doc. 23 rev. 1
17 November 1978
Original:  Spanish












February 26, 1979








          With regard to Your Excellency’s note of December 22, 1978, I hereby carry out the instructions that I received from my Government to present to the Honorable Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for its consideration, through you and as classified information, the following:




          As a practical and expeditious procedure, these observations concern each one of the recommendations that the Honorable Commission;  was kind enough to present to the Government of El Salvador for its consideration on page 156 of [the Spanish version] of its report, dated November 17, 1978, on the situation regarding human rights in my country.


          In comparing these observations, the recommendations, the Commissions conclusions, which appear on pages 154 and 155 of [the Spanish version] the Report, and the pertinent parts of that report, have all been taken into account.





His Excellency

Dr. Carlos A. Dunshee de Abranches

Chairman of the

   Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Organization of American States

Washington, D.C.








1.       That the official paramilitary organization called ORDEN be dissolved, because the way it has acted and is acting is contrary to the effective exercise of the human rights of farm workers


According to the conclusions Nos. 1 and 2, which appear on page 154  [1]/ of the Commission’s Report, “As a result of the actions of the security bodies and of the official paramilitary organization knows as “ORDEN, many people have died,” and “The security bodies and the official paramilitary organization called ORDEN have committed torture and physical and psychological mistreatment in many cases.”


The list of conclusions in headed by the following paragraph:  “In the light of the fact, observations and other elements of judgment mentioned in this report, the Commission considers it appropriate to draw the following conclusions:”


No reference is made in this chapter on conclusions or in any other part of the Report to the way in which the Commission learned “the facts” and obtained “other elements of judgement.” It has heard statements from the claimants, from members of the families of the alleged victims of violations of human rights, from representatives of the opposition parties and religious groups, which also oppose the government.  Their categorical, conclusive and energetic statements concerning an organization established to aid the security corps, such as ORDEN, do not appear to have the foundation that should be expected for so drastic and inflexible a recommendation as that of “dissolving” that organization.


It is not that we believe that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in carrying out its lofty mission, should gather evidence with the rigor that ordinarily I used and must be used in the courts of justice.


However, in order to make recommendations to government, especially on such serious matters as the dissolution of a corps called upon to help maintain public order, the evidence must not be and cannot be statements made by interested persons.


It is known, of course, that the Commission acts on a confidential basis and with caution in order not to compromise those that provide it information on their claims; but this does not prevent if from at least (this is one example) stating that it questioned witnesses which it considered impartial, even though it cannot reveal their names.


Naturally, it can speak of “observations” when the Commission itself has learned certain things on its own or through some of its members who visit a country on an official basis.  Unquestionably, it can make statements on what it has observed.


Promotion of and respect for human rights and their international protection have been incorporated into international law in our times.  But those who have that protection in their hands must be very careful, very strict with themselves, before making statements and recommendations that can affect the good name and the prestige of a government, of an official office or of any party, if al it has for that purpose is what has been said by interested parties.


When the President of the Republic was interviewed by the members of the Special Committee (paragraph 12, page 5 of the Report) the question of ORDEN arose.  The Chief of State told them frankly that it is a “group that helps to combat terrorism,” and that it is an agency that “has Government support and acts in coordination with Government activities aimed at combating terrorism.”


In its conclusions, the Commission does not mention the terrorism that is ravishing El Salvador and which for seditious elements, and even for other criminals who have made it a profitable venture, is a means of illegally acquiring more wealth.


But in paragraph 42, page 18 of its Report, in reference to information that it received in San Salvador on various acts of terrorism, the Commission states the following:  “The opinion of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on this subject has been repeated constantly in various reports.  In all those reports, the Commission has condemned the practice of terrorism.  Acts of indiscriminate violence, and the use of inhuman means for whatever purpose, should be categorically condemned by all peoples.  The Commission has maintained constantly that governments are obligated to take the measures necessary to prevent, impede and sanction these serious acts.”



The paragraph transcribed in its entirety, and particularly the last words, which are underlined here, could not be more eloquent.


