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  Number 345 | Abril 2010
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Nicaragua

The Incredible and Sad Story of The Tax Reform in Three Acts

This article tells of the genesis, evolution, scope and perspectives of the tax reform that took effect on January 1, 2010.

Julio Francisco Baéz Cortés

When we talk about tax reform in our country, we’re talking about an event that has happened every seven years for the past two decades: episodic changes in the State’s tax-based finances. It happened in 1990, with Violeta Chamorro’s government, in 1997 with Arnoldo Alemán’s and in 2003 with Enrique Bolaños’. In all three cases, they brought unmistakable costs and responded to a trend, a custom, almost a culture that prioritizes bringing more resources into the public coffers, equity be damned. The result, as all serious studies on public treasury issues confirm, has been a dramatic growth of inequity and exclusion.

With such unpromising precedents, we harbored the hope that the new government of President Daniel Ortega would fulfill his promise of renovating public finances, the soul and nerve center of the State’s material power and the fundamental tool for fulfilling his mandate, i.e. the social contract signed with us, his constituency.

Encouraging signs during the Ortega campaign

Back in 2006, Ortega repeated incessantly that he would promote no new taxes if elected, although the FSLN’s platform did ensure “a new fiscal regime.” It was never explained what this new regime would consist of, but the message augured encouraging changes. Only days before the November 2006 national elections, the FSLN legislative bench, then still in the opposition, submitted a bill to raise the taxable income floor for salaried workers to avoid the onerous increases caused by inflation and constant córdoba devaluations. It hadn’t been changed for ten years, and it was proposed at a perfect moment. Another positive sign.

Things didn’t end there. After half a century of progressively aging legislation, Nicaragua glimpsed refreshing perspectives in the State’s social security policy. Two weeks after the FSLN victory, on November 20, 2006, the official daily La Gaceta published a new Social Security Law (Law 539). Among other things, retired people would no longer pay income tax (IR) on their pensions. FSLN legislative representative Dr. Gustavo Porras, who fiercely sponsored the law, trumpeted the “imminent funeral of neoliberalism in Nicaragua.” These hints and the official discourse fed growing expectations that fiscal policy—until then a kind of anti-Robin Hood strategy of take from the poor to give to the rich—would give way to a 21st Century Robin Hood tax era—take from the “oligarchy” to give to the poor.

Surprisingly, however, nothing new happened in 2007. Porras’ promised wake was never held; and if neoliberalism really was on its deathbed, it refused to depart this cruel world. Nor did anything happen in 2008. Instead, the President announced that “in the interests of national reconciliation, tax reforms that could scare away investment will be avoided.” Meanwhile, the Supreme Court curiously declared the new Social Security Law unconstitutional, sad evidence that our rulers view commitments to change reality as a foreign body.

By 2009 the encouraging signs had petered out

Passing on to 2009, we characterized the country’s difficult economic moment in this same envío space in January of that year and little has changed since then. The global financial crisis was already being felt strongly, directly effecting investment, trade, capital flows and family remittances. The unprecedented electoral fraud and consequent arrhythmia of foreign cooperation was triggering flashing yellow lights that have now become solid red alarms. The best political moment had passed for a now-compromised tax reform. Threats of constitutional changes that would install an exotic parliamentary system fortunately came to nothing. The radical change in the neoliberal model announced on a daily basis was nowhere to be seen. A parallel budget derived from Venezuelan cooperation was being managed outside the law with absolute discretion. And an emblematic executive decree to respond to the international financial crisis in Nicaragua was reduced to a campaign of cutbacks in the state institutions with details so trivial they sounded downright ridiculous given the global crisis we were entering. In sum, not very encouraging omens.

By the second quarter of 2009 the fiscal problems began to be felt more forcefully. Only then did the government get a vivid picture of what was happening. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that the budget was becoming increasingly underfinanced with the freeze in cooperation funds resulting from the documented outrages in the November 2008 municipal elections. The government reacted by proposing a tax reform that would fill in some of the holes in the sieve. The IMF’s response to its disciplined student was to neither object to nor applaud the reform, but if the government believed it would bring in additional resources, then it should go forth and demonstrate it, and God speed. The rumor that the tax reform was an IMF-imposed “conditionality” was believed only by those who made it up, i.e. the government.

