Mauricio Funes, Politics, violence

Funes Proposes Mandatory Military Service for “At-Risk Youth”

In a speech to the legislative assembly on June 1st, President Mauricio Funes provided commentary on his second year in office and proposed goals for improvement of the country’s state of security.  Notable among these proposals is Funes’ plan to create a system of obligatory military service for youth at risk of being recruited, or targeted by gangs.  If enacted, those deemed to be “at risk”, a denomination given at the discretion of the National Civil Police, would be required to complete a total of 2 years of military training without weapons (6 months), civil protection training,  rehabilitation, and vocational training aimed to shape them into productive citizens.  Funes believes that removing an estimated 5,000 at-risk members of society off of the streets and putting them through this program will resolve many of the country’s security issues caused by the prevalence and entrenchment of violent gangs in Salvadoran society.

 

While Funes’ introduction of the plan was only general, with details and logistics to be decided upon at a later date, some of the infrastructure necessary to implement it is already in place: the Salvadoran Constitution stipulates obligatory military service for citizens age 18-30, although this provision (designated as a “dead letter” rule) is not implemented   The caveat is that recruiting minors is of the essence to the success of the plan; FBI statistics show that gangs often target middle and high school students for recruitment, who range from approximately 12-18 years of age.  The program would theoretically need to work with at-risk youth before they join the gangs.  These statistics and the need to recruit minors may necessitate some legal revisions.  However, “youth” in El Salvador includes both minors and young adults, so it is unclear as to whether he plans on targeting minors, or if the participants would be over 18.

 

Funes’ plan, while controversial, does have proponents. Aída Santos, the former director of the National Public Security Council, in her interview with El Faro applauded Funes’ plan, citing that many adolescent members of gangs often feel like prisoners who cannot escape the constant threats and harassment they experience as gang members.  She believes that military training will provide them with this escape, as well as the sense of community and support they may have been seeking to find through gang membership.

 

Those opposed to Funes’ plan for obligatory military service for at risk youth argue that the program will only serve to exacerbate gang violence, as when adolescents are recruited into the program, it is highly likely they will already be associated with a gang.  This would effectively mean that the Salvadoran government would be training gang members and possibly providing them with resources and connections within the government.  There are already reports of the police and the military being corrupt and having connections with organized crime and gang activity; this could have the potential to intensify that problem.

 

Others opposed to the plan make claims that it will violate human rights.   Henry Fino of the Human Rights Institute at the Central American University (IDHUCA), also in an El Faro interview alleged that Funes’ proposed use of the army is unconstitutional, as the army is only meant to intervene in matters of public security in extreme cases.  He believes that the prevention of crime is not an extreme circumstance, nor does he even consider it to be a matter of public security.

 

In addition, as Funes’ plan to impose obligatory military service on youth continues to develop and does, in fact, include minors, the President must be careful not to violate his treaty obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC).   The CRC, which El Salvador signed and later ratified in July of 1990, provides rigid protection for the rights of minors, of the sort that Funes seeks to recruit.  El Salvador also ratified an optional protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflicts (A/RES/54/263) proposed in May of 2000 and signed and ratified by El Salvador by 2002.  Article 2 of the protocol is explicit when it states, “States Parties shall ensure that persons who have not attained the age of 18 years are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces.”  The protocol in its third article also stipulates that any involvement of minors within the army must be “genuinely voluntary [and]…carried out with the informed consent of the person’s parents or legal guardians.”  If Funes continues to pursue the development of such plan, he must be aware of his obligations to the international community and the scrutiny he will come under if he violates his treaty obligations.

 

 

 

Corruption, El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, Politics

Among Apparent Rampant Corruption in the Region, El Salvador Ranks Surprisingly Low

The second part of USAID’s survey on the political culture of Latin America examined the effects of crime and corruption on democracy. As trust is a necessary facet of democracy, fear of violence and a lack of confidence in the police or other public officials are detrimental to its development.

