Rebuilding Trust in El Salvador After the Civil War
El Salvador suffered a vicious civil war for more than a decade. During that time development stopped or went backwards. The country has achieved an uneasy peace but it is still trying to repair the damage to its economy, environment and institutions. The main barrier to long-term development in El Salvador was the lack of trust among former factions who now live together with the evidence of the past around them. For El Salvador sustainable development means building a new cohesive society.
Female: El Salvador suffered a vicious civil war for more than a decade, during that time, development stopped or went backwards. The country has achieved an uneasy peace but is still trying to repair the damage to its economy, to the environment and to institutions. The main barrier to long term development in El Salvador was the lack of trust among former warring factions who now live together with the evidence of the past around them. For El Salvador sustainable developments means building a new cohesive society.
Maria Ofelia Navarrete: There was lots of suffering, they killed children, they capture people, they kill people but people defended themselves.
Female: For more than a dozen years there was not a single home, village or town that was not drawn into the struggle between the opposing forces.
Maria Ofelia Navarrete: It was bitter, imagine we were families, women, children, life didn’t stop, women carried on having families and men had to cultivate in the middle of the war with everything that life can present. Happiness, bitterness, everything that you can imagine this place is the theaters of combat, the shots were heard and people just carried on with their lives. People dug trenches to shield themselves, here and everywhere where the military thought that we supported the front. But people defended themselves with a real sense of bravery and that’s how they survived.
Female: But the signing of the peace accord was only the beginning; it will take a lot longer for memories to fade and for divisions between former antagonists to be healed.
Oscar Serrate: If they can underline one essential characteristic, I will say it, its trust building. You cannot develop capacities if you don’t trust people, if you don’t trust the institutions or their organizations. And we have been working supporting transfer of resources, transfer of competencies to the small and local activities in order to form their bill capacity with the bottom up approach.
Female: In a war torn society, devising ways to meet people’s basic needs such as clean water or better health care can be a part of the healing process.
Enrique Borgo Bustamange: The local authorities are participating, they are the ones which have the least power in the country but they are the ones that know that main problems are the communities.
Female: In El Salvador, they call it the 6% solution because a recent law guarantees that at least 6% of the national budget will go direct to the municipalities. In small towns and villages, the communities decide their priorities and then charge their mayors to bid for funds from the central 6% pot.
Alejandro Benitez: The idea is that if you unite people at a local level, we are going to be able to unite and join all the departments of the country at a national level.
Female: One project agreed for financing under the 6% fund is already underway in the municipality of La Reigna.
Salvador Rodriguez Valle: We needed to build a bridge because the children were in danger every time it rained, the river rose and every time the children tried to get home from school, the water was too high and they had to wait for hours and hours. That’s why we gave priority to this project together with the efforts of the community and other institutions which helped us to build the bridge. We’ve benefitted a lot from the law of the 6%, people can satisfy their needs from the human point of view both at the rural level and at the urban level.
Female: Another part of the national restoration strategy is to involve the universities of El Salvador in grass roots development. It’s designed to benefit both villagers and students. Village communities get access to students with accountancy or engineering expertise at little cost while the students benefit from getting practical hands on experience. But the success of these new institutions and laws like the law of the 6% depends on former enemies working together. Maria Ofelia Navarrete is now a member of congress, she has to sit at the same table as her one time foes. Their challenge is to agree policies on how the needs of the two million people who earn less than a dollar a day can be met.
Maria Ofelia Navarrete: We’ve dismantled those oppressive forces; we’ve constructed a new government that has got an enormous amount of problems that we have to correct. The new things are always the same, a new shoe is always too tight for you but as you wear it, it becomes good. We now have the possibility of walking on the path towards the microtization of society and that is absolutely beyond this peak.
Female: Turning guns into plow shares is no easy task, to make it happen the country needs to build a national infrastructure from scratch. For even at peace, this empowered Central American Country is facing some forbidding challenges.
Miguel Araujo: We are down with our population within the next 25 to 30 years and if we already have in the recent months about seven conflicts, local conflicts because of water, what will be the future if we don’t change our course. So we need to change course and now is the right time, 90% of our water is contaminated and only 2% of the primary forest but in a solid waste problem including hazardous waste so we have a very short time before we get into a reversible crisis. We have between five to seven years window of opportunity.
Female: There is agreement emerging but there is no alternative to building an infrastructure that gets help direct to the most disadvantaged people. Everyone is taking encouragement from signs that in this newly democratic country changes in government will not lead to disruptive U turns. Nidia Diaz, currently in opposition is standing for the office of Vice President. Whatever her differences are with the party currently in office, she too is committed to continuing the policies aimed at empowering the poorest sections of society to achieve greater self reliance.
Nidia Diaz: We believe that a spot of democracy and this part of the participation of citizens, there has to be a program of peace centralization of resources and decisions. Freedom and the participation of the community have to be given to the local municipalities. We want every department of the country to become more competitive in order to grow economically, that’s why we believe that there will be no national development if there is no local development.
Rebuilding Trust in El Salvador After the Civil War
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