The first tax reform attempt
announced surreptitiously

In August, with more or less anticipated haste and more bureaucratic indifference than political will, the Ortega administration packaged and launched almost clandestinely a reform it had been tweaking since the start of the year but never thoroughly believed in: 40 transparencies showing with pompous optimism a series of measures it claimed would generate $140 million, allowing it to squeak out from under the emergency. By their very nature and because they were only made available over the Internet, these bits of film barely circulated at the time. Only a few professional, administrative and business sectors looked them up. The proposal was virtually unknown to the population, the fundamental target of any tax reform.

By late August and into September, the transparencies were beginning to be discussed. Suffice it to recall a national Tax Reform Forum organized by independent academic entities on September 3, in a Managua hotel, where a civil society eager to get to know the unavoidable phantom of tax reform was in evidence. Business people, academics, students, diplomats, community leaders and even a legislative representative or two discussed, analyzed and democratically made suggestions. The only invited guest not to show up was the executive branch.

The second attempt: still no cigar

Given that the implausible is common in Nicaragua, the government’s incredible reversal in October caused no surprise. “I’m erasing this first attempt at a reform; we’ll do something better.” In an instant the 40 transparences were whisked away, to be replaced by what was optimistically dubbed a “Tax Concertation” bill, with no fewer than 319 articles, which the President submitted to the National Assembly on October 15. The text dated back to President Bolaños’ five-year plan and was the fruit of international consultations financed by multilateral agencies. It was a forced birth of dandified technical distillations and foreign parameters, many of whose points had nothing to do with Nicaragua’s reality. But unlike the 40 transparencies that had also contributed to it, the new bill brought explicit changes, some positive, some less so, and many sizable, aimed at shaking up the prevailing tax system, particularly income tax.

Here are the essential aspects of this second failed attempt by the government. Because it was an inevitable starting point for what would come next, we want to be careful about the details. Essentially, it aimed to broadly restructure the IR through a greater effect on capital earnings, dividends and overseas transactions between related parties, or transfer prices. “Exorbitant amounts of money are escaping us as a result of major transactions like the sale of banks, about which the tax department knows nothing,” said one minister of State with apparent severity. “There’s an urgent need to do away with these tax havens.” It also aimed to significantly affect the tax on the income of non-residents. Thus income tax would be charged on the interest on loans granted by foreign and local financial institutions, traditionally considered non-taxable income. With respect to the IR “floor” for businesses that must pay even if it results in losses, this bill suggested a new minimum payment tax that mixes the 1% on total assets already in effect with an additional 2% on gross income in 2010 and 2.5% in 2011. And it proposed incorporating into the general system of other businesses the minimum 0.6% IR on deposits that the banks are already comfortably paying.

Without anyone having ever demanded a reduction of the IR rate for businesses, even during the global crisis and extreme national tensions in 2009, the project was generously aggressive: a drop in the rate for juridical persons from 30% to 27.5% in 2010 and 25% in 2011. Tax expert Juan Carlos Gómez Sabaini reminds us of the particulars in his reflections on Latin America: “It could be said that adjusting to international changes in the tax rates had already been done in past years, in the tax on both personal and corporate profit, particularly when this reduction has been made in some countries at levels that reach beyond what is advisable from the perspective of the tax system’s solvency and equity. For that reason, if any lesson remains, it is that tax reforms in Latin American countries must not involve reducing the rates but rather extending the taxable base.”

It wanted to abolish exoneration privileges

The Tax Concertation bill had one extraordinarily positive element, which was the abolition of a privilege that has existed in the country for over a decade: the exoneration of IR payment for those who sell their agricultural products in a private company called the Agricultural Exchange. In one of the government’s few public presentations on this legislation, the general director of income could be heard saying on one TV channel: “It’s not possible for 20 businesses [he held the list up to the cameras with their legal name and detailed income information] to pay 35 million córdobas annually as the total value of their IR, when that group alone is legally obliged to pay 750 million córdobas!” [US$1.00 = roughly 20 córdobas]

In a separate appearance on the same channel, another Treasury Ministry official seconded the information with even more eloquent data. The value of the transactions conducted in the Agricultural Exchange exceeded 14 billion córdobas in 2008. In absolute amounts this is equivalent to more than half of Nicaragua’s tax income budget! He then charged that a single company, protected by a similar blessing, sold nothing less than 3.5 billion córdobas of products through the Exchange the same year, adding that the entity in question paid no IR other than a symbolic retention of 1% on agricultural transactions and 2% on livestock transactions.

