FMLN Commemorates the Sixteenth Anniversary of the Salvadoran Peace Accords

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On January 16 the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) helda series of events to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the signingof the 1992 Peace Accords, which ended 12 years of civil war in ElSalvador. The FMLN called for public reflection about the process ofconstructing peace in El Salvador. An official event took place at theCristo por la Paz Monument in the outskirts of San Salvador andincluded the participation of FMLN leaders and base committees,religious leaders, social movement organizations, and the generalpublic.

Medardo González, General Coordinator of the FMLN, opened the event by talking about the lack of political will within the government and the ruling ARENA party to further contribute to the peace process in El Salvador.  In a separate event, the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission (CIDH) and other human rights and religious groups accused the ARENA government of not following through with commitments made in the Peace Accords, including the recognition of basic human rights and assistance to families that were victims of the armed conflict.  At the same time, these organizations asserted that, 16 years after signing the Peace Accords, the acts of repression against people and communities continue, as those who organize activities which fall within their constitutional rights are attacked, tortured, and face increasing violence. According to Ana Julia Escalante of the CIDH, the number of assassinations in 2007 shows that institutionalized mobs and organized crime continue to operate with impunity, demonstrating the failure of the political and judicial system. 

The ARENA party refused to commemorate the signing of the Peace Accords, perhaps because its biggest priority continues to be the search for a presidential candidate.  In recent weeks, various members of the presidents cabinet and heads of other important government institutions have resigned from their positions in order to participate in ARENAs internal competition for the candidacy.  The ex-Foreign Affairs Minister, Francisco Lainez, was the first ARENA functionary to resign, and ARENA stalwart Hugo Barrera has also joined the field. The current Vice President, Ana Vilma de Escobar, is unable to resign her position but has also insisted on competing for the ARENA candidacy.

At the FMLNs commemoration event, the partys candidate for the presidency, Mauricio Funes, reflected on the fact that ARENA has virtually abandoned the everyday work of governing to immerse itself in the internal battle of choosing a candidate. Funes also took advantage of the moment to publicly declare his support for Dr. Violeta Menjivars re-election as the mayor of San Salvador, the largest city in the country. Funes support comes on the heels of the enthusiastic approval of various communities, social organizations (such as the informal market vendors movement), and FMLN base committees that recently submitted letters of support for the work of San Salvadors first woman mayor.  The letters of support were given to the FMLNs Political Commission and National Council, which promptly ratified the candidacy of Menjivar for re-election in January 2009.

New increase in bus fare likely

Business owners in the transportation sector recently warned of a forthcoming 15 cent increase in bus fares. The transportation companies attribute the need for a fare increase to the state beauracracys failure to begin providing fuel subsidies, as promised by President Antonio Saca. At the end of 2007, the government created a new 10 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which is to then be turned over to transportation companies to alleviate their high fuel costs. Ricardo Erazo, vice-president of the Salvadoran Transportation Corporation (COSET), announced that the business owners who comprise COSET will visit the Legislative Assembly to solicit an expanation as to what is being done with the new tax, since the transportation companies are not yet receiving the subsidies it was supposed to create.

On the other hand, the fuel importation and distribution company created by FMLN-governed municipalities, in cooperation with Petrocaribe de Venezuela, is offerning diesel fuel at approximately 30 cents below market price. Known as the Intermunicipal Energy Association for El Salvador (ENEPASA), this enterprise imports subsidized fuel from the Venezuelan government and sells it to the Salvadoran population. The low price charged by ENEPASA has been well-received by the population, and participating gas stations are not able to keep up with demand.

The convention signed by ENEPASA and the Venezuelan government is part of the region-wide Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) initiative, which seeks to create ties among Latin American countries based on the principles of solidarity and cooperation. The agreement allows for the importation of gasoline and the construction of the infrastructure necessary for receiving, storing and distributing it.

The Salvadoran Chamber of the Transportation Industry and other associations in the transportation sector recently announced that they have initiated negotiations with ENEPASA for the direct purchase of diesel. At the same time, a non-governmental consumer defense organization confirmed that broader participation in the agreement with Venezuela would signify a significant annual savings in fuel costs for Salvadoran consumers. Even though this project is only in its initial phase, the population is already seeing substantial benefits.

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