By Hugo Sanchez
San Salvador, Jan 15 (EFE).- The peace accords signed in 1992 by the right-wing government and leftist rebels made possible the institutional and legal reforms that have allowed El Salvador to become a functioning democracy, the country’s top human rights authority tells Efe.
“They mark a before and after in 20th-century Salvadoran history,” David Morales says, recalling that the Central American nation endured “extremely repressive regimes, a genocide in the (19)30s and later the explosion of an armed conflict.”
The war brought “counterinsurgent governments that carried out reforms by force – with massacres, forced disappearance – and under very clear military domination during the decade of conflict.”
From late 1980 until January 1992, the Washington-backed Salvadoran armed forces battled the guerrillas of the FMLN. Besides the 75,000 official fatalities, the war ended with up to 10,000 people unaccounted for.
The peace accords “are definitely an invaluable inheritance of the people of El Salvador,” in the view of Morales, an attorney who represents survivors of the El Mozote massacre, one of the worst atrocities of the war.
A key provision of the armistice mandated a thorough overhaul of the security forces that included a reduction in the size of the army and, most importantly, the firm subordination of the military to civilian control.
The government also created a new, civilian national police agency, the PNC, to assume responsibility for public safety tasks.
But according to activists, the frequent resort to putting soldiers on the streets to support the PNC has undermined the commitment to demilitarize law enforcement.
Those activists likewise object to the appointment of civil war veterans to lead the PNC, which is accused of carrying out extrajudicial executions.
In the political realm, the 1992 accords facilitated the transition of the FMLN from rebel army to a legal party that began contesting elections in 1994.
The former guerrillas governed El Salvador from 2009-2019 under Presidents Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, but has hemorrhaged support in recent years amid allegations of corruption and now has only four representatives in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly.
To ensure free and fair elections, the constitutional revision of the 1990s created a new Supreme Electoral Tribunal comprising representatives of the principal parties.
And thanks to that innovation, Salvadoran elections since the signing of the peace accords have been clean enough to be deemed “legitimate,” according to Morales, whose current post of human rights ombud is another legacy of the 1992.
Though ostensibly empowered to “identify and eradicate any groups that practice systematic violations of human rights,” the ombud’s office has no tools to compel government agencies to respect the rights of citizens. EFE hs/dr