Therefore, the existence of the entity known as “ORDEN” is a satisfactory response to that obligation of the Government which the Commission acknowledges so emphatically and out of an admirable sense of justice: to take the measures necessary to prevent, impede and sanction these serious acts: terrorist acts.


When the situation in the country has changed.  When people in the cities and in the country feel secure and tranquil, when the anxiety, anguish and terror that now prevail disappear, then and only then can consideration be given to dissolving ORDEN and taking other measures advisable in a climate where laws and public authorities are respected.


2.       That the legal standards concerning public order, and especially the Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order, be amended, for the purpose of eliminating the provisions that give rise to an excessively broad interpretation of their rules and an indiscriminate application of them, because they have given rise to important acts of abuse of power, in injury to the free and normal development of opponents of the government, in accordance with the uses and customs characteristic of a democratic society


In the second paragraph of conclusion No. 9 the Commission states that “The highest authorities of the Government of El Salvador, and the representatives of all sectors of the population.  Recognize the existence of the tense atmosphere of polarization in their country, on account of the great problems that affect it.”


Regardless of the causes of the situation, which the Report mentions in the other paragraphs of Conclusion No. 9 and which are undoubtedly based on data provided to the Commission by individuals opposed to the Government, the truth is that the tension and polarization mentioned in that conclusion do exist.  It is precisely that situation of abnormality, confusion and general unrest, or in other words, of subversion and a constant and unrestrained challenge to public powers. That make it necessary to maintain the various security corps alert and to maintain in force the juridical standards on public order, which include the Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order, which the Commission recommends be amended.


The Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order was enacted in November of 1977, taking into consideration that:  “1.  It is a fundamental duty of the State to establish the provisions necessary to guarantee maintenance of the republican, democratic and representative system of government, in accordance with the provisions of Article 3 of the Constitution; II.  Article 158, paragraph 2, of the Constitution prohibits propaganda advocating anarchistic or anti-democratic doctrines.  And confronted with the serious situation created by terrorist acts, and events instigated by international subversion.  The government of the Republic must have legal instrument that will ensure the exercise of individual rights, and the freedom of the members of the community.  Thereby satisfying the just demands of morality, public order, and the general welfare of society, fully respecting the Universal declaration of Human rights, approved and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.”


Because of its obvious relevance, paragraph w of Article 78 of the Constitution of El Salvador should be presented here, which states that “The executive power has the following duties:  …2.  To preserve the peace and domestic tranquility and the security of the individual as a member of society.”


It should also be pointed out that when the members of the Special Committee sent by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited El Salvador in January of 1978 and spoke with the Chairman, Vice Chairman and other members of the Honorable Legislative Assembly, the Chairman told them (paragraph 15, page 7 of the Report)  “that because of the severity of the terrorist acts committed by both international and national subversive groups in recent months, the Government had to adopt the measures necessary to have in its hands an expeditious legal instrument with which to defend public order, without jeopardizing the individual rights and freedoms of the members of the community.”


When the Special Committee visited the President of the Supreme Court of Justice and other members of that High Court (paragraph 18, page 8 of the Report), he told them “that the purpose of the changes made in the Code of Criminal Procedure last November was to make proceedings in this regard more expeditious.”  He also reported that the “Law of Defense and Guaranty of Public Order was adopted because of the campaign that had been launched abroad in connection with alleged violation to human rights in El Salvador.”  He also reported that “the preamble of this Law established the need for it in light of the severity of the cases of terrorism and the events instigated by international subversion.”  He also reported that in compliance with Article 61 of the Constitution of El Salvador, “the Supreme Court had been duly consulted on the draft law and had handed down a favorable opinion in that regard.”  “The members of the Court emphasized that they were convinced of the constitutionality of the Law and insisted that any improper application could be rectified through the judicial process.”  The latter statement was made in response to certain observations made by members of the Special Committee with regard to opportunities for abuse in the application of the law in question and its compatibility with the Constitution of El Salvador.


Thus, this is not an arbitrary and unjustified law, but rather an instrument that the public powers deem essential under the present circumstances in the country and is applied in First Instance, for preventive purposes, by two of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice; and in cassation, by the Court itself.  Obviously this is a guaranty for accused persons.  Proof of this is that the accused has been condemned in very few cases and in many cases the proceedings have ended in dismissal of the charges against them.


