Crisis Persists in El Salvador

Crisis Persists in El Salvador

Photo by Hoorig Santikian

Fifteen years after El Salvador's civil war, says Blanca Flor Bonilla, a member of the Legislative Assembly, extreme poverty is promoting organized crime, mass emigration, and the disintegration of families.

The people have lost hope.

Fifteen years after the end of the civil war in El Salvador, the country faces economic and social crises, said Deputy Blanca Flor Bonilla, a member of El Salvador's Legislative Assembly, in a presentation held on May 16, 2007.

In the lecture, "From the Mountains to the Legislative Assembly: Political Transition and Crisis in El Salvador," Bonilla guided a UCLA audience through the recent history of El Salvador and offered her analysis of the country's current socioeconomic state. The event was sponsored by the recently renamed and restructured Latin American Institute.

"I am thankful to step on a university campus where many generations of Latino citizens of the United States have studied, and are contributing to the development of not just the United States but also of Latin America and the Caribbean," Bonilla said in Spanish.

El Salvador endured a 12-year civil war between the right-wing government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), then the umbrella for the guerrilla efforts of the left. Following the signing of a 1992 peace deal, the FMLN reorganized into a legal political party.

Though the civil war ended in 1992, corruption, poverty, and other ills continue to plague El Salvador, said Bonilla, who participated in the clandestine efforts of the FMLN during the war and is now a member of the political party. Due to corruption, funds are limited and projects, though approved by the legislature, do not materialize, she said.

In addition, formerly prosperous businesses are disintegrating, and Salvadorans are struggling financially, Bonilla said. Wealth is concentrated in an oligarchy that is even smaller than the one that dominated before the war, she added.

El Salvador's extreme poverty has led to social problems, Bonilla emphasized. Jobless youths engage in organized crime. Parents flee to other countries, including the United States, to look for work. Disintegration of the family structure is weakening the country, said Bonilla, who serves on a legislative commission on families, women, and children.

According to Bonilla, neoliberal economic policies adopted since the war have led to the current economic and social problems. The delivery of public goods, including healthcare and education, is being privatized.

"The people have lost hope," Bonilla said.

In a question-and-answer session, a Salvadoran audience member asked what reforms the FMLN would implement if the party was elected to the executive office. Bonilla outlined some economic and social reforms: revitalizing agriculture and national industry, and instituting public academic and extracurricular programs to cultivate the youth.

She also said that foreign contacts including visits to universities are needed to reach Salvadorans living outside of El Salvador and to increase awareness of the crisis in the country.

Published: Monday, May 28, 2007