1/20/10 - el salvador

In today's excerpt - El Salvador achieved peace after a decade-long civil war by providing the combatants called the FMLN with land through an 'arms-for-land' program and integrating them into the political process as a new political party rather than by the essentially impossible task of eradicating the combatants:

"El Salvador [had] a GDP of about $6 billion in 1991 average income per capita was around $1100. ... However, the country's income and wealth were highly concentrated. It was often heard that about 85 percent of the land belonged to 14 families. Despite an agrarian reform program that started in 1980 in the early 1990s it was estimated that there were about 300,000 families of campesinos (small farmers) who still had no land. ...

"The roots of El Salvador's decade-long civil war extended deep into the nineteenth century. As E. Torres-Rivas has pointed out, Salvadoran society systematically generated economic marginalization, social segregation, and political repression. Land tenure was as much a root cause of the conflict that raged throughout the 1980s as was the overbearing power of the armed forces. ...

"After a decade-long war, with over 100,000 estimated dead and serious damage to human capital and physical infrastructure, a Peace Agreement between the government of El Salvador and the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) signed on January 16, 1992 in the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, created high expectations. ... Damage to the country's infrastructure as a result of the civil war was estimated at $1.5 billion to $2.0 billion (more than 30 percent of 1990 GDP). ...

"After the conclusion of the peace agreements El Salvador embarked on a complex war-to-peace transition. ... The land situation in the conflict zones was very complex. Production had been virtually paralyzed during the war and infrastructure was seriously damaged. As landowners abandoned or were forced off their land, landless peasants had moved in. During the peace negotiations, the FMLN had insisted on the legalization of the landholders' precarious tenure as a reward for their crucial support to the FMLN's largely rural-based guerrilla movement. The landholders were also expected to provide electoral support for the FMLN's post-conflict political ambitions. Moreover the problem had to be addressed in any case regardless of the FMLN position lest it remain as a potential source of instability as landowners tried to recover their land.

"The objective of the 'arms-for-land' program—which was of central importance to the maintenance of the ceasefire—was to provide demobilizing combatants with the means for reintegration into the productive economy by providing credit to potential beneficiaries to purchase land. The agreement also contemplated supplementary short-term programs (agricultural training, distribution of agricultural tools, basic household goods, and academic instruction) and medium-term programs (credit for production purposes, housing, and technical assistance). ...

"The country moved a long way in this transition. Although successive Salvadoran presidents have continued to be elected from the [incumbent] Allanza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), in the March 2000 elections, the FMLN won 31 of 84 seats in the unicameral legislative assembly. This was a remarkable achievement for the FMLN, barely eight years after becoming a political party, allowing it to block bills requiring a two-thirds majority. This moved the country further ahead in the political transition. In the municipal elections of 1997, the opposition had won about 80 percent of the largest cities, including the capital. ...

"In an evaluation of the 1992-2004 period, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB 2005) concluded that Salvadoran society had made a successful transition to peacetime and has gained considerable ground in terms of stability, economic modernization and poverty reduction."


Graciana del Castillo


Rebuilding War-Torn States: The Challenge of Post-Conflict Economic Reconstruction


Oxford University Press


Graciana del Castillo 2008


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