3.       That the electoral system be reformed, especially by reorganizing the Central Election Council, so that there may be equitable representation of the political parties in it, and confidence in the system may be established.


This recommendation is in response to Conclusion No. 7 of the Report.  The conclusion in turn is in response to information that was provided to the Special Committee by representatives of a coalition of political parties, which constitute--they say—the Government’s principal opposition.


This is one of the most delicate and sensitive parts of the Report, as it refers to the confrontation and disaccord that normally arises between a Government and the opposition, a thorny and very serious subject for discussion within the international sphere.


The Commission points out that there is generalized skepticism on the part of the citizenry with regard to the right of suffrage and the right to participate in government and that it feels that the voting rights are not effective under the present circumstances.


With respect due to the Commission, it should be pointed out that in recent cases it has been the opposition parties that have opted to refrain from participation in fair elections, for the obvious and even stated purpose of discrediting the government and creating problems for it.


Nevertheless, the Government feels that the recommendation can be carried out to some extent, because the electoral systems, as with everything in life, are generally incomplete, deficient and ultimately leave room for improvement.  An in/dept study of the matter may lead to a healthy reform of the system.


4.      That the farm worker sector be permitted to resort to every means of organization existing in a democratic society, on the basis of the exercise of the rights, among others, of assembly, of association, and of union organization.  For this purpose, the government should also encourage and protect the farm workers—and those who cooperate or wish to cooperate with them, such as the churches and particularly the Catholic Church—in their efforts to organize themselves to exercise their rights and to affirm their dignity


Conclusion No. 5 states that “the rights of assembly and of association, especially the second, frequently meet obstacles when exercised by person or groups opposing the Government, especially in the case of farm workers.


This does not appear to be in keeping with Recommendation No.4, which argues in favor of the rights of assembly and of association, especially on behalf of farm workers, if it is noted that Recommendation No. 1 request the dissolution of ORDEN, which is in fact a farm worker organization. 


The Salvadorian Government values and respects those rights of the farm worker sector, like all sectors of the community, so long as those who wish to assemble or associate, are willing to pursue legal objectives that are not prohibited.  Under the Constitution and do not act with other intents, under the guidance or at the suggestion of individuals who try to instill in them extremist ideas, lure them with outrageous promises and, what is even more serious, encourage hatred and the class struggle among them.  These activities, as well be seen later, tend to be or have in fact been conducted buy none other than certain members of the Catholic Clergy who exceed their limits in the exercise of their ministry.  Farm workers associations are welcome if they seek to improve the circumstances of farm workers and hence the well being to which all of us are entitled.


5.       That efforts be made so that denunciations about persons killed, arrested, tortured, or missing following arrests will be investigated and authorities responsible for such acts would be investigated, tried and punished.


This is undoubtedly a very important recommendation.  However, my Government feels that it is to some extent unnecessary since the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic has specific instructions to undertake the efforts referred to in the recommendation;  the courts of justice for their part, from the Justices of the peace up through the Supreme Court, perform their respective functions and duties with the necessary diligence, not only with respect to the events pointed out by the Commission, but also in connection with the ongoing criminal activity of guerrillas and terrorists, which in recent times have reached alarming proportions in the country.


Despite what has been said, in response to the Commission’s recommendation, high executive and judicial authorities of the country have issued new instructions to lower-ranking officials to make certain that those responsible for such acts are investigated, tried and punished; as has been said, orders have been given that these matters be put into practice.


El Salvador’s judicial system is always being evaluated through an ongoing judicial reform, in order to improve it constantly and to have the mechanisms necessary to handle the denunciations to which the recommendation in question reefers.


6.       That necessary measures be taken to prevent continuation of the persecution of the members of the Catholic Church who act in legitimate exercise of their pastoral mission.


What is insinuated or rather stated in this recommendation is something that the opponents and adversaries of the current Government of El Salvador and, under their influence, certain unscrupulous foreign correspondents have published inside and outside the country, which is: the supposed persecution in El Salvador of members of the Catholic Church who act in legitimate exercise of their pastoral mission. 


