Peace accords, neoliberalism, and democracy in El Salvador

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Peace accords, neoliberalism, and democracy in El Salvador
Gumbrecht, Robert A
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viii, 171 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Since 1900 ( fast )
Democracy -- El Salvador -- 20th century ( lcsh )
Democracy ( fast )
Politics and government ( fast )
Politics and government -- El Salvador -- 1992- ( lcsh )
El Salvador ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 165-171).
General Note:
Department of Political Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Robert A. Gumbrecht.

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|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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43926544 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L64 1999m .G86 ( lcc )

Full Text
B.A., University of Colorado at Denver, 1991
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Political Science
Robert A. Gumbrecht

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Robert A. Gumbrecht
has been approved
Xfy 2),
7 Date

Gumbrecht, Robert A. (M.A., Political Science)
Peace Accords, Neoliberalism, and Democracy in El Salvador
Thesis directed by Professor Joel Edelstein
Much has been assumed about the nature of the emerging democratic practices
in El Salvador following the end of civil war and the signing of the historic
Chapultepec Accords in 1992. What is clear, however, is that in the seven years that
have passed since the signing of the Accords, Salvadoran elites have shown a lack of
commitment in implementing the Accords, and in some cases have reverted to past
authoritarian tendencies. In addition, the Peace Accords themselves do not
fundamentally address the vastly inequitable property relations that are at the root of
organized violence in El Salvador, nor do they adequately address the imposition of
neoliberal economic policy by Salvadoran elites and the international financial
institutions. Structural adjustment policies hinder the consolidation of peace and
democracy (the primary goal of the Accords) by failing to produce an equitable pattern
of economic growth, subordinating the peace process to macroeconomic stabilization,
increasing poverty and crime, allowing the continued use of the state by the elite for
private gain, and justifying a reversion to authoritarian responses by the state. In this
way, El Salvadors negotiated revolution represents more of a neoauthoritarian
electoral regime than a broad-based democracy.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend
its publication.

1. INTRODUCTION................................................1
Democracy Defined........................................3
Democratic Traditions................................3
Globalization and Democracy..........................9
Social Democracy....................................15
Democracy and Development...........................17
A Working Definition of Democracy...................19
The Possibilities of Democratic Transformation in El Salvador... 22
2. INEVITABLE REVOLUTION......................................24
Development and Poverty.................................25
The Modem Agroexport-based Economy..................26
Agroexport Diversification..........................30
Failure of Import-Substitution Industrialization....35
Economic and Political Meltdown.....................38
The War: Political and Economic Character and Consequences ..41
Program for a Revolutionary Society....................42

The Oligarchy, the Armed Forces, and the United States.44
Lessons of the War...................................47
AND THE PEACE PROCESS, 1981-1992...........................50
First Steps: Negotiations During the War, 1981-1989.....51
Early Efforts........................................51
La Palma.............................................53
New President, New Initiative........................56
New Violence Marks the Point of No Return............58
The Formal Peace Process: 1990-1992.....................59
The Geneva Agreement.................................59
The Caracas Agreement................................59
The San Jose Agreement on Human Rights...............60
Constitutional Reform: The Mexico City Agreement.....61
The New York Agreement...............................62
The Act of New York I and II.........................64
Substantive Elements of the Chapultepec Accords.........64
Principle Objectives.................................64

The Cease-fire and Demobilization Process
Reform of the Armed Forces...........................66
Public Security and the New National Civilian Police.67
Reforming the Judicial System........................68
Electoral System Reform..............................70
Political Participation by the FMLN..................71
Land Reform..........................................72
Economic Reform......................................73
Report of the Truth Commission for El Salvador...........75
AND DEMOCRACY AFTER THE ACCORDS.............................81
Implementation of the Chapultepec Accords................83
Demilitarization, Reduction of the Armed Forces,
and Elimination of Security Forces...................85
The National Civilian Police (PNC)...................86
Human Rights.........................................87
Judicial Reform......................................88
Electoral Reform.....................................89
Land Reform..........................................92
Other Societal Factors Regarding Democratization.........92

Rising Crime
Reemergence of Death Squads............................94
Conclusion: The New Face of Authoritarianism?..............95
CONSOLIDATION OF DEMOCRACY...................................100
Structural Adjustment in El Salvador......................104
War-related Economic Crisis...........................104
Common Elements of Structural Adjustment
Programs and Their Purpose............................105
Structural Adjustment Under Cristiani.................114
Structural Adjustment Under Calderon Sol..............120
Neoliberalism and Democracy...............................120
Growth Without Development:
Nine Years of Neoliberal Policy...........................121
The Nature of Export Growth...........................121
Primary Beneficiaries of Growth under SAPs............122
Subordination of the Peace Process
to Macroeconomic Stabilization........................127
Neoliberalism and the Persistence of Poverty..........131
Neoliberalism Inhibits Government Action
on Behalf of the Poor.................................134
Neoliberalism, Crime, and Violence....................137
ARENAS Return to Authoritarianism....................139

Conclusion: Neoliberalism and the Subversion of Democracy... 145
6. CHANGE AND CONTINUITY.............................149
Alternative Models of Development...............150
From Whence Comes Democracy.....................159
WORKS CITED...................................................165

The 1994 elections in El Salvador were seen by many as the elections of the
century. They marked an end to civil war and a rejection of violent, revolutionary
action, as well as an institutionalization of the negotiated revolution hammered out
by the armed resistance and the ruling elite, brokered by the United Nations. The
elections were also seen as a successful conclusion to the peace process that had
tentatively begun in the latter part of the 1980s and had gotten under way in earnest in
1990 following the UCA murders and the FMLNs general offensive in 1989.
The negotiated revolution that is embodied in the 1992 Peace Accords
sought to address the lack of democracy in El Salvador. This lack of democratic
functioning, set against a background of massive economic inequality, is what was at
the root of the civil war. The state, long dominated by the agroexport oligarchy and
the military, has been systematically unable to respond positively to the needs of the
majority of the population, ravaged by economic policies that caused deep
inequalityimpoverishing most while enriching a few. As capitalist modernization
exacerbated this inequality and the economic crisis of the 1970s threw the delicate
social and economic relations into turmoil, the authoritarian political system was

unwilling and unable to process the increased demands of the population for social
justice. As a result, the character of these demands became more confrontational, and
the state/oligarchical apparatus, through security forces and paramilitary death
squads, responded to these demands of the people with increased repression. In short,
a lack of democracy made armed struggle inevitable in El Salvador, given the
socioeconomic realities present.
The problems for democracy in the post-war era hinge on two main points.
First, a fundamental change in the authoritarian nature of the Salvadoran state, along
with the institutionalization of democratic norms, is absolutely essential. Second, and
just as important, the mode of development undertaken by the society must address
and correct the systematic inequality that has existed in El Salvador. The two must be
considered simultaneously. A lack of political democracy precludes popular control of
economic matters that are essential to the well-being of the society, and inequitable
economic growth does not does not allow for the meaningful integration of all
members of society, nor does it allow for the consolidation of peace (Boyce, 1996)
as a prerequisite for democracy. Both problems point to the need to reorient the role
of the state towards meeting the needs of the broader society rather than the needs of
the elite. This is the basis for true democratization.

The 1994 elections, for many observers, were proof positive that democracy
was at long last instituted in El Salvador. Indeed, free, fair, and transparent elections1
are a major component of a functioning democratic system. Yet, elections alone are
far from being a sufficient requirement for institutionalizing democratic practice.
Democracy Defined
A working definition of democracy is in order to be able to judge the success
of democratic consolidation. First, a short review of relevant democratic thought and
practice, followed by the concept of democracy that informs this thesis.
Democratic Traditions
Democracy in its most simplest form can be defined as rule by the people,
as the word has its roots in the Greek demos (people) and kratos (rule). Lymon Tower
Sargent articulates three variants of rule by the people: direct democracy, in which
citizens take part personally in deliberations and vote on issues; representative
democracy, in which citizens choose other citizens to deliberate and vote on issues;
and participatory democracy, which can mean a representative system that emphasizes
1 In general, most observer groups considered the elections to be valid, though noting some serious concerns
regarding the Supreme Electoral Tribunals actions on election day and leading up to it. ONUSAL, the UN
Observer Mission in El Salvador, reported that the March 20,1994 elections had taken place under
appropriate conditions in terms of freedom, competitiveness and security. Despite serious flaws regarding
organization and transparency ... the elections can be considered acceptable. (UN, 1995: 53)

individual participation in the political process (Sargent, 1999: 41-78). Sargent
outlines a simple model of democracy that must include a number of features,
regardless of the particular character of the democratic system:
Citizen involvement in decision making,
[in most cases] a system of representation,
The rule of law,
An electoral system,
Some degree of equality among citizens,
Some degree of liberty or freedom granted to or retained by citizens, and
Education (Sargent, 1999: 41).
Held (1995: 12) makes similar distinctions between variances in democratic
structures, but also adds another: the one-party democracy, which is most often
associated with societies that employ a Marxist-Leninist ideological underpinning.
Direct, participatory, and republican democracy. Held outlines a history of
democracy that, for the purposes of Western political thought, originated in the Greek
city-state of Athens, which practiced a type of direct, or participatory, democracy
(Held, 1995: 5). Athenian democracy was primarily concerned with the concept of the
active citizen, who has a central role in the political life of the community. This
participatory democratic tradition, as practiced in the Athenian city-state, did not
differentiate between state and society. In ancient Athens, the concept of the polis
reigned: citizens were at one and the same time subjects of political authority and the
creators of public rules and regulations. Citizens engaged in legislative and judicial
functions, participating directly in the affairs of the state. Athenian democracy

required a general commitment to the principle of civic virtue: dedication to the state
and the subordination of private life to public affairs and the common good. Citizens
could fulfill themselves and live honorably only in service to the state, and therefore,
to society. The distinctive practice of Athenian democracy was republican the city-
state was ruled by citizen-governors, although all citizens were expected and required
to maintain a sense of public duty over private concern.
The liberal democratic tradition. This is in sharp contrast to the modem liberal
tradition of democracy, which has largely replaced the polis with the concept of
maximizing individual liberty and societal protection of the natural rights of life,
liberty and property, as articulated by a range of early liberal thinkers (Locke, 1952;
Madison, 1999; Mill, 1986; Paine, 1993; Rousseau, 1968). The liberal tradition is
preoccupied with trying to balance power and freedom: constantly seeking to justify
the sovereign power of the state while at the same time justifying limits on that power
(Held, 1995: 9), a balance that has been achieved through the social contract2 and
the constitutional, republican model of democracy.
The liberal concern with reason, lawful government and freedom of choice
could only be upheld properly by recognizing the political equality of all mature
individuals. Such equality would ensure not only a secure social environment in
2 The idea that citizens agree to the sovereign power of the state, and that the state agrees to structured limits on
power. The social contract recognizes that state power is necessary to protect natural rights, but that the state is
also as likely to harm rights as it is to protect them. The U.S. Constitution is one model of the social contract.

which people would be free to pursue their own private activities and interests, but
also a state which, under the watchful eye of political representatives accountable to
an electorate, would do what was best in the general or public interest. Thus, liberal
democrats argued, the democratic constitutional state, along with other key
institutional mechanisms, would resolve the problems of ensuring both liberty and
The main divergence of liberal democracy from earlier Athenian,
participatory models is that a citizen is no longer defined by civic duty, but rather
by his or her ability to pursue private interests without state interference. Held
outlines two central statements, by James Madison and Jeremy Bentham, of this view:
The central concern of Madisons argument [in The Federalist Papers, No.
10] is not the rightful place of the active citizen in the life of the political
community but, instead, the legitimate pursuit by individuals of their interests,
and government as a means for the enhancement of these interests. Although
Madison himself sought clear ways of reconciling particular interests with
what he called modem extended republics, his position signals a clear shift
from the classical ideals of civic virtue and the public realm to liberal
preoccupations. He conceived of the representative state as the chief
mechanism to aggregate individuals interests and to protect their rights. In
such a state, he believed, security of person and property would be sustained
and politics could be made compatible with the demands of large nation-
states, with their complex patterns of trade, commerce and international
In parallel with this view, Bentham held that representative
democracy has for its characteristic object and effect... securing its members
against oppression and depredation at the hands of those functionaries which it
employs for its defence ... Democratic government is required to protect
citizens from the despotic use of political power, whether it be by a monarch ,
the aristocracy, or other groups. The representative state thus becomes an
umpire or referee while individuals pursue in civil society, according to the

rules of economic competition and free exchange, their own interests. The free
vote and the free market are both essential, for a key presupposition is that the
collective good can be properly realized in most domains of life only if
individuals interact in competitive exchanges, pursuing their utility with
minimal state interference. Significantly, however, this argument has another
side. Tied to the advocacy of a minimal state, whose scope and power need
to be strictly limited, there is a strong commitment to certain types of state
intervention: for instance, intervention to regulate the behavior of the
disobedient, and to reshape social relations and institutions if, in the event of
the failure of laissez faire, the greatest happiness of the greatest number is not
achievedthe only defensible criterion, Bentham held, of the public good
(Held, 1995: 10-11).
Thus the frame of reference of democratic thought shifted from the notion of
the gathering of citizens in assemblies and public meeting places to the right of
citizens to participate in the determination of the collective will through the medium
of elected representatives (Held, 1995: 11), changing the focus of democracy from
its association with small societies and allowing it to accommodate the emerging
world of nation-states. Over time, and with great struggle, the ideal of universal
suffrage as the basis for liberal democracy permitted the ideology to take on its
contemporary form: a cluster of rules and institutions permitting the broadest
participation of the majority of citizens in the selection of representatives who alone
can make political decisions ... affecting the whole community. This cluster includes
elected government; free and fair elections in which every citizens vote has an equal
weight; a suffrage which embraces all citizens irrespective of distinctions of race,
religion, class, sex, and so on; freedom of conscience, information and expression on

