El Salvador. In January, six members of the FMLN (Frente
Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional) formed their
own Social Democratic bloc in Congress after being excluded
from the party. According to
Countryaah website, the leader of the group, FMLN's former
presidential candidate Facundo Guardado, declared that the
group will cooperate with the Christian Democratic Party.
The drop-off means that the FMLN is no longer the largest
party in Congress.
A strike by doctors and healthcare workers erupted at the
end of the year in protest of the government's plans to
privatize parts of the healthcare sector, despite President
Francisco Flores already promising to scrap the plans. The
government calls it a political strike and refers to the
scrutiny of a proposal by San Salvador Mayor Héctor Silva to
set up a special reform committee whose mission is to find
alternative reform measures.
Statistics show that 90% of El Salvador's vegetation has
disappeared; 2/3 of the land was plagued by soil erosion or
used for inefficient farming, while only 2% of the original
forests were still present. 90% of the country's rivers were
heavily polluted by wastewater and chemicals; more than half
of the population did not have access to clean drinking
An agreement concluded in May 1995 between ARENA and
Partido Democrático - a breakaway party from FMLN - allowed
an increase in VAT from 10 to 13%. This increase was tried
to explain the need for financial resources to finance land
reform, infrastructure projects and an overhaul of the
electoral and justice system.
The National Police Force proved unable to deal with the
problems of organized crime, which according to. the
national press, was statistically responsible for offenses
once an hour. The government deployed 5,000 soldiers to
intensify patrol on the highways and in the country zones. 3
officers were sentenced to belong to the paramilitary
organization "Sombra Negra". The army's investigations also
revealed an arsenal of weapons belonging to the organization
"Los Benedictos," whose leader had links to a network of
criminal organizations throughout Central America.
A UN delegation posted to monitor compliance with the
agreements between the former guerrillas and the government
stayed in El Salvador from April to October. Protesters who
believed to be bothered by the slowness in fulfilling the
peace agreements, including the land grant and the payment
of compensation to the war veterans, occupied in August
1996, the main streets and public buildings in San Salvador.
In May, Partido Democrático withdrew its support for ARENA,
after which the ruling party no longer had a majority in
In March 1997, the opposition party FMLN achieved an
important victory in the local elections, partly by winning
the mayor post in the capital, in addition to conquering all
major cities in the province. In the simultaneous
parliamentary elections, ARENA captured 33.3% of the vote
and 28 seats in parliament, while the FMLN sat at 32.1% and
gained 27 seats. The turnout was just 40%.
The Supreme Court decreed that the Orlando de Sola
businessman should be reinstated as the chief executive of
the electricity and telecommunications company; he had been
dismissed in December 1997. The Supreme Court held that the
dismissal, which had been decided following disagreements
between President Calderón Sol and de Sola over the sale of
a TV station, had been groundless and otherwise illegal.
A report from the Inter-American Development Bank,
published in March 1998, estimated that 25% of annual
economic growth disappeared as a result of crime.
Like other Central American countries, El Salvador was
hit hard when Hurricane Mitch hit the region in the first
week of 1998. Several hundred were killed and about 28,000
lost their homes.