That statement is in keeping with the text of Conclusion No. 8 of the Commission (page 155), which states that “as a result of the activities that the Catholic Church is carrying on because it considers that they are an integral part of its mission, priests, members of religious orders of both sexes, and lay persons who cooperate actively with the Church have been the object of systematic persecution by the authorities and organizations that enjoy the favor of the Government.”


It should be pointed out in this regard that the Constitution of El Salvador contains one very clear provision with regard to the exercise of religion.  Article 157, included under Title X,  entitled individual Rights, reads as follows:


“Article 157.  The free exercise of all religion, without other restriction than that required by morals or the public order, is guaranteed.  No religious act shall serve as evidence of the civil status of persons.


Neither the clergy nor laymen may engage in political propaganda of any kind based on religious motives or making use of the religious beliefs of the people.  Likewise, the laws of the State, its Government, or public officials may not be criticized in religious rights or sermons in places of worship.”


          If the bishops, priests and members of religious orders of both sexes, as well as the pastors and other leaders of religions practiced in the country conform their conduct to the provisions of that article of the Constitution and the provisions contained in secondary laws, no problem develops; they perform their activities with the same freedom citizen who respects the laws and public authorities.


          But in El Salvador, there are or there have been bishops and bishops priests and priests, and religious and religious.  By this is meant that, although the Commission does not appear to see it this way, the Catholic Church in El Salvador, instead of being unified, unfortunately is or has been divided into two sector:  1) those “who act in legitimate exercise of their pastoral mission,” as the Commission said, and 2) those who deviate from that legitimate exercise and use the pulpit, school, or various mass communications media to deliver an illegal sermon or propaganda to arouse the spirits and encourage the class struggle, taking advantage of the religious beliefs of the people and thereby obviously abusing their priestly position and the authority they exercise over their faithful, many of whom are farm workers or humble people.


          As is natural, assuming that a prelate, priest or member of a religious order in the second kind places himself beyond the limits of the law and even goes so far as to commit a crime, he cannot enjoy the privilege of impunity; he must suffer the consequences of his conduct; he has no right to expect the same treatment as that given to the religious in the first category, who respect the law and are faithful in carrying out their religious ministry.  In its visit to the Archbishop of San Salvador, the Special Committee that was in the country in January of 1978 heard from his and from his colleagues (paragraph 22, page 9 of the Report) “that a number of groups of priests are dedicated to helping the farm workers in such activities as those that enable then to organize themselves to claim their rights and improve their lot; that those activities encounter resistance among groups of landowners or businessmen opposed to the advancement of farm workers and who accuse the priests and the Church of what they regard as political activities, which has provoked a violent reaction against the farm workers, their leaders, the priests themselves and, as a consequence, the Church.”  Further on in the report reference is made to the visit made by the Special Subcommittee to the town of Aguilares, where it had occasion to hear the sermon delivered by the Archbishop during the mass that he celebrated in the Church as part of a religious festival.  The Archbishop,  as stated by the Special Committee (paragraph 26 pages 11 and 12 of the Report), “among other things, urged the faithful to continue to fight for their dignity and well-being, in spite of the difficulties that they faced; he said, moreover, that the Church would continue to support them in that battle as their goals were in keeping with the evangelical mission in the world today.”  A few lines before, in paragraph 26 on page 11, the Report states that that same day in Special Committee had visited the Justice of the Peace and the Mayor workers had committed acts of violence, such as invading and burning haciendas, which in turn led to confrontations with property owner know to the Archbishop and his colleagues and it goes without saying that they were obviously criminal acts committed by farm workers whom the members of the clergy (not all) promised to continue to support in their fight.


          If the Special Committee, which was kind enough to interview the Archbishop of San Salvador, had also interviewed other Salvadorian prelates and priests who have adopted a different position and who preach, speak and write in a different way, the Commission would have been able to appreciate the distance that separates or that separated (at the time) the ones from the others; this would have made it impossible to speak of Catholic Church is El Salvador as a cohesive and unified whole.


