The SHARE Blog

Funes uncovers “ghost positions” during ARENA administration

June 18, 2009

Twelve days after his inauguration, President Mauricio Funes announced that he had found corruption in public institutions. In the years during the Saca presidency (2004-2009), several ARENA government employees received pay from the National Registry for jobs they were not doing. Additionally, Funes found many abuses of public spending, such as the former director as well as the sub director of the Instituto Seguro Social (health care system) each having four vehicles at the expense of the state.

The director of the National Registry has to date reported 29 of these “ghost positions” – positions where people received money without ever working. Some payments began as early as 2002 and they continue until the last day the ARENA government had power, May 31, 2009. These “ghost positions” and wasteful spending cost the Salvadoran government around $700,000 annually.

A “ghost position” that has been gaining publicity is that of an ARENA deputy, who is also a doctor. The National Registry paid the deputy to be a gynecologist though never actually serving as one. Without doing work, this deputy received $954 every month.

President Funes has addressed this situation by ordering an investigation to uncover the “ghost positions.” He named Carlos Cáceres, the minister of the Treasury, to head the investigation, though Funes has yet to disclose further details about the particular functions and logistics of the commission.

The president is also planning to make an executive decree which would place restrictions on the use of vehicles by the state, the purchase of goods and services, and the filling of these vacant positions. This decree is projected to save $75 million – $35 in human resources and $40 in goods and services – by eliminating “ghost positions” and creating an inter-institutional purchase of goods and services to buy necessary items at the most competitive price possible.

– Leslie O’Bray, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern


Vanda Pignato, El Salvador’s First Lady


As Mauricio Funes enters his 18th day as the first-ever leftist president of El Salvador, Funes’ wife, Vanda Guiomar Pignato, continues to quietly shape her role as the first lady. Vanda, a native Brazilian and current Salvadoran citizen, had an incredible influence over her husband’s presidential campaign and will no doubt have a strong influence over his presidency.

Vanda grew up in Sao Paulo and, while attending law school, joined the international movement in solidarity with the FMLN during the Salvadoran Civil War. Vanda’s strong interest in politics led her to join Brazil’s Workers’ Party, the political party of current Brazilian President Lula da Silva. One year after the signing of the Peace Accords, Vanda moved to El Salvador in the early 1990s to represent the Workers’ Party in Central America. She later became the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at the Brazilian Embassy in San Salvador. On Inauguration Day, Funes named his wife the Minister of Social Inclusion.

Funes has often remarked that he hopes to model his government after that of Lula da Silva’s. Vanda will likely have a hand in making this possible, given her friendship with Lula and her years of experience with the Workers’ Party. Either way, Vanda will certainly be a strong political force guiding the future of El Salvador.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


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Video of Inauguration Day

June 3, 2009

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOTLNd9NASI]

Also, here is a great photo album from Cuscatlan Stadium in San Salvador, where FMLN supporters gathered to celebrate the occasion.

– Leslie O’Bray, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern


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Funes sworn in as President of El Salvador

June 1, 2009

Today, El Salvador celebrated the inauguration of the country’s first leftist president, Mauricio Funes. Stay tuned for more information!

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


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Funes announces several members of his Cabinet

May 26, 2009

Several names of President-elect Mauricio Funes’ Cabinet have been announced over the last couple of days. The positions include:

  • Chief Advisor to the President and Chief of Staff: Alexander Segovia, Funes’ current economic advisor,
  • Treasury Minister: Carlos Cáceres, the former Executive Director of the Central Banking System,
  • Economic Minister: Dr. Hector Dada, current Democratic Change (DC) Legislator,
  • President of the Central Bank Reserve: Carlos Acevedo, an economist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
  • Agriculture Minister: Manuel Sevilla, another economist for the UNDP,
  • Environment Minister: German Rosa Chávez, former Executive Director of the Salvadoran Program for Investigation of Development and the Environment (PRISMA),
  • Public Works Minister: Gerson Martínez, current FMLN Legislator,
  • Coordinator for State Modernization: Hato Hasbum, Funes’ presidential campaign director,
  • President of CEPA (Salvadoran Port Authority): Guillermo López, former Treasury Minister in the Saca administration, and
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Hugo Martínez, an FMLN Legislator

*Photo of Mauricio Funes and Hector Dada from Amigos de Mauricio.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Workers’ Party begins process of becoming official political party

May 22, 2009

Yesterday, Diario CoLatino reported that members of the new Partido de los Trabajadores (Workers’ Party) picked up 50,000 ballots from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for citizens to sign in order for the new party to be registered as an official political party. If the Workers’ Party, which was founded in 2002, is able to collect 50,000 signatures, the party will be able to participate in the next election. The party members stated that all wage earners can join their party. including those who work in the informal sector of the economy.

