agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, COVID 19, Economy, El Salvador Government, Food Security, Public Health, Water/Agua

LA OTRA CRISIS EN EL SALVADOR

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“El Salvador Soberano Libre de Agrotoxicos y transgénicos”

A la desigualdad económica, violencia social y vulnerabilidad ambiental que se vive en El Salvador desde hace décadas, ahora se suma con toda su intensidad, el impacto en la salud pública y en la economía de la pandemia por el covid19.

El Banco Mundial estima que la economía de El Salvador se contraerá 4.3% y la pobreza aumentará 4% en 2020. El último dato publicado por el gobierno, indica que el 26.3% de los hogares ya viven en condición de pobreza; es decir que el covid19 puede hacer que la pobreza suba al 30% de los hogares salvadoreños, lo que equivale a más de 66 mil hogares que caeran en la pobreza.1

La razón principal de esta realidad es que las medidas impuestas por el gobierno para contener la pandemia ha afectado al 95% de las empresas y por lo menos el 60% reportan que ya no cuentan con dinero para pagar salarios, por lo que 350,000 empleos estan en riesgo inminente de perderse.2 Adicionalmente hay que tener en cuenta que el 72% de la economía salvadoreña es de carácter informal,3 y que este sector es el más golpeado por la pandemia.

Sumandose a la ya complicada situación, está la dependencia del país con respecto a las remesas. Más de 300 mil hogares, la sexta parte de la población, reciben remesas; en 2019 estas representaron el 21.3% del producto interno bruto de El Salvador. Para el 2020 se estima una caida por lo menos del 14% en este rubro,4 ya que Estados Unidos está registrando un récord histórico de desempleo en sectores donde laboran salvadoreños: restaurantes, comercio y construcción.

Sin duda la primera y más profunda manifestación de la crisis económica será en la alimentación. Sobre este tema el Director Ejecutivo del Programa Mundial de Alimentos, de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, ONU. David Beasley, recientemente dijo: “si no nos preparamos ahora podríamos enfrentar múltiples hambrunas de proporciones biblícas en unos pocos meses”.5 En El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua, incluso antes de la pandemia, la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional se había incrementado y alcanzaba los 4.4 millones de personas; a consecuencia de la pandemia se estima que esta cifra podría duplicarse.6

Para el caso específico de El Salvador la seguridad alimentaria se ha visto afectada por diferentes factores, desde políticas de apertura comercial que arruinaron la agricultura campesina en décadas anteriores, hasta impactos del cambio climático que en los últimos años se ha manifestado en consecutivas y profundas sequías. En 2019, la falta de lluvias dejó pérdidas de producción del 61% y 55% en los cultivos de maíz y frijol. La disminución y en algunos casos la pérdida completa de los granos básicos dejó en crisis a muchas familias, sobre todo aquellas en donde la agricultura es la única fuente de ingresos para subsistir. Resultando en que 277,769 familias, especialmente del oriente del país, antes de la pandemia, ya se encontraban en graves problemas alimentarios.7

Esta situación puede agravarse, también porque El Salvador depende en muy alto grado de las importaciones de alimentos; por ejemplo, el 90% de las frutas y verduras provienen de países centroamericanos y de Estados Unidos. La carne de res, harina de trigo, arroz, maíz amarillo y lácteos, son otros de los productos que se importan en grandes proporciones. Un riesgo potencialmente grave es que los países productores restrijan sus exportaciones para enfrentar la caída de su producción y la alimentación de sus propios pueblos.

En tal sentido, es de extrema importancia asegurar la disponibilidad de alimentos básicos especialmente para la población más vulnerable, de lo contrario los indices de desnutrición se verán aumentados y el covid 19 será más fatal debido a la carencia de una alimentación adecuada.8

De momento, el gobierno salvadoreño está entregando dinero en efectivo para suplir la alimentación básica de un millón y medio de familias, además ha anunciado una serie de medidas económicas de beneficio a la empresa privada con el fin de aliviar los impactos en el empleo. Aunque se están tomando algunas medidas positivas, lamentablemente no son sostenibles porque su financiamiento depende de los préstamos y la capacidad de endeudamiento del estado salvadoreño que está llegando a su límite.

Todo parece indicar que la alternativa más viable es la producción agrícola familiar, de forma masiva en todo el país, cualquier espacio de tierra disponible, sea en la zona rural o urbana, en la costa o la montaña, debería utilizarse para producir alimentos saludables, de lo contrario, en el corto plazo, la comida comenzará a escasear, de forma realmente temible.