In the field of exonerations, some measures were aimed at limiting their validity for a determined time and others at conditioning the granting of the said exoneration, for example by the obligation to publish in the budgetary execution report the name of each beneficiary of the exoneration, a description of the good involved, the legal basis supporting it, the value of the tax cost to the State, etc. These irritating novelties, while hardly dismantling the regime of exoneration and special treatment, did nonetheless constitute uncomfortable sea swells for otherwise eternal winners.

Among other individual topics, the reform promised to repeal certain taxes, among them the unconstitutional 0.5% tax on the value of milk production and industrialization, which reportedly causes nothing but instability among over 40,000 producers, all to bring in 30 million córdobas annually to some obscure promotion fund, as if there were no national budget, which is the proper place—or at least should be—for all such institutional state spending. On the other hand, the bill suggested eliminating certain specific benefits, such as the value-added tax (IVA) subsidy for the domestic consump¬tion of electricity in high-income residential zones, equivalent to an annual 50 million córdobas, inexplicably granted to those who need it least.

The social side of the Tax Concertation bill

The capper on such reform measures, which were slowly trying the concerned patience of a certain business elite, was a Salomonic blow: beneath the technical garb of “workers’ income” the bill revealed technical fragility and tax collection insensitivity., obliging retired or pensioned people to pay the same IR rate as salaried workers. Not even the Somoza government had dared do such a thing. Furthermore, the bill created differentiated IR rates for salaried and self-employed workers, known as the dual IR system applicable to natural persons. On the other hand, the floor of annual salaried income exempt from IR payment was somewhat brought up to date, but not in the way promised by the FSLN in the 2006 electoral campaign. This time around, they proposed raising the floor from 50,000 to 75,000 córdobas in 2010 and from there to 100,000 in 2011 (from $2,500 to around $5,000 in two years.)

In addition, something more was coming: rewards for excellence in the workplace established by mutual agreement between employers and workers would be taxed according to the IR rate. The picture was completed with the surprising impact of the IR Fixed Quota or Simplified Regime for the Small Contributors’ sector—which contributes less than 0.5% of total tax collections! As if Managua’s economy had been transformed overnight into something similar to Santiago, Madrid or Buenos Aires, this inexplicable regulation extrapolated an onerous, complex and thus inapplicable special fixed quota regimen on house-front shops and small businesses. Lucid members of the government Cabinet seemed to have lost the plot when they defended the system’s viability, staring into infinity: “The new quotas aren’t prejudicial, as they can be accredited to the IVA that the supplier retains from the shop owner. This won’t hit anybody and will be more orderly, as small contributors will now keep books and use modern technology.”

The government aspired to collect 1.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2010 and another 0.5% in 2011 with all these measures, equivalent to US$100 million and US$35 million, respectively. So what happened in the end to this “revolutionary” Tax Concertation Law the government painted for us?

Two thoughts to keep in mind first

Before referring to the outcome of the unborn Tax Concertation Law I’ve sketched out, we first need to make a stop in the road so I can respond to the critique I am probably earning for giving you such seemingly unnecessary technical and legal details. To anchor us in the analysis about to come of the existing fiscal change in effect since January 2010, it’s useful to keep two thoughts in mind.

First, a fiscal reform doesn’t achieve reasonable objectives by adding up individual bits or dolling them up prior to eliminating bad ones. Much less does it do so by fusing, for example, the first two failed government attempts—the initial 40-transparency proposal plus the Tax Concertation bill—then happily wait with arms crossed for an eclectic, mechanical version of the “should be” of a model reform. Any fiscal solution has to be based on qualitative comprehensiveness and, simultaneously, the concrete nature of the country in question.

Secondly, we must continually identify and interpret the socioeconomic and political aspect of the process and how to link each public treasury chess piece into the analysis from a tax perspective, or, better said, from the national interest. Tendencies must be stitched together in line with a general perspective, rather than be mere quantitative data with their own individual value.

The tiger has been poked with a short stick

Now we can go on. Still missing is the reaction of a major “forgotten” stakeholder, whose sacrosanct opinions would have better been consulted earlier and more appropriately. What imprudence! The political economy of taxation reminded the government that, over and above the less dangerous protest and questioning by run-of-the-mill contributors, the voice of the powerful financial elite, decisive to the birth of the controversial Tax Concertation Law, had not been given an adequate hearing.

