September 22, 1999
Monsignor Romero: a true patriot
Can politics be civilized?
The inefficiency and error of tax reform
In our country it has become fashionable to pay tribute —as if they were national heroes— to political or military figures who, should they be scrutinized with objectivity and honesty, are, in fact, not national heroes at all. If the September celebrations serve for anything, it is to remind those Salvadorans who have contributed, through their work and their example, of what might make the values of peace, justice and solidarity reign in El Salvador. And there is no doubt that among these Salvadorans would figure Monsignor Oscar A. Romero who ought, rightfully, to figure among those whose decisive commitment contributed to the construction of a just and solidary El Salvador at peace: only a few obtuse minds could refuse to accept this. To recognize Msgr. Romero as a national hero, as a patriot in the full sense of the word, demands, as a first step, the demystification of certain visions which have come to veil and obscure his figure and his pastoral work.
These distortions began to emerge while Msgr. Romero was still alive. Such distortions may be first seen in a leaflet, which characterizes the mass he celebrated —in the Church of María Auxiliadora on July 19, 1977— as a mass-cum-meeting. The same leaflet also criticizes the Archbishop as "a professional agitator" who "flirts with Marxist organizations". There are still those who thinks in this way; there are still those who accept, without the slightest shade of criticial thinking, this mistaken image. In this they are stimulated by the most hard-line right-wing sectors of Salvadoran society during the decades of the seventies and eighties.
As a counterbalance, there are those who see Msgr. Romero as a naive man of good faith, who was forced (through deception and manipulation) to do things and support causes alien to the mission of a pastor. Msgr. Romero was a good man, they say, but he succumbed to evil influences (among others, those of the Jesuits), who took advantage of his humility and weakness of character. Therefore, what we are currently dealing with is the need to rescue the spiritual Msgr. Romero; it is this Msgr. Romero who ought to be canonized.
Lastly, there are those who see the assassinated Archbishop as a man with clear, unequivocal ideas, who always knew which way to go and which decision to make. For these people, Msgr. Romero is a kind of superman, incapable of equivocating or doubting: his decisions and options were made on the basis of cold, clear evaluations of reality. Coherence, objectivity, clarity and determination: are not these virtues which only saints and extraordinary human beings may have?
In spite of the deeply rooted nature of these visions of Msgr. Romero, all three, each in its own way, falsify what his presence was in the historical reality of El Salvador. Let us begin with the last of these. This vision ignores or forgets one important thing: that Msgr. Romero was a human being —an extraordinary human being, yes, but not because he made no mistakes or had no doubts. He was extraordinary because, in the midst of doubts, equivocations and rectifications, he could take the pulse of the country in those fateful years and make difficult decisions for himself and for the church. His personal diary leaves no doubt with respect to this. Msgr. Romero did not always exercise full clarity about what was happening in the country or about what the best way was to respond to distinctive states of affairs, many of them bloody events.
He was a man open to what the rest wanted to tell him or teach him, above all what the poorest of the poor of El Salvador could tell him. And in this lies what was extraordinary about him: it lies in his having been a full human being, but a human being who, with his weaknesses, faltering and uncertainties, could, after tirelessly reading the "signs of the times", be on top of the demands which the historic reality of El Salvador posed: he could respond to what the country expected of a spiritual leader. Msgr. Romero’s holiness —including the extraordinary qualities to be found in him— does not exclude his quality of being human, with all the weaknesses and error that being human implies; his holiness, rather, presupposes and demands his humanity as forming part of that holiness. Ignacio Ellacuría came to say that with Msgr. Romero, "God passed through El Salvador", but in the person of Msgr. Romero, a human man, a person of flesh and blood, with all of his weaknesses and virtues.