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A family farm in Morazán


THE OTHER CRISIS IN EL SALVADOR

Economic inequality, social violence and environmental vulnerability have been experienced for decades in El Salvador. Added now to this reality however, in all its intensity, is the impact that the current pandemic is having on public health and the economy.

The World Bank estimates that El Salvador’s economy will decrease by 4.3% and poverty will increase by 4% in 2020. The latest data published by the government indicates that 26.3% of households already live in poverty; that is to say that COVID19 can increase the rate to 30%, which is equivalent to more than 66,000 households, all falling into poverty.1

This is happening in part because the measures imposed by the government to contain the pandemic have affected 95% of companies and at least 60% of them report that they no longer have the money to pay wages, this means 350,000 jobs are at an imminent risk of disappearing.2 Also, what must be taken into mind is the fact that 72% of El Salvador’s economy is informal,3 the informal sector of course being the most affected during this pandemic.

Adding to this already complicated situation, is the country’s dependence on remittances. More than 300,000 households, or one-sixth of the population receive them. In 2019, these money transfers represented 21.3% of El Salvador’s GDP. For 2020, since the US is registering a historical record of unemployment in sectors where Salvadorans work i.e restaurants, commerce and construction, a drop in remittances of at least 14% is estimated.4

Undoubtedly, the first and most profound manifestation of the economic crisis will be the issue of food. On the subject, David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program recently said, “If we don’t prepare now we could face multiple famines of biblical proportions in a few months.5 Even before the pandemic, 4.4million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, were already experiencing an increase in food and nutritional insecurity, and as a result of COVID19 this figure is estimated to double.6

In the specific case of El Salvador, food security has been impacted by distinct factors, from trade liberalization policies that ruined peasant agriculture in previous decades, to the impacts of climate change that in recent years has manifested itself in consecutive and deep droughts. In 2019, the lack of rains left production losses at 61% in corn and 55% in bean crops. The decrease and in some cases the complete loss of these basic crops left many families in crisis, especially those where agriculture is their only source of income. Last year’s drought resulted in 277,769 families, many from the eastern part of the country, experiencing serious food problems.7

Things can get worse because El Salvador depends to a very high degree on food imports; for example, 90% of fruits and vegetables come from other Central American countries and the US. Beef, wheat flour, rice, yellow corn, and dairy are other products that are imported in large quantities. A potentially serious risk is that the producing nations eventually restrict their exports to go and deal with their own reduction in production and to be able to feed their own people. In this sense, it is extremely important to ensure the availability of basic foods, especially for the most vulnerable populations, otherwise malnutrition rates will increase and COVID19 will prove more deadly due to an inadequate access to food.8

At the moment, the Salvadoran government is giving out cash aid to supply the basic needs of one million and a half families, and has also announced a series of economic measures to benefit private companies in order to alleviate the impact on employment. Although positive measures are being taken, they unfortunately are not sustainable because their financing depends on loans and the debt capacity of the Salvadoran state which is reaching its limit.

Everything seems to indicate that the most viable alternative is family agricultural production on a massive scale throughout the entire country. Any available land space, be it in rural or urban, coast or mountain, should be used to produce healthy food, otherwise, in a short period of time, food will become scarce in a really frightening way.


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agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, Corruption, Economy, Environment

The Water Crisis in El Salvador

Versión Español

On 28 July 2010, through resolution 64/292, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the human right to water and sanitation, reaffirming that water is essential for the realization of all human rights; however, for a significant proportion of humanity this is not true. The Friends of the Earth International Federation (FoEI) says that over 1 billion people lack clean water and more than 5 million die each year from water-related diseases.

El Salvador is one of the countries in the world facing a profound water crisis. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reports that El Salvador has 1,752 cubic meters per capita per year, which almost qualifies as “water stress.” This serious lack of water is related to deforestation and to the contamination of surface water bodies. According to the Salvadoran Ministry of Environment: more than 90% of surface waters are contaminated and only 10% are suitable for drinking by conventional methods.

In the opinion of the Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights, this situation of pollution and environmental degradation represents an accumulated evil throughout history that was deepened by the lack of diligence of the authorities, relegating the environmental issue of all State policies. For this reason, in 2006, a group of social organizations submitted a proposal for a General Water Law, which explained that the existing legal framework was obsolete and fragmented and couldn’t provide the population with resolutions. The law was based on principles such as: participation, full access, a focus on basins, sustainability and decentralization.