In a memorable meeting held in early November between the main government representatives, headed by President Ortega himself, and three or four leaders of what passes for big capital in Nicaragua plus their ever-present advisers, things had to return to their normal course, the status quo.

Some people who attended the event and later shared the experience with the media allowed the citizenry to learn in some detail and great jocosity the transcendental topics addressed in the singular conclave. The essential agreements revolved around the government’s unacceptable audacity of even thinking of taxing financial profits. “The tiger has been poked with a short stick and that’s not very wise,” they commented.

The new minimum IR payment calculated on gross income and assets at the same time wasn’t even up for discussion because it goes against business logic in times of reconciliation. The exonerations shouldn’t be eliminated at the risk of altering everything, and much less should the Agricultural Exchange and transfer prices be touched. In short, apocalypse in sight! The legislative adventure was unthinkable under any angle from which the vested interests looked at it.

A miraculous agreement at the above-mentioned meeting would change everything, as in fact it did. A telephone call by the afore-named vested interests to the IMF headquarters in Washington with the President’s acquiescence while the meeting was still going on was the final seal, as well as forming the preamble of the expected executive message to the nation. Hours later, President Ortega was announcing that the government technicians and experts had “gone overboard” in formulating the Tax Concertation Law, turning it into something dangerous and explosive. Pensioners and small businesses on a fixed quota were in grave danger and had to be saved… of course together with the bankers, Agricultural Exchange and other parties affected by the authors’ ill-conceived piece of nonsense. Although the bill had already been formally submitted to the National Assembly, no problems were anticipated. This unprecedented national salvation compromise was thus carved in stone, while the bill was destined for the political deep freeze.

“In any event, better frozen than dead,” joked one government voice at the conspicuous meeting, “since if there’s a political stalemate we can always pull it out to calm the nerves of anyone who dares hassle.” The burial of neoliberalism foreseen by Porras was magically turned into solemn funeral rights for a universally disliked tax reform.

By way of bringing down the curtain, a solicitous Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) interpreted the agreements as another business victory, at the same time calling on people to wage new and imminent battles for “legislative contributions” to replace the previous and now expired governmental endeavors. The urgency of a more-nominal-than-real reform was announced as an indispensable factor in guaranteeing approval of the graduation exam Nicaragua would be put through by the IMF.

But a worrying piece of information from the presentation of motives for the aborted tax bill concerning the country’s extremely small tax base went to the freezer as well. Barely 2.3% of the contributors who file with the DGI contribute 71.1% of the taxes collected and only 43.3% of formally registered sales pay the IVA.

The third time is the charm

The point of no return had arrived and the President was gathering his strength after these two failed attempts. The alternative tax reform emerged alone and off track, to use benevolent terms. Barely three weeks after the conclave described above, the President presented this third alternative to the National Assembly on November 27. Three introductory asterisks defined its pathetic technical and political profile. First: the President requested it be given fast-track approval, which means going straight to the plenary for immediate voting without prior discussion with anyone and without subjecting it to the study and findings of the Legislative Economic Committee! Effectively, approval of the Law to Reform the Fiscal Equity Law (Law 712), occurred without problems on December 3, accompanied by a couple of innocuous explanatory motions and inevitable alarm bells by legislative opponents.

What had happened to the thousand times abused term “concertation,” otherwise known as negotiation, agreement, harmonizing of interests? This little golden word was stolen from the academy of language for the perverse purpose of abusing it and using it to confuse, while doing the very opposite of what the word intends. A fiscal concertation requires a society called upon to build platforms on which to shape changes, without impairing the very differences that imbue the unity with its life and raison d’être. It means reaching major national agreements with a strategic horizon in view. For example, if we agree to prioritize 7% of the national budget for education, we must rationalize spending to ensure that national objective, which is a long-term goal. And if resources are granted to those who don’t need them through exonerations, special privileges or discriminatory treatments, it would mean failing to meet the national targets agreed to by a representative majority of the diverse social sectors. This is legitimacy. This is democratic governance through fiscal behavior.

