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El Salvador: 19 Years Since Signing of Peace Agreements

Sunday the 16th of January marked another year of peace for the country of El Salvador. It has been 19 years since the signing of a peace agreement in Chapultepec, Mexico, which brought an end to a bloody civil war that had been going on since 1981. With the commemoration of the event came discussion. Political, economical and social commentators as well as bloggers have had something to say on the matter.

The two sides of the conflict were: the government of El Salvador, led at that time by the conservative party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), a guerrilla organisation that is now a left wing political party.

The current Catholic Archbishop of El Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas, stated that although the ceasefire was a “blessing from God,” Salvadorans had still not found peace, but it was not too late to achieve it.

“Lamentablemente no tenemos todavía una paz estable, firme, duradera, bien afincada, pero enhorabuena, estamos en un buen momento para ir hacia allá.”

“Unfortunately we still do not have what we can call a stable, long-lasting peace, but there is reason to celebrate, as now we have a good opportunity to try for it.”

Victor, a psychologist and well-know young blogger, comments in his blog Alta hora de la noche [es] that the people of El Salvador do not have a collective awareness of what peace means, as they have never experienced it. He states that the very concept of peace is stained with blood. It seems, he adds, that egotistical behaviour is the “natural state” of Salvadorans who, thanks to a social and cultural system that favours the strong and the powerful, consider the agreement to be a sign of weakness. In his opinion, building a culture of peace, especially among adults, appears to be an impossible task. But it is a task worth doing, he states, each one, fighting the battle, from their own trench.

¿Cómo hacer pues, para que las personas vuelvan su mirada con otros ojos a lo que ahora miran con desprecio?

¿Cómo cambiamos nuestra mirada, nuestra forma de interpretar el mundo?

¿Cómo desarraigamos de la raíz social aquellos comportamientos e ideas colectivas que constituyen una traba para nuestro caminar?

How can we change things so that people return the stares of those who look down on them?

How can we change our outlook, our way of looking at the world?

How can we remove, from the roots of society, those collective ideas and behaviour that shackle our progress?

Former President of El Salvador, Dr Armando Calderón Sol, in a statement to the media said that the peace agreements had “great merit” [es] in that they had allowed the country to be founded once again and had opened new doors for democracy.

“Los salvadoreños pasamos a una nueva etapa sin esa posición de vencedores y vencidos. El gran triunfador solo hubo uno, que fue el pueblo salvadoreño.”

“Salvadorans moved into a new stage, one without winners or losers. There was only one winner, the people of El Salvador.”

In response to an article published in Contrapunto, an online news site, on the topic of the peace agreement, Ixqic, a lawyer, points out in her blog Xibalba [es] that it has been 19 years and there are still many things waiting to be done. She also remarks, with annoyance, that she is tired of hearing the vice-president of the republic and Minister of Education, Salvador Sanchez Cerén, asking for forgiveness, as if he did not understand what the meaning of peace was.

The political party the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) set up a debate panel this month to discuss the topic with Salvadoran youth [es]. Members of the panel included those at the negotiating table, which led to the signing of the peace agreement in Mexico. Representatives of the insurgency, Ana Guadalupe Martinez [es] and Salvador Samayoa were joined by government members form that time, including Oscar Santamaría, current advisor to the El Salvador Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES) [es] and a leader of ARENA, and David Escobar Galindo [es], lawyer, writer and rector of the Dr José Matías University [es].

It is important to point out that the panel representing the left have broken ties with the FMLN [es] party and are now members of or are affiliated with institutions that are considered right wing.

Comment on the ARENA [es] debate panel is given by Virginia [es] in her blog Doxa [es], in a post titled “Tentative Title: I went to a FUSADES conversation and all that I got was a sachet of sugar….” [es].

The author of the blog El Trompudo [es] reposted a blog entry [es] written last year on the 18th anniversary of the peace agreement. Written in collaboration with the blog Chichicaste, the post states that the country has gone backwards since the signing of the agreement. Exclusion and poverty, state the writers, are the same or worse than before, with a government which does not implement reform, and a party, the FMLN, [es] which has adapted to playing the electoral games of the right.

Celebramos las aspiraciones de la firma de los Acuerdos de Paz, aspiraciones de poseer las garantias de paz con justicia social, las que hasta ahora han sido negadas al pueblo salvadoreño.

LOS ACUERDOS DE PAZ NO HAY QUE CELEBRARLOS, HAY QUE RESCATARLOS!

We celebrated the aspirations that the peace signing brought, aspirations to have guaranteed peace in line with social justice, which up until now the people of El Salvador have been denied.

PEACE AGREEMENTS ARE TO BE RESCUED, NOT CELEBRATED!

Lastly, in the blog Eco Estudiantil [es], written by students from the faculty of Law and Social Sciences at the University of El Salvador [es], they criticise public sector workers of the current government and members of the FMLN [es] for forgetting their ideals and for forgetting what they fought for during the armed conflict. The students state that these people only recall the moment when the peace agreement was signed, which, they add, they do full of nostalgia, while the current situation of the country is serious. Today’s youth is urged, they say, to take on the historic role and be the builders of this new culture of peace that is so necessary in El Salvador.

La Paz que se anhelaba en aquella época era la de un cese a la guerra, la paz que se anhela actualmente es la de un cese a la delincuencia, cese a la pobreza, cese a la migración, cese a la exclusión, los jóvenes de todos los sectores deben ahora organizar, deben ahora liderar y ser los promotores de cambios sociales, deben ahora ser los protagonistas de llegar

The peace so badly wanted at that time was an end to war. The type of peace desired now is an end to delinquency, to poverty, to migration and exclusion. Young people from all walks of life should now organise themselves. They should be the leaders and promoters of social change.

For the people of El Salvador, the peace agreements marked a before and after in their country’s history. However, Salvadorans feel they have not been able to turn the opportunities that came from the accords into the necessary steps needed for moving the country forward.

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