This leads us to the second perspective: that which insists on the spiritual dimension of Msgr. Romero. In this reading, Msgr. Romero was manipulated through this very goodness and a weakness of character, by those who wished to impose their interests on the country and upon the Church. For those who see things in this light, Msgr. Romero was a docile being who lacked strength of character, who did what he did because he was influenced by others. But neither his diary, nor his pastoral letters and homilies, nor the experience which certain people had with him support this overly simplistic vision of him as a figure. Without ignoring the fact that he had psychosomatic ups and downs —who, even with fewer pressures, does not have them?— Msgr. Romero was, at crucial moments, a person of character, a man of determination who was capable of making difficult decisions implying potential danger after having engaged in serious reflection. A docile person without strength of character would not have confronted the military forces and the groups holding economic power, would have taken into account the mechanisms of seduction and blackmail of those who wished to take advantage of him in order to force him to join their rank and file, or, at least, to force him not to be so troublesome.
And in the same way, without ceasing to listen to others such as the military, the businessmen, the professional people, politicians, members of popular organizations, the guerrilla, Msgr. Romero, after due consideration, decided to do or say, at his own risk and on his own account, what seemed to him to be the correct thing. Here, his personal diary —that conjunct of daily reflections and consultations with himself and with God which Msgr. Romero kept between March 31, 1978 until March 20, 1980— is crucial to the understanding of the crosscurrents in which he found himself involved, as well as to an understanding of the way in which he made many of his decisions.
We come, finally, to the first of all the points to be considered: that which refers to Msgr. Romero’s relationship with the armed left. The point of view which we expressed before —that which identifies Msgr. Romero with Marxist groups— leaves to one side (perhaps intentionally) one of his most outstanding qualities: his criticisms and rejection of violence as the way to resolve national problems. And this because he was conscious, as few in his time were, of the fact that violence, as it multiplied and increased, became a "spiral of violence", in which those who end up being most affected are those who do not have any weapons at all to defend themselves with: the poor. He was, of course, conscious of the fact that a situation of extreme "repressive violence" could force certain sectors of society to opt for "revolutionary violence", which, in a way, is explained as a result of the repressive violence.
But this did not signify for him the acceptance or —worse still— the approval of the activity of the political-military organizations. Even as he opposed "institutionalized violence", "repressive violence" and "terrorist violence", Msgr. Romero criticized and flatly rejected what he called "fanatical violence": "that fanatical violence which becomes an almost "mystical quality" or "religion" for some groups or individuals. They deify violence as the only source of justice and they propose it and practice it as the method for sowing justice in the country. This pathological mentality makes it impossible to hold back the spiral of violence and collaborates with the extreme polarization among groups of human beings".
On the other hand, although Msgr. Romero was conscious of the fanaticism to which these groups were inclined —fanaticism which he condemned—, he also knew the reasons which had led those to the option of violence and of how necessary their participation was —as was the participation of the military, the businessmen and politicians— in the solution to the national complex of problems. Msgr. Romero’s relationship with the armed Salvadoran Left, during the decade of the seventies and the beginnings of the eighties, was not simple; and it was not unequivocal. The thesis which poses the identification of Msgr. Romero with the political-military groups, with their praxis and ideology, is not supported by any analysis of reality, and neither does the thesis which affirms that Msgr. Romero condemned the revolutionary option taken by those groups, without taking into consideration nuances and other considerations. Msgr. Romero tried to understand, not to justify, that revolutionary option; he was not alien to its worst implications —the fanaticism, the making of an organization into an absolute value, the fear which that awakened—, but he was clear that the solution (or the deepening and sharpening of) the national conjunct of problems was related to the shape and profile of these groups in the socio-political scenario of the country.
Msgr. Romero could do what he did because he was a man with a clear vision, committed to the understanding and resolution of the problems of his country and conscious of the role which he had to play in the difficult circumstances through which the country was passing. He was a man who was honest when he examined reality. These days, when many in El Salvador pay homage to figures who lived for war and for the extermination of others —such as Domingo Monterrosa or Roberto D’Aubuisson— it is well to remember those who lived to defend life, peace and justice for the Salvadoran people. Msgr. Romero is an outstanding figure in the defense of those values. Msgr. Romero was a true patriot, as he was also a true Christian. As such, he is worthy of being remembered and celebrated by all of those who, in El Salvador and in the whole world, believe that it is worthwhile to commit oneself to the defense of life, to peaceful coexistence, to the respect for others and to tolerance and justice.