all public matters broadly defined; the right of all adults to oppose their government
and stand for office; and associations including social movements, interest groups and
political parties (Held, 1995: 12).
Marxism and democracy. In contrast to the liberal democratic tradition is the
Marxist critique of the association of democracy and capitalism. Advocates of the
democratic state and the market economy present these institutions as the only ones
under which liberty can be sustained and inequalities minimized. However, according
to the Marxist critique, the capitalist economy inevitably produces systematic
inequality and massive restrictions on real freedom. Formal political equality is of
little value when inequalities of class exist, and the state cannot become the vehicle
for the pursuit of the common good or the public interest in class societies, given
Marxs observation that in all societies, the state exists to serve the dominant class.
Under capitalism, the state exists to serve the owners of the means of production, thus
effectively shutting out the voice of the mass of the population. For Marxists, in
liberal democracy the state may be formally democratic, but the society under
capitalism is not; thus, liberty is unattainable for many. Benthams view of democracy
as the greatest good for the greatest number cannot be fulfilled. Marx envisioned
the replacement of the liberal democratic state by a commune structure: the
smallest communities, which were to administer their own affairs, would elect
delegates to larger administrative units (districts, towns); these in turn would elect

delegates to still larger areas of administration (the national delegation). This
arrangement is known as the pyramid structure of delegative democracy: all
delegates are revocable, bound by the instructions of their constituency, and organized
into a pyramid of directly elected committees (Held, 1995: 13).
Globalization and Democracy
Cosmopolitan democracy. Held rejects traditional definitions of democracy as
being insufficient to address the demands of an increasingly interconnected world.
Traditional democratic theories have been placed squarely in the realm of the state:
self-determination, autonomy, and consent have been seen as problems of a given
population contained within a given territory. Held argues that the process of
globalization has made this notion of democracy problematic, if not impossible. Held
defines globalization as follows:
Globalization can be taken to denote the stretching and deepening of social
relations and institutions across space and time such that, on the one hand,
day-to-day activities are increasingly influenced by events happening on the
other side of the globe and, on the other, practices and decisions of local
groups and communities can have significant global reverberations.
Accordingly, globalization can be conceived of as action at a distance (Held,
1995: 20).
Regional and global interconnectedness challenges the traditional national
resolutions of the key questions of democratic theory and practice: The very process

of governance can escape the reach of the nation-state. National communities by no
means exclusively make and determine conditions and policies for themselves, and
governments by no means determine what is appropriate exclusively for their own
citizens (Held, 1995: 17). Examples of this range from national decisions to change
interest rates, rain forest clearcutting, and nuclear power policy, to decisions made by
quasi-regional or quasi-supranational organizations such as the European Union (EU),
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), or the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). All of these types of decisions diminish the range of options open to given
national populations. Held argues that the idea of a community which governs itself
and determines its own future, an idea at the very heart of the democratic polity
itself, is deeply problematic (Held, 1995: 17). Also central to democratic theory is
the idea that consent legitimizes government, though consent as measured through the
ballot box and majority rule3 is challenged by global interconnectedness. In current
democratic formulations, territorial boundaries demarcate the basis on which
individuals are included in and excluded from participation in decisions affecting
their lives, but the outcomes of those decisions often stretch far beyond national
borders. As Held writes: The implications of this are considerable, not only for the
categories of consent and legitimacy, but for all the key ideas of democracy: the
3 The principle that decisions which accrue the largest number of votes should prevail is at the root of political
decisions to be regarded as worthy or legitimate.

nature of a constituency, the meaning of representation, the proper form and scope of
political participation, and the relevance of the democratic nation-state, faced with
unsettling patterns of relations and constraints in the international order, as the
guarantor of the rights, duties, and welfare of subjects (1995: 18).
Held argues that the concept of legitimate political power or authority has to
be separated from its exclusive traditional association with states and fixed national
borders, and that the conditions of its success depend on an international framework
of political life, given form and shape by what he calls cosmopolitan democratic
law. Democracy can only result from a nucleus, or cluster, of democratic states and
societies, upon which is formed an international cosmopolitan democracy. Democracy
has to be extended and deepened within and between countries for it to retain its
relevance in the future (Held, 1995: 22-23).
Helds cosmopolitan model of democracy consists of the following
1. The global order consists of multiple and overlapping networks of power
involving the body, welfare, culture, civic organizations, the economy,
coercive relations and organized violence, and regulatory and legal
2. All groups and associations are assumed to have the capacity for self-
determination which can be specified by a commitment to the principle of
autonomy and specific clusters of rights and obligations, including health,
social, cultural, civic, economic, pacific, and political. Together, they form
the basis of the legal order of democratic cosmopolitan law.

3. Legal principles are adopted which delimit the form and scope of
individual and collective action within the organizations associations of
state, economy, and civil society. Certain standards are specified for the
treatment of all, which no political regime or association can legitimately
4. Law-making and law enforcement is expanded to include a variety of
locations and levels, along with an expansion of the influence of regional
and international courts to monitor and check political and social
5. The defense of self determination, the creation of a common structure of
political action and the preservation of the common good are the overall
collective priorities, focusing on transforming the conditions of those
whose circumstances fall short of equal membership in the public realm.
6. The production, distribution and exploitation of resources must be
conducive to, and compatible with, the democratic process and a common
structure of political action.
7. The principle of non-coercive relations governs the settlement of disputes,
though the use of force must remain a collective option of last resort in the
face of clear attack to eradicate cosmopolitan democratic law.
8. People can enjoy membership in diverse communities which significantly
affect them and, accordingly, access to a variety of forms of political
participation. Citizenship would be extended to membership in all cross-
cutting political communities, from the local to the global (Held, 1995:
This cosmopolitan democratic model would include a significant number of
short term and long term objectives at all levels, from the local to the global,
reform of the UN Security Council to include developing countries;

entrenchment of cosmopolitan democratic law through a new Charter of
Rights and Obligations locked into different domains of political, social,
and economic power;
creation of a UN second chamber;
creation of a global parliament;
enhanced political regionalization;
separation of political and economic interests;
compulsory jurisdiction before the International Court and creation of a
new International Human Rights court;
establishment of an international Criminal Court;
foundation of a new coordinating economic agency at regional and global
establishment of the accountability of international and transnational
economic agencies to parliaments and assemblies at regional and global
establishment of an effective, accountable, international military force;
shift of a growing proportion of a nation-states coercive capability to
regional and global institutions, with the ultimate aim of demilitarization;
enhancement of non-state, non-market solutions in the organization of
civil society;
multisectoral economy and pluralization of patterns of ownership and
systematic experimentation with different democratic organizational forms
in the economy;
social framework investment priorities set through public deliberation and
government decision, but extensive market regulation of goods and labor
strict limits to private ownership of key public-shaping institutions, such
as media, information, etc.;

provision of resources to those in the most vulnerable social positions to
defend and articulate their interests;
guaranteed basic income for all adults, regardless of whether they are
engaged in market or household activities (Held, 1995: 279-280).
Polyarchy. William Robinson also undertakes to refine democracy within the
context of globalization, concentrating on the promotion of polyarchy by the core
nations in the global economy to the peripheral and semi-peripheral nations.
Polyarchy, which Robinson refers to as low-intensity democracy, is becoming a
central feature of U.S. foreign policy, and is characterized by the promotion of formal
democratic political rightsi.e., the right to votewhile attempting to minimize or
subvert deeper social democratic structures. Robinson argues that democracy
promotion in U.S. foreign policy can only be understood as part of a broader process
of the exercise of hegemony within and between countries in the context of
transnationalization: Polyarchy is a structural feature of the new world order: it is a
global political system corresponding to a global economy under the hegemony of a
transnational elite which is the agent of transnational capital (Robinson, 1996: 4).
The emerging democracies in the Third World, El Salvador included, are
being subjected to this particular process of democratization, which aims to guarantee
formal political rights, but orients the political and economic processes of the country
to the needs of transnational capital. As Robinson summarizes:
All over the world, the United States is now promoting its version of
democracy as a way to relieve pressure from subordinate groups for more

fundamental political, social and economic change. The impulse to promote
democracy is the rearrangement of political systems in the peripheral and
semi-peripheral zones of the world system so as to secure the underlying
objective of maintaining essentially undemocratic societies inserted into an
unjust international system. The promotion of low-intensity democracy is
aimed not only at mitigating the social and political tensions produced by
elite-based and undemocratic status quos, but also at suppressing popular and
mass aspirations for more thoroughgoing democratization of social life in the
twenty-first century international order. Polyarchy is a structural feature of the
emergent global society. Just as client regimes and right wing dictatorships
installed into power or supported by the United States were characteristic of a
whole era of U.S. foreign policy and intervention abroad in the post-World
War It period, promoting low-intensity democracies in the Third World is
emerging as a cornerstone of a new era in U.S. foreign policy (Robinson,
1996: 6).
The emergence of democracy promotion represents a shift in the method
through which the core regions of the capitalist world system exercise their
domination over peripheral and semi-peripheral regions, from coercive to consensual
Social Democracy
Carlos Vilas writes of the need for social integration as a necessary
condition for deep-rooted democratization. The liberal (and polyarchical) emphasis on
elections is one important element, but elections are not in and of themselves a
sufficient condition for true, meaningful citizen control of government.
True democratization requires institutions that are broad-based and democratic
in nature: strong, responsive political parties which represent the entire spectrum of

the population, honest and independent courts, effective safeguards for constitutional
guarantees and human rights, and real subordination of the armed forces and security
forces to civilian authority. Vilas writes of the importance of redefining security:
[military subordination to civilian rale] means putting an end to the system of
training and values that implicitly or explicitly place the armed forces and the
security forces on an ethical and institutional plane above the citizenry as a
whole, and led to the acceptance of police arrogance, brutality by the security
forces, and unpunished attacks on the civilian population. Democratization
therefore means eliminating the idea that security refers to the state, and
replacing it with a concept based on safety of the citizen (Vilas, 1995: 184-
In addition to establishing political democracy, effective democratization also
depends on developing a social democracy. The population needs to be integrated into
the social and political system, so that the system can function in the interests of all.
Education, social security, health services, employment, and active, broad-based
participation by labor unions and popular organizations are some means by which this
social integration can occur:
[these are] channels and resources conventionally used to integrate people
into the social and political system, to give citizenship a social dimension.
This was patently one of the Central American political systems past
weakness, as well as one explanation for the much-noted political stability of
Costa Rica. To advance democratization, political democracy must be
constructed as a social democracy, in its broadest and most powerful sense
(Vilas, 1995: 186).

Indeed, as Michael Foley writes, the organized expression of civil society is
where solutions to the problems of governance, participation, and social welfare can
be found. He writes:
According to the Tocquevillian version of the argument, the denser the web of
civic associations, the more vital the democracy will be and, even, the more
apt the society to experience rapid and equitable development. In Latin
America, civil society has been viewed not only as the chief carrier o
democratizing forces, but also as a prominent actor in the transitions to
democracy which have swept the region since the late 1970s. Despite varying
assessments as to the precise role that civil society played in these events,
there is broad agreement that a vibrant civil society means a more democratic
society (Foley, 1996: 68-69).
Democracy and Development
Vilas includes development strategy in his vision of social democracy. He
argues that a states method of development is a crucial component in a social
democracy, given that development strategy includes decisions regarding resource
allocation for financing peoples integration into institutions and political and social
processes. As such, not all development strategies are compatible with effective
All of the available evidence suggests that the predominant economic
strategies are of very limited use in promoting democratization. In the first
place, their emphasis on deregulation, opening to foreign markets, and
agroexport promotion offer, as the essence of modernity, the same old mode
of development against whose effects peasants, workers, and middle-class
sectors rebelled more than twenty years ago, sparking a new revolutionary
cycle that is coming to a difficult close only now. Secondly, neoliberal
development recipes inevitably amplify the marginalizing effects of the

market. Finally, these recipes in themselves carry clear authoritarian
implications: opposition to unions and other labor rights, expansion of
unremunerated work time (especially for women), and erosion of basic social
services, among other things (Vilas, 1995: 186).
In short, Vilas argues, political and social institution-building must rest on
economic policy and a development strategy that promotes a more equitable society.
An equitable development strategy would be one that makes majority needs its central
concern, using this as a starting point for a more balanced growth model.
James Boyce, in a study of development and democratization in El Salvador,
echoes this view. He argues that development strategy needs to be sensitive to the
special needs of emerging democratic practicethat critical state interventions are
necessary for consolidating democracy.
Boyce argues that democratization, not only in the narrow electoral sense but
also in the broad sense of establishing an equitable distribution of power, is crucial
because it provides the only secure foundation for accountability, which fosters the
formulation and implementation of policies that advance the long-term interests of the
society as a whole rather than the short-term interests of a powerful few. For Boyce,
democracy in the broad sense provides the necessary political leverage to:
protect basic human rights
safeguard the property rights of the poor
foster the political stability needed to encourage private investment
orient public investment toward the advancement of the public interest