In its second asterisk, the executive branch announced the reform as a “patch required as a result of the emergency.” The time for boasting of a totally different law “with anti-neoliberal novelties from start to finish” was a thing of the past. Now it was claiming to aspire to a small reform of the Fiscal Equity Law of 2003. And the third is its exclusive aim of collecting 0.7% of the GDP—less than a third of the initial calculation claimed in the 40 transparencies and less than half of the executive branch’s gamble in the Tax Concertation bill. It therefore renounced the necessary adjustments urgently required in the light of the system’s inequity. If you ask people with even a minimum understanding of fiscal priorities what adjectives could be used to summarize the soul of this bill, they wouldn’t hesitate in calling it “mediocre” and anti-people.

The surprising speed of its gestation responded to the “pragmatism” of its contents, a compressed caricature of the 40 transparencies and Tax Concertation bill. The concept of an IR applied to capital earnings and financial income, until then evaded, was downright mutilated in the new law. The IR will only be applied to interests earned by financial institutions through loans when said institutions are foreign. Local banks simply won’t be touched. Didn’t the previous proposals assure that the rain would fall equally on all banks, including those inside the country? Why only some and not others? Nor was the promise kept of reducing the 30% of IR on juridical persons to 27.5% and then to 25%. The only thing that survived was the tax on dividends and certain IR deductions, which resulted in a total tax payment lower than the ordinary 30% business rate.

The second proposal’s minimum payment tax, which represented just under half of the expected income and one of the most vulnerable targets, least defended by the reformists, ceased being an independent tax, with a completely changed content and rate compared to Law 712. Thus the new minimum IR today is 1% on gross profits and is paid through monthly advances. But… with the law passed the trap is set: Article 29 of the reformed Fiscal Equity Law contains five exceptions to this obligation to pay the minimum IR , which in the end will be five beautiful loopholes through which elephants could escape, and whose results will be felt in the government tax collection basket by the middle of this year.

Speaking of evasion and elusion, the deliberated conduct of rulers and legislators in keeping the exonerations and special treatments intact deserves its own chapter. A tax reform like Law 712, which so indecently refuses to impose elementary order on crucial issues of horizontal and vertical equity, isn’t worth much in this country. And one that applauds and defends seriously questioned exonerations, privileges and subsidies (Agricultural Exchange, lowering IVA for household energy consumption by high-income sectors, etc.) is simply fraudulent.

Another point. By virtue of Law 712, the IR rate on salaried workers now has a maximum annual exemption of 75,000 córdobas, erasing with a single stroke the FSLN’s 2006 commitment to get it up to 100,000. An additional fact speaks to the government’s questionable fiscal policy for wage workers: as we observed in the Alemán and Bolaños administrations, value maintenance or periodical adjusting of the IR rate for wage workers was discarded totally in Law 712, although it was incorporated into the new cigarette tax created by the reform. [Value maintenance refers to pegging the value in córdobas to the dollar exchange rate, to counter the córdoba’s continuing loss in value as a result of its ongoing devaluation relative to the dollar.] In other words, “I don’t apply value maintenance when it means less taxes collected, however socially fair the cause may be, but I do when it means collecting more.” Such seemingly innocuous details faithfully portray the country’s fiscal and social features.

A funny gem

The populist intent to take a tough stance against the ever-multiplying casinos and slot-machine centers, always the tax administration’s Achilles heel, put poor Law 712 and its executive and legislative authors in a bind: anyone who wins over 50,000 córdobas in the National Lottery, a state charity, is obliged to pay an initial 10% income tax rate, which could get up to 30% by its inclusion in the total income they have to pay taxes on by the end of the year. In contrast, the earnings on betting and games of chance in casinos and similar centers are taxed a one-time 10% IR. Said another way, someone who wins a million córdobas in the National Lottery must now pay up to double or triple the income tax that someone who wins the same amount gambling in a Managua casino pays. How does that strike you?

Like mushrooms after a rain

With respect to the regulations governing the reformed Fiscal Equity Law, we have to comment in depth on what must form an essential part of this analysis. In both its original content and its later forms, unconstitutional dispositions that supplant laws have been cropping up like mushrooms after a rain. Let’s look at a very clear case of serious damage to agricultural production resulting from legislative negligence and the hidden favoritism of loaded dice. The 1.5% tax credit on the FOB value of exports subject to the IR, which is an incentive to exporters, will expire on May 6 of this year. The opportunity to renew it for a reasonable period through Law 712, which is a technically sound option from whichever angle one looks, was disregarded despite insistent warnings from disinterested voices. It required Decree 93-2009 (which regulates Law 712), to belatedly rectify the injustice somewhat. Of course, a regulation can’t alter a deadline established by law, in this case in article 102 of the Fiscal Equity Law. According to COSEP and the executive branch, the regulations only “deferred” the expiration date until December.

