Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 161 | Diciembre 1994


El Salvador

Peace is Built of Many Pieces

Without attacking corruption there will never be honesty enough to lift up the country. Without transfer of lands there will be no peace in the countryside. Witouth agreement on the economy the same pre-war injustice will continue. Peace is constructed with a lot of pieces.

Juan Hernández Pico, SJ

In April 1993, police in El Salvador nabbed the highest level arms dealers ever in the country. But even though they had been caught in the act, a judge released them in October of this year, claiming irregularities in the police and legal proceedings. The Public Prosecutor's office did not appeal.

No one investigates the death squads or takes them to trial, but those who accuse the death squads do go to trial for defamation. The Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court are accused of acting too slowly and inefficiently. The most famous cases of organized crime do not move through the courts, and the prisons are never cleared of petty delinquents because their cases are not processed.

ONUSAL, the United Nations verification commission, has classified 50 judges as corrupt, but the unanimous response from the President down to the journalists has been a cry of injured nationalism. UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali is asking the Security Council to extend ONUSAL's presence for one last six month period because the still unfulfilled part of the peace accords especially the land transfers require concerted action. Coffee growers protest that the proposed tax scale will cause decapitalization, forgetting the subsidies the Assembly gave them to cover their losses when coffee prices were low. From any angle, the country appears to be falling apart.

Privatization: Who Benefits?

Ongoing tensions are still wearing down both the FMLN and the Christian Democrats, and the crisis on the right is no less critical. The ARENA convention, which managed to avoid splitting the party by putting representatives from the different tendencies on the National Executive Committee, hid what some consider to be the real problem; which group of Salvadoran capital will get preferential treatment in the privatization process.

All agree that the privatization of the banks during the Cristiani government favored the economic group led by President Cristiani himself. His wife, Margarita Llach, was an important member of the negotiation team through her position in the currency exchange houses.

In President Calderón Sol's inaugural address, he announced that during his term there would be another important reduction of the state through privatization, particularly of public services. Aggressive fulfillment of this project, however, does not appear to be in his immediate plans. The 1995 budget he presented to the Assembly contains a plan to reduce capital income from 280 million colóns in 1994 to 150 million in 1995 by selling shares. If the hypothesis is correct that the fruits of privatization are the apple of discord in ARENA, these decreased expectations suggest that the beneficiaries of the distribution have not yet been sufficiently defined.

Corruption and the Corrupt

On October 15, Kyrio Waldo Salgado, who spent September denouncing corruption among high level government officials, including former President Cristiani, formed a new Liberal Democratic Party to the right of ARENA. It is so far to the right that he even had to leave his post as the staid rightwing analyst for El Diario de Hoy. He chose a symbolic day for his party's birth; on October 15, 1979, the new generation of military tried, and failed, to change the course of the country.

Not one high level ARENA official joined his new party, which gave it a much weaker start than had been initially imagined. ARENA managed to pull them all into its National Executive Committee. Those behind this new party are probably all hard-line military officers, deeply offended by the 1992 peace accords and the blows to both the prestige of the armed forces and the role they played. They are undoubtedly also military leaders with access to state intelligence. If not, how did Kyrio Waldo obtain the documents on which he based his accusations?
The Public Prosecutor's office has been taking declarations by those Kyrio Waldo accused, but has made no move to initiate an active and independent investigation of the accusations. It is evident, however, that official corruption exists. It exists to such a degree that President Cristiani was forced to name a special investigating commission, although he never made the results public. Corruption later became one of the targets of President Calderón Sol's platform. "We will eradicate corruption," he repeated. But now that multiple accusations have emerged albeit with doubtful motives on the part of the accuser "no one knows anything, no one saw anything, no one heard anything." One can speak of corruption, but not of the corrupt.

Slow Justice

In April 1993, the police confiscated a large cocaine shipment when the plane carrying it had to make a forced landing at a farm located in Salvadoran territory. Two Colombians and five Salvadorans were captured in the operation, all "with their hands in the cookie jar." The Colombians were released in May 1994, alleging errors in the legal proceedings. The Salvadorans were released in October for the same reason. The most serious aspect is that the prosecutors in charge of the case did not even appeal these verdicts.

The resulting scandal has unleashed a controversy over the honor or at least effectiveness of the Chief Public Prosecutor. Several opposition representatives have demanded his removal. He, in turn, explained in a press conference that the prosecutors in charge of the case claimed to have been the subjects of death threats, and that threats were also made against the judge. "We don't want our judges to die," commented Archbishop Rivera, "but we do want them to be willing to die for justice."
This is one of the most well known examples, but there are others: for example, the kidnapping of two individuals that the National Civil Police solved in an operation that also succeeded in freeing the victims. The cases against the accused kidnappers, captured by the police at the scene, are at different stages. One is mired in a jurisdictional dispute and the other is waiting for the Supreme Court to issue its decision about the presentation of a particular legal recourse. Delays in the application of justice or the failure to apply it at all are becoming generalized.

What's Happening with the Supreme Court?

