Date: Thu, 9 Nov 1995 03:01:14 GMT
/** reg.elsalvador: 165.0 **/
Peasant occupy lands
Flor de Izote Foundation, Weekly Report, Vol. 6 no. 41, October 23–30 1995
Peasant farmers organized in the Democratic Rural Peasants Association (ADC) and in the Republican Rural Peasants Association (ARC) have carried out approximately 17 occupations of lands in the western region of the country during the second half of the month of October of this year. Among the occupations are: in Sonsonate, Las Tres Ceibas, El Saite, San Antonio Geres, Santa Rosa, San Cristobal Haciendas and El Triunfo, San Antonio del Monte, and Jacaranda' farms, (1) as well as part of the El Imposible Forest, in the department of Ahuachapan. (2)
The Coordinator of the Democratic Rural Peasants Association (ADC), Eulogio Villalta, accused top officials of the Agrarian Transformation Institute (ISTA) and of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) of not having the political will to solve the agrarian problem and held the government responsible for any action which might be taken, if they do not see compliance with the transfer of lands. (3) According to the peasants who are occupying these properties, the responsibility is the government's, for failing to comply with the Peace Accords. (4)
In response to this problem the "Joint National 245 Group" was formed, with the participation of representatives of the ISTA, ADC, COPAZ, FMLN, PDDH and MINUSAL. In this context an agreement was reached to reactivate as soon as possible the joint investigation by the ISTA and the peasant associations of landowners who, in violation of the Constitution of the Republic, own in their own name lands which exceed the legal limit 245 hectares, based on information which might be presented by the members of the Joint Group. (5)
ADC leader Carlos Rodriguez announced that the peasants will stay on the occupied lands until the negotiations with the government move forward. (6)
There are, however, those who have another view and believe that the problem can be solved through amendments to the penal code regarding an increase in the jail penalty for those who instigate the occupation of lands. This reform was the initiative of the ARENA party and was approved with the vote of 49 deputies. (7) The President of the Legislative Assembly, Gloria Salguero Gross, made the modifications to article 248 of the Penal Code public, establishing that whoever deprives another of legal possession or use of real property or of the exercise of a right constituted in that land, for the purpose of taking control or of illicit gain, individually or collectively, or through violence, threat, deceit or abuse of trust, will be sanctioned with prison from one to three years. Those who propose, promote or instigate the commission of the crime of usurpation will be sanctioned with prison from two to four years. (8)
It was learned that these amendments were not supported by the deputies of the FMLN, PRSC, PD and MU parties, who argued that part of the cause of the usurpations is the fact that in El Salvador there are still persons who own properties that exceed the 245 hectares, for which reason it is necessary to enact a law to facilitate the transfer of the excesses to the peasants. (9)
Like the ARENA deputies, the Director of the PNC, Rodrigo Avila, said that he had a plan to evict the peasants, because in his view it is no coincidence that on a national level 17 properties were occupied simultaneously, leading him to believe that this is a plan orchestrated and coordinated by people who seek to create a climate of social instability. Avila asserted that he will not tolerate violence, emphasizing that he will protect private property, since he believes the peasants' actions to be unconstitutional. (10) In this context is the presence of contingents of the Police Reaction Group (GRP), (11) as well as the peaceful eviction carried out by agents of the PNC against the peasants who were doing the occupations of the properties. Nevertheless, the demonstrators warned that they will continue to take action until the government complies with the land transfers. (12)
It is important to remember that both the Peace Accords and the Political Constitution of the Republic propose executive measures to resolve the problem of land ownership. The Peace Accords say: "Those lands which exceed the constitutional limit of 245 hectares, as well as those which are property of the State and which are not now forest reserves by law, will be used to satisfy the need of peasants and small farmers who lack land. To this end the Government will in addition seek to acquire those lands offered for sale to the State." (El Salvador Accords - New York Accords - VII ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ISSUES, Number 1, Pate 39) The Political Constitution of the Republic says in Article 105: "The State recognizes, encourages and guarantees the right of private property in rural lands, whether it be individual, cooperative, communal or in any other associational form, and may not in any way reduce the maximum amount of land established as a property right in this Constitution.
The maximum amount of rural land belonging to one single natural or corporate person may not exceed two hundred forty-five hectares.
This limitation will not be applicable to cooperative or communal peasant associations." (Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador, TITLE V, ECONOMIC AREA. Page 25 of the publication of the Supreme Court. March 1992.)
