Oct 23, 2020
by Marvin Alberto Alvarado

Marvin Alvarado Blog


Outline

El Salvador is currently experiencing the most important political challenges of the last three decades. During the last governmental administrative period, conflict arose that did not go beyond economic and political interests and concentration of power. The three state bodies have entered into an unfruitful debate, with each one focusing their efforts on maintaining their position, ignoring the constitutional mandate that they cooperate amongst themselves and not caring about abandoning the collective interests of economic and social development. This situation is the result of the strategy of the president, who maintains a position of manipulation and interference in the other powers as well as a permanent electoral campaign intended to win the majority in Congress for the next legislative period, which would allow him to do as he pleases. The international community that defends human rights, as well as the Salvadoran academic community, is pointing this out, and there are forceful and useful recommendations to prevent the further violations of the people’s rights and the institutional order of the state.

Realities to Keep in Mind

During the last 20 years, work has been carried out in our local area of Puerto Parada to build a process of local development that includes legitimate aspects which ensure that it adapts to the reality of the communities, but for the time being these strategies are far from being supported by the government. The pandemic and the recent storms have revealed the government’s lack of community development policies, and although the mobilization of some officials, including the president himself, can be seen in the media, they do not have a plan to address the impact of the emergency itself. In this regard, everything is handled in an abstract manner, but if the goal is to land on concrete actions, there is no viable answer that would resolve the problem.

  • At the community level, the healthcare infrastructure has been considerably impacted by the storms Amanda and Cristóbal, and even if the government understands the significance of this situation during the pandemic, it does not have a plan to address it, much less the initiative to search for solutions.
  • The levee for the great San Miguel River, which protects the 23 communities of Puerto Parada, has around six vulnerable points, which represent a higher threat level for 19 communities. Two critical points collapsed, resulting in the flooding of four communities, which are now left to their own devices in resolve this problem. They must mobilize on their own to construct dams with sandbags just to mitigate the damage.
  • This area produces a large quantity of grains and vegetables that supply the local market, yet more than a month has passed and there are still no government initiatives to resolve the problems caused by the flooding, even though this is impeding production. No one dares to try to grow crops if this situation is not addressed, which in turn has resulted in crop shortages and food insecurity.
  • Help families to better face the adversities caused by emergencies and the pandemic.
  • Provide continuity in permanent training programs for food production in household gardens.
  • Establish trade routes for local production which generate greater family income.
  • Strengthen and/or expand the practice of clean fishing, with a focus on minimizing the impact resulting from poor fishing practices.
  • Involve more families in trainings about the importance of appropriate management of the resources of the Bay.
  • Even when the epicenter of the political discussions is the “fundamental rights” of the population, strategies are mainly directed at benefiting large companies.
  • Micro-businesses generate stability and economic energy on a rural community level, but as has happened previously, benefits for these businesses will be excluded from the new reopening plan.
  • There is a lot of talk about health, but there has been absolutely no progress in the care of the population with common or chronic illnesses. In El Salvador it’s a sin to get sick if it’s not from coronavirus. The hospitals are at capacity and almost overflowing as the economy reopens, and because people aren’t guaranteed to be seen if they have symptoms of common illnesses, they prefer to stay home.
  • Continue the processes of strengthening the communities.
  • Strengthen food production at a household level to prevent famine.
  • Find the mobilization mechanisms allowed by COVID-19 safety measures which lead the government to take action on the tasks for which it is responsible.
  • Create spaces which allow continuity of community and local strategy.
  • Establish new strategic action plans to consciously face the new reality that the pandemic represents.
  • Establish intensive training programs at the local leadership level to balance the actions required with the new reality, and address or counteract the stress generated by the pandemic.
  • Continue the strategy of organized local production with the Cooperatives, including clean fishing and agricultural production.
  • Conduct trainings in food production, management,\ and commercialization which allow for a healthy diet and better family incomes.

The Human Right to Food

The country has entered into a recession in terms of food production, and although it is true that the government distributed packages of food during the pandemic, there are no monitoring mechanisms in place. In fact, the health of the population worsened, given that the government summoned groups of farmers left and right during quarantine, forcing them—who are among the most vulnerable sectors of the population--to run the distribution centers, even though the risks of being infected with COVID-19 were known. It is necessary to establish, or resume, actions that can create the indispensable conditions for food production at a community level.

The government has invested millions in buying grains, which on the surface seemed like a great strategy in terms of guaranteed supply, but this is in fact the opposite of reality. El Salvador needs strategies which guarantee permanent food supply in the long term, and this will only be accomplished by strengthening national production. This could take the form of incentivizing local farmers with harvest guarantees, which is why community strategies are extremely important. However, the current government unfortunately, is far from recognizing, much less supporting these strategies. Nevertheless, grassroots community organizations such as the CCPP and the “CINCAHUITE” Association play a crucial role in food production at a household level, thereby helping to guarantee the human right to food. It is precisely here, where actions taken in keeping with the vision of local communities, become important:

Local Economy

The phase of reopening the “economy” has arrived, revealing the importance of an agreement between the three state powers. Their fruitless discussions, with each one trying to pin responsibility on the others and arguing about who is more right, have left out some very important aspects, including the following:

In general, the pandemic has destabilized the world economy, and El Salvador is no exception. On a political level, the crisis is being used as justification for the country to take on exorbitant amounts of debt, causing serious concerns about what these gigantic loans mean for the future. The greatest concern continues to be the lack of concrete or solid plans that support the strategy, or the vision, to minimize the impacts of current decisions in the long term. The communities must therefore consciously do their part to avoid the impact of these political decisions to the extent possible, which includes the revision of strategic planning in local organizations.

PRIORITIES:

ECOPA plays an important role in the implementation of local strategies, because it strengthens the organization of these strategies with scientific reports and community development projects, creating spaces for coordination with other entities that allow for local growth and the transfer of knowledge to the communities.