Economic Destabilization Targets Food Costs
In recent weeks, the cost of beans, a staple of the Salvadoran diet, has increased by 67% due to market speculation in what appears to be a deliberate destabilization tactic against the leftist Sánchez Cerén administration by the right-wing opposition. Similar practices of economic sabotage have been used by the conservative opposition in Venezuela, which is closely allied to the Salvadoran right.
El Salvador’s conservative media has used the crisis to smear the government, with the opposition even circulating baseless claims that the government caused a shortage by selling the grain to Venezuela. Minister of Agriculture Orestes Ortez, however, affirmed that there is no lack of beans in the country; indeed, El Salvador has seen record harvests. Instead, market speculation by a handful of domestic buyers linked to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party has inflated the grain’s cost, and the Ministry is investigating accusations against several companies for hoarding the grain to create false shortages. “If there were no beans, we’d have a line of companies asking for permission to import,” Ortez pointed out.
Contrary to the right wing’s accusations, the previous and present Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) administrations have made unprecedented gains in stimulating local agriculture. Jose Acosta, of Voices on the Border, writes: “the FMLN government, in 2009, committed to increasing investment in food and nutritional security, and established as a priority objective the sustained increase of national production for internal consumption.
Recent measures taken by the government have successfully lowered prices. Nevertheless, these destabilizing economic practices are a disturbing example of the powerful and recalcitrant forces that the nation’s second FMLN administration must contend with in order to continue its work towards social and economic justice for all Salvadorans.