UN Secretary General Joins El Salvador’s Peace Accords Celebration

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On Friday, January 16, El Salvador celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the historic signing of Peace Accords between the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerrilla resistance and the US-backed right-wing government of El Salvador that, with the facilitation of the United Nations, brought the bloody 12-year civil war to a negotiated close. For the occasion, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, himself a signatory to the Accords as an FMLN Commander, welcomed a visit from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to commemorate the historic date.

For the official government ceremony at San Salvador’s convention center amphitheater, some 10,000 people, including schoolchildren, union members and community and youth groups, were joined by members of the National Legislative Assembly, Supreme Court magistrates, government ministers, local officials and diplomats.

Following performances that ranged from traditional indigenous music to contemporary youth drum crews, the UN Secretary General opened the event, addressing the crowd in both Spanish and English. He told the crowd: "In many troublespots [of the world], people say:  Our differences are too wide.  The wounds are too deep.  Peace is not possible. To all of them, I say: Look to the people of El Salvador. Peace is precious and peace is possible. That is El Salvador’s message to the world.  That is your gift to humanity." Mr. Ban also hailed the new National Council on Citizen Security and Coexistence as a landmark initiative in the spirit of reconciliation and dialogue. The crowd erupted in cheers when he quoted the revolutionary Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton as well as the assassinated Archbishop Oscar Romero.

President Sánchez Cerén's remarks closed the activity, highlighting the achievements of the Peace Accords, such as replacing a host of repressive security forces with a civilian police force and reforms to the electoral system and the Armed Forces that ended a military dictatorship. The president also paid homage to all those who "offered their lives, to the disappeared, to those who are always with us in respect for and recognition of their commitment and sacrifice," adding that, "It is also necessary that we talk about truth and justice, especially for the innocent victims and their families" and reiterating his commitment to pursue justice for survivors.

Sánchez Cerén went on to acknowledge that the country’s biggest challenge today is the high rates of violence and crime, adding that “as a government that is open to dialogue, we decided to unite society in the search for and implementation of solutions against violence."

Ban Ki-moon was also honored with an Order of Merit on Thursday, January 15, by the National Legislative Assembly. He told the media, "El Salvador remains close to the United Nations; we are proud to partners in peace with El Salvador."

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