When survey respondents were asked about their perception of personal security, 44% of Salvadorans reported feeling “somewhat” to “very” unsafe, the third highest level of insecurity in the Americas, ranking behind only Peru and Argentina. El Salvador also has one of the highest rates of violence in the Americas, so these results aren’t surprising. In fact, these abstract perceptions of insecurity are approximately in line with the crime respondents have actually experienced: 38.6% of households report having at least one member who was a victim of violent crime in the past 12 months (crimes specifically mentioned in the survey question are robbery, burglary, assault, fraud, blackmail, extortion, and violent threats). This rate places El Salvador in the group of countries with the highest levels of victimization, on par with Mexico and Venezuela – an alarming place to be. Generally, the young, the wealthy, and those who live in urban metropolitan areas are most likely to be victimized, though citizens with greater economic problems also report high levels. USAID interviewers further found that respondents in neighborhoods with gang presence (pandillas) were more likely to have been victimized, though it is impossible to determine from these data whether this is causation or simply coincidence.

After discussing crime, survey questions turned to the issue of corruption. When asked directly how common it was for public officials to be corrupt, 66.7% of Salvadoran respondents answered that it was “common” or “very common,” a decline from 2008, and only 8.2% believe the problem of corruption is non-existent. Though at first glance these rates may seem high, it’s important to note that this is the 2nd lowest rate of perceived corruption in Latin America, lower even than that of the United States (69.9% of U.S. respondents think corruption is common practice in the country). Furthermore, only 11.4% of Salvadorans polled said they had been victims of corruption: again, one of the lowest levels in Latin America. These numbers would appear to be heartening, but given what we know about El Salvador, they are mostly just perplexing.  Nor do the results match up with other surveys, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which places El Salvador more moderately, as the 16th most corrupt country in the region (out of 28).  According to Transparency International’s metrics, corruption in El Salvador definitely exceeds levels in the US, Chile, Costa Rica and Brazil, among others.

It is difficult to determine whether these responses of perceived corruption correspond to the real levels.  Any number of factors can influence the accuracy of responses, be it a misformulation of the survey questions, the well-known ‘honeymoon period’ of recently elected President Funes, who still enjoys a 72% approval rate, or the simple subtlety of corruption.  A cultural accustom to corruption, along with differing personal definitions of the term can greatly affect the public’s perception.  On the other hand, since there is no way to measure the actual level of corruption in a country, there is no evidence contrary to the survey’s results.  The level of perceived corruption could very well be an accurate representation of the level of practiced corruption.  Also, the percentage of those who perceive the country to be corrupt, puzzlingly, seems to be lower than that of those who note that police don’t protect their citizens.  Many people would consider corruption to be a factor in situations where police fall short of their responsibilities.

Perhaps this is because corruption motivated by power is inherently harder to measure than that motivated by money. Even financially-motivated corruption, however, is much more complex than the survey implies.  The only question used to assess the entire culture of actual (rather than perceived) corruption is about authority figures asking law-abiding citizens for bribes. This is where the survey’s information most significantly falls short of a full investigation of the issue.  Corruption is more than actions, it is a culture.  When it takes hold of a society, it builds impunity and a weak rule of law, which erode democratic values.

If the perception of corruption is so low, relative to the other nations in the region, then the lack of respect for the law is puzzlingly high. More than 52% of interviewed Salvadorans agree that officials would be justified in occasionally acting outside of the law in order to catch a criminal, giving El Salvador the 2nd lowest population support for rule of law. Moreover, just over 50% of citizens say that a coup d’état would be justified in conditions of high crime and high corruption.

Overall, the seemingly low level of perceived corruption relative to other nations in the region is promising.  Although the true level of corruption is extremely important to the success of a democratic system, the public’s perception of corruption is also important.  The more corrupt the public views the government, the less trust people have for the government, which eventually destabilizes democracy.  The public’s optimistic attitude towards the level of corruption implies a certain level of trust in the government’s democratic system.

Corruption, El Salvador Government, International Relations, Mauricio Funes, News Highlights, Organized Crime, U.S. Relations

Talk of an International Commission Against Organized Crime in El Salvador

El Faro posted a story this morning about a growing movement to create an International Commission Against Organized Crime in El Salvador. This Commission, modeled after the CICIG in Guatemala, would investigate and prosecute cases that the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalia, in Spanish) has not taken on. Though the CICIG (the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala) has had its troubles over the last few years, its successes and lessons learned could greatly benefit El Salvador.