The national political system will be involved for some months now in the race towards the upcoming elections. Recognizing all of its tendencies and guaranteeing a quota of power to each one of them through democratic mechanisms seems to be producing good results for the FMLN. ARENA, meanwhile, in spite of having readied its list of candidates for deputy and having carried out a publicity campaign of some magnitude, continues to be engaged in the difficult task of choosing who will be their candidate to compete with Hector Silva in the upcoming elections of 1999.
This is a significantly novel phenomenon when it is compared with previous electoral processes in El Salvador. A constant variable has been that the left parties form coalitions to compete in the electoral processes, an indication that their capacity for influence is limited. But now it turns out that the official party as well is beginning to consider the possibility of an alliance with their friends on the right, something unthinkable (until recently) for an ARENA which has heretofore considered itself to be invincible and absolutely self-sufficient.
With Silva, the left has successfully demonstrated its administrative capability. And it is this empirical evidence which has placed ARENA in check. It has been said many times that the big challenge for political parties is in the doing. That there could be a positive balance following a specific number of years of administration is the best weapon, and, moreover, the only authentic one, which might check the discredit into which politics has fallen, almost without respite, in this country. So then, that is specifically what the left has succeeded in doing with its capital city mayor —although it might be mentioned, it is precisely what it has not been able to do with its deputies in the Legislative Assembly.
Hector Silva is, effectively, an exception in national political life. And this is true in various senses of the word. To begin with, the fact that the FMLN-USC coalition succeeded in obtaining the most decisive municipal office in the country with its name was an exception. And it was just as much of an exception that we are not dealing here with an enraged militant leftist, but with an ordinary citizen interested in politics. Near the end of his mandate, Silva’s commitment to dealing with the interests of the community is as evident as the faithfulness with which he has aimed to continue with the projects he committed himself to —and his honesty, together with the transparency and equanimity of his administration continue, as well, to be of an exceptional nature.
Taken together, all of these exceptions have given rise to what we might call "the Silva phenomenon". It is a "phenomenon" which seems to be exercising an important influence on the Salvadoran political system. On the other hand, it does not seem to be unimaginable to suppose that the decision to sell Francisco Flores on the basis of the precise qualities with which he was sold (intellectual moderate with desires to renovate the situation...) came, at least in part, as a result of the triumph that the image that Hector Silva brought with him to the left coalition. Additionally —situating ourselves face to face with the upcoming electoral process, the independence (be it pretended or real), according to the case in point— which characterizes these figures, could be, in good measure, a factor which is motivating the upsurgence of independent candidates.
There are, of course, other determining factors in the emergence of this new political "style". The profound disenchantment with the spectrum of existing political parties in El Salvador and the antecedents of political systems in other Latin American countries (Venezuela, Peru, Colombia) which have given a place to citizens interested in occupying public positions but who refuse to accept the support of a party, are perhaps the most decisive among these factors. But the news that Herman Bruch, Orlando de Sola and Mauricio Meyer wish to launch an independent candidacy has not been well-received by either by the political parties or by political analysts. The central argument of these candidates’ rejection of party support is based on the presumed unconstitutionality of the initiative. According to these options, our Constitution demands of everyone who wishes to become a representative of the people that he or she must do so through the medium of a political party.
But beyond the legal obstacles which such a project will have to confront, it might be advisable to stop a moment and examine the very fact of the appearance of such a phenomenon. That some citizens wish to take the reins of power, or when they have the least access to the principal decision-making entities, have flourished at a moment of growing discontent with the exercise of politics; a growing consciousness among the citizenry about the relationship between politics and the national future; the absence of convincing leaders; a right economic situation and a lack of viable political and social alternatives to confronting a series of problems which the majority of people consider to be critical.