"People cannot come from other countries to tell us when and how to do things." Rodrigo Avila, director of the PNC. (13)
The head of the UN in El Salvador, Dr. Ricardo Vigil, confirmed the veracity of the MINUSAL report about irregularities detected within the PNC. Vigil asserted that "it is a report which we have provided to the President of the Republic." Within regard to the reactions from public safety authorities and the president himself, Armando Calderon Sol, he said that he would have a meeting with the president when he returned from his trip. According to the document, by last October 15th the irregular units should already have been dissolved; in addition sanctions should have been applied in more than one thousand cases of serious misconduct detected in recent months. Until now, however, compliance with these recommendations is not clear. (14)
The Public Safety authorities questioned the MINUSAL report, which was presented by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, to the General Assembly of the UN. In his statement Ghali warns that there is resistance to a complete renewal of the Criminal Investigation Division (DIC) and to the development of the Organized Crime Investigation Division (DICO).
In response to these statements the Vice-Minister of Public Safety, Alberto Carranza, affirmed that "it is not that there is resistance, there are difficulties of a technical nature... and people from other countries cannot come from time to time to tell us how and when we have to do things." (15)
Interpreting the report, the director of the PNC, Rodrigo Avila, finds himself in a paradox, since on the one hand he tries to give the impression of maturity, saying "the report includes many elements which can be very useful for our institution if it is seen from a critical and constructive point of view... we have our minds open to accepting criticism." (16) On the other hand he rejects it, maintaining that "people cannot come from other countries to tell us when and how to do things," in addition to asserting that he is unaware of the existence of irregular groups which supposedly operate using the logistics of the PNC. (16) Avila added that in the next few days he will present a report about the work of the PNC and principally about the report written by MINUSAL, while rejecting the idea that there is resistance on the part of the authorities to the creation or restructuring of the Criminal Investigation Division (DIC). (17)
The Ombudsperson for the Defense of Human Rights, Victoria Marina de Aviles, expressing her agreement with the report, said, "we all hope that the recommendations made by MINUSAL will help to correct the errors which are being committed within the police," indicating also that with this report the Inspector General already has an immediate task. (18) Regarding the report, the Inspector of the PNC, Dr. Victor Manuel Valle, maintained that if in any way anomalies are detected it is appropriate that the inspector's office act, but that it will be necessary to see in the course of the work the possibility of doing so, especially in terms of resources. (19)
Armando Calder'n Sol's intention is "to get rid of the people who do not suit him and thus incorporate people who supported them in the last political campaign." Felix Ralando Perez, leader of the CCTEM. (20)
The recent transitional Mandatory Retirement law has started to be applied, for which reason officials of different public agencies are making studies to determine the number of positions to be eliminated soon. (21) The Director of the ISSS, Maria Julia Castillo, affirmed that her administration will not hesitate in making public the list of "unnecessary" positions and stated that these could be in the administrative sector, because personnel are needed in the medical, paramedical and technical areas. (22) Similarly, the Minister of the Treasury, Manuel Enrique Hinds, revealed that in that department 365 positions will be eliminated. (23)
President Armando Calderon Sol argues the need to apply the Temporary Economic Compensation Law or Decree 471 Law, since according to him the positions that are going to be eliminated currently represent a waste of resources that could well be invested in schools, hospitals, highways or other urgently needed works. (24)
At the same time leaders of about 20 public employee unions have begun a series of meeting to discuss the measures which they will adopt to protest the Voluntary Retirement Law. (25) In this sense, one of the first measures taken by the public employee labor sector was the march that they held at the beginning of this week, where around a thousand people march through the main streets of San Salvador to protest the law. (26)
The leader of the Coordinating Council of Municipal Workers (CCTEM), Felix Ralando Perez, asserted that the intention of the Armando Calderon Sol government is "to get rid of the people who do not suit him and thus incorporate people who supported them in the last political campaign and for that reason we condemn the government's attitude toward the employees." (27) This view was reinforced by deputy Eugenio Chicas of the FMLN, who emphasized that this is a clear government policy to favor its allies, in spite of statements from the Treasury Minister, Manuel Enrique Hinds, that the positions of those workers terminated through the Mandatory Retirement Law will not be replaced. Chicas maintained that it is a government strategy to remove one sector of workers and to bring in to the heart of the State another sector of workers in sympathy with their interests, but that in any case they (officials and government) are going to reduce the state apparatus and this is a risk. According to the politician this measures are contradictory since the government talks of reducing 15 positions this year and in 1996 creating more than 12,000 positions through a bigger budget. (28)
According to the Vice-President of the Chamber of Commerce of El Salvador, Luis Cardenal, the Mandatory Retirement Law is a temporary fix because in firing a certain number of people one does not correct the fundamental problem which is that the public employee should be more responsible in carrying out his duties. In his view, the permanent solution is that the government contract trained people, and he suggested that "the salaries should be evaluated so that public officials and employees have a decent salary, but also that they have responsibilities which can be demanded of them." (29)
1-television channel 12, 24/10/95;
All rights reserved, 1995, Fundacion Flor de Izote. This publication may be reproduced only on condition that the Fundacion Flor de Izote is cited as the source.
FUNDACION FLOR DE IZOTE,