combat corruption
prevent the socially injurious exercise of market power, that is,
monopolistic or oligopolistic control over input and output markets
secure government action to redress environmental externalities, such as
industrial pollution and watershed degradation
minimize the extent to which selective government interventions, such as
subsidized credit or export incentives, are captured by unproductive rent
seekers instead of being effectively tied to economic performance
implement redistributive policies in pursuit of inclusive economic growth.
In short, the consolidation of democracy requires not only economic growth,
but also equity, balance in the distribution of income and wealth; balanced investment
in human, natural, and physical capital; and democratization to achieve balance in the
distribution of power. Development policy must work to insure this (Boyce, 1996:
A Working Definition of Democracy
The definition of democracy for this thesis draws upon the foundations
examined above. I wish to strike a balance between the extremes of direct democracy
and the modem liberal emphasis on individualistic electoral democracy. I understand
democracy to mean at its very core the meaningful control of government by citizens. I
agree with the liberal notion of effective enforcement and encouragement of

individual rights and civil liberties as a basis for the basic democratic tenet of freedom
of conscience, but I also agree with the Marxist critique that capitalism inhibits broad
democratic action. Thus, I argue that the democratic realm must include economic as
well as political decisions. The proper role of the state, therefore, is to not only refrain
from authoritarian control, it must encourage the participation of the greatest number
of the population, and ensure the broadest possible distribution of political, social, and
economic power.
What seems appropriate to me is to emphasize the role of both the individual
and social movements within the proper realm of participation, with government
action being used to secure the primacy of these actors within the society (through
constitutional guarantees of civil liberties and civil rights, publicly accountable
representatives, bureaucracies and law enforcement, effective courts, etc.). I reject, as
do most of the authors discussed in this section (particularly Robinson, Vilas, and
Boyce), that elections equal democracy. Thus, my definition of democracy for this
thesis could be labeled participatory social democracy, drawing heavily on the
conceptions of democracy outlined by Vilas and Boyce. This would include
democratic control by individuals, social movements, interest groups, political parties,
and others, of not only the political system, but also the economic system, in order to
effect a more equitable distribution of power throughout society.

In agreement with Held and Robinson, I acknowledge that any conception of
democracy as a completely national or local phenomenon is problematic in light of
globalization, yet self-determination seems to be central to the notion of democracy.
Broad-based democracy should also include self-determination and national
autonomy on all important decisions. Any significant amount of foreign interference
or control in political, social, or economic matters undermines the intrinsic nature of
democracy (that the people have meaningful control over their government). Held
may disagree with this statement, and yet he would agree that any notion of
cosmopolitan democracy could only work if it is built upon a foundation of
democratic states. I would agree that in the age of globalization, a just international
system should be built on democratic principles. The problem is that many states,
including El Salvador, do not have a solid foundation of democratic practice on which
a democratic international system can be built. Thus the focus of this thesis is on
consolidation of democracy within El Salvador, including nonintervention in
domestic matters. In light of this, I reject the current U.S. foreign policy focus of
democracy promotion as an attempt to limit the democratic options of the
Salvadoran people in their historic mission to attain meaningful control of their

The Possibilities for Democratic Transformation in El Salvador
The 1992 Peace Accords offer much in the way of a real transformation of El
Salvador, particularly in terms of securing political rights for citizens. If the Peace
Accords are fully realized, the oligarchy and military will have effectively lost their
ability to rule with impunity. This undeniably means a fundamental shift in power
relations in favor of democratic action. What is much less clear is whether the
economic strategy being pursued by the state is capable of promoting a more equitable
distribution of wealth and power. Given the focus on neoliberalism that is a major
component of the ARENA government macroeconomic plan, questions arise as to El
Salvadors ability to create and sustain, and the willingness of the elite to accept,
deep-rooted, broad-based democracy. Even if the Peace Accords open up democratic
channels, is economic policy being used to fundamentally alter the inequity that is at
the root of the problem? Is the oligarchy using the state apparatus, through its political
party ARENAS predominance in Salvadoran politics, to minimize political attempts
at democracy by sustaining the old power relations through neoliberalism? Does
neoliberalism, through the IFIs and United States prevalence within them, subvert
Salvadoran self-determination? Is neoliberalism itself compatible with democracy?
The economics of pillage and politics of authoritarianism (Vilas, 1995: 187)
are the roots of social injustice and civil war in El Salvador. The Peace Accords offer
hope to fundamentally change the politics of authoritarianismthrough the

strengthening of democratic institutions and offering an amount of political space that
is unprecedented in Salvadoran history. What is at stake is whether the mode of
development also offers fundamental change. Given that the Peace Accords are
largely silent on core development issues (with the possible exception of limited land
reform), and given the elites continued predominance in Salvadoran politics in this
new electoral age, a close examination of the politics of neoliberalism is in order if we
are to ascertain the prospects for true democracy in El Salvador.
This thesis will examine the political, social, and economic prospects for
democracy in El Salvador in four parts. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the
processes that have formed the Salvadoran political and economic landscape, focusing
on the economic and political contradictions inherent in El Salvador's agroexport
model of economic development. Chapter 3 details the peace process, and examines
the possibility of a significant transformation of Salvadoran society in the event of full
implementation of the 1992 Peace Accords. Chapter 4 analyzes the implementation
process, focusing on the progress of democratization in the seven years since the
formal end of the conflict. Chapter 5 analyzes the effects of the imposition of
neoliberal economic policy on deep-rooted democratization, with an emphasis on the
role that the elite plays in hindering or promoting democratic practice. Chapter 6
assesses the prospects for further democratization with a brief examination of popular
reactions to neoliberalism.

In order to assess the prospects for democracy in El Salvador, it is necessary to
put the current political and economic situation in a historical context. The cycle of
inequitable development, poverty, and repressionenriching a few, and enforced by
the stateis a central element in Salvadoran history. The most recent version of this
cycle has its roots in the twentieth century expansion of the coffee industry, and was
intensified by the method that the Salvadoran state used to industrialize in the middle
part of the century. This mode of development has been incompatible with democracy
in that it relies on the maintenance of an unequal social structure through force and
repression, thus closing off channels of popular participation. El Salvadors 12 year
civil war makes this quite evident. In order for El Salvador to make a solid transition
to democracy, it must become an inclusive societya society in which massive
poverty is enforced through state terror on behalf of the economic elite can not be an
inclusive one. This is the context for evaluating current prospects for democracy.
4 Inspired by Inevitable Revolutions: The United States and Central America, by Walter LaFeber.

Development and Poverty
Inequality is as central to El Salvador as coffee. In 1986, 51 percent of the
rural population had no land, while 2.9 percent of the landowners held 46 percent of
the arable land. Sixty-five percent of the population (80 percent in rural areas) live in
abject poverty (Montgomery, 1995: 23).
The human cost of this level of inequality can be measured by comparing the
income distribution to the minimum amount needed to live at the most basic level of
subsistence. A Salvadoran family of six in 1975 needed a monthly income of US$59
to provide the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, health and transportation.
An official survey found in 1976-77 that 12.4 percent of all families had incomes of
less than US$40 or less per month; another 29 percent earned between $40 and $80;
and 21 percent earned between $80 and $120. Approximately 60 percent of rural
families did not earn enough ($44) to provide even a minimum diet. The World Bank
reported that in 1969, the bottom 40 percent of the population earned 11.2 percent of
total personal income. By 1985, it was reduced to 10.9 percent. The richest 10 percent
of the population earned 36.4 percent of all income, while the poorest 70 percent
earned 34 percent of income. In 1985, the average monthly income for about 80
percent of urban families was $126, but the cost of living for basic needs was $241.
Rural families were even worse off: 96 percent did not earn enough to cover basic

As of 1990, El Salvador has the lowest per capita calorie intake of any Latin
American country; has an infant mortality rate of 77 out of 1000; half of all houses
consist of one room for families that average 5.6 members; 73 percent of all children
suffer from malnutrition, and in rural areas, 63 percent of the population have no
access to sanitary facilities, 55 percent have no access to safe drinking water, and 62
percent have no electricity (Montgomery, 1995: 24).
The roots of this systematic inequality and the violent unrest, repression, and
war that are inevitably borne of it can be traced back to the colonial period and to its
consolidation following independence, but these roots found a great deal of
nourishment with the institution of the agroexport economy and rise of the coffee
oligarchy in the late nineteenth century.
The Modem Agroexport-based Economy
El Salvadors agroexport economy has provided the economic and political
conditions that make inequality and its inevitable cycle of rebellion and repression,
such an overwhelming feature of the history of the country. The agroexport economy
subverts the basic democratic core of a broad distribution of power by:
privatizing and centralizing land ownership, creating a large landless
exploiting the labor force in an effort to control labor costs;

concentrating wealth in the hands of those few who own the land, creating
a situation in which opulence exists alongside abject poverty;
using the state to create and enforce this unequal pattern of land ownership
and worker exploitation, through laws, police and the military;
encouraging the development of an oligarchy, which controls land,
resource allocation, and government affairs;
tying the organization of the financial system, the political system, and
economic-growth and social-development patterns to the nature and
performance of the agroexport economy;
setting the stage for rebellion against hunger and poverty, which is often
dealt with through repression from private armies operated by the
oligarchy or by state police and security forces;
creating an authoritarian alliance between the landowners, political
leaders, and the military, in order to support economic interests and
maintain order.
The net sum of these factors is a society where the vast majority of wealth and
power resides in the hands of very few persons, who have overwhelming influence in
the political system. At the same time, democratic channels of decision-making for
the mass of the population are continually restricted or are cut off entirely by the
oligarchy and the state in order to maintain a political and economic system that exists

primarily to serve the needs of the export crop(s) and the elites who produce it. Thus,
when the state conducts its primary functions of policy formation and maintaining
order, it is doing so for the interests of the agroexport oligarchy, and not for the
people as a whole, who are left out of the benefits of the economic arrangement in all
but the most rudimentary, exploitative ways. The government exists for the oligarchy;
the citizenry exists to supply the plantations with cheap labor and to follow orders
and they must pay the consequences if they do not. In these economic and political
circumstances, democratic decision-making by the whole of the population is
impossible. It engenders a cycle of rebellion and repression that makes broad-based
democracy unattainable and armed conflict inescapable.
Following the historical pattern, coffee production provided for the expansion
of El Salvadors agroexport-based economy beginning in the 1880s, which came to
dominate Salvadoran economic and political life for the next century. The state played
a vital role in the development of the coffee industry, beginning with decrees in 1881-
1882 which expropriated community farm lands for the purpose of modernizing El
Salvadors economy through private land ownership and incentives for coffee
growing (Acevedo, 1996: 20). This privatization process formed the beginning of the
large plantation-small farm system that dominated the agroexport model, with the
primary beneficiaries being the large landowners and merchants who had previously
been engaged in indigo production, as well as those few who had access to enough

capital or credit to pay the start-up costs for coffee production. During this initial
process of state-led land concentration, the emerging coffee oligarchy gained control
of 40 percent of El Salvadors total land area; meanwhile, the process drove
thousands of peasants off lands that they had farmed for years (Acevedo, 1996: 20).
The state also imposed measures that guaranteed the availability of cheap
labor, due to the fact that coffee profits depended heavily on control of labor costs. In
the wake of laws that expropriated and restricted access to land were laws governing
agricultural labor and appointing rural judges, whose main purpose was to recruit and
control the supply of workers needed to expand coffee production. In addition, laws
were passed that prohibited agricultural workers from organizing. These laws were to
be enforced by the creation of a rural police force for the coffee-producing
departments in 1889 and by the formation of the National Guard in 1912 (Acevedo,
1996: 20). The framework for El Salvadors state-led terror network was formed.
Within a few decades, the Salvadoran economy came to be centered almost
exclusively around the exportation of coffee, from 56 percent of the total value of
exports in 1890 to 96 percent in 1931. As a result, the economic power and political
influence of the coffee oligarchy grew accordingly.
The onset of worldwide depression of 1929 exacerbated land concentration as
falling coffee prices forced many small producers to sell their land to the large coffee

growers. Added to this was rising unemployment and widespread political corruption,
including electoral fraud, resulting in the popular insurrection of 1932.
The matanza that followed, in which as many as 30,000 people were
murdered, was an extremely important event in Salvadoran political history. The
imprint of terror that the matanza left on the population effectively quelled any
significant rebellion for almost half a century. The massacre also signaled the
beginning of a new authoritarian era of government in El Salvador. Carlos Acevedo
describes this pivotal shift in Salvadoran political power:
Until 1931 the coffee oligarchy had exercised direct control over the state
apparatus. The armys swift action in quelling the rebellion, however, signaled
a change in the system of oligarchical domination as the military took direct
control of political power in exchange for defending the interests of the
agricultural elite. In subsequent years ... military officers led the government.
After suppressing the peasant rebellion, the Martinez government banned all
forms of organized political opposition. The Communist Party, which had
played a role in organizing the uprising, was banned in the Constitution of
1939. The type of authoritarian regime that emerged in the Martinez era
conditioned relations between the military and civil society throughout the
next 50 years. (Acevedo, 1996: 20-21)
Agroexport Diversification
Following WWn, El Salvadors agricultural base began to diversify in
response to the evolution of world commodity prices (Acevedo, 1996: 21), as well as
the development of more effective pesticides, the development of fast food chains in
the U.S. (in the case of cattle), the ending of sugar exports to the U.S. from Cuba

