By Rebecca Kendall
The first lady of El Salvador, Vanda Pignato, was the keynote speaker at a daylong conference held at UCLA on Jan. 30 in recognition of the 20 year anniversary of the signing of the El Salvador Peace Accords. The accords, signed in January 1992 and witnessed by international governments, ended more than a decade of civil conflict in that nation.
"A few days ago, El Salvador celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Peace Accords that were the closing point of a painful stage in the life of our country,” she said during a private lunch. “We know that war is an error. It’s a very bad memory in every sense….The cruelest of them all, without any doubt… After many years we see that war drove us to the Peace Accords and to the possibility of building a democracy that is full and sustained for our country.”
In examining the current state of El Salvador, the role of this civil conflict must be considered, she said.
“The accords not only brought an end to the conflict," she said, "they also ushered in the possibility for economic growth, human rights and social advancements.”
Pignato, who husband, Mauricio Funes, became the first leftist president in El Salvador’s 200 year history, currently serves as the nation’s secretary of social inclusion. In that role, she designed and implemented City of the Woman, a comprehensive and integrated center of specialized services for women. Her talk addressed one of the most critical challenges facing El Salvador as it moves forward, namely closing the gaps of inequality that continue to exist in the Salvadoran economy.
Born in Brazil. Pignato is an attorney and co-founder of the Secretariat for Foreign Relations of the Workers Party of Brazil. She also participated in verification of human rights missions during the 1980s during the conflict in El Salvador.
In addition, Salvadoran assembly members Miguel Ahues, Margarita Escobar, Karina Sosa and Lenora Peña Mendoza participated in a morning panel discussion reflecting on the significance of the Peace Accords and shared their views regarding the future implications of extending democratic constitutional rights to the Salvadoran diaspora, forced to leave during or after the conflict.
An afternoon panel comprised of Professor Raúl Hinojosa, founding director of the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center, Miguel Huezo Mixco of the United Nations Development Program – El Salvador, Juan Jose Garcia, vice minister for Salvadorans abroad, Leonel Flores Sosa, director of the Salvadoran Social Security Institute and Walter Duran, El Salvador general consul in Los Angeles, addressed the planned development of the first ever United Nations Development Program Transnational Human Development Report, scheduled to be released in 2013. Topics included poverty, migration, social exclusions and barriers to growth; remittances, financial exculpation and inclusion, fiscal transfers and unequal development; social disintegration, criminal insecurity and imbedded violence; new identities, social media and cultural circuits; and pathways to enhanced social inclusion, political participation and citizenship.