According to the Secretary of the Workers’ Party, Abel Quijano (pictured above at the TSE), the new party will represent the “true interests of the working class, which are not currently being represented anywhere else.” This statement may surprise some people in El Salvador, where the FMLN, the party farthest to the left, recently celebrated their first presidential victory. However, Pedro Zaldívar, another leader of the Workers’ Party, indicated the party’s interest in working with the FMLN. “I am a leftist, we are from the left, the FMLN defines itself as part of the left so hopefully we can work together.”

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Intellectuals propose creation of Ministry of Culture

May 21, 2009

The Forum of Salvadoran Intellectuals (FIE), a group comprised of artists and writers, have submitted a proposal to the Salvadoran government for the creation of a Ministry of Culture. The office would be responsible for the development and preservation for Salvadoran culture. José Roberto Cea, a poet, professor, and member of FIE (pictured at left with Chinchilla), asserted, “After twenty years of ARENA administrations, it is now time for neoliberalism to disappear and give way to fundamental factors for society, like cultural development.”

Although there are 173 cultural centers in the 262 municipalities in El Salvador, members of the FIE complain that the relationship between the organizations and governmental institutions remain abysmal. Miguel Ángel Chinchilla, another member of FIE, suggested that this situation could be rectified with the creation of a Ministry of Culture. The members of FIE agree that Funes’ new government “opens the door for a new cultural policy that dignifies and develops society in all of its components.”

*Photo from Diario CoLatino.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Funes visits Venezuela


Less than one month before his inauguration, President-elect Maurcio Funes is visiting Venezuela to discuss trade and social projects with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. After meeting with Funes on Tuesday, Chávez announced plans to set up a commission for future projects with El Salvador. Chávez also announced that he will attend Funes’ inauguration on June 1, 2009 in San Salvador.

Contrary to what ARENA predicted during the presidential campaign, the U.S. Government does not appear alarmed or concerned by Funes’ visit with Chávez. US Deputy Assistant of the Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Craig Kelly, stated, “It is not up to the US to make comments on the diplomatic relations of El Salvador.”

*Photo from Diario CoLatino.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


CESTA rejects Pacific Rim’s lawsuit

May 13, 2009

The Diario CoLatino reports that the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA), a Salvadoran member of Friends of the Earth International, called Pacific Rim Mining Company’s lawsuit against the country an “injustice.” CESTA’s President, Ricardo Navarro, stated that Pacific Rim’s legal action is an effect of the flaw of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Navarro pleaded, “I urge the Legislative Assembly to establish a lay that prohibits metallic mining, then, we should review and analyze Association Agreement of the European Union and Central America (AdA) which is more of the same, and finally, President-elect Mauricio Funes should make revisions to these economic treaties without fear.” Touching on the insecurity that many Salvadorans feel regarding the outcome of the lawsuit, Navarro stated, “We could lose the cause, because it’s an international tribunal and we don’t know if it’s impartial or if it has corporate leadership, we do not know who they are because it is a closed process, but we should continue fighting and remove Pacific Rim from the country.”

To read the full article, click here. To learn more about Pacific Rim’s lawsuit, click here.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

*Photo from The Ecologist.


Violence and Impunity in El Salvador


The LA Times published an excellent article today about gang violence in El Salvador. As violence along the border in Mexico increases, El Salvador continues to have one of the highest murder rates in the world; in fact, the article cites that the country’s murder rate is five times that of Mexico. Half of the murders in El Salvador are committed by youth, and the National Civil Police state that 70% of the victims are youth between the ages of 15 and 39.Some of the violence can be attributed to gang violence. LA Times journalist Tracy Wilkinson interviews a Spanish priest, Father Antonio Rodríguez, who runs a violence-prevention program in a parish in the impoverished Mejicanos neighborhood in San Salvador. Father Rodríguez asserted that “gangs used to protect the neighborhoods, their turf, and attacked only outsiders.” However, with current President Antonio Saca’s ineffective and draconian Iron Fist policies toward youth involved with criminal activity and the rise of the number of gang members in prison, gangs now “strike anywhere…because they need to support their incarcerated associates and families.”

The article points out hundreds of murders each year are committed by members of the police force, private security guards, and assassins hired to carry out “social cleansing.” Meanwhile, impunity reigns as few murder cases are rarely solved. El Salvador has a long history of providing impunity for the worst human rights offenders: war criminals during the country’s bloody Civil War are protected by a blanket Amnesty Law. Given the prevailing sense of impunity coupled with dire poverty, is there any wonder that the death tolls keep climbing?

To read the article, click here.

*Photo by José Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images though the LA Times.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


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