The urging of "the independents" to "politicize society and to make politics civilized" is suggestive. And this, above all, when what we have is more a politicized society than civilized politics. It is a well-known fact that the country is tired of power struggles between political parties, and tired, as well, of the divisionism which is causing an interminable process of fracturing the options at the center of the political spectrum, of the privileges which the right-wing insists on maintain for a small circle of those who benefit from them, of the opportunism and corruption of political functionaries.... In this sense, that from among the citizens themselves alternatives emerge who seek total autonomy on the question of party affiliation could be a healthy indicator for the process of democratization. We are dealing here with certain significant efforts to bring before the Assembly —if not a large block of votes— at least the voice of people who are closer to the interests of the people than to those of a specific party.
But to place too many expectations on the presentation of an individual and personal postulation for candidacy in office, as well as being precipitous, could be risky. In the first place, it would be irresponsible for the interested parties to have begun to awaken expectations, without having taken into account beforehand the real possibilities that their proposal has of becoming concrete reality. In the second place, to think that the arrival of independents to the Legislative body will presuppose a species of triumph or deepening of democracy is more erroneous than naive. The cases of Chávez in Venezuela and Fujimori in Peru are clear indications of what the phenomenon of the "caudillo", or political strongman, who takes advantage of democracy might be in the undermining of central aspects of a democratic political regime, such as the separation of powers and respect for legality.
These are clearly extreme cases, but without going too much further, we find Kirio Waldo Salgado, the current deputy for the PLD and precursor of what is being called a political independent. Salgado’s political practice today after several years have passed since the theatrical denunciations of corruption, does not differentiate him very much from the practice of some politicians which he criticized to begin with. Certainly, he has not, up to this point in time, been accused of corruption; nor has he seemed to have been engaged in under the table deals with the big parties. Neither can it be said that he goes out of his way to defend the interests of the majority of the population. Nor is it even clear which sectors he represents nor what his objectives are for staying in the Legislative Assembly.
Something similar to this might be expected of those who today aspire to a seat in the Assembly. It is not a question of persons who are outstanding for their spirit of community service; it is, rather, a question of individuals whose links to conservative sectors or an old affiliation with the radical right awaken serious doubts about whether their full immersion was productive or not. These initiatives could awaken optimism among those who take the position that political parties are useless. These people should, however, be reminded that, while it is true that independents create a dynamic which runs the permanent risk of being more prejudicial than beneficial for the populace, it is also true that political parties, in that they form cadre, join together objectives, ideals and broad organizational capacity, are the basic building blocks for the construction of democracy.
Political parties, it is true, are institutions full of vices. But they are made up of persons who, like Bruch, de Sola and Meyer, aspire to power and in that aspiration or in the exercise of that aspiration succumb to various ills. The independence of a citizen with respect to traditional political parties is not a guarantee that there will be benefits for democracy. But neither do traditional political parties constitute such a guarantee.
The fiscal deficit has been a constant throughout three ARENA administrations. But in recent years the conjunct of problems surrounding it has become more serious because the fiscal deficit increased from 1.3% to 2.3% of the Gross National Product between 1998 and 1999. The increase in the deficit is owing, in good measure, to the inefficiency of the tax reform measures which the ARENA administrations have used to confront it because these reforms, at the same time as they contemplate the introduction of new taxes, they projected the elimination of others and, all in all, such measures have not produced the desired results in terms of deficit control.
We should not be surprised, then, that one of the offers made by President Flores during his inauguration speech was "to maintain healthy public finances", and another was that he would later propose measures such as a reduction in public spending, a tax code, a simplification in the Value Added Tax (IVA) for the informal sector and the elimination of exemptions for foodstuffs and medicines, the elimination of the tax base exemption of 75,000 colones as a requisite for the payment of taxes and measures against contraband (see Proceso, 861).
