New Law Ensures Transformative Social Programs Will Carry On

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School children benefit from the new school meal program. (Photo: Transparencia Activa)

Yesterday, the Legislative Assembly approved the Social Development and Protection Law that was presented by President Mauricio Funes last year to ensure the continuity of the groundbreaking social services initiated by his administration. The law, for which all political parties voted, aims to guarantee that these programs, designed to address the needs of historically abandoned and excluded sectors, are converted from projects of this administration into ongoing State policy.

This new policy mandates a “legal framework for human development, protection and social inclusion that promotes, protects and guarantees the fulfillment of people’s rights,” specifically targeting Salvadorans living in situations of poverty, vulnerability, exclusion and discrimination, and giving special priority to children, women, young people, the elderly, people with disabilities and indigenous people. Guillermo Mata, a legislator from the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, explained that, “we are guaranteeing a series of human rights for people, not as a handout, but as a right.”

Among the wide range of Funes administration social initiatives cemented into policy with the bill’s passage are: free uniforms, shoes, and school supplies as well as school meals and a daily glass of milk for all public school children; the Ciudad Mujer (Women’s City) service centers that provide reproductive and mental healthcare, legal support, childcare and employment training for women; pensions for impoverished senior citizens; the Family Farming Plan, which provides seeds, supplies and technical support to small-scale farmers; and a free, comprehensive public healthcare system for all.

Under Funes’ and the FMLN’s leadership, the first leftist administration in El Salvador’s history has ushered in a dramatic increase in social spending in comparison with previous right-wing administrations that reduced social investment every year. Today, Salvadorans are increasingly recognizing the government’s responsibility to combat social exclusion and inequality through the services it provides to the population, as evidenced by the results of the recent 2014 Presidential elections. FMLN legislator Mata sees the approval of this law as the greatest legacy of the current administration, as it “creates a system of universal social protection.”

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