following revolution, and state investment in communications and physical
infrastructure (Vilas, 1995:42-43). Cotton, sugar cane, and cattle joined coffee as
major export crops.
As had occurred earlier with the expansion of coffee production, the
development of cotton and sugar cane plantations further concentrated land
ownership, forcing subsistence farmers to move to mountain slopes and more eroded
and less fertile lands. By the 1970s, land concentration in El Salvador was the highest
in Central America, and fifth highest in the world. The 1971 agricultural census found
that 1.5 percent of farms operated on 49 percent of agricultural lands, while at the
other extreme 87 percent of farms operated on less that 20 percent (Acevedo, 1996:
Several factors associated with this expansion of the agroexport sector resulted
in an increase in social tensions:
Exploitation of the migratory workforce increased as underutilization of
the work force (by 1975, 47 percent were unemployed, the highest
underutilization rate in Latin America) and land pressures allowed the
agroexport sector to offer wages that were very low. Despite the high
productivity achieved by the agroexport economy, the wages of farm
workers remained low even by Third World standards: In the 1970s,

agricultural workers in El Salvador had the lowest income levels in
Central America (Acevedo, 1996: 23).
Agroexport growth also resulted in the underutilization of land on the
large plantations. In 1961, farms larger that 50 hectares accounted for
almost 60 percent of the total arable land. Less than 35 percent of this area
was under cultivation; 45 percent of the land on these farms was being
used as pasture. In 1971, on large estates of more than 200 hectares, only
25 percent of land was being used to grow grain or permanent crops, the
rest was used as pasture or forestland.
Yet, while land on large estates was severely underutilized, the steady
appropriation of available arable land by large plantations increased
landlessness among the peasantry. In the 80 years from 1892 to 1971, the
availability of land to poor rural households in El Salvador dropped from
7.4 to 0.4 hectares per family. Of that decline, 85 percent is attributed to
increased concentration of land, while only 15 percent can be attributed to
population growth (Durham, 1979: 48). In the period directly prior to the
outbreak of war, the rural landless or near-landless population was roughly
37 percent of the countrys total work force, one of the highest proportions
in the world (Acevedo, 1996: 22).

The economic growth model coupled development of the agricultural
export sector with the underdevelopment of the subsistence sector, which
are linked by the seasonal employment system (Acevedo, 1996: 22). This
system requires hundreds of thousands of migratory workers during the
harvest, but does not offer year-round work. To maintain a steady supply
of labor, the export sector relies on subsistence agriculture, where the
unemployed seasonal workers cultivate com, beans, rice, and sorghum on
small plots of land. Land pressures reduced the amount of land available
for production of basic food crops. (Vilas, 1995: 45).
Asa result, food production for domestic consumption slowed
dramatically, negatively impacting the nutritional needs of the peasant
population. The extensive nature of agroexport development involved a
severe process of crop substitution and the displacement of subsistence
crops toward marginal areas, while basic grains began to be imported for
domestic consumption. Along with population growth and wide
differences in the evolution of crop yields, which tended to be much higher
and more dynamic in agroexport than in production for internal
consumption, the result was a smaller domestic food supply and a
progressive increase in basic grain imports (Vilas, 1995: 45). During the
three decades of high agroexport growth, food production per capita

declined by 17 percent across Central America, and shrank 20 percent in
El Salvador (Brockett 1988:78-80). The growth of cattle ranching
corresponded to a steep decline in per-capita beef consumption, shrinking
at an average of 35 percent per year in the 1960s and 1970s. This change is
underscored by the extremely low level of consumption of meat in El
Salvador: per capita meat consumption fell from 18.6 grams per day to 12
grams between the early 1960s and early 1970s (Vilas 1995:46).
According to classical economic theory, this shift in production should
create an advantage: the economy ceases to utilize land to produce food,
instead producing goods for export that generate income in foreign
exchange which is freely convertible for several times the worth of the
displaced production, enabling imports to be used to supply the goods that
are no longer produced. But this theory does not take into account El
Salvadors high level of income concentration: the import profile of El
Salvador reflects the needs and demands of the elite sectors of the
population rather than the general populations food needs, and internal
market structures hinder basic food products from reaching rural areas.
Consequently, the peasants who stopped producing com in order to grow
cotton or sugar cane did not switch over to eating imported com: they
simply began to eat less. The outcome of this change in productive modes,

given the dependence of most of the population on basic grains, was a
decline in nutritional conditions. Com, rice, and beans represent at least
half the Salvadoran diet (Vilas, 1995: 46).
Poverty and living conditions worsened dramatically under this economic
growth model. By the mid-1970s more than 83 percent of the rural
population was living below the poverty line. More than 80 percent of
rural families had substandard housing, most had no sewage-disposal
system or electricity. 73 percent of children under five had malnutrition.
11.5 percent of all children died before reaching age one. Diseases
associated with poverty were rampantnutritional deficiencies and
infections due to a lack of timely medical care. Rural illiteracy rates were
over 50 percent for teens, and 74 percent for those aged 45 and over
(Acevedo, 1996: 24).
Failure of Tmnort-Substitution Industrialization
In an effort to help the country maintain its foreign-currency reserves and
reduce its vulnerability to external fluctuations in the commodities markets, El
Salvador instituted a process of industrialization in the 1950s meant to replace
imports with domestically produced goods. In theory, this process could have helped
to ease the countrys dependence on export agriculture, and in the process lessened

social tensions as the industrial sector absorbed unemployed workers from the
agricultural sector, resulting also in a relative easing of wealth concentration. But the
ISI strategy failed to produce its intended effects, and in the end added to El
Salvadors worsening economic and political crisis.
Even though the early processes of industrial development were greatly aided
by the agroexport sector (which provided much of the initial financing) and the state
(which actively supported the process with a protectionist policy of tax breaks and
discretionary application of tariffs, as well as a high degree of investment in
infrastructure aimed at reducing industrial operating costs) (Acevedo, 1996: 25),
development of the ISI model faced a major obstacle: the growth of the domestic
market was severely limited by the unequal distribution of income and the wage
structure associated with the agroexport model. The majority of the population lacked
the purchasing power necessary to generate sufficient demand for industrial goods
(Acevedo, 1996: 25).
With the advent of the Central American Common Market (CACM), a
mechanism designed to foster industrial growth in the region by providing a protected
market for finished goods, the Salvadoran manufacturing sector grew at an annual
average rate of 8.1 percent between 1960 and 1970. During the same period, the share
of manufactured goods in total value of exports increased from 5.6 percent to 28.7
percent. By the mid-1960s, 64 percent of the countrys industrial exports, mainly

textiles, shoes, and pharmaceuticals, were going to other Central American countries.
The majority of the remaining 36 percent were exported almost entirely to the United
Statesa significant portion of which were assembled in plants owned by U.S. firms
using imported inputs and parts.
ISI actually increased the concentration of wealth by favoring the
establishment of capital-intensive industries: in the early 1970s, only 12 percent of the
firms generated more than 60 percent of the total industrial output and employed 60
percent of the industrial workforce (Acevedo, 1996: 26). Overall, however, the ISI
model failed to absorb much of the excess labor force generated under the
agricultural-export model, with an actual decline in the proportion of industrial
workers in the total labor force between 1960 and 1970 (Acevedo, 1996: 26). The
result was a distorted form of industrialization that was extremely capital-intensive,
slanted towards the production of consumer goods, highly dependent on imported
products (due to the lack of development of production of intermediate and capital
goods, reinforced by tariff policy), and lacking the domestic demand for finished
goods (Acevedo, 1996: 26).
The ISI model also increased the urbanization process that had already begun
as a result of the intensification of export-oriented agriculture in the 1950s, due to the
fact that most industrial growth occurred in the San Salvador metropolitan area.
Living conditions were very bad for most of the urban population, and wage levels,

although higher than in rural areas, were not sufficient for most workers to meet basic
needs. In the late 1970s, 42 percent of urban workers lived below the official poverty
line (Acevedo, 1996: 27).
Ultimately, the ISI model did not address the fundamental problem of wealth
concentration promoted by the agroexport model, and in the end it reproduced at the
urban level the inequality that existed in the rural areas. In many ways, ISI worsened
the social crisis by increasing the concentration of wealth in the country as a whole:
by 1974 the poorest 20 percent of the population received only 2.8 percent of total
income, while the richest 20 percent received 66.4 percent (Acevedo, 1996: 26).
Economic and Political Meltdown
Although the Salvadoran economy experienced a high rate of growth between
1960 and 1978, the fundamental socioeconomic disparities of the country helped to
increase inequality and fueled political strife.
Worldwide recession in the 1970s caused a further concentration of wealth in
the industrial sector as industrial groups consolidated to reduce operating costs,
forcing small and medium producers out of business. This in turn greatly increased
unemployment, and resulted in a drastic lowering of real wages (Acevedo, 1996: 27).
The agricultural sector actually profited from the increase in world prices, which
intensified export agriculture, leading to a further drop in subsistence agriculture and

an even more regressive distribution of agricultural income (Bulmer-Thomas 1987:
At the same time, the ISI model provided for a change in social relations. The
industrialization process allowed for the development of an urban middle class. As
this middle class gained relative weight in the socioeconomic system, a certain
broadening of the political spectrum took place. Meanwhile, urban labor
organizations flourished during the industrialization process. These groups were able
to place some pressure on the political system for greater economic and social
democracy. The character of these demands, and the ability of the traditional elite and
their military/state support system to resist them, were rapidly changing in response to
deteriorating political and economic conditions.
The 1969 Soccer War with Honduras helped to shatter the unstable social
order that had existed for decades. It was economically disastrous because El
Salvador simultaneously lost its principle intraregional export market and its access to
the land route for transporting its goods to the southern part of the Central American
isthmus. Politically, it posed a problem for the elite due to the return of thousands of
landless peasant farmers who had emigrated to Honduras.
El Salvadors political stability began to disintegrate in the 1970s. The return
of Salvadorans living in Honduras compelled the government to contemplate agrarian
reform, which had been considered taboo since the matanza of 1932. But opposition

from the agroexport sector was so strong that the government was forced to retreat. At
the same time, as labor conflicts began to emerge in the cities, the government was
openly partial to business interests over labor. These factors were coupled with an
increased undermining of political legitimacy due to the continuing dominance of the
military in political affairs and electoral fraud in 1972 and 1977.
All of this led to a greater radicalization of both the peasantry and the middle
and working classes, as frustration mounted at their inability to achieve justice in
either the economic or political realms. The Salvadoran political system, firmly under
the thumb of the oligarchy and the military, was ill-equipped to mediate effectively
among contending interests and address demands for greater economic and social
What followed was a vicious cycle of popular uprising and repression that
sparked the beginning of armed conflict. In the early 1970s, popular organizations
began to emerge that organized mass demonstrations against the military government.
At the same time, leftist political-military organizations appeared. The state reacted to
these developments in an increasingly hostile way, which accelerated polarization and
broadened the support base of the left (Acevedo, 1996: 29).
The stage was set for military confrontation when the Romero government
issued the Law on the Protection and Assurance of Public Order, which allowed the
armed forces to seize land, dissolve strikes, suppress demonstrations, and carry out

arbitrary detentions. Even though Romero was ousted by a relatively progressive
faction of the military in 1979, the new government was unable to stop the
polarization process already underway, and in 1980, leftist military-political forces
combined to become the FDR-FMLN.
In response to this threat to their power the government declared a state of
siege in March 1980. By the end of the year, nearly all legal avenues of social and
party organization, mobilization, and protest had been closed as the state security
apparatus and right-wing paramilitary organizations escalated repression of opposition
social and political organizations.
It was in this context that the FMLN launched a military offensive on January
10, 1980, marking the formal start of the armed conflict.
The War: Political and Economic Character and Consequences
The civil war in El Salvador was the product of long-standing social and
economic inequalities and of the historic domination of repressive military and public
security apparatus. When the war began in 1980, the situation was aggravated by
other conflicts in the region and by the ideological confrontation of the Cold War. The
end of the Cold War in the late 1980s slowed the flow of weapons, training, funding,
and political support, but the real opportunity to forge a settlement came only after the
FDR-FMLN and the Salvadoran government realized that no military solution was in

sight. By 1990, an estimated 75,000 people had been killed (mostly civilians) and
well over one million had become refugees or internally displaced. Arbitrary
detentions, death-squad killings, disappearances, urban bombings and other acts of
brutalities directed against civilians were attributed to the Government or to
paramilitary groups that supported or sympathized with it. The United States played a
major role in supporting the government and military (at the same time pushing mild
reform) and favored a military solution to the conflict. The FMLN was also
responsible for violence, assassinating mayors and judges and committing acts of
sabotage. The fighting worsened long-standing problems in the Salvadoran economic
and social structure. By 1990, both sides favored United Nations-mediated
negotiations. These negotiations led to the 1992 Peace Accords.
Program for a Revolutionary Society
The FDR-FMLN sought to replace El Salvadors traditional political and
economic system with a new, revolutionary society, based on a particularly
Salvadoran version of Marxism-Leninism5. In February 1980, the FDR-FMLN
published the platform of the Revolutionary Democratic Government (GDR), which
included adherence to the UN Declaration of Human Rights; due punishment for
5 Montgomery (1995:118) writes By 1980 it was possible to discern the shape and character of the proposed
revolutionary society in El Salvador from the organizations that already existed, from the forms of governance
that operated in areas of the country under FMLN control, from the ideology of the revolution as manifested in
everyday practice, and from the organizations documents.