According to Carolina Amaya, environmental activist with the Salvadoran Ecological Unit (UNES), the main reason for not approving the General Water Law is because the right-wing business leaders represented in the Legislative Assembly, intend to control the water issue, they want to control the institutions that privatize water. This breaking point is the main motive that has interrupted the discussion of the law. In Amaya’s words, “allowing large private enterprises to have control over water management is like putting the coyote in the care of hens.”

This lack of regulation allows golf course owners, bottling companies, sugarcane producers, and other private interests to use as much water as they want, no matter how it affects local communities. One media outlet reported that a golf course has all the water it needs while nearby towns struggle to meet their daily needs. Likewise, residents of the Bajo Lempa region of Usulutan argue that sugarcane producers are depleting their water sources.

These social sectors that hold economic and political power say that water is a commodity that is bought and sold, and the only way to manage it efficiently is to let the market take over. This neoliberal thinking is rejected by various civil society organizations arguing that water is a common good and its access is a basic human right.

Conflicting visions often manifested in street closures for protests of lack of water, while companies engaged in the production of carbonated and alcoholic beverages using millions of liters a day, equally large shopping malls and exclusive residences use excessive amounts of water without any restriction. The bottom line; unequal access to potable water is a clear indicator of social injustice in El Salvador.

Crisis de Agua en El Salvador

El 28 de julio de 2010, a través de la Resolución 64/292, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas reconoció el derecho humano al agua y al saneamiento, reafirmando que el agua es esencial para la realización de todos los derechos humanos; sin embargo, para una importante proporción de la humanidad este derecho no se cumple. La Federación Amigos de la Tierra Internacional afirma que más de mil millones de personas carecen de agua limpia y que más de 5 millones fallecen cada año por enfermedades relacionadas con el agua.

El Salvador es uno de los países del mundo que enfrenta una profunda crisis hídrica, la CEPAL reporta que el país cuenta con 1,752 metros cúbicos per cápita por año, y lo califica en una situación cercana a lo que se conoce como stress hídrico. Esta escasez tiene que ver con la deforestación y con la contaminación de los cuerpos superficiales de agua, el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente salvadoreño afirma que más del 90% de las aguas superficiales se encuentran contaminadas y que únicamente el 10% son aptas para potabilizar por métodos convencionales.

En opinión de la Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, esta situación de contaminación y degradación ambiental representa un mal acumulado a lo largo de la historia que se fue profundizando por la falta de diligencia de las autoridades, relegando el tema ambiental de todas las políticas estatales. Por esta razón fue que en 2006 un grupo de organizaciones sociales presentaron una propuesta de Ley General de Aguas, explicando que el marco legal existente es obsoleto y fragmentado y no da respuestas a la población, por lo que se requiere una ley basada en principios como: la participación, el pleno acceso, el enfoque de cuenca, la sustentabilidad y la descentralización.

Once años más tarde aún no se cuenta con la referida ley, Para Carolina Amaya, activista ambiental de la Unidad Ecológica Salvadoreña, la razón de fondo por la cual no se aprueba la Ley General de Aguas es porque las cúpulas empresariales representadas en la Asamblea Legislativa por los partidos de derecha, pretenden tener el control de la institución rectora del agua, quieren controlar la institucionalidad para luego privatizar el agua, este es el punto de quiebre y principal motivo que ha entrampado la discusión de la ley. En palabras de Amaya, permitir que la gran empresa privada tenga el control en la gestión del agua, es como poner al coyote a cuidar a las gallinas.

Esta falta de regulación permite a los propietarios de campos de golf, compañías embotelladoras, productores de caña de azúcar, y otros intereses privados utilizar toda el agua que quieran, sin importar la forma en que afecta a las comunidades locales. Un medio de comunicación publicó que un campo de golf tiene toda el agua que necesita mientras que las poblaciones cercanas luchan para satisfacer sus necesidades diarias. Del mismo modo, los residentes de la región del Bajo Lempa en Usulután sostienen que los productores de caña de azúcar están agotando las fuentes de agua.

Estos sectores sociales que ostentan poder económico y político sostienen que el agua es una mercancía que se compra y se vende, y la única manera de administrarla eficientemente es dejando que sea el mercado quien se hace cargo. Este pensamiento neoliberal es rechazado por diversas organizaciones de la sociedad civil argumentando que el agua es un bien común y su acceso es un derecho humano básico.

