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Destruction of a way of life
El Salvador Watch, No.64, November 1997
The agricultural way of life was hard hit too by twelve years of war.
Rural El Salvador was pummeled by the most intensive and prolonged aerial bombardment in the history of the Western hemisphere. The air force dropped phosphorous bombs and napalm on forested hillsides and farmlands, poisoning the earth for many seasons. The army swept through the countryside, torching whole farming communities and slaughtering livestock.
This was all an attempt to drive out guerrillas of the FMLN and their sympathizers (defined as anyone alive in the area). With this policy of "draining the sea to catch the fish," the Salvadoran government drove thousands of families into Honduras and further north, many of whom now reside in the United States. At the height of the war, fully a third of the population was uprooted from their homes, either having fled the country as refugees or displaced internally.
Of course, this made it practically impossible for many to farm at all (let alone to produce at a profit) during the war.
Since their return, their attempts to resume their livelihood have been thwarted, first by government and army harassment, then by a series of natural disasters: cycles of severe drought and flooding. Subsistence farming is a tenuous prospect. The struggle of hundreds of thousands to survive on tiny plots of land depletes the soil of nutrients. Many have no alternative but to rely on wood fuels, taking a further toll on the forest. Much of the flooding is the product of soil erosion along river banks caused by deforestation.
Ecological degradation in El Salvador is the worst in Latin America. It is so complete in fact, that the country is perilously close to facing large-scale desert formation - certainly not a friendly environment for agriculture.
Thus war, environmental devastation, and more recently ARENA's hostile neoliberal policies all have taken their toll on Salvadoran farming, each contributing to the destruction of a way of life.
"El Salvador Watch" is produced nationally by CISPES. CISPES is a national organization with chapters in 25 cities around the country. In addition to our National Office listed above, we maintain the following regional offices:
Western States Regional Office
Midwest Regional Office
East Coast Regional Office
New England Office
Produced by CISPES,
the Committee in Solidarity with
the People of El Salvador,