those responsible for the disappeared, the tortured, and the murdered; the
decentralization of power to municipalities; a foreign policy of nonalignment; and the
development of a popular army incorporating honest, patriotic troops and officers of
the present army.
The GDR proposed structural changes such as a nationalization of the banks,
external commerce in major exports, the entire energy system, and monopolistic
enterprises in industry, commerce, and services. The GDR promised extensive
agrarian and urban reform, as well as extensive tax reform and the establishment of
new mechanisms for credit, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
In the area of social measures, the GDR proposed to reduce unemployment by
creating jobs and to implement massive projects in housing, health, education, and
On August 7, 1981, the FMLN General Command issued a statement that, in
addition to restating the main themes of the GDR platform, added that the GDR
would Guarantee to the Salvadoran people peace, liberty, welfare and progress by
implementing social, economic and political changes that ensure a just distribution of
the wealth, the enjoyment of culture and health, and the effective exercise of
democratic rights of the great majorities. The declaration promised freedom of
belief and the free exercise of all religious denominations. The GDR would also
support all private businesses that are opposed to genocide, imperialist intervention,

who cooperate with the implementation of its program and who contribute to the
functioning and development of the national economy (Montgomery, 1995: 119).
The FDR-FMLN program for political and economic change did not embrace
all elements of Marxist-Leninist thought: the one-party state and complete
socialization of the economy were not a part of the FDR-FMLNs goals. In addition,
they were not anti-election; they argued instead that conditions did not exist in El
Salvador for truly democratic elections. In any case, the FDR-FMLN underwent a
profound ideological transformation between 1988 and 1991:
In essence, this revolutionary movement, which had embraced several
varieties of a peculiarly Salvadoran brand of Marxism-Leninism since the
early 1970s, shucked it all in favor of democratic socialism. ... They knew the
world was changing; they knew military victory would bring isolation; they
watched the Sandinistas lose an election in 1990; they heard many promises
from Europe and Latin America of help for reconstruction after an accord was
reached; they realized that in 1989 the United States had a less ideologically-
driven foreign policy; finally, they saw the changes in Eastern Europe in 1988
and 1989 as a clear sign that Soviet-style socialism was not the wave of the
future. Thus, the reasons for transformation lie in the pragmatism that the
Salvadoran revolutionaries often showed from the beginning. In the end that
was more important than ideology (Montgomery, 1995: 215-216).
The Oligarchy, the Armed Forces and the United States
Montgomery (1995: 127-128) outlines a series of dual track strategies that the
oligarchy, the armed forces, and the United States followed in reaction to the threat
that the FMLN produced:
The most right-wing sector of the oligarchy developed a political-military
plan that led to the development of paramilitary death squads and a

political party (ARENAthe National Republican Alliance). More
moderate sectors would not be heard from until the mid-1980s.
The Armed Forces, breaking with the oligarchy for the first time, decided
they could carve out a new role for themselves by championing reforms
on their termsthat included a systematic policy of repression directed
against anyone identified as or suspected of being a leftist. In this, they
coincided and cooperated with the oligarchys paramilitary apparatus.
The United States pursued a two-track strategy under the rubric of low-
intensity conflict: a counterinsurgency strategy that coupled
socioeconomic reforms and a buildup and improvement of the military
with a transition to democracy that meant cramming elections down the
throat of the army.
This dual track strategy of repression and reform followed by the Salvadoran
armed forces and promoted by the United States was aimed at isolating the FMLN
and negating their calls for fundamental changes in social, economic, and political
relations6. It also provided a rationale for the United States to continue to support its
traditional Salvadoran alliesthe oligarchy and military, in their fight to preserve
their power base while throwing enough reformist bones to the Salvadoran population
to stave off a growing revolutionary movement, and to appease a U.S. Congress
increasingly concerned about human rights abuses. By positioning the Salvadoran
government as moderate, fighting extremists on the left (the FMLN) and the right
(death squads), fundamental changes in Salvadoran social relations could possibly be
avoided. This obviously is in the interests of the Salvadoran oligarchy and military, as
6 This dual strategy can best be summed up in a telling event of early 1980: on the day that an agrarian reform
measure was passed, the government imposed a state of siege, which was not lifted for close to two years (and
then only for the elections of 1982).

well as political and economic interests of the United States government as
envisioned by Ronald Reagan.
The strategy of repression served to deepen existing divisions in Salvadoran
society, and showed the armed forces and oligarchys extent of disregard for
democracy and human rights. Murders, disappearances, and denial of basic human
and civil rights of anyone suspected of being a subversive further polarized and
militarized Salvadoran societyand denied i. negotiated political solution to the
problems that caused the war for more than a decade.
The reformist strategy that was employed by the military, and pushed by the
Unites States (mostly for public relations reasons) was aimed at providing
justification for a military solution to the conflict. The policies mainly consisted of
mild reforms and elections7 as a way of propping up the failing legitimacy of the
Salvadoran government, and for the Reagan Administration, a means of proving to
the U.S. Congress that the Salvadoran government was democratic. This in turn
provided support for a continuing dominance of the armed forces in domestic politics,
and for military action against the FMLN and suspected sympathizers (mostly
7 In the 1980s, Salvadoran elections were mainly seen by observers in El Salvador and elsewhere as
demonstration elections, in that they were held in a context of a worsening human rights situation, no
significant political opposition, and without even minimum guarantees of civil and political rights. However,
the election of 1984 produced the first civilian elected president since 1931, although the military continued to
hold power.

campesinos), and helped to perpetuate the militarys penchant for abusing human
rights as a matter of policy.
Lessons of the War
In all, the twelve year civil war strengthened traditional political and social
characteristics, yet the military force exerted by the FMLN, and to some extent the
reforms pushed by the United States and armed forces, provided the impetus for a
change in basic social and political relations.
The war served to consolidate traditional power relations in several ways. Due
to U.S. influence and interference during the war, the military was able to not only
retain its role in political affairs, but to greatly expand as an institution. This served to
further prevent democratization, given the inherent problems with military control
over the political system. At the same time, the United States increased its role in
subverting the self-determination of the Salvadoran people through its role in funding
the massive human rights abuses of the Salvadoran military. In addition, the oligarchy
was able to not only hold on to power, it expanded its hold through the creation of a
political party, ARENA. Meanwhile, in addition to bearing the brunt of state- (and
U.S.) sponsored terror, the economic costs of the war were paid by the poorest of the
population as the economy plummeted during the 1980s.

While the FMLN did not succeed in a military overthrow of the Salvadoran
armed forces and a transition to a revolutionary society, the war did include in it the
path to change. First, the military strength of the FMLN, and the wide support that it
received, forced the government to negotiate (although tentatively, and only when it
was clear that not even the U.S. could help guarantee a victory). Secondly, the human
rights abuses that were carried out by death squads and Salvadoran special forces
(such as the 1981 El Mozote massacre and the 1989 Jesuit killings by the Atlacatl
Battalion, just to name a couple) sufficiently outraged the international community
and the U.S. Congress that the U.S. government was no longer able to justify military
aid to the Salvadoran government. This too helped to push a negotiated settlement,
given the armed forces dependence on U.S. aid. Third, although the wartime political
climate could be described as electoral authoritarianism at best, the demonstration
elections in the 1980s did provide for a relative opening of political space, which
allowed popular organizations a chance to call for negotiations, peace, and
democracy. This too helped to push the government towards finding a negotiated
settlement to the war.
Thus, the war served a dual purpose: it amplified and deepened many of the
most antidemocratic elements of Salvadoran society, yet in many ways forced the
government to negotiate an end to the crisis. In the next chapter, the focus turns to the

negotiating process and the character and specific provisions of the resulting peace
accords that ended the war in 1992.

The long night of El Salvador is drawing to an end. It is no exaggeration to
say that, taken together, and given their breadth and scope, these [peace]
agreements constitute a prescription for revolution achieved by negotiation.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
U.N. Secretary-General
The Salvadoran peace process has been called a negotiated revolution, in
that the purpose of the Accords was not only to end the 12 year civil war but to
transform the institutional structures of Salvadoran society. Ending the war was only
a small first step in the process. This chapter will trace the peace process from its first
tentative steps at negotiation during the war to the insertion of the United Nations into
the conflict and the formal peace agreements that followed in the period from 1990-
1992. A critical examination of the extent and limits of the formal peace agreements
is crucial to evaluate the prospects for deep-rooted democratization.

First Steps: Negotiations During the War, 19811989
Early Efforts
As early as October 1981, the FDR-FMLN was prepared to negotiate an end to
the armed conflict. At the United Nations, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega read a
Proposal for Peace on October 10,1981, prepared by the FDR Executive
Committee, which called for negotiations with an open agenda and without prior
conditions. And in January 1982, a letter, signed by the five top FMLN commanders,
was sent to President Reagan urging negotiations. U.S. and Salvadoran response to
these calls for negotiations were ignored:
The way to go, the Carter and Reagan administrations decided, was elections
that could legitimize the Christian Democratic Party and install junta president
Duarte as an elected president. The elections that followed must be seen as
part of the overall counterinsurgency strategy for El Salvador that was
designed to encourage the transitions from an illegitimate de facto regime to
constitutional rule while reducing the guerrillas to a nuisance.
(Montgomery, 1995: 154)
As the U.S.-sponsored militarization of Central America increased after 1981,
the leaders of Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, and Panama met in January 1983 on the
Panamanian island of Contadora to search for a political means to end the Central
American crisis, not only in El Salvador, but regionally. The first meeting ended with
a call for negotiations among all parties.

In September 1983, the five Central American presidents ratified a document
of objectives that the Contadora group proposed, which included:
respecting human, political, civil, economic, social, cultural, and religious
promoting the relaxation of tension in the area;
reducing the arms buildup and beginning negotiations on the control and
reduction of current arms stockpiles and troops;
banning foreign military bases and all other foreign interference;
reducing the number of foreign military advisors;
establishing internal mechanisms to control the arms traffic in the region;
disallowing the use of ones own country by groups seeking to overthrow
another government in the area, and denying support to such groups;
and refusing to promote or support acts of terrorism, subversion, or
sabotage in other countries in the region. (Montgomery, 1995: 174)
The Reagan administration affirmed support for the Contadora proposals, but
its continuing policy of pushing a military solution instead of a political one
hampered efforts at enforcing its measures.
On September 7,1984, Contadora endorsed a compromise draft treaty and
submitted it to the five Central American governments, all of which accepted it. The
U.S., which had said that it supported the draft treaty, suddenly changed its mind
when Nicaragua accepted it. At that point, the Reagan Administration urged the other
nations to reject it, and the Duarte government went along with U.S. wishes. Efforts 8
8 In July 1983, President Reagan named a bipartisan commission on Central America, headed by former secretary
of state Henry Kissinger. The commission called for significant increases in military aid.

to revise the treaty that would make it acceptable to all parties, including the U.S.,
failed, effectively dooming the Contadora peace initiative.
La Palma
After ignoring FDR-FMLN proposals for a meetings for close to five months,
a speech by President Duarte before the United Nations in October 1984 called for a
meeting in the north-central Chaletanango town of La Palma, to which the FDR-
FMLN agreed. It was the first face-to-face meeting of the government and the
insurgents. At the October 14 meeting, for which a cease-fire was declared, Duarte
asked the rebels to give up the armed struggle, accept an amnesty, and participate in
elections. Little was actually accomplished by this first meeting, but in 1993 and
1994, some Salvadorans credited Duarte with planting the seed that produced the
peace accords in 1991 by arranging the historic meeting (Montgomery, 1995: 188).
An agreement was set for a second round of talks scheduled for a month later, at
which the FDR-FMLN wanted substantive discussions on ways to humanize the war,
to incorporate other social sectors into the talks, to accelerate the process towards
peace, and to arrange an extended cease-fire.
The second meeting was held on November 30, 1984. The FDR-FMLN
representatives presented a Comprehensive Proposal for a Negotiated Political
Solution and Peace, which reiterated the issues addressed at the first meeting, then

suggested a gradual process and indicated a willingness to reformulate positions
during the course of the discussions. The government reacted by calling the proposal
hard-line, and Duarte rejected the proposal. Two possibilities for this rejection are
that Duarte was being pressured by the oligarchy and military, who opposed the talks,
and that Duarte firmly believed in the constitutionality and legitimacy of his
government, which set some critical items in the FMLNs proposal off the bargaining
table. Whatever the case, it was the last meeting of the government and FDR-FMLN
for close to three years.
In the aftermath of Contadora, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias pushed the
five Central American presidents to agree during an August 1987 meeting in
Esquipulas, Guatemala to seek a regional solution to the Central American conflicts.
The resulting accord, known as Esquipulas II9, committed the presidents to
launch a process of democratization in their countries, promote a national
dialogue, decree a general amnesty, bring about a genuine cease-fire and
promote the holding of free, pluralistic, and fair elections. They also requested
all governments concerned to terminate support for irregular forces or
insurrectional movements and reiterated their commitment to prevent the use
of their own territory for the destabilization of other countries in the region.
(United Nations, 1995: 9)
9 Esquipulas I was a May 1996 declaration affirming the five Central American presidents commitment to peace,
cooperation, and national sovereignty.

