WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
16 Feb 2010 | Commentary | News

Accountability and Reconciliation in El Salvador

On the anniversary of the signing of El Salvador's Peace Accords, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes gave a  speech addressing important issues of human rights and accountability.  In the speech, Funes asks forgiveness, in the name of the state, of those who were victims of the armed conflict.

The speech comes as the new government in El Salvador, led by President Funes, faces a number of serious problems during its first year in office.  The economic crisis that has hit the United States has, not surprisingly, hurt El Salvador as well, and the Funes government has had to cope with a serious economic downturn.  Crime has continued to be a major problem; homicide rates have risen slightly, the President assigned military forces to accompany police in some high crime communities, and the government has been criticized–from the human rights community on the one side and the business community on the other–for not introducing a comprehensive and effective anti-crime plan (in response, in February Funes will launch a national dialogue on crime, meeting with civil society groups, the private sector, the churches, universities, and others; he has taken some steps to increase police resources for patrols and investigations, and is expected to announce a new security plan shortly).  Conflict between community and environmental groups opposed to gold mining in northern El Salvador and pro-mining forces has continued. Three activists were killed in 2009 and many others are under threat.  The President, to his credit, has personally vowed that a full investigation into these murders will take place, but the cases at this point remain unresolved.

Despite these difficulties, the government has taken a number of important steps on impunity and human rights.  Investigations into police corruption have been launched, with suspensions and several arrests to date.  Investigations into corruption by government officials have been launched.  In November, in a dramatic break from previous administrations, President Funes honored the six Jesuit priests and their two companions who were murdered in 1989.  The Peace Accords anniversary speech is part of this process.

Last month, El Salvador celebrated the 18th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords, which brought an end to the country's long civil war.  President Mauricio Funes delivered a powerful and eloquent statement, in which he acknowledged the responsibility of the state for human rights abuses committed during the war and asked forgiveness of the victims.   It's a moving speech, and an important contribution to the ongoing discussions about accountability for human rights abuses in the hemisphere.  We thought you might be interested in seeing the speech. You can follow the links below to read the speech in both English and Spanish on our website.

WOLA applauds the speech, and is encouraged by the possibilities of important changes taking place in El Salvador. In 2010 we will continue to support efforts to bring justice in cases of human rights abuses, promote effective and comprehensive citizen security programs, and work to ensure a constructive and supportive U.S. policy toward the country.

To read President Funes' speech in English, click here.

Para leerlo en Español, haga clic aquí.