. For the organized communities of the Bajo Lempa, it was a day to reflect on the current state of the country and the state of independence.

 El Salvador is dependent on food purchased abroad – more than half the population consumes meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains that are imported from neighboring countries. In addition, the consumption of processed junk food (i.e. soups, artificial flavors, soft drinks, and more) is on the rise, affecting the health of the population and resulting in the loss of food sovereignty.

 With regards to the energy sector, El Salvador consumes more than 46,000 barrels of oil a day – all of which is purchased from countries such as Mexico and Venezuela. El Salvador produces energy from geothermic plants in the volcanic regions, but the Flores Administration practically gave these resources to an Italian corporation that now claim them as their own property.

Economically, El Salvador adopted the U.S. dollar in 2001 and lost its own currency (the Colon), exposing the country to international financial crises. El Salvador has also signed free trade agreements, particularly with the United States, that opened the country to the international markets and permitting transnational corporations to continue appropriating our national resources and causing many local businesses and farmers to go bankrupt. In addition, El Salvador has given international courts jurisdiction to decide trade conflicts, sacrificing sovereignty and allowing foreign corporations to violate the rights of workers and Salvadoran communities.

 The Public Private Partnership Law and the mega-projects promoted by the second Millennium Challenge Corporation, were designed by political interests of the United States and are used as instruments to manipulate and dominate the Salvadoran people, while destroying our natural resources and generating divisions and conflict between our communities.

Furthermore, the numerous transnational corporations that operate in the country with complete liberty and limited government oversight, such as telecommunications or energy companies, charge the local population high prices for important public services. These corporations work with local media to promote consumption patters that violate our cultural identity.

Transnational corporations are also engaged in the production and sale of toxic agrochemicals, and have gotten wealthy at the expense of the population and contamination of the environment. They are able to act with impunity to promote their deadly products, and they are creating confusion among the population about the recent law regulating the sale of 53 toxic substances, most of which are already banned in almost every country in the world.

 For these reasons we affirm with complete conviction that THERE IS NO INDEPENDENCE TO CELEBRATE. On the contrary, as social organizations and the organized communities of the Bajo Lempa, we take this opportunity to once again demand our legitimate right to genuine economic, political, and cultural independence. To achieve the later we are building a process to defend our territory and our lives.

 WE ARE MOBILIZING FOR THE DEFENSE OF LIFE AND TERRITORY

THAT IS HOW THE ORGANIZED COMMUNITIES OF THE BAJO LEMPA LIVE

Bajo Lempa, September 15, 2013

And the original Spanish:

POR LA VERDADERA INDEPENDENCIA

EL BAJO LEMPA DEFIENDE LA VIDA Y EL TERRITORIO

Con sonido de tambores, desfiles escolares y maniobras militares, este día los países de Centroamérica celebran 192 años de independencia. Para las comunidades organizadas del Bajo Lempa esta fecha es propicia para reflexionar sobre la situación del país y el sentido de la independencia.

El Salvador es totalmente dependiente en lo que se refiere a la alimentación, se compra en el extranjero más de la mitad de los alimentos que la población consume; carnes, lácteos, frutas, verduras y cereales, en su mayoría se importan de los países vecinos. Además, el consumo de comida chatarra: sopas instantáneas, saborizantes artificiales, bebidas gaseosas, etc. va en constante aumento, con lo que se afecta la salud de la población y se pierde soberanía.

En materia energética en el país se consumen más de 46,000 barriles de petróleo por día, todo este combustible se compra a países como México y Venezuela. También en el país se produce energía a partir del vapor que brota del subsuelo en las zonas volcánicas, pero en tiempos del gobierno de Francisco Flores, este recurso fue prácticamente regalado a una empresa italiana, que ahora lo reclama como de su propiedad.

En materia económica, El Salvador adoptó a partir del año 2001, el dólar como moneda de circulación nacional, con lo que perdió su propia moneda y ha quedado mayor expuesto a las crisis financieras internacionales. La firma de Tratados de Libre Comerció, especialmente con Estados Unidos abrió al país al mercado internacional permitiendo que empresas trasnacionales continúen apropiándose de nuestros recursos y provocando la quiebra de muchas pequeñas empresas nacionales. Por otra parte con la firma de Tratados de Libre Comercio, el país está sometido a tribunales internacionales para resolver conflictos, con lo cual se ha perdido soberanía y se vulneran los derechos de los trabajadores y las comunidades.

La ley de asocios público privados y megaproyectos como el Fomilenio II, han sido diseñados a partir de los intereses políticos de Los Estados Unidos y estos se convierten en instrumentos de manipulación y dominación de nuestro pueblo, al mismo tiempo que destruyen los recursos naturales y generan división y conflictos entre comunidades.

Además, son numerosas las empresas trasnacionales que operan en el país con total libertad o con limitados controles por parte del gobierno, como por ejemplo las empresas de telefonía o distribución de la energía eléctrica que prestan servicios a precios elevados. Además estas empresas en complicidad con grandes medios de comunicación fomentan patrones de alienación y consumo que violentan nuestra identidad cultural.

También las empresas dedicadas a la producción y comercialización de agro químicos que se han enriquecido a costa de la salud de la población y de la contaminación del medio ambiente, actúan con total impunidad promoviendo sus productos de muerte y generando confusión en la población a cerca de la reciente ley que regula la venta de 53 sustancias tóxicas, que en su mayoría están prohibidas en casi todos los países del mundo.

