Mike Inganamort on El Salvador’s Potential
It wasn’t long after our wheels touched the runway that we realized El Salvador is a country filled with contrasts. Brimming with potential, occasionally gripped by violent crime, and most recently stymied by a Constitutional crisis that has taken center stage as security, political, and economic concerns take a back seat, El Salvador today faces a choice that will impact its political fate for decades.
Will it finally establish the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of interpreting the law? Will it put its sovereignty at risk by allowing the Central American Court of Justice to determine which of its laws are Constitutional? Or will it seek another solution – any solution – that strengthens its legal and political institutions?
Our analysis, based on dozens of meetings across parties, ideologies, and branches of government, is mixed. What is clear to us is that some progress is being made, as even today the party leaders were summoned by the president to a roundtable discussion. The ACYPL delegation feels honored to be first-hand observers to what was described to us by the President of the Congress as the most critical time in the country’s history since the post-Civil War peace accords.
The most positive signals coming out of El Salvador are from the private sector. We were encouraged by the sugar mill that is employing thousands of Salvadorians, supporting communities with generated revenues, and proactively rolling out a comprehensive corporate social responsibility program. We were inspired by the enterprising, American-born businessman whose coffee plantation is effectively applying free market capitalism to ancient agricultural practices. And we are repeatedly reminded by the workers we meet and speak with on the streets that Salvadorians are hopeful, hard-working, patriotic people.
Yet our meetings with leaders in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches show us that El Salvador has a long way to go before it can achieve full and lasting stability. The dispute over the appointment of Supreme Court justices has further polarized the two major parties, ARENA and FLMN. And it threatens to re-open wounds that have only recently healed from the country’s Civil War.
It has become clear to this ACYPL delegate that the only sustainable solution to today’s Constitutional crisis is one that comes from within El Salvador – not an outside body such as the Central American Court of Justice. This is a chance for El Salvador to reaffirm its sovereignty. For its Supreme Court to assert its legal authority. And for its president and Congress to show that they are committed to their country over their parties. Accepting or enforcing a Supreme Court decision that one dislikes – which is at the heart of the current crisis – is not easy or enjoyable. Yet it is one the most critical elements to a healthy separation of powers.
No matter the solution – which some say may come during our visit – the delegates from this ACYPL trip will anxiously follow the news out of El Salvador. We may just witness this country of contrasts take a major step toward social and political stability.