To help achieve these objectives, Esquipulas included an international
verification component, which eventually led to the establishment by the U.N.
Security Council of the United Nations Observer Group in Central America
(ONUCA) in 1991.
The FDR-FMLN responded positively to the Esquipulas accords, and the two
sides agreed, in talks in October 1987, to form two commissionsone to negotiate a
cease-fire, and another to focus on the requirements of the accords. However, the two
sides could not agree on the basic terms of a cease-fire: for the FMLN, the purpose of
a cease-fire was to find a solution that attacks the principle causes of the conflict,
including economic reforms, human rights, and U.S. intervention; for the
government, Duarte simply reiterated his demand that the FMLN lay down their arms
and return to the democratic process (Montgomery, 1995: 209). Talks broke down
after the murder of the leader of the Salvadoran Human Rights Commission, and were
not resumed until well after Duarte left office.
In the long term, despite the significant barriers to negotiation that were
present at the time, the Esquipulas II accords are widely credited as being the
beginning of the formal peace process, given that it paved the way for a regional
peace settlement and brought the United Nations into the process.

New President, New Initiative
In March 1989, the oligarchical political party ARENA won the presidency in
an election marred by violence. The political reality of El Salvador was changing.
Negotiations were increasingly seen by both sides as the only way to end the conflict.
For the FMLN, although they enjoyed a strong military position, there was
considerable pressure to negotiate. The social and economic costs of the war were
mounting; Salvadoran public opinion increasingly favored negotiations; the Soviet
Union was pulling back on its support for revolutionary governments; and they were
becoming aware, due to the experience of the Sandinistas, that military victory would
bring international isolation. For President Cristiani, who took a more moderate
stance than party founder and ideologue (and death squad organizer) Roberto
DAubuisson, there were the pragmatic reasons for negotiation that recognized the
impossibility of economic recovery without a resolution to the war, and the reality
that ARENA could lose its legislative and mayoral majorities in the upcoming
elections if economic conditions did not improve and there was no sign to the end of
the war.
To this end, Cristiani announced a five-point plan for negotiations with the
FMLN, and did not call for their surrender. The FMLN, in turn, issued a proposal to
initiate as soon as possible a definitive process of negotiation to put an end to the war

and place all our forces at the service of constructing a true democracy
(Montgomery, 1995: 215).
The Cristiani government and the FMLN met in Mexico in mid-September to
agree on procedures for negotiations that included, as witnesses, representatives from
the Salvadoran Episcopal Conference, the United Nations, and the Organization of
American States. The process began positively:
The FMLN presented a proposal calling for a cease-fire by November 15 and
an end to the war by January 31, 1990. The government indicated that the plan
marked a positive change of tone. When the two sides met again a month later
in San Jose, Costa Rica, with the proposed cessation of hostilities on the
agenda, the government demanded an immediate cease-fire. Cristiani,
however, was unable to offer any guarantees concerning safety for the
insurgents and their supporters. The parties agreed to create a special operative
commission, which would be responsible for implementing accords
guaranteeing life, liberty, and freedom of organization and assembly; reform
of the electoral system; and improvement of the justice system. Under the
peace accords this would be known as the National Commission for the
Consolidation of Peace (COPAZ). There was also minimum agreement to
resolve the economic crisis and to reduce the armed forces. The FMLN, which
had been carrying out assaults even as the talks were getting under way,
offered and then implemented ... the suspension of half of the war
(Montgomery, 1995: 216).
Another meeting was scheduled for November 20-21 in Caracas, Venezuela,
to continue progress on negotiations, but in the meantime, bombings rocked the
FENASTRAS union headquarters (killing ten, including the secretary general), the
home of Ruben Zamora, and the University of El Salvador. This persuaded the FMLN

that the government was not serious about negotiations, and talks were severed once
New Violence Marks the Point of No Return
On November 11,1989, the FMLN launched the largest offensive of the war,
which marked the first time that fighting took place in San Salvador. During the
offensive, on November 16, members of the Atlacatl Battalion, an elite military strike
force trained by the U.S. military, murdered six Jesuit priests and their housekeeper
and her daughter at the University of Central America. International condemnation of
both the FMLN offensive and the UCA assassinations provided further pressure on
both sides to end the war.
In December 1989 and January 1990, the FMLN and the Cristiani
administration separately requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to
assist them in an uninterrupted negotiating effort to settle the conflict and eliminate
its root causes using the Esquipulas process as a guide (UN, 1995: 1 l).This idea had
the backing of the five Central American presidents in the San Isidro de Coronado
(Costa Rica) Declaration, adopted December 12, 1989.

The Formal Peace Process: 19901992
The Geneva Agreement
The San Isidro de Coronado Declaration marked the beginning of formal
involvement of the United Nations. During February and March 1990, U.N.
representatives shuttled between parties in order achieve an agreement on the first
step: the format, mechanism, and pace of the peace process. This framework was
established in the Geneva Agreement of April 4, 1990. The agreement stipulated that
the peace process would have four objectives:
End the armed conflict by political means;
promote the democratization of the country;
guarantee unrestricted respect for human rights;
and to reunify Salvadoran society.
The Caracas Agreement
At the next face to face meeting, the government and the FLMN adopted a
General Agenda and Timetable for the Comprehensive Negotiating Process. This
agenda, known as the Caracas Agreement, was signed on May 21,1990, and
established a two-phase process. First, political agreements were to be reached on a
broad range of issuesthe armed forces, human rights, the judicial and electoral
systems, constitutional reform, economic and social issues, and international

verificationwhich in due course would make it possible to reach a cease-fire and
then an end to the war. All agreements, including the cease-fire and cessation of
armed conflict, were to be verified by the United Nations. Second, the parties would
establish the necessary guarantees and conditions for reintegrating the members of the
FMLN, with a framework of full legality, into the civil, institutional and political life
of the country.
The San Jose Agreement on Human Rights
Another significant agreement was reached when the two sides signed an
accord in which they pledged unrestricted respect for international human rights laws
and standards, along with a strong U.N. role in monitoring compliance10.
The San Jose Agreement stated that a U.N. observer mission would begin after
a cessation of the armed conflict, but after a visit to El Salvador by U.N.
representatives (in which the U.N. met with popular groups, the FMLN, the
government, and visited conflictive zones), the U.N. decided to set up an observer
mission before a cease-fire had even been established, stating that United Nations
10 The San Jose Agreement established a U.N. verification mission that would: (A) receive communications from
any individual, group of individuals, or body in El Salvador containing reports of human rights violations; (B)
interview freely and privately any individual, group of individuals, or members of bodies or institutions; (C)
visit any place or establishment freely and without prior notice; (D) carry out an educational and informational
campaign on human rights and on the functions of the Mission itself; and (E) take whatever legally permissible
action it deemed appropriate to promote and defend human rights and fundamental freedoms. (UN, 1995: 14-

human rights verification would promote a significant improvement in the human
rights situation in El Salvador and act as a positive impetus on the negotiations
(U.N., 1995: 14).
Constitutional Reform: The Mexico City Agreement
By early 1991, it became clear that in order to incorporate any peace
agreements into El Salvadors legal system, the Constitution would have to be
amended. The Mexico City Agreement, finished April 27, 1991, delivered a package
of constitutional reforms relating to:
the armed forces, including a clear definition of their subordination to
civilian authority;
public security, including the creation of the National Civilian Police, a
body that would be independent of the armed forces, and the creation of a
National Public Security Academy to train candidates for the new force;
the judicial system, including a new procedure for the election of Supreme
Court judges, creation of the post of National Counsel for the Defense of
Human Rights and an allocation of no less that six percent of the State
the electoral system, including the establishment of a Supreme Electoral
Tribunal to replace the Central Board of Elections;
the formation of a Commission on the Truth, to investigate serious acts of
violence that have occurred since 1980 and whose impact on society
urgently requires that the public should know the truth. (U.N., 1995: 15-
Immediately following the signing of the Mexico City Agreements, the
Legislative Assembly passed nearly all of the constitutional amendments, except for

those relating to the armed forces, stating that there were a lack of formal negotiations
on that issue. The armed forces question would come to be a major sticking point in
later negotiations.
The negotiating successes achieved at San Jose and Mexico City paved the
way for the creation of the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador, which
allowed for international verification of human rights standards. On May 20, 1991,
ONUSAL was established by the Security Council, and was launched formally in El
Salvador on July 26, 1991. After preliminary administrative tasks and familiarization
with the human rights situation was complete, ONUSAL began to investigate alleged
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law on October 1, 1991. By
the end of the month, ONUSAL had received reports of more than 1000 alleged
human rights violations. ONUSAL was to play a major role in verifying the
implementation process of the peace accords for 4 years.
The New York Agreement
At this point, major strides had been made in the negotiating process, but there
was still no cease-fire. The FMLN, concerned about the safety of its members and
supporters following the end of armed conflict, demanded cease-fire arrangements

which would allow it to preserve its military capability. The government refused to
accept this. An effort was then made to consolidate the Caracas Agreement timetable
into one, pre-cease-fire, phase, in order to establish the necessary conditions for
reintegration of FMLN members.
The FMLN and Cristiani administration met in New York in September 1991,
agreeing on a compressed agenda for negotiations covering all outstanding matters,
mainly relating to the armed forces and land reform. Substantial features of the New
York Agreement included:
creation of a National Commission for the Consolidation of Peace
(COPAZ), a mechanism for civilian society to monitor and participate in
the process of change resulting from the agreements reached between the
two parties. COPAZ was to be composed of two representatives of the
Government, including members of the armed forces, two representatives
of the FMLN, and one representative of each of the parties or coalitions
represented in the Legislative Assembly. The Archbishop of San Salvador
and ONUSAL were to have access as observers to the Commissions work
and deliberations;
purifying the armed forces on the basis of a review of all personnel
serving in them by an Ad Hoc Commission, and to reduce the size of the
armed forces;
redefining the doctrine of the armed forces so that their function would be
limited to defending the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of its
beginning to organize the new National Civilian Police immediately,
without waiting for other political agreements or the cessation of the
armed confrontation;
using lands in excess of the constitutional limit of 245 hectares to meet the
needs of peasants and small farmers who were without land;
respecting the current landholding situation in the conflict zones until a
definitive landholding arrangement was arrived at. (U.N., 1995: 20-21)

The Act of New York I and II
The final negotiations push came in the last hours of U.N. Secretary-General
Javier Perez De Cuellars term in office. The Act of New York, signed on December
31, 1991, completed negotiations on all substantive issues of the peace process and
represented a formidable display of political will (U.N., 1995: 22).The Act
stipulated that the final Peace Agreement would be signed on January 16, 1992, a
cease-fire would take effect on February 1,1992, and the war would officially end on
October 31,1992.
The Act stipulated that a meeting would take place on January 5 to negotiate
the timetable for implementing the agreements and the procedure for ending the
military structure of the FMLN and reintegrating its members into civilian life. To
this end, the Act of New York II was signed on January 13, 1992. The Formal signing
of the Peace Agreement, known as the Chapultepec Accords, took place in Mexico
City on January 16, 1992.
Substantive Elements of the Chapultepec Accords
Principle Objectives
The Peace Accords outline four principle objectives, which are aimed at
addressing the root political causes of the conflict:

To end the armed conflict by political means as speedily as possible;
Promote the democratization of the country;
Guarantee unrestricted respect for human rights;
Reunify Salvadoran society.
Responsibility for monitoring and verifying compliance is shared by the U.N.
Observer mission (ONUSAL, which finished in 1995 and has been replaced by a
smaller U.N. civilian mission called MINUSAL) and a National Commission for
Consolidation of Peace (COPAZ) comprised of representatives of the government,
FMLN, and political parties in the Legislative Assembly.
The Cease-fire and Demobilization Process
The first priority of the Peace Agreement was to put an immediate end to
hostilities and to provide for a permanent cessation of armed conflict, which was to be
a brief, dynamic, and irreversible process of predetermined duration which must be
implemented throughout the national territory of El Salvador (U.N., 1992: 87). This
process consisted of four elements: The cease-fire; a separation of forces (to reduce
the risk of incidents, build trust, and allow ONUSAL verification of compliance); the
end of the military structure of the FMLN and the reintegration of its members, within
a framework of full legality, into the civil, political and institutional life of the
country; and U.N. verification of these provisions. This part of the Accords also

includes agreements on the restoration of public administration in the conflict zones
and the use of mass media to promote reconciliation.
Reform of the Armed Forces
Constitutional reforms regarding the armed forces were approved in April
1991. The Accords are meant to enable the fulfillment of these constitutional
These reforms completely redefine the armed forces role and doctrine. The
military is assigned primary responsibility for national defense. Its role in public
security is limited to emergency situations under strict control. Deployment of the
armed forces requires notification of the legislature, which also has the power to
recall them.
The peace accords also call for a change in military doctrine to stress the value
of human dignity and democratic values, respect for human rights, and subordination
to constitutional authorities.
The accords also required the dissolution or radical restructuring of security
forces and the intelligence agency that had been a part of the armed forces command
structure, as well as a reduction in the size of the military. They also require the
military to disband the five specialized combat battalions (BIRIs) and the civil
defense units.

