U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - El Salvador
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - El Salvador, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3c34.html [accessed 30 January 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
EL SALVADOREl Salvador is a constitutional, multiparty democracy with an executive branch headed by a president and a unicameral legislature. Armando Calderon Sol of the Nationalist Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) was inaugurated President for a 5-year term in June 1994. In free and fair legislative elections in March, the former guerrilla organization Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) won a third of the Legislative Assembly seats, leaving the ARENA party with a one-vote plurality. Seven other parties also hold seats, including the conservative National Conciliation Party (PCN) and the centrist Christian Democratic Party (PDC). The Constitution provides for a separate, politically appointed, independent judiciary. Since the Peace Accords ended the 12-year civil war in 1992, the Government has reduced the armed forces (including civilian employees) by 70 percent; redefined the role of the military, placing it under civilian control; created a new Civilian National Police (PNC); and integrated the former guerrillas into political life. Although its internal policing mission has been eliminated, the military continues to provide support for some PNC patrols in rural areas, a measure begun in 1995 to contain violence by well-armed criminal bands. The professionalism of the PNC generally improved, but the 4-year-old force continues to be understaffed, only minimally trained, and short on practical experience. Members of the police committed human rights abuses. El Salvador has a market-based, mixed economy largely based upon agriculture and light manufacturing. Some 40 percent of the workforce is in the agricultural sector; coffee and sugar are the principal export crops and major sources of foreign exchange. The growing light manufacturing sector (export processing zones) is dominated by apparel manufacturing and represents the main source of new jobs. The Government is committed to privatization and free market reforms. The economy is open, and private property is respected. The rate of real economic growth was about 4 percent, and per capita gross domestic product was estimated to be $1,930. About 52 percent of the population lives below the poverty level. The Government's human rights record improved somewhat; however, there were problems in some areas. In one new case, two police agents face charges of extrajudicial killings. The police sometimes use excessive force and mistreat, arbitrarily arrest, and detain persons, although the PNC sought to identify and to punish those within its ranks who committed criminal acts or violated established procedures. Prison conditions remained poor and overcrowding worsened. The judiciary's inefficiency resulted in lengthy pretrial detention and long delays in trials. The Supreme Court made some progress in cleaning up the judiciary but did not move quickly to discipline or dismiss corrupt or incompetent judges. Impunity for the rich and powerful remained a problem; however, the Government took action to investigate, prosecute, and, in some cases, jail prominent citizens for crimes. Discrimination against women, the disabled, and indigenous people, violence against women, and abuse of children are also problems. The United Nations General Assembly eliminated the position of Special Representative of the Secretary General, resident in El Salvador, reducing the U.N.'s on-site monitoring role in recognition of the progress made in implementation of the Peace Accords. The Human Rights Ombudsman, a position created by the Peace Accords and the Constitution, continued to speak out on controversial issues. However, the investigative capacity of her agency, the office of the Counsel for the Defense of Human Rights (PDDH), remained limited and was hindered further by a shrinking budget.