Nevertheless, with the exception of this last offer, all of these promises seem to have fallen by the wayside. To judge by the tax reform measures which were approved by the Ministry of the Treasure were approved by the Legislative Assembly in order to make way for the formulation of the General National Budget for the year 2000. Such reforms imply modifications in the tax laws governing the application of the Value Added Tax, Income Tax and the mechanisms for combating contraband but not in the line proposed by Flores. Below, some of the principal characteristics are presented and some considerations are also offered concerning the necessity of implementing other measures in order to finance the General National Budget.
In the case pertaining to reform of the Law governing the Value Added Tax, the elimination of fiscal credit for the purchase of foodstuffs and basic food needs was approved by businesses which are not involved in the administration of restaurants or the like and for the payment of rent, reparation or maintenance of automobiles, airplanes, helicopters, ships, yachts, aquatic motorcycles and others. Clarification should be presented here concerning the elimination of fiscal credit for the purchase of foodstuffs and basic food needs which is different from the elimination of the exemption on payment of the Value Added Tax offered earlier by President Flores, given that he applied the tax only to cereals, vegetables and medicines, all of which are currently exempt from the payment of this tax.
Income tax reform measures contemplate the stiffening of procedures for the declaration on holdings and the elimination of deductions for income tax purposes on travel expenses, per diem allowances, donations and contributions. Moreover, it is projected that income tax deductions on professional and technical activities to be applied as well to services such as traansportation, accounting, lawyers’ fees, sports, musicals and any other activity which does not require a university title. On the other hand, in what relates to the Law of Contraband a new provision was created on "crimes of contraband and customs fraud", which typifies and delineates administrative sanctions against those who commit infractions in the importing and exporting of products.
According to the director of Internal Revenue, Irving Tochez, thanks to these amendments close to an additional 1,000 million colones was collected and it is possible to project a significant reduction in the fiscal deficit for the year 2000 as well as slight increases in the General National Budget. On this last point, according to the Minister of the Treasury; Jose Luis Trigueros, it is expected that the General National Budget for the year 2000 will experience an increase of between 4% and 6%, which would imply that it could be situated in the range of between 17,800 and 18,100 million colones. The financing of the budget depends as much on tax income as on the issuance of loans and bonds; but, even with the tax reforms so far approved, it is estimated that an additional 2,300 million colones will be needed. Of that sum, 1,000 million colones will be requested under contract from the World Bank and the InterAmerican Development Bank and 150 million will be obtained through the issuance of Euro-bonds. The remaining 1,150 million colones still must be requested from international organisms or obtained through another issuance of bonds.
This is to say that not to have approved the recently summarized tax reform, the fiscal deficit for 2000 will have increased by close to 1%, locating it at levels close to 3.3% of the GNP. This is worrisome because it implies that there are no resources to satisfy the enormous needs in the area of social needs and agricultural development, for example.
Nevertheless, according to Trigueros, "those ministries which will receive a greater budget allocation will be education, health, public security and agriculture", with which it is hoped that the contracts for professors and health personal may be approved together with improvements in security for the country and allowances for diversification in agriculture. Although the specific amounts to be assigned for each category are not known, what is true is that, considering the limited budgetary expansion, no significant change is expected.
On the other hand, in reviewing the behavior of social spending, it becomes evident that, although the total increase in spending is assigned —a little more than 800 million colones— no significant change will occur. For 1999, the budget categories for health and education represented 9.2% and 16.7% of the budget, respectively, which, comparing evidence, is insufficient to deal with the demands in these areas.
In summary, the situation of public finances shows evidence of the need to increase the tax base for collecting more income, to reduce the tendency towards indebtedness, to control the fiscal deficit and increase public spending in social areas and for the development of the agricultural and livestock sectors. As a result of the tax reforms implemented up until now, the greater burden is already placed on the shoulders of those with less income (Proceso, 862), and it is possible increases in taxes on big businesses might be evaluated. Moreover, this is the only way of financing public spending without affecting the disposable income of the least favored sectors.