Visiones enfrentadas que se manifiestan con frecuencia en cierres de calles en protesta por la falta de agua, al mismo tiempo las empresas dedicadas a producir bebidas carbonatadas y alcohólicas gastan millones de litros al día, igualmente grandes centros comerciales y residencias exclusivas usan cantidades excesivas de agua sin ninguna restricción. El acceso desigual al agua potable es un indicador claro de la injusticia social en El Salvador.

Corruption, News Highlights, violence

Rumors Bring El Salvador to a Standstill

September 7th

Due to threats yesterday, public bus service and a large percentage of businesses ceased all activities today.  Threats were largely rumored, and the police captured six young men who were passing out flyers that expressed the threat on behalf of the M-18.

Buses that operated despite the threats in the morning were further threatened over the phone and by mid-day there was virtually no bus service nationwide.  Informal commercial sectors appeared abandoned, especially in the center of San Salvador, Soyapango, Ilopango, and San Miguel.

In a press conference this afternoon the PNC reported incidents of buses being taken hostage and burnt in Ahuachapan and in Chalchuapa.  Only the drivers and fare collectors were aboard and no one was killed.  A police vehicle was also attacked with a M-67 grenade, and PNC agents captured two suspects immediately after the incident.  A school in San Martin was also closed upon the discovery of a decapitated head in the surrounding area.  Carlos Ascencio, the National Police Chief, reminded the public that these events are not unlike what they see on any other day.

The PNC and Armed Forces mobilized 3,500 agents initially, and reported an increase of another 1,000 agents.  Helicopters were also observed circling through out the day.

Bus owners claim that the strike is indefinite.  The government plans to activate a contingency plan to provide public transportation if the buses do not resume service tomorrow, with military and police agents on every unit of transportation. They are urging the population to continue their routines as normal.

Manuel Melgar, the Minister of Public Security, reported that they consider these threats to be related to the recent capture of over 10 million dollars in cash un-earthed in barrels in Zacatecoluca.  Others have also attributed the threats to the passage of the new Anti-Gang law.

September 8th Update:

While the partial bus strike continues for the second day, the government continues to increase police and military presence.  The Minister of Public Security, Manuel Melgar, reported 3,500 PNC agents on patrol and the Minister of Defense, David Munguía Payés reported that another 2,000 army personnel have also been mobilized.  Many civilians are relying upon transportation provided by the military and PNC.

Yesterday, the legislative assembly approved the modification of article 347-A of the Penal Code, to increase jail time for persons caught providing arms to gang members.

The prison sub-director, Nelson Rauda, also confirmed ‘rebellions’ by inmates in six different jails.

September 9th Update

As discussed by the bus associations yesterday, today is the third and final day of the bus strikes.  The representative of FECOATRANS, Catalino Miranda, expected to see about 70% of the buses operating as normal by the end of the day.  The police and military trucks are also providing transportation.

The PNC also reported a drop in homicides over the past 3 days.  Nationally, nine homicides were reported on Tuesday (the same as the daily average so far this year), yesterday there were four, and so far today none have been reported.  Yesterday afternoon another M-67 grenade was thrown at a PNC check point in Mejicanos.  No one was injured.  The PNC and the press are highly publicizing the 50 arrests that have been made in the past three days, mostly for young men passing out flyers that threatened informal vendors and bus drivers.  The largest sweep captured 17 young men in Guacotecti, Cabañas for ‘illicit association, possession, and unlicensed weapons’.

Meanwhile, Douglas Moreno, the General Prison Director, has declared emergencies in five prison facilities.  Inmates have declared themselves in ‘rebellion’ and have increased inter-inmate violence and also towards guards.  30 people have been injured.  Moreno has called for the intervention of the UMO (the Order Maintenance Unit) and five days of cell confinement for the prisoners.

Supposed representatives of the MS-13 and M-18 gangs sent out a press release via e-mail yesterday afternoon.  The release apologized for the inconvenience, but that they are seeking a way to be heard by the current administration.  They demand a space for dialogue, a presidential veto of the new anti-gang law, and better conditions for the incarcerated.  Government officials either reserved comment or emphasized the importance of following through on the new legislation.  PNC director Carlos Ascencio said the law would specifically target gang leadership.