Wednesday, November 13, 2013

El Salvador: Embedding Neoliberal Policy

US & Allies Promote 30-Year Neoliberal Policy Pledge for Salvadoran Presidential Candidates

On Friday, November 1, all presidential tickets save the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) candidates publicly signed onto an elaborate  “Nation’s Agreement” policy document that would guide El Salvador’s economic and social policies for the next 30 years, regardless of the party in power. The signing ceremony was attended by US, Mexico, Chile and Peru’s ambassadors—all right-wing nations and, notably, parties to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement that would swallow 12 coastal nations along the Pacific Ocean; the TPP threatens to super-size the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) model that has devastated local agriculture, labor standards and environmental protections across the region.

Right-wing presidential candidates joined to sign the pledge
FMLN spokesman Roberto Lorenzana explained the FMLN’s refusal to sign the Nation’s Agreement, saying that it “contains an implicit reduction in social spending…we could never sign anything that commits to eliminating or reducing social programs.” Lorenzana revealed that the proposal includes measures like increasing the sales tax and raising taxes on small businesses, policies that FMLN candidate and current Vice President Salvador Sánchez Cerén opposes. In fact, on Wednesday, October 30, President Funes presented a bill to the Legislative Assembly that would ensure the continuity of many of the groundbreaking social programs pioneered under the first FMLN government regardless of the outcome of the 2014 presidential elections, including the Women’s City service centers, free school supplies, uniforms and milk for students, pensions for the elderly in impoverished municipalities, and more.

The legal nature of the Nation’s Agreement is unclear, but the right-wing parties’ commitment to a common policy document further evidences the fact that, despite the fierce campaign discourse, little differentiates the FMLN’s electoral opposition from one another and from the failed neoliberal policies of the past. While El Salvador is not among the nations poised to enter the TPP, this agreement seeks to ensure that the ideologies that drive the TPP are cemented into Salvadoran policy for the foreseeable future. This effort stands in stark contrast to the FMLN’s platform, which embraces alternative development models championed by South American nations like Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.