Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1/20/10 - el salvador

In today's excerpt - El Salvador achieved
peace after a decade-long civil war by
providing the combatants, called the FMLN,
with land through an "arms-for-land" program
and integrating them into the political
process as a new political party, rather than
by the essentially impossible task of
eradicating the combatants:

"El Salvador [had] a GDP of about $6
billion in 1991, average income per capita
was around $1,100. ... However,
the country's income and wealth were highly
concentrated. It was often heard
that about 85 percent of the land belonged to
14 families. Despite an agrarian
reform program that started in 1980, in the
early 1990s it was estimated that
there were about 300,000 families of
campesinos (small farmers) who still had
no land. ...

"The roots of El Salvador's decade-long civil
war extended deep into the nineteenth
century. As E. Torres-Rivas has pointed out,
Salvadoran society
systematically generated economic
marginalization, social segregation, and
political repression. Land tenure was as much
a root cause of the conflict
that raged throughout the 1980s as was the
overbearing power of the armed
forces. ...

"After a decade-long war, with over 100,000
estimated dead and serious damage
to human capital and physical infrastructure,
a Peace Agreement between the
government of El Salvador and the Frente
Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion
Nacional (FMLN), signed on January 16, 1992,
in the Chapultepec Castle in
Mexico City, created high expectations. ...
Damage to the country's infrastructure as a
result of the civil war was
estimated at $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion
(more than 30 percent of 1990 GDP). ...

"After the conclusion of the peace
agreements, El Salvador embarked on a
complex war-to-peace transition. ... The land
situation in the conflict zones was very
complex. Production
had been virtually paralyzed during the war
and infrastructure was seriously
damaged. As landowners abandoned or were
forced off their land, landless
peasants had moved in. During the peace
negotiations, the FMLN had insisted
on the legalization of the landholders'
precarious tenure as a reward for their
crucial support to the FMLN's largely
rural-based guerrilla movement. The
landholders were also expected to provide
electoral support for the FMLN's
post-conflict political ambitions. Moreover,
the problem had to be addressed in any case,
regardless of the FMLN position, lest it
remain as a potential
source of instability as landowners tried to
recover their land.

"The objective of the 'arms-for-land' program
- which was of central importance to the
maintenance of the ceasefire - was to provide
demobilizing combatants with the means for
reintegration into the productive economy by
providing credit to potential beneficiaries
to purchase land. The agreement
also contemplated supplementary short-term
programs (agricultural training, distribution
of agricultural tools, basic household goods,
and academic
instruction) and
medium-term programs (credit for production
housing, and technical assistance). ...

"The country moved a long way in this
transition. Although successive
Salvadoran presidents have continued to be
elected from the [incumbent] Allanza
Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), in the
March 2000 elections, the FMLN won
31 of 84 seats in the unicameral legislative
assembly. This was a remarkable
achievement for the FMLN, barely eight years
after becoming a political party,
allowing it to block bills requiring a
two-thirds majority. This moved the
country further ahead in the political
transition. In the municipal elections of
1997, the opposition had won about 80 percent
of the largest cities, including
the capital. ...

"In an evaluation of the 1992-2004 period,
the Inter-American Development
Bank (IADB 2005) concluded that Salvadoran
society had made a successful
transition to peacetime and has gained
considerable ground in terms of stability,
economic modernization, and poverty

Graciana del Castillo, Rebuilding War-Torn
States, Oxford, Copyright 2008 by
Graciana del Castillo, pp. 103-119.


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