          To cite one  example, Monsignor Pedro Arnoldo Aparicio y Quintanilla, Bishop of San Vicente (one of the country’s central departments), who served as President of the Conference of Bishops of El Salvador to the Third General  Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM),  held in Puebla, México, at the end of January and early February 1979, said among other things that “In Puebla, it was hoped that the agreements reached by the prelates of the Catholic Church that met there would not be misinterpreted, as happened in Medellín in 1968, where the renegades of the religion used the Theology of Liberation as grist to their mill.”  He went on to say that “In Puebla, it was established that the Catholic Church works for peace; that it condemns violence no matter where it comes from; that it is against Marxism because it generates violence, and that it condemns those regimens that do not respect human rights.”  He added that “The Catholic Church wants peace and tranquility for all her children.  It wants the Theology of Liberation to be interpreted in the fullness of its concepts and not to be used for negative activities.”


          The remarks made by Monsignor Aparicio y Quintanilla would have been voiced by other Salvadorian bishops and priests to the Special Committee invited, if that Special Committee had used the opportunity to listen to the other side of the story.  The Position taken by the Bishop of San Vicente has been and is the position taken by a significant part of the Catholic Church in El Salvador.


          The Salvadorian bishops made this position known through an Episcopal Declaration.  Since it is an official document of El Salvador, it is transcribed here in part:


          “Declaration of the Bishops of El Salvador, on certain popular political organizations.


          “We, the bishops of El Salvador, called upon by the unceasing clamor of all sectors of the society and conscious of our pastoral mission, do hereby carry out our duty in addressing at this time the disorientation and confusion that the people of God now experience.


          The political, economic and social crisis that afflicts today’s world is having an increasingly harsh and cruel effect on our country.  The narrowness, of out national territory.  The scarcity of natural resources, and the alarming population explosion, exacerbated by an obvious situation of social injustice, which we have denounced repeatedly.  Have provoked in our country a reaction of revindication in the part of those who are less fortunate and have no voice, who, organized into a number of groups, seek, through a number of means, a solution to the serious problems that oppress us.


          “We are aware of the goodwill of a large number of sectors of the society seeking solutions to our problems.  But we are not blind to the fact that, faced with the urgency of finding solutions, many are falling prey to the temptation of immediate gratification, without questioning the legality of the means that they use in order to achieve the end sought.


          “Among the organizations of the people, whose activities and development have been very noticeable in recent times, on this occasion we would like to make special reference to the “Christian Federation of Salvadorian Farm Workers”. … (FECCAS) and the “Union of Farm Workers” (UTC) which, as part of their proselytizing, have posed as privileged organizations; as the Church and have involved quite a few members of the clergy in their unilateral political activities.


          “The “Christian Federation of Salvadorian Farm Workers” (FECCAS), began as an organization aimed at reclaiming the rights of farm workers;  but very quickly, when it branched into the political arena in an effort to acquire power, and when it joined with the Union of Farm Workers” …(UTC), especially the “Revolutionary People’ Block” (BPR), both groups declared themselves to be followers of the Marxist-Leninist ideology of the “Revolutionary Peoples’ Block.


          “The proselyte attitude of those organizations infiltrated into certain groups of the Church’s faithful, creating confusion among Catholics and a serious problem of conscience.


          “The same painful attitude of those organizations infiltrated into certain groups of the Church’s faithful, creating confusion among Catholics and a serious problem of conscience.


          “The same painful and pressing questions reach us from many parts:  Does the Church accept the class struggle and bloody revolution? Does it accept historical materialism and the atheism that follows therefrom? Should the mission of the Church be reduced to political action or commitment?  Should we live our faith by the Marxist praxis?.


          “These and many other questions demand that we the bishops give a clear and illuminating response that leaves no room for either doubt or ambiguity.


          “We do not wish to conclude our remarks on so important  a topic without pointing out to our priests, nuns, and religious lay people the danger of falling into the temptation of reducing the Church’s mission to merely a temporal activity; of reducing the objectives of preaching to an anthropocentric perspective; salvation to material wellbeing;  church activity to a political endeavor (Cfe. Evangelii Nuntiandi, v2) pope Paul VI warned that if this were so, the Church would lose its most profound meaning and would have no authority to announce for God the authentic liberation.  (E.N. 32).