Public Security and the New National Civilian Police
The Accords required the creation of a National Civilian Police force (PNC),
and the dismantling of three public security forces under the authority of the Ministry of
Defense: the Treasury Police, the National Guard, and the National Police. The
agreement to dissolve the old security forces, remove internal security functions from
the jurisdiction of the armed forces and to create a new PNC resolved a deadlock in the
negotiations over how to provide security guarantees to demobilized FMLN combatants
and their supporters following the cease-fire period.
The PNC was to be made up of individuals who had no history of direct
involvement in the armed stmggle, with two specific exceptions: equal numbers of
former national Police and former FMLN combatants would be allowed to join the
force, on the condition that they jointly constitute less than half the force. All candidates
would have to pass rigorous admission requirements in a training program at a new
civilian National Academy for Public Security established to train cadets and officers
for the new Civilian Police.
Under the original timetable, deployment of the first trained units of the PNC
would begin prior to final demobilization of the FMLN military units.

Reforming the Judicial System
The Salvadoran justice system has been one of the weakest links in the chain of
institutions needed to support and maintain a democratic society. Power in the justice
system resides in the Supreme Court, which acts as the ultimate constitutional and
appellate authority. The Supreme Court also names all lower court judges, is responsible
for disciplinary and administrative functions forjudges and court personnel, and
authorizes and suspends lawyers from practice.
Aggravating this inherently dangerous concentration of power, the Supreme
Court has been controlled by political parties. The majority party in the Legislative
Assembly selected Supreme Court judges for five year terms.
Political affiliation and family ties have traditionally been the keys to
appointment to the Court. Legal disputes have been resolved based on money, power,
and influence. Whether a crime was even investigated has depended largely on the
relative power of the victims and those responsible. Cases have often been dismissed
because of political or economic pressures, and even threats. In other cases, defendants
remain imprisoned, usually without trial, for long periods of time because of political
pressure rather than the strength of the evidence against them. Judges routinely
acknowledged that they acted under serious restraints (Vickers and Spence, 1992: 19).

Recognizing a need to increase judicial independence and improve criminal
investigation, constitutional reforms were enacted in April 1991, which changed the
procedures for selecting judges and magistrates at all levels:
The Legislative Assembly will elect Supreme Court judges for staggered
terms of nine years (instead of five), by a vote of two thirds of the deputies,
from a list of candidates presented by the National Council on the Judiciary.
According to the reform, half of the candidates should come from lawyers
professional associations and should include the most relevant currents of
legal thinking.
Under the reforms, all judicial nominations must come from the National
Council on the Judiciary. The existing Council, established in the 1983
Constitution, was intended to professionalize only the selection of trial court
and appellate judges. The Supreme Courts representatives on the Council
were given decisive weight in the Councils determinations (Vickers and
Spence, 1992: 20). However, the 1991 reforms established the independence
of the Council and sought to broaden and increase its mandate. The
Chapultepec Accords state, the composition of the National Council on the
Judiciary shall be such as to guarantee its independence from the organs of
the state and from political parties and its membership shall, as far as
possible, include not only judges but also sectors of society not directly

connected with the administration of justice (U.N., 1992: 75). The reforms
dictated that the members of the Council are to be elected by a vote of two
thirds of the members of the Legislative Assembly.
The reforms also provide that Justices of the Peace will be named by the
Supreme Court based on candidates proposed by the Council. They must be
Salvadoran lawyers, if possible. In exceptional cases, the Council may
propose candidates who are not attorneys for a reduced term.
Electoral System Reform
The Accords reaffirmed the requirements of the Mexico Agreement of April
27, 1991, which consisted of the following:
The establishment of a Supreme Electoral Tribunal to replace the old
Central Board of Elections, which will have the highest
administrative authority and jurisdiction with respect to electoral
matters ... making sure that no party or coalition of parties
predominates it (U.N., 1995: 168);
Legally registered political parties shall have the right to monitor the
compilation, organization, publication, and updating of the electoral

the electoral roll shall be compiled in such a way that the lists of
citizens eligible to vote are published at least 120 days before the date
of election, with a simple and expeditious procedure for making
legitimate corrections;
the establishment of a Special Commission to prepare a comprehensive
proposal for reform of the electoral system.
Political Participation by FMLN
The Accords mandated the adoption of legislative and other measures to
guarantee the right of political participation for former FLMN combatants, which
Freedom for all political prisoners;
full guarantees and security for the return of exiles, war-wounded and
other persons currently outside the country for reasons related to the armed
granting licenses for FMLN mass media;
legalization of the FMLN as a political party, including guarantees that the
FMLN would be able to conduct normal party activities, such as freedom
to canvass for new members; the right to set up an appropriate
infrastructure; free exercise of the right to assembly and mobilization of

FMLN leaders, activists, and members; and freedom for the FMLN to
purchase and use advertising space in the mass media;
participation of the FMLN in COPAZ;
special security measures designed to protect FMLN leaders.
Land Reform
The Chapultepec Agreements established two different programs for transferring
land to peasants. For land outside the conflictive zones, the Accords specified that the
price would be based on market value, and the government was to make financing
available at regular rates. Land available for transfer to peasants outside conflictive
zones was either state-owned land or large estates in excess of the 245 hectare (605
acre) limit on individual holdings set by the 1983 Constitution.
The Accords stipulated that transfer of lands in excess of the 245 hectare limit
was to begin immediately. Transfer of state-owned land was to begin within three
months. The Accords did not specify completion deadlines for the land transfers. The
primary beneficiaries of the transfer of state-owned lands were supposed to be the ex-
combatants on both sides.
Lands within conflictive zones were to be treated differently from lands
outside these zones. Most of these lands were occupied by tenants who took over
properties abandoned by their owners because of the civil war. The Accords require

the government to finance the sale of these lands to the current occupants if the titled
owners are willing to sell. If the title-holder will not sell, the government is obligated
to move the tenants to other comparable lands in the same zone.
Economic Reform
In addition to addressing the agrarian problem, the Chapultepec Accords
outlined several other specific economic reforms:
Loans to the Agricultural Sector and Small Scale Enterprise. The Accords
stipulate that the government has the resources it needs to meet the demand for credit
of the agricultural sector in general and of micro- and small scale enterprise and
small-scale peasant production, including cooperatives. It is also mandated that the
government establish rules governing loans for agricultural and industrial production
so that such loans are granted in a timely manner and in an amount sufficient to
sustain production capacity and the marketing of goods produced. The government is
to promote an increase of loans by the commercial banking system to small
businessmen and small-scale enterprises.
This section also mandates the active involvement of the target sectors in the
establishment and administration of these programs, requires the government to
provide technical assistance, and requires the government to seek out international
assistance in providing credit.

Measures to Alleviate the Social Cost of Structural Adjustment. This
provision mandates:
that the government create effective mechanisms for consumer
protection, in particular strengthening the Ministry of Economic Affairs,
and establishing an Office of Consumer Protection Advocate (U.N.,
1992: 82);
privatization of ownership, which shall increase societys share of
ownership by affording workers access to ownership of privatized
companies. It shall also avoid monopolistic practices, while guaranteeing
business freedom and consumer protection (U.N., 1992: 82);
strengthening existing social welfare programs designed to alleviate
extreme poverty.
Procedures for Direct External Cooperation for Community Development and
Assistance Projects. The government shall facilitate private direct external
cooperation for community development and assistance projects. The government
shall grant legal and institutional facilities to private sources of direct external
cooperation benefiting communities, social organizations, and national non-
governmental organizations. Former combatants on both sides shall have access to
external cooperation funds.

Forum for Economic and Social Consultation. A forum shall be established in
which representatives of government, labor, business shall participate on an equal
footing for the purpose of working out a set of broad agreements on the economic and
social development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants (U.N., 1992:
National Reconstruction Plan. The Accords stipulated that the government
draw up, and submit to the FMLN for approval, a National Reconstruction Plan, the
main objectives of which are to integrate development of zones affected by the
conflict, satisfaction of the most immediate needs of the population hardest hit by the
conflict and of former combatants of both parties, and the reconstruction of damaged
infrastructure (U.N., 1992: 85).
Report of the Truth Commission for El Salvador
The Accords provided for the creation of a commission to investigate major
human rights violations, including massacres, murders, and kidnappings. The United
Nations rejected government pressure to keep secret those implicated (Montgomery,
1995: 242) and released the report in March 1993.
The Commission found that 95 percent of the human rights abuses since 1980
were attributable to the Armed Forces of El Salvador or paramilitary death squads; the
FMLN were found to be responsible for the remainder. Among the major findings:

Roberto DAubuisson ordered the assassination of Archbishop Romero,
and members of his personal security force carried it out.
The detention and murder of the four churchwomen was planned before
their arrival at the airport on December 2, 1980; senior National Guard
Officials, including its director, Vides Casanova, knew that members of
the guard had done this under orders from superiors and engaged in a
systematic cover-up.
Units of the Atlacatl Battalion, under its commander Domingo
Monterrosa, killed more than 200 people in El Mozote in December 1981;
the Atlacatl and other units killed over 300 more in surrounding villages;
Minister of Defense Garcia knew of the massacre but did not investigate.
Agents of the state carried out the bombing of FENASTRAS in October
1989, and competent authorities did not carry out a complete and
impartial investigation.
Defense minister Rene Emilio Ponce, in the presence of other members of
the high command, ordered Colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides to carry
out the murder of Ignacio Ellacuria, the Jesuit rector of the UCA, and
Cleave no witnesses; these same officers and others took steps to cover up
their involvement.

The FMLN General Command approved and adopted a policy of
assassinating mayors whom they considered to be working against them;
the nucleus of the ERP, which included Joaquin Villalobos, ordered
local commanders to implement the policy, under which eleven mayors
were murdered.
In addition to documenting human rights abuses, The Report also criticized
other institutions in Salvadoran society. For example, the Report slammed the
Salvadoran media, noting its extreme bias in favor of the military and government11.
In its recommendations, the Report criticized the Salvadoran executive,
legislative, and judicial branches of government for allowing military domination of
society. It noted that the judicial reforms called for in the Accords had not been
implemented, and called on members of the Supreme Court, who had been chosen
under preaccord rules, to resign (U.N. 1993).
Five days after the report was released, the ARENA-dominated legislature
approved a sweeping amnesty law (Montgomery, 1995: 243).
11 The print media repeatedly referred to the armed forces as glorious armed forces, forces of peace, guarantors of
peace, heroes; authority, defenders of the people; the FMLN was commonly referred to as terrorists,
subversives, extremists, enemies of the mother land, antipatriots, extremist hordes, common criminals. And,
for example, the El Mozote massacre was mentioned only once in the Salvadoran print media, but the Zona
Rosa killings, carried out by the FMLN, garnered more than 200 stories. (U.N., 1993)

If implemented in their entirety, the Chapultepec Accords would represent a
tremendous change in social and political relations in El Salvador. The closure of civil
war was the first step in the process of reunification of societydemocratization is, of
course, impossible during armed conflict. Beyond this, one major change in the
historic power balance in El Salvador will occur now that the infamous security forces
are outlawed, the PNC is fully mobilized, and the military is fully subordinated to
civilian authority. This means that the military will no longer be able to rule with
Together with this new definition of security, the reforms associated with the
judicial and electoral system, and the expansion of political participation (particularly
by the FMLN and allies), can mean that political democracy can indeed become
institutionalized, replacing both the legacy of military rule and the bogus electoral
authoritarianism of the 1980s. If these reforms can support a new, broad-based system
of representation in which all sectors of society can have a chance to have their voices
heard and their needs addressed, then this will also help to solidify a social democracy
in which the government and major institutions of society can and will work for the
benefit of the all, discarding the idea of a government by, for, and of the oligarchy. In
this way, the Peace Accords do offer a chance for a diffusion of political power and
for meaningful control of the government by citizens.

Considering the question of whether the Peace Accords sufficiently address
the root inequality of Salvadoran society, the economic reforms do address the land
problem, focusing on provisions of land reform that were already in the Constitution.
Land reform is desperately needed, and the program, if fully implemented, would
provide some alleviation of El Salvadors landlessness problem, one of the major
consequences of the countrys highly unequal economic and political systems. The
extension of credit to small producers will also help to guarantee that those who gain
land will be able to use it productively, thus fulfilling the real reason for land reform.
Also helpful is the inclusion of an economic forum that invites the input of all
productive sectors in development decisions. What is unclear, however, is the power
that this group can hold in economic development policy.
The Peace Accords are weakest in the area of economic reform. Essentially
untouched by the Accords, not withstanding the promotion of welfare programs
designed to alleviate extreme poverty, is one of the main sources of the conflict:
the structural inequality that is perpetuated by an export-led development strategy.
And though the Accords do make mention of the negative effects of neoliberalism,
they do not address the fundamental question of El Salvadors development policy:
can neoliberalism foster a more equitable distribution of income? Given that
agroexport, at least since the rise of the coffee industry, is very much at the root of the
rise of the oligarchy (and subsequently, the military) and the erosion of political and

economic equality in El Salvador, the failure of the Accords to answer this question
leaves open the possibility that the most fundamental causes of war will remain.
The next chapter will analyze El Salvadors emerging political and social
democracy in the six years that have taken place since the signing of the Accords. The
last chapter will attempt to answer the question as to whether El Salvadors
development policy can guarantee a solid, stable, equitable base for democracy, and a
true break from the past.

There are a number of positive statements regarding El Salvadors state of
democracy, particularly from United States and United Nations officials. Former U.S.
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, in an address before the El Salvadors
Legislative Assembly in March 1996, proclaimed Salvadoran democracy to be alive
and well:
I am here to affirm how proud the United States is to be a partner of a
democratic El Salvador. Here in this National Assembly, the very heart of
your democracy, we celebrate the freedom and opportunity that democracy
and open markets have brought to all of the Americas. In each of our nations,
democracy has given a voice and a choice to those who were once silenced or
suppressed. And, in each of our nations, economic reform is offering people a
better opportunity to lift up their lives. (U.S. Dept, of State, 1996)
Unfortunately, platitudes such as these do not address deeper issues related to
democratic practice and its links to economic policy. Indeed, Christophers statements
do not reflect the reality of the ongoing peace process in El Salvador: while some
portions of the Chapultepec Accords have been implemented successfully, many other
parts remain unfulfilled.

There have certainly been successes, including a significant reduction in the
size of the armed forces, the purging and reorganization of the officer corps, and a
redefinition of military doctrine. Further, the Accords abolished three security forces
and assigned responsibility for public security to a newly formed National Civilian
Police. Citizens can now file formal complaints about human rights abuses with the
National Counsel for Human Rights, a government agency. And reincorporation of
the left into political life has been effected with the legalization of the FMLN as a
political party. This means that the armed forces have to come to terms with the
presence of the left in the countryone of the most significant results of the Accords.
While completion of many parts of the Accords gives cause for optimism, the
fact that almost every significant measure of the Accords has suffered from delays and
setbacks, and that the government has been guilty of noncompliance in many areas,
gives rise to fears that the Peace Accords may never be completed. Coupled with this
are concerns regarding persevering elite-led politics and authoritarian tendencies in
the ARENA government, rising crime and violence, re-emergence of death squads,
continuing economic troubles and persistent poverty, and a crisis of participation
reflected in low voter turnout. In sum, the fulfillment of the peace accords has
evolved in an uneven manner:
Real achievements have been mixed with merely formal ones along with
debilitating delays. Advances in democratization and demilitarization, for
example, coexist with delays in the reform and purging of the judiciary, in the
transfer of lands, and in the reinsertion of ex-combatants into civilian life.

Day-to-day insecurity persists, with death squads continuing their operations
with new faces and in new ways. Now they are called illegal armed groups
with political motives (Vilas, 1995b).
These problems raise legitimate questions as to whether the groundwork is
truly being laid for a civil society that can consolidate peace, promote reconciliation,
and advance democracy. The inability of the government to adequately address
political and social reform as outlined in the Accords adds an extra dimension to the
lack of attention the Accords give to economic development questions; it presents an
even greater obstacle to democratic participation in economic matters of critical
national importance.
Implementation of the Chapultepec Accords
The calendar of implementation established by the Accords is an intricately
designed and carefully negotiated mechanism whose purpose is to synchronize (a) the
reintegration of the FMLNs ex-combatants into civilian life and (b) the measures that
the government has committed itself to take in order to facilitate that process
(Vickers and Spence, 1992: 3). The timetable was gradual and designed to build trust
among the parties and to permit phased implementation of other provisions. Under the
original timetable, FMLN military forces were to be reduced in five equal steps as the
government carried out other provisions.

Under the original timetable many of the significant parts of the Accords were
to be completed by October 31,1992. That date was to mark the end of the armed
conflict in El Salvador but not the end of the peace process. Several of the provisions
were not scheduled to be completed by that date, including demobilization of the last
rapid response battalion, transfer and sale of land to peasants in conflict zones, and
full deployment of the new civilian police force (Vickers and Spence, 1992: 4).
The timetable was ambitious, given that many of the provisions required
legislation to be drafted and approved by COPAZ and by the Legislative Assembly.
Delays led to accusations of bad faith and to deliberate postponement of actions called
for under the Accords. ONUSAL played a large role in negotiating revisions to the
original timetable, though U.N. efforts were not entirely successful. Problems and
delays in several provisions, most notably with regards to deploying the PNC and land
reform, unbalanced the process to the extent that ONUSAL concluded that a
fundamental adjustment to the implementation calendar was needed. By December
1992, the peace process had advanced, but unevenly and with much difficulty. To a
large extent, the process of implementation has been a process of continuing
negotiation over each and every provision of the Chapultepec Accords ... in most
cases the manner of implementation has generated new disputes (Vickers and
Spence, 1992: 4).

Demilitarization, Reduction of the Armed Forces,
and Elimination of Security Forces
Gerson Martinez, a former FMLN commander who now heads the FMLN
faction in the Legislative Assembly, has said that the military is the institution in
Salvadoran society that has most complied with the Accords. Required to reduce
their number by half, the Salvadoran armed forces (FAES) stand at 18,000, one-third
their size in 1992 (Montgomery, 1997: 65). In addition, the entire high command that
conducted the war have been retired. The various security corps have been dissolved
and the New National Civilian Police has been deployed throughout the country,
replacing the old, corrupt National Police, which functioned as a part of the FAES.
Demilitarization has extended to government enterprises and agencies, including
telecommunications, customs, utilities, ports, and others, whose direction had
previously been assigned to military officials (Vilas, 1995b).
The reduction in size and responsibilities of the FAES, however, are not
reflected in its budget. The Military budget for 1995 was almost $100 millionabout
8 percent of government spending. This was about equal to the military budget for
1993, and only about 6 percent lower than 1992, when the war was still in progress
(Vilas, 1995b). In addition, FAES is the only branch of the state whose budget is not
submitted to civilian control; it maintains its own secret budget entries, managed by
its commander in chief.

In addition, the military is still involved in public security. The president is
still authorized by the Constitution to deploy the FAES for the maintenance of
internal peace, tranquillity, and public safety, and the FAES has been deployed
across the country, engaging in activities the Accords have assigned to the PNC. In
February 1995, the government authorized the FAES to patrol rural areasa decision
that has been denounced by the FMLN, the Democratic Convergence and the
Christian Democratic Party as a violation of the Accords, charging that the military is
trying to reassert itself in a public security role. According to numerous independent
observers, the FAES continues performing intelligence functions, also in violation of
the Accords (Vilas, 1995b). This is evidence that the military is resistant to complete
the demilitarization process.
The National Civil Police (PNC)
The PNC has now been deployed throughout the country. The training of this
new police force is the responsibility of another new institution, the National
Academy of Public Safety (ANSP), largely staffed and advised by police agents from
the U.S., Sweden, Spain, and other countries. Six years after its founding, the PNC
enjoys a high degree of acceptance by the population, ranking second (behind the
media) in a list of institutions in order of the peoples confidence in them
(Montgomery, 1997:65).

The Accords stated that the composition of the PNC was to be 20 percent ex-
FMLN, 20 percent ex-FAES, and 60 percent civilian candidates. Because the FMLN
could not fill its quota, however, the number of civilian candidates was augmented,
though some foreign ANSP observers charge that many of the civilians are
members of the FAES and the old National Police. In addition, there have been
increasing complaints of brutality and rights violations (Vilas, 1995b). This increase
in complaints may be due in part to an atmosphere in which people can feel
comfortable lodging complaints without fear of reprisal.
Human Rights
Along with the PNC, the National Counsel for Human Rights is one of the
institutions most closely associated with the Peace Accords. It exists to ensure that a
government office is available where citizens can take their complaints about alleged
human rights abuses, and its mandate includes civil liberties, human rights, and
environmental, womens, and childrens issues. This office also enjoys a high degree
of confidence from the population, though the office has insufficient resources, and its
recommendations are frequently blocked by a lack of response from the government
(Vilas, 1995b; Montgomery, 1997).
The most dramatic change in El Salvador regarding human rights is the sharp
decline in state-sponsored terrorism. Reports of human rights violations by police

officers center in those involved, and there hasnt been much suggestion that the
institution condones this behavior. Police officers are usually arrested and prosecuted
for such violations.
Though the human rights situation has improved tremendously over the past
six years, further progress is somewhat inhibited because of the slow pace of judicial
reform, rising crime, and evidence of the reemergence of death squads.
Judicial Reform
Delays in judicial reform have created obstacles to the full protection of
human rights, with violations of due process cited as one of the most serious
concerns. Between June 1992 and June 1994, none of the 75 most serious accusations
of the violation of the right to life, brought by the human rights division of ONUSAL,
led to convictions. The naming of a new Supreme Court in July 1994 raised hopes,
but in November, when the human rights division of ONUSAL delivered to the court
a list of 50 judges accused of corruption and unacceptable performance, President
Calderon Sol accused the agency of intervening in the internal affairs of the country
(Vilas, 1995b). This raises the question of whether impunity has really disappeared
from El Salvador.

In general, the Supreme Court is considered to be authentically independent,
although many lower court judges can still be bought off or intimidated (Vidulich,
Electoral Reform
The Accords mandated the creation of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE),
which replaced the old, corrupt Central Board of Elections.
The extents and limits of electoral reform have been tested in the two general
elections that have occurred since the signing of the Accords, particularly the
transitional elections of March 1994.
The 1994 elections were intended to further the Accords by involving the
political opposition and previously uninvolved voters in an honest, transparent
electoral process. Despite problems, most observers found that the elections marked a
step forward in the peace process, since 1.4 million voters went to the polls (during
the first round on March 20) without serious violence or massive ballot-rigging. For
the first time in Salvadoran history, all parts of the political spectrum participated
openly, including the FMLN. As an observer to the elections myself, I was impressed
by the degree of cooperation at the polls between the FMLN and their former enemies

But although the elections were very important for these reasons, many
observers concluded that the 1994 elections did not achieve the level of democratic
participation required for a transitional election12 13. The observer group that I
participated in found serious problems with the registration and election process.
From the voter registration campaign starting in early 1993 through the final vote on
April 24, 1994, the electoral process was tainted throughout by misconduct on the part
of the TSE. As the body responsible for organizing all aspects of the elections, the
TSE performed in a partisan manner, and acted in ways that restricted participation
and marginalized the political opposition.
The TSE refused to implement any serious measures to increase voter
registration until late in the process and under considerable international pressure.
Though eventually a significant number of new voters were registered, many potential
voters were discouraged by the difficulties built into the registration process. In
addition, many whose applications were finally approved never got their voting cards,
and thousands of people who did get their voting cards were not listed on the electoral
registry on election day. In addition to the problems in voter registration, the
12 There is mixed reaction on this from observers. The United Nations, which mobilized 900 observers, was
pleased that the historic elections ... were conducted in peace and liberty, without reports of any serious
incidents, although ONUSAL did note irregularities in the process (U.N., 1994). The U.S. government
issued a statement echoing the U.N. (U.S. Dept, of State, 1994). Proceso, a journal produced by UCA in San
Salvador, called the elections the fiasco of the century (CIDRS, 1994).
13 The United States Citizens Elections Observer Mission, which consisted of 660 U.S. citizens, was sponsored by
over 30 NGOs from the U.S. The observers were trained under United Nations guidelines and were strictly

organization of the voting sites on March 20 was so disorganized as to prevent
100,000 or more potential voters (out of approximately 1.4 million) from casting
ballots. Few fundamental changes were put in place to improve the conduct of the
April 24 run-off vote, despite the TSEs stated commitment to major improvements.
My observer group summed up the elections in this way:
USCEOM finds the disenfranchisement resulting from the TSEs negligence
in office almost certainly had a significant impact on some municipal races,
and may have affected the final composition of the Legislative Assembly. It is
especially indicative that the TSE refused to consider any of the 44 challenges
offered by opposition parties to the results in municipal and legislative races.
In sum, while these elections were not fraudulent in the classic sense, they
clearly did not meet the standard of openness and transparency that would
permit them to be classified as free and fair (USCEOM, 1994).
Nevertheless, most observers feel that these elections did represent a
fundamental change in Salvadoran political arrangements, in that they were the most
democratic in history, due to the fact that these were the first elections in which real
opposition was possible, and the results were respected. And for the first time, El
Salvadors parliament reflects all political currents14.
14 The FMLN received about 24 percent of the vote for president, ARENA received 49 percent and won in the
April 24 run-off. The FMLN won 21 Assembly seats (out of 84) and 15 mayoralties (out of 262). ARENA won
39 Assembly seats and 206 mayoralties.

Land Reform
Another difficult issue has been the transfer of lands to ex-combatants, and the
reinsertion of these ex combatants into civil society. According to USAID and the
FMLN, the land transfer program has essentially stalled due to a lack of good will on
the part of the government (Vilas, 1995b). By February 1995, only 53 percent of ex-
combatants and members of the FMLN and only about 30 percent of ex-members of
the FAES had received landsa total of only about 17,000 out of 47,000 eligible
recipients. The U.S. State Department has said that by March 1996, 32,000 ex-
combatants on both sides have received land (U.S. Dept, of State, 1996).
Those who have received land through the transfer program have had trouble
getting credit, technical assistance and training. In addition, the small size of many of
the plots is a further obstacle to the development of productive and sustainable
farming (Vilas, 1995b). This no doubt feeds the frustration of ex-combatants on both
Other Societal Factors Regarding Democratization
Rising Crime
The decline of political violence has not been accompanied by a reduction in
common crime. El Salvadors crime wave has included attacks on businesses, private
homes and cars, acts of violence committed by gangs, kidnappings for ransom. The