Momentum for such a commission has grown out of a general frustration with the Fiscalia, which is led by Attorney General Romeo Barahona, for its failure to investigate drug trafficking and organized crime. Though El Salvador has struggled with organized crime throughout its modern history, drug trafficking has taken off in recent years as cartels have increasingly used Central America to transport their products to the United States markets.

One of the complaints against Fiscal Barahona is that under his leadership, the Fiscalia has gone after low-level gang members while staying away from more difficult cases involving higher-level organized crime syndicates.  A related issue is that the Fiscalia attributes many homicides that appear to be political in nature to gang members (“common crime”) or family issues. An example is the 2009 murder of Marcelo Rivera.  Rodolfo Delgado, the prosecutor and lead investigator, called it a crime of passion committed by four gang members. He also attributed the 2004 murder of union organizer Gilberto Soto to a family disagreement and arrested Soto’s mother-in-law. As in many, many other cases, Barahona and his team of prosecutors seem more interested in depoliticizing murders and steering investigations away from organized crime rather than seeking the truth and justice.

Fiscal Barahona, however, believes an international committee is unnecessary.  In response to the idea of creatingsuch a commission, he stated, “We do not believe it is necessary to create a commission to combat crime. It is better that the resources that it would take be invested in strengthening the Fiscalia and the Police.”

Though it seems early in the process, El Faro reports that the Salvadoran government is taking the steps necessary to create the legal foundation for this international authority. Though the Commission would have to work with Fiscal Barahona, those working on the project realize that it would require a significant amount of autonomy. The Commission would have to be led by someone with the character to take on organized crime-a vast network that includes past and present government officials who have maintained the culture of impunity and gotten rich from illicit activities.

The discussion of a commission is becoming public just days before President Obama is scheduled to visit El Salvador, a visit during which he and President Funes are sure to discuss security and the region’s growing struggle with crime and violence. At the end of January, the Economist reported that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras make up the most violent region in the world, battlefields aside. Everyday there are new reports about the Zetas and other Mexican cartels setting up camp in Central America where the cost of doing business is less, and there are plenty of corruptible government officials at the local and national levels. President Obama and the US ought to support the idea of an International Commission in El Salvador and provide all of the support and training necessary to ensure its success.

Economy, El Salvador Government, International Relations, Mauricio Funes, News Highlights, U.S. Relations, violence

Obama to Travel to El Salvador

President Obama recently finalized the dates for his trip to Central and South America.  Pending U.S. government budget resolutions, he will tour the region March 19 to 23, visiting Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Santiago, Chile, and San Salvador, El Salvador.  If the budget resolutions are not passed in time, however, his trip will almost definitely be cancelled or postponed.

While many are confounded by the President’s choice to visit El Salvador, there are several hot-button issues on the table. Salvadorans compose the 6th largest immigrant population in the U.S., numbering approximately between 1 and 1.5 million people. Most of them live and work in the U.S. under a Temporary Protected Status (TPS), begun in 1991 and extended in 18-month increments since then (the current TPS is set to expire March 2012). Given the continued violent and unstable political climate in El Salvador, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes hopes to work with President Obama to establish permanent residence for those currently living under TPS.

In addition to immigration, a discussion about drug trafficking is likely to be a priority. Organized crime syndicates trading in drugs or weapons are a major cause of violence throughout Central America, though this remains largely unrecognized and untreated.  Where Mexico, the focus of the U.S.’s war on drugs, has 15 murders per 100,000 people yearly, El Salvador has 73, the highest rate in the region.

Funes recognizes that, in both of these cases, it’s important to unearth the root causes of the problem. In the same way that immigration issues can be addressed by reducing the flow of emigrants from El Salvador, so can narco-trafficking concerns be relieved by reducing North American drug consumption. Besides these international objectives, Funes hopes to impress upon Obama the dire need to reduce poverty in El Salvador. Some measures have already been proposed for the resolution of this problem; first, the BRIDGE initiative, which proposes formalizing and securitizing a system for workers to remit money from the U.S. to El Salvador, thus hypothetically increasing the long-term benefit of these remittances for the country as a whole. Second, Funes intends to open negotiation of a renewal of El Salvador’s 5-year compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (currently in its 3rd year), with grant money financing improvements in education, public services, agricultural production, rural business development, and transportation infrastructure.

Overall, President Obama’s visit to El Salvador seems to mark real intent to ally the two countries, and we at Voices are hopeful that these upcoming talks will result in a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, News Highlights, transparency

Transparency Law Passes Unanimously

(To read more on our coverage of the Transparency Law, look here and here.)

A mere three months after its introduction on December 2, 2010, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador voted yesterday to accept President Funes’s comments on the Transparency and Public Access to Information Law. Despite minor differences in opinion among the parties on certain points of the law, it was passed unanimously (81 votes). This complete consensus comes as somewhat of a surprise, especially given the strong opposition originally presented by the PCN (National Conciliation Party), GANA (Grand Alliance for National Unity), and the PDC (Christian Democratic Party). However, commented the president of the Legislative Committee, Guillermo Ávila Qüehl (ARENA), “what’s important is that it passed.” This vote was the final step in the law-making process, and the law is scheduled to become effective in March 2012.

The law recognizes three categories of information: reserved, confidential, and public.  Reserved information, which the government may refuse to divulge, is anything that could compromise national security or the public interest. Personal information about individuals (such as any health conditions, or religious or sexual preferences) is considered confidential and will also not be available to the public. What constitutes public information has yet to be precisely defined, but may potentially encompass all information which is not reserved or confidential.

The law now requires government institutions, and private entities funded by the state, to make information available to the public by establishing an accessible database of information, in addition to supplying inquirers with their requested public information. Additionally, the law creates a new government agency (yet to be appointed), tasked with implementing the law and punishing those who do not comply.

 

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, Politics, U.S. Relations

President Obama Re-nominates Ambassador Aponte to El Salvador

The White House announced yesterday that President Obama has again nominated Mari Carmen Aponte to be the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. President Obama first nominated her to the post in December of 2009, but Senate Republicans led by Jim DeMint held her nomination in Committee. Sen. DeMint (R-SC) voiced concerns that Ms. Aponte had a romantic relationship in the 1990s with Roberto Tamayo, a Cuban who has alleged ties to the FBI and Fidel Castro.

President Obama used a recess appointment in August 2010 to by-pass the Senate and Ambassador Aponte was sworn in on September 22, 2010. As a recess appointment, her term will end in January 2012, giving the administration just under ten months to get her nomination approved by the Senate.

Senator DeMint and other Republicans have asked to see to her FBI files to better understand her relationship with Mr. Tamayo. In 1998, President Clinton nominated Ms. Aponte to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, but she withdrew her nomination when Senator Jessie Helms threatened to ask probing questions about the relationship.

The Salvadoran Embassy website posted the following biography for the Ambassador:

Before assuming the position of U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, Mari Carmen Aponte worked as an attorney and consultant with Aponte Consulting, and served on the Board of Directors of Oriental Financial Group.  From 2001-2004, Ms. Aponte was the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration.

Prior to that, she practiced law in Washington D.C. for nearly twenty years.  Ms. Aponte has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of La Raza, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the University of the District of Columbia.  She was a member of the Board of Rosemont College, and served as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association; the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia; and as a member of the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission.  In 1979, as a White House Fellow, Ms. Aponte was Special Assistant to United States Housing and Urban Development Secretary Moon Landrieu.  Ms. Aponte has a B.A. in Political Science from Rosemont College, an M.A. in Theatre from Villanova University, and a J.D. from Temple University.

President Obama will be visiting El Salvador March 22-23 during a three-stop tour of Latin America. Last week, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes said that they will be discussing the fight against poverty, which he says provides fertile ground for common crime and organized crime to flourish.

Corruption, El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, transparency

Update on the Transparency Law

Last week, we blogged about the status of El Salvador’s proposed transparency law and the myriad reactions to it.

Today, a Diario CoLatino piece makes us hopeful for its quick passage. Three parties (FMLN, GANA, and PCN) have united to support the incorporation of President Funes’s recommendations into the legislation. These three parties, together, have 60 votes worth of say in the matter, 17 more than the minimum needed for the law’s passage. They aim to vote and resubmit the legislation to the President quickly, so that it may become effective early in 2012, before El Salvador’s presidential elections.

The energetic effort made toward passing this law may be due in part to the recent election of a new president of the Legislative Assembly: Sigfrido Reyes, of FMLN. Reyes spoke to El Faro about his election, outlining his goal of transparency in the Assembly and executive branch, which do not have a lot of trust with the Salvadoran public.

Still too early to celebrate, but this seems to be an important step to letting the sun shine on the Salvadoran government.

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, transparency

New Transparency Law Stalled

On December 2, 2010, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador approved the Transparency and Public Information Access Law (Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública in Spanish), and on January 6, 2011, President Funes vetoed it and returned it with comments to the Assembly.  The proposed law would have required government institutions, and private entities tied to the state, to make information available to the public without, necessarily, a formal request, by establishing an accessible database of information. Additionally, the proposed law would have created a new government agency tasked with implementing the law and punishing those who do not comply.

The bill passed by the Legislative Assembly created three categories of information: reserved, confidential, and public.  Reserved information, which the government may refuse to divulge, is anything that, if made public, would compromise national security or the public interest. Personal information about individuals (such as any health conditions, or religious or sexual preferences) is considered confidential and would also not be available to the public.  All information that does not fall into these two categories is categorized as public and would be available to everyone.

This would be El Salvador’s first law regulating transparency and the establishment of a database of public information. Currently individuals have the constitutional right to request information from state-affiliated agencies on the municipal level, but, as there is no law to guarantee and enforce this right, it is not currently used to its full advantage. Under this new law, institutions would have 10 business days from the date of a request for information not already public to provide the inquirer with either a) the information requested or b) a response denying the request if the information is reserved or confidential. If denied, the person making the request may appeal to the government agency implementing the law. If the enforcement agency, which will be comprised of five people that the President selects from a list of nominees from five social sectors, finds that the government body was unjustified in denying the request, they may release the information and impose a penalty of up to $8300.

The law passed the Legislative Assembly with a vote of 55-30, enjoying support from representatives from both the FMLN and ARENA parties. On January 6, President Funes vetoed the proposed law and returned it to the Assembly with comments. The law that was passed by the Legislative Assembly would give Salvadorans the right to request information 30 days after the President signed it into law. In his comments, President Funes requested that they give his administration one year before people can make requests, allowing his administration to create the new government agencies. He also suggested a more clear definition of what is ‘public’ information, instead of letting it be defined simply as what is not reserved or confidential, terms that are also vaguely defined. Lastly, he proposed that the Legislative Assembly better define how government institutions must respond in the case of an inquiry. In general, the President’s comments on the law and his reasons for vetoing it seem based on improving the law and its application, and not out of an opposition to its underlying principles.

The law was returned to the Legislative Assembly, which will look over the President’s comments and decide whether to address the issues he raised.

If the President eventually signs the bill into law, it would mean increased access to information and governmental transparency, which would theoretically foster more active and effective community participation and, in turn, keep government-affiliated institutions accountable to the people they represent. However, as columnist and professor Guillermo Mejía points out, in a politically developing nation like El Salvador, the public may not recognize the importance of this law or the importance of their role in its success. If Salvadorans do not use the law or take a more active role in holding their government officials accountable, the law will not have much of an impact on the country’s nascent democracy. To illustrate this point, Mejía cites the recent Wikileaks scandal as indicative of the persistence of governmental duplicity in the face of popular apathy even in developed nations like the U.S.

Many of those who have supported the laws passage are concerned that Funes’ veto is less about making the law better, but trying to kill the bill altogether. The Promoters of the Transparency and Public Information Access Law (abbreviated GP in Spanish – a summary of the group and a list of its members can be found here), writers for El Faro in particular, have expressed such concerns , and fear that the President is trying to minimize the transparency of his administration.  Others believe that Funes is trying to slow down the implementation of the law in order to give government officials more time to reorganize sensitive documents before they become public.

Funes has responded to these accusations by noting that the previous ARENA-run administrations that were in power for 20 years blocked all previous efforts to promote a transparency law. He has pointed out that he did not veto the bill outright, but sent it back with comments and a mind toward future progress.

 

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, violence

Funes’ First Year

On Sunday, Linda Garrett from the Center for Democracy in the Americas published a defense of Funes’s first year in office.  She argues that his administration “assumed the mantle of power of a polarized country nearly bankrupt, wrought with poverty, violence, corruption and fragile democratic institutions.”

She applauds the administration for providing new social programs, financing agreements for the next five years, and his public apologies for such past crimes as the assassinations of Monseñor Romero in 1980 and the Jesuits in 1989.   She also cautions readers of the importance of supporting his administration in the face of the current violence and public insecurity that has dominated the news in the past few weeks.  This week’s headlines are evidence of this administration’s harried response.

Funes has reacted to each mounting case of violence with bolder and more repressive measures.  He deployed the military to work along side the civilian police soon after his inauguration.  On June 1st of this year he announced that the military would also intervene in the prisons, which they rushed to implement after the Sunday bus massacre in Méjicanos.  They are now partnering with Migration to patrol the un-manned border crossings, notorious for moving drugs, stolen vehicles, and undocumented people.

In a widely distributed public announcement Funes says social and preventive programs are important for the long term, but repressive measures are necessary now. The Ministry of Public Security is expected to present a bill to the Legislative Assembly in the coming days to outlaw gang membership.  During a press conference reporters asked how police would identify gang members.  Henry Campos, the vice minister for public security responded “by tattoos and other types of evidence”.  A law based on the same premise was declared unconstitutional in 2004.

But Funes made a pointed demand from the Attorney General’s office during his June 23rd speech addressing the bus massacre – the same speech where he announced the new bill.

“The fight against organized crime, delinquents and criminal groups is a task of every State institution.  This means not only the government must do its job well.  We need the public prosecutors and judges to also do theirs.”

The Attorney General’s office is an autonomous institution, and appointments come from the Legislative Assembly.  The ex-attorney general Astor Escalante told the press on Monday that of the 100 homicide prosecutors, only 30% have actually received any training.  The institution appoints prosecutors with very few requisites; there is no policy to recruit prosecutors who have actually won convictions.  At the end of 2009 this group of elite homicide prosecutors had 16% conviction rate.

Garrett is right to call for continued international support of a Funes administration battling violence and weak institutions with very few resources.  That does not mean an acceptance of reactionary and repressive measures – often the most accessible means for the ‘commander in chief’.  Funes needs public pressure to uphold ethical and progressive reforms more than ever; and he especially needs allies for strengthening institutions that he has little power to control.

Mauricio Funes, Politics

President Funes has the Highest Approval Ratings in the Americas

Consulta Mitofsky recently released a compilation of poll results, which found that Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes enjoys an approval rating of 84%, the highest in the Americas. Luiz Inacio Lula of Brazil enjoys an 81% approval rating, coming in a close second, followed by Michelle Bachelet of Chile with 78%. Among Central American countries, Ricardo Martinelli of Panama follows Funes with 77% and Alvaro Colom with 46%. President Obama enjoys a 54% approval rating.

In August, Consulta Mitofsky cunducted a series of polls on the Funes Administration’s first 100 days. The poll found that 82% of Salvadorans believe that the economy is worse than it was a year ago, down from 89% in May. Similarly, 56% of the population believes that the political situation is worse, down from 64% in May. Despite the increase in violence in recent months, 66% of the population believes that the security situation has worsened, down from 75% in May. The most dramatic change came in the area of health care, in which 44% of Salvadorans believe that the situation is worse compared to last year, down from 64% in May; 54% believe that health care has improved over the last year, up from 34%.

Though Funes enjoys some fairly high approval ratings, there are some weak areas. When asked if certain areas have improved or become worse, respondents believe that health care and education have significantly improved, 82% and 81% respectively. Similarly, 54% of Salvadorans believe that assistance in the rural areas has improved. When it comes to some of the more crucial social issues, however, the administration’s numbers are not as strong. Only 32% of Salvadorans believe that corruption has improved, while 63% believe that it has gotten worse in Funes’ first 100 days. Similarly, only 28% believe that job creation has improved, while 67% believe that it is worse. Only 22% of Salvadorans believe that the fight against youth gangs has improved, while 76% believe it to be worse. So while Funes enjoys a high approval rating early on, they will have some very difficult issues to take on in the months ahead.

The August polls also show that Funes enjoys a 66% approval rating among Salvadorans who identify themselves as supporters of the right-wing ARENA party. This cross-over support is especially significant in light of El Salvador’s long history of political polarization, which led to a twelve-year civil war in the 1980s.