Options such as an increase in the Value Added Tax, the elimination of the exemptions from that tax on foodstuffs and medicine, the incorporation of informal businesses in the payment of the Value Added Tax, the incorporation of the benefits of technical services in payments on income, etc. are measures which, although they would diminish the fiscal deficit, place the greatest burden on sectors with less income, who, at least in theory, should be the beneficiaries of public spending.
SPOKESPERSON. On September 17, President Flores announced the first change in his administration’s cabinet. In spite of the fact that during the previous week he had declared that he would not remove anyone from their post, today it was announced that the position of spokesperson for the president will disappear. This position was occupied by Ricardo Rivas, who will now become Flores’ advisor for the field of communications. "We believe that initially the post [of spokesperson] sent the message that the President was seeking to distance himself from the press. We believe that that message is a mistaken one and we have spoken about redefining the role of the spokesperson", stated Flores, who, at the same time announced that he will himself make statements to the press. While some consider that this decision was a failure in Flores’ communication strategy, he noted that Rivas’ performance had been "very positive". Moreover, he indicated that it was Rivas who posed the redefinition of presidential communication. The ex-spokesperson who, during the 108 days appeared before the media on only two occasions, declared that he will return to his previous occupations. " I will continue to advise the president when he so requires....I came to collaborate with this administration, with the political project, but just as the President said, it was not the moment for a spokesperson. My raison d’etre has disappeared", he declared (El Diario de Hoy, September 18, p. 10 and La Prensa Gráfica, September 18, p. 5).
SILVA. On September 19, the FMLN defined the list of candidates for the Municipal Council of San Salvador. The capital city mayor, Hector Silva, will preside over the proposal of the council to the FMLN. But the mayor declared: "since we spoke of a coalition, I am no longer the candidate of the FMLN". Silva expects to be the candidate of the coalition made up of the FMLN, the USC, the parties which make up the CDU and a component including an ordinary citizen. He even hopes that the PDC will become part of the alliance. On the other hand, the mayor stated that, if he wins the mayor’s office, his priority will be to bring tranquillity to high risk communities. Likewise, he has planned to give "a human face" to the reconstruction of the city, especially for 130,000 of its poorest inhabitants. But before that, the mayor must await the decision of the CDU which asks, among other demands, that the coalition might participate in the elections under a single banner. Nevertheless, the FMLN has requested separate banners. For his part, Facundo Guardado, leader of the reformist movement of the FMLN, and another six FMLN members of this same tendency, were elected as council members for San Salvador. The orthodox wing, or revolutionary current of the FMLN, won four positions. Guardado was satisfied and stated that the government headed by Silva did better things in its 28 months in office than ARENA did during its nine years in office (La Prensa Gráfica, September 20, p. 14 and El Diario de Hoy, September 20, p. 3).
CANCELLATION. Given the yellow alert decreed as a result of persistent rains in recent days throughout the country, President Flores cancelled his trip to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York. "My obligation is always to the Salvadorans and, among these, the priority is the most vulnerable [among them], stated Flores in his Sunday message on September 19. He indicated that there are communities which are at present at high risk, such as those of the Lower Lempa area. These communities have been outfitted with communications radios and rain meters to measure the water level. "We are in close contact with the communities and we are ready to evacuate them if it becomes necessary", he stated. Likewise, he added that the temporary shelters are now organized and promised that the homes at the edge of the river and the street drains are being reconstructed. In the U.N. Assembly beginning on September 20, world leaders will debate the ways of dealing with the problems of the millenium. According to recent U.N. figures, 40 heads of state and 26 heads of government will attend the meeting. This event will last two weeks and the presidents who attend will have the opportunity to express themselves about what they consider to be the most pressing problems in the world today. Flores will be substituted for in New York by the Minister of Foreign Relations, Maria Eugenia de Avila (El Diario de Hoy, Sepember 19, p. 12 and La Prensa Gráfica, September 20, p. 18).