Por estas razones afirmamos con total convencimiento que NO HAY NINGUNA INDEPENDIENCIA QUE CELEBRAR, por el contrario las organizaciones sociales y las comunidades organizadas del Bajo Lempa, aprovechamos una vez más esta ocasión para reivindicar nuestro legitimo derecho a una verdadera independencia económica, política y cultural. La que ya estamos construyendo mediante el impulso de procesos de defensa  de nuestro territorio y de nuestra vida.

MOVILIZANDONOS POR LA DEFENSA DE LA VIDA Y EL TERRITORIO

QUE VIVAN LAS COMUNIDADES ORGANIZADAS DEL BAJO LEMPA

 Bajo Lempa, 15 de septiembre de 2013

Corruption, El Salvador Government, International Relations, Mauricio Funes, Organized Crime, Partnership for Growth

Decriminalization and the Impact of Drug Trafficking in Central America

Decriminalization, or legalization, of drugs in Central America is a hot topic in El Salvador and Guatemala right now. Last Friday, Inside Story Americas, an Al-Jazeera news program, ran a program on the effects of drug trafficking on Central America, touching on the pros/cons of decriminalization.

The program was in response to comments made last week by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who said he would be open to decriminalizing drugs in an effort to address Guatemala’s security issues. The comments came after a meeting with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes who also said he is also open to the idea. President Funes stated,

“Our government is open to discussion on any proposal or measure which achieves a reduction in the high levels of consumption in our countries, but particularly (to reduce) the production and trafficking of drugs. As long as the United States does not make any effort to reduce the high levels of (narcotics) consumption, there’s very little we can do in our countries to fight against the cartels, and try to block the production and trade in drugs.”

After returning to El Salvador from his meeting with President Perez Molina, President Funes backtracked a bit, saying that he does not favor decriminalizing drugs.

Saving the discussion about the pros and cons of decriminalization or legalization for another blog post, an interesting point of these recent conversations is the growing emphasis on the failure of the U.S. to curb its demand for drugs. Al Jazeera cited a recent government report that found that 22.6 million Americans used illicit drugs in 2010, nearly 9% of the population. While the number of users dropped from 2.4 million in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2010, the U.S. remains the largest consumer of cocaine in the world.

The Inside Story panelists said the heads of state in Central America, and even Mexico and Colombia who have talked about decriminalization, may be discussing decriminalization in order to pressure the U.S. into taking more actions to decrease demand. Experts from around the world agree that the “war on drugs,” as it has been fought over the past 40 years, has failed. Even President Obama has acknowledged that the U.S. needs to address the demand issue, and treat the issue as a public health problem.

U.S. policies have yet to change, though. In 2011, the National Drug Control Strategy had a budget of $15.5 billion, and the expenditures were roughly the same as in previous years. Approximately 1/3 ($5.6 billion) of the federal budget for the war on drugs was allocated for treatment and prevention – an increase of $0.2 billion from the 2010 budget. The remaining $9.9 billion was allocated for law enforcement, interdiction, and international support, the same as previous years.

In addition to the well-documented affects on Mexico and South America, the U.S. demand for illicit drugs produced in South America and trafficked through Central America and Mexico have very real consequences in Salvadoran communities.

El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala now comprise the most violent region in the world. While police officials blame 90% of the murders on local youth gangs, other government agencies, recently demoted police officials, and civil society organizations believe the violence is the result of international organized criminals who are trafficking drugs, guns, people, and laundering money. They estimate that only 10-20% of El Salvador’s murders are attributable to local gangs. The high murder rates have resulted in such insecurity in El Salvador that the U.S. aid program, Partnership for Growth, indentified it as one of the country’s two primary barriers to economic growth.

Traffickers use border communities, coastal villages, and other regions to move shipments from South American producers to North American markets. But they don’t just use these communities quietly – they often take them over, corrupting local government and police officials, making sure that local citizens and law enforcement do not interfere with their activities.

Along the coast, traffickers use small villages, ports and tourist destinations to refuel the small boats they use to transport drug shipments by sea. They also use these villages to transfer shipments that arrive by boat to cars and trucks, which then continue the journey north via land routes. Traffickers use communities along El Salvador’s borders with Honduras and Guatemala to move shipments without interference from border agents.

The cartels control these towns by putting local government and police officials on their payrolls. In turn these officials arrange for locals to move and provide security for shipments, and make sure that law enforcement agencies do not interfere. The local government and police officials maintain a culture of lawlessness that prevents political opposition and limits civil society.

One of the best examples of how traffickers work in El Salvador is the Texis Cartel, which was exposed in a report put together by El Faro in May 2011 and a companion video produced by the Washington Office on Latin America. The Texis Cartel ran a land route that trafficked drugs and other contraband from Honduras through northern El Salvador and on to Guatemala.

While it remains unclear how decriminalization or legalization would affect Central American communities, experts and even President Obama agree that the long-term solution must include a decrease demand in the U.S. Unfortunately, U.S. officials have yet to shift their priorities, forcing Central and South American governments to discuss other options. And until the U.S. can kick its cocaine problem, the violence will continue and the cartels will continue to control communities throughout the Americas.