          In light of the principles set forth, we the bishops, in fulfillment of our pastoral ministry, do hereby state that the political and leftist organizations known as “Christian Federation of Salvadorian Farm Workers (FECCAS) AND “Union of Farm Workers” (UTC) are not Church organizations and, therefore, have no right to claim for themselves Church protection of want to use the Church for their purposes.


          The priests and nuns who operate educational centers and parochial communities must refrain form any direct or indirect collaboration with the FECCAS and the UTC and with any other similar organization whose activities are conducted in the strictly political field (the taking of power) and because, moreover, they are leftist organizations.


          The Catholic Clergy, responsible for bringing Christ’s message into the social, political and cultural realms, must avoid using for their evangelical work, the organizations known as FECCAS and UTC and any other whose principles are similar to those two organizations.


          Given in San Salvador, on the 28th day  of August of 1978.

          Pedro Arnoldo Aparicio y Quintanilla, Bishop of San Vicente, president of the Bishop’s Conference, Benjamin Barrera y Reyes, Bishop of Santa Ana, José Eduardo Alvarez, Bishop of San Miguel, Chaplain General; Marco René Revelo, Auxiliary Bishop of San Salvador; Freddy Delgado A., Secretary General of the CEDES.”


          Fortunately, at Puebla the Holy Father, with his clear intellect, his kindness and his energetic attitude, clarified many doubts and established new courses and methods for the Catholic Church in Latin America.  The fruits are already being seen in El Salvador.  A reconciliation of the clergy of El Salvador, which is already on the horizon, can contribute to the reconciliation of all the people of the country, who have been shaken and trouble in these unhappy times by the work of those who mistakenly pretend that the solution to national problems can be achieved only through violent means.


          There has been vigilance—not persecution—of elements of the Church who have gone astray and deviated from their pastoral mission, which is respected and protected; and if unfortunately some have lost their lives, it is because they themselves have taken the path of violence and challenge to the authorities.


          The Government of El Salvador wants and is anxious for an end to this situation, and nourishes the hope and trust that it will have the cooperation of a unified Catholic Church and of other equally powerful and well-intentioned forces to achieve that end.


7.       That the substantive and procedural rules be amended so that in trials before police magistrates the right to defense may be effectively exercised and due process of law be guaranteed.


In Conclusion No. 4, the Commission states that  “In general, the laws of El Salvador contemplate the right to a fair trial and to due process of law, “ but that “even in regard to the formal legal system, there is an important deficiency in the action of the police magistrates, who can sentence a person to penalties of deprivation of liberty for up to six months without these persons being able to exercise their right to defense and to due process in an effective way.”


Judging by what was said in paragraph 25, pages 10 and 11 of the Report, it is not the police, but rather the Justices of the Peace who are involved: the latter exercise their duties in facilities of the National Police of San Salvador and take cognizance of minor infractions provided for under the Criminal Code.


A Committee has been assigned the task of studying this matter in the light of what is said in  report in question and should that study indicates that it is both advisable and necessary to introduce certain changes would be proposed to the Honorable Legislative Assembly.


8.       That the necessary measures be taken, taking advantage of all resources, to improve the social and economic conditions prevailing in the country, so that the inequalities that constitute an obstacle to the observance of basic human rights may be lessened and eventually disappear.  The effort would require the participation of all sectors of society, without excluding those most affected by the  present situation.


In the three final paragraph of conclusion No. 9, the Commission makes reference to the economic and social conditions which, according to it, “have been getting worse throughout the country for a long time.”


The Commission begins by stating that “The highest authorities of the government of El Salvador and the representatives of all the sectors of the population recognize the existence of a tense atmosphere of polarization in their country, on account of the great problems that affect Ir.”.  It then goes on to discuss the causes of that tension and polarization and contends that among the most serious ones is the tremendous concentration of land-ownership and of economic power in general, as well as political power, in the hands of a few, with the consequent desperation and misