Students bus in from neighboring communities to attend classes at the primary school of our partner community Amando Lopez. Before 2014, many parents and guardians were comfortable enough sending kids to school on their own but that all changed after a wave of violence struck the Bajo Lempa. These communities reached out to VOICES, and with the help from the South Bay Sanctuary Covenant group- we began to finance a safe and free school transportation system which has led to an improvement of school retention in the Bajo Lempa.
Yesterday, El Salvador’s Minister of Justice and Security David Munguía Payés did something most unusual for a high-ranking government official – he rode a bus in San Salvador.
Dressed in a blue polo shirt, some serious sunglasses, and a ROLEX (yes, as in a super-expensive gold watch) Payés boarded the 29-F on the Juan Pablo II (a major road through San Salvador) bound for the shopping center in Soyapango. Once he paid his $0.25 fare, the Minister of Justice and Security took his seat amongst “the people.”
Payés’ bus adventure, which lasted only 10 minutes, wasn’t really meant to be an act of solidarity with his Salvadoran brothers and sisters, many of whom travel long distances by bus everyday just to get to their low-paying jobs. Nor was it an effort to raise awareness of climate change by ditching his chauffeured, gas guzzling, SUVs for public transportation.
According to La Prensa Grafica, Payés’ excursion was meant to prove that his use of military and police have made bus routes throughout San Salvador safe. He seemed to want to show the poor, who rank security among their greatest concerns, that things aren’t as bad as they make it out to be – and he was even willing to risk loosing his gold Rolex to prove it.
Payés could have done a few things to make his demonstration/publicity stunt a little more credible. For example, he could have left his three bodyguards and the Rolex at home. I’m sure most people would feel pretty safe on a bus in Soyapongo knowing they’ve got three bodyguards with them and a security detail waiting at their stop. And the Rolex surely distinguished him from anyone else riding a bus in El Salvador yesterday.
One person indicated in the comment section of the LPG article that Payés would have more credibility if he rode the bus after 7 or 8 at night when they are a little more dangerous.
And by arguing that militarization of San Salvador’s streets have made them safer, he seems perfectly comfortable with reports indicating that what Salvadorans, especially young men, fear most are the military and police.
A woman on Payés’ bus summed it up pretty well. According to the LPG article, when Payés and his bodyguards got on the bus, she was overheard telling the young boy she was riding with, “all these men getting on the bus at the same stop – something smells bad.”