Two Decades after El Salvador’s Peace Accords: Current Challenges | Wilson Center
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Two Decades after El Salvador’s Peace Accords: Current Challenges

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On January 16th 2012, El Salvador observed the 20th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords. 

On the positive side:

  • The demilitarization of politics and an end to the Left’s political exclusion; indeed, FMLN won 2009 presidential elections;
  • Satisfaction with democracy among Salvadorans showed a similar jump following Funes’ election, from 44.5 in 2008 to 54.7 in 2010.
  • Reform of the armed forces and the end of its dominance of the political life of the country;
  • Improved respect for human rights; anyone who remembers the horrific violations of the war years—assassinations, massacres, torture—surely celebrates this development
  • Enhanced press freedoms and freedom of speech;
  • The successful holding of presidential, legislative, and municipal elections and improved representation at the local level

On a more sobering note:

Salvadoran society remains polarized and stratified, characterized by wide gaps between rich and poor, between urban and rural populations, and between the Greater San Salvador area and the rest of the country.

Emigration, which provides an economic and population safety valve and contributes to the economy through massive remittances, also deprives El Salvador of professionals, members of the middle class, and campesinos who count among society’s most talented entrepreneurs. 

Economy: Already hard-hit by the global rise in food and energy prices throughout 2008, El Salvador’s economy was devastated as a result of the U.S. financial meltdown later that year.  As the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) indicates below, El Salvador was second only to Mexico as the nation hardest hit by the global economic downturn.  only meager recovery in growth, degree of integration with United States

Violence:  El Salvador suffers from staggering levels of crime, violence, and citizen insecurity.  An oft-cited study by the United Nations Development Program in 2009 demonstrated that homicide rates in the “northern tier” of Central America—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—are higher than any other region of the world except for countries at war. Sixty-eight percent of homicide victims are between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four, and nine out of ten victims are male, one of the highest rates of homicides of young men in the world.