El Salvador breathed a sigh of relief when the opposition legislators remained united until a Supreme Court could be elected that was not dominated by the governing party. Three months have passed since then and people feel that the Supreme Court has done nothing except considerably improve the tone and prudence of its public statements, compared to the Court headed by ARENA judge Gutiérrez Castro. Beyond this, the new Court has offered no signs of greater efficiency.

The Court claims it inherited a huge number of unresolved cases, but it appears to prefer examining the judges evaluated by the National Judicial Council over reducing the case load. It has already removed three judges and three more are suspended while investigations take place. The country's human rights organizations believe this indicates that the impasse in the Legislative Assembly over the election of the Court magistrates was resolved by a political deal. If true, lower quality judges were elected who agreed to promises that favor the right but are negative for the country as a whole. Among these may be not reviewing the constitutionality of the amnesty declared by the Assembly when the Truth Commission revealed its transcendental conclusions in 1993.

In the last week of October, ONUSAL entered the fray of the national polemic on justice. It presented a report, based on a review of past human rights cases, singling out 50 judges for corrupt handling of these cases. An ultra nationalist curtain was immediately drawn over the real issue. The President of the Republic reacted extremely: "Only El Salvador itself, and only the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council, have the right to evaluate our judges." Both ONUSAL chief Ter Horst and Diego García Sayán, in charge of its human rights division, remained firm, although suggesting diplomatic ways to get out of the problem. In a press interview, Dr. Argumedo, one of the new Supreme Court magistrates on the Constitutionality bench, got it just about right by acknowledging ONUSAL's role in helping improve the administration of justice in the country, but stating at the same time that the report was not an "article of faith" for the Court.

What Has Not Been Fulfilled

Nobody in the country wants ONUSAL to leave. President Calderón traveled to the UN in September to ask the Secretary General to request an extension of the international mission's mandate. The FMLN has also done all in its power to convince the Secretary General of the need for ONUSAL. Only the UN does not want to stay, which is understandable to a point.

So far, the UN has been able to present El Salvador as a great success in its peace diplomacy efforts. If it stays in the country, the time bomb of the unfulfilled peace accords could explode in its hands. In addition, the ONUSAL mission has very high costs, which are assumed by the Security Council. It is painful but true that billions of dollars were spent on the war, while the ONUSAL operation has only cost $90 million, but the UN does not want to spend any more money to assure that peace becomes real and not just a prestigious image.

The points of the accords that are still pending are very complex. The most basic one is the transfer of land. In the municipality of Arcatao in the formerly conflictive territory, the demand is to transfer over 4,000 acres to those currently occupying 3,400 of them; according to the accords these people are known as "possessors." The remaining acreage is idle. Only five months remain to comply with this demand, since by law the transfer process must be completed by April 1995. But in the almost three years since the accords were signed, only 246.5 acres have been transferred.

This serious delay is mainly due to the FMLN's own slowness in presenting the lists of beneficiaries. But the state bureaucracy is also slowing down the process, alleging that the international community has not fulfilled its promises to finance the transfer. There is some truth in this. President Calderón has said that the state will issue domestic debt certificates, worth more or less a billion colóns, to finance the transfer until the foreign funds appear.

The reincorporation of former combatants on both sides of the civil conflict has also suffered serious delays, and the issue of benefits for war wounded is still pending. The law to protect war victims currently only covers 56 of the more than 3,000 FMLN war wounded, because it refers only to totally disabled (blind or paraplegic) or to elderly mothers of war wounded. Demobilized armed forces personnel occupied the Legislative Assembly in September, showing the level of conflict that this issue could provoke. And it is only one of the accords not yet fulfilled.

The UN Stays

In the last week of October, it was made known that the UN Secretary General had requested the Security Council to prolong the ONUSAL mission until May 1995, although reducing the number of its members to just over 100. The coming months are crucially important for the UN and the country. If action is not taken on the issues still pending fulfillment, the country could suffer convulsions of an unpredictable measure.

It will then be seen if the lack of investigation into the death squads with an eye to total dismantling them will force the country to pay an even higher price than it has already paid. FMLN leader Joaquín Villalobos may have made his political point by going to prison, accused of defamation by millionaire Orlando De Sola after Villalobos fingered him for financing the death squads. But the issue remains. Villalobos should never have been the news; the news was always Orlando De Sola. News is the need to investigate where the money for the death squads comes from, what institutional mechanisms make them efficient and durable, and how they can be dismantled, recognizing that in addition to political connections are drug trafficking connections and links to other aspects of organized crime.

The Pieces of Peace

All elements of the peace accords are closely linked. One could claim that the land transfers are unimportant, the Social Economic Forum's negotiated economic plans could be scratched or the Tripartite Council for labor issues reduced, or that the transformation of the justice system could be dealt with over a longer period of time. But that must not happen.

Without attacking corruption there will be no human capital. Without land transfers there will be no peace in the rural areas. Without economic agreements the country's prewar economic conditions will be prolonged. Everything is closely linked. An authentic peace needs all of these pieces. If one fails, sooner or later the frustration will demoralize the people, and the results are unforeseeable. Will all the blood have been shed in vain?

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