ANDES. On September 19, The National Association of Salvadoran Educators (ANDES-21 de Junio) lifted the work stoppage it had maintained for seven days in a demand for salary increases. Classes will continue on September 20. According to statements by the ANDES leadership, the heads of the Ministry of Education demonstrated a willingness to resolve the problem and ANDES decided to suspend the strike. Evelyn Jacir de Love, the Minister of Education, explained, in response, that the understanding was achieved by means of a letter sent by the trade union leadership in order to renew dialogue. This will begin with the presence of four unions: Concertación, the Teachers’ Union, the Directors’ Council for National Institutes and ANDES. The Ministry requested of ANDES that the negotiations take as the basis of the talks the budgetary reality of the country. "In education, the needs are many, but there is little money", stated the Minister. On this point, ANDES declared that it will present a third proposal for salary adjustments. On the other hand, the Minister stated that salary deductions will be effectuated from the paychecks of those persons who participated in the labor stoppage (some 1,600 teachers). Concerning this, Felipe Rivera, Secretary of ANDES, declared that they will present a demand before the Attorney General’s Office against the functionaries of the Ministry of Education who order the deductions from the strikers’ checks because the Comptrollers’ Office is the entity whose province it is to effectuate the deductions (El Diario de Hoy, September 18, p. 4 and La Prensa Gráfica, September 18, p. 4).
BORDER DISPUTE. On August 27, the presidents of Honduras and El Salvador, Carlos Flores and Francisco Flores, signed an exchange of documents concerning the Ratification of the Convention on Nationality and the Rights Acquired by the Inhabitants of the border areas in dispute along the Salvadoran and Honduran borders. Nevertheless, the inhabitants of those places are not informed as to the judicial situation of the possessions. For this reason, they call upon the authorities of both nations to send a commission to explain the provisions of the pact signed between the two governments. These persons were promised that their rights would be respected, but in spite of this, they live in uncertainty. Owing to their lack of knowledge about the said ratification, rumors are circulating in the area, such as, for example, that the properties owned by Salvadorans which are now on the Honduran side of the border, are going to be confiscated or that they would be sold to Honduran citizens at very low prices. Salvadoran authorities have not gone to these areas to explain the specific provisions of the document. Meanwhile, the Salvadoran inhabitants in Honduran zones receive the visits of Honduran authorities with a certain lack of confidence. "If the Hondurans state that they are going to take away our houses....they will do it when they want to. They are people who deceive us. I have seen that they take lands away from Salvadorans and give them to Hondurans", stated an inhabitant of one of these zones (El Diario de Hoy, September 20, p. 10).
POLL. The ARENA party has lost eleven percentage points in the support offered by the Salvadoran populace during the last four months, according to a poll conducted by CID-GALLUP. The fall in ARENA popularity does not mean, nevertheless, that this 11% has been transferred over to the FMLN or other political parties because, for example, support for the FMLN increased by only 2%. Support for ARENA, specifically, fell from 39% to 28%; the FMLN dropped from 14% to 16% among political preferences; and the CDU rose from 2% to 3% in terms of political support. The data does not make it clear whether Francisco Flores is responsible for the fall in support for his party. What is clear is that, during the first Gallup poll measuring support for his administration, those interviewed have more negative than positive opinions about the Flores administration. Only 27% of those who participated in the poll consider that the Flores administration is good or very good, while 33% state that they think it is regular. Some 28% of the population interviewed consider the presidential administration to be bad or very bad. The remaining 12% preferred not to respond or stated that they did not have any response to offer. Those persons who stated that the economic situation of their families is worse now than in 1998 are those who most criticize the president’s administration (El Diario de Hoy, September 21, pp. 2-3).