Paradoxically, the tax credit applicable to the banks’ IR derived from the subsidy rate favoring users established in the Social Housing Law (Law 677) was “reinforced” by Presidential Decree 5-2010 in January of this year, which authorizes these businesses to negotiate this credit with other banks whenever they want. If article 3 of the Tax Code states that such measures can only be established through law, how can we explain such privileges to the detriment of the public treasury while other sectors of the economy, such as the exporters in the previous example, are treated differently?

So what’s the upshot of all this?

The time has come to tie up the loose ends of this presentation. You will have noted that I resisted the classic division of the reform’s good and bad elements. I agree with Jorge Luis Borges that “censure and praise are sentimental operations which have nothing to do with literary criticism.” If these words leave us thinking about something, following the abstracting of isolated facts, I will be very happy and grateful for your patience with me, satisfied that we haven’t thrown the baby out with the dirty water of criticism.

Civil society’s fiscal creativity in encouraging change must be both a banner and a pro-active machete. Those who end up simply crying about the avalanche of arbitrary fiscal actions that governments bequeath to us daily will be simply capitulating in a veiled way. This reminds me of Professor Scott Thorpe’s exhortations not to look just at the function of assigning tax collection from the public sphere, but also at the intelligent application of healthy incentives to the private sector without the need to grant discriminatory exonerations and subsidies. With his accustomed originality, he says: “The caliph didn’t oblige his subjects to be Muslims, but followers of Islam paid lower taxes. Millions became genuine subjects.”

On the other hand, we can’t let this “formal” tax reform process hoodwink us, or eclipse the vision of nation in which we should insert such a reform as just one element of the nation’s socioeconomic platform. We should remember that this analysis is an appendage of something that would seem to be in its infancy: the government’s National Human Development Plan, whose preliminary versions the government has submitted to us but without managing to infect it with strategic passion. What sense would even a “perfect” tax reform make without the long-term setting we envision for Nicaragua? Where would we be without the integrationist horizon of a Central America that conditions us fiscally and in every other sense, like it or not?

Fiscal reform isn’t synonymous with exclusive changes in customs duties and taxes paid. Our eyes must turn to other worlds of taxation that we often forget about relatively easily. Or is there no taxation in the municipal governments, Social Security or other public entities? There is still so much to discuss about the transparency of Social Security, its actuarial health or the humanization of the pensions!

Nor should we admit that everything is fine given the formal approval recently granted the government by the IMF, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. It’s a very important advance, but never enough. Macroeconomic stability is an unarguable truth, but it’s also a formal lie if it doesn’t pass the test of social equity, income distribution with common sense. Or are we satisfied with the peace of cemeteries while they are toasting in Washington?

A call to struggle

Ongoing attention focused on the public treasury must be the patrimony of the legitimate owners of social property, of the public coffers. Or do we prefer to be resigned spectators of that impossible burial? We should remember that the celebrated “official” tax reform packages always go hand-in-hand with ongoing low-intensity reforms that occur daily. Otherwise we wouldn’t be faced with a mere 61 tax laws and decrees issued during the current government or the 59 unconstitutional exonerations and taxes dictated by the executive in the same period, many of which neither society nor the media know anything about.

This year and next, which are contaminated by electoral winds that encourage corruption, are a time to struggle against Nicaragua’s fiscal inequity. The floodgates of civic participation and respect for ideas must be opened wide. We must confront the secrecy of public financial information and anti-democratic institutional deafness with a struggle impregnated with moral coherence, technical excellence and social courage.

Financial injustice is another brutal form of social injustice and one of the greatest human rights violations. After so many years of such financial injustice, from the arena of combative passion the figure of Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero can be glimpsed on the horizon. Thirty years after the martyrdom of that august giant who “fell forever on the side of life,” and while we’re talking about those ideas—his ideas!—clamoring for justice and equity that seek to conquer realities, break myths and mock deceitful appearances, I call on you to let us name our Saint Romero of America an accomplice of honor in these struggles for truth, internalizing the words dedicated to him by one of his very dear disciples: “Perhaps ‘being a saint’ is nothing more than that scrutinizing reality and being faithful to it.”

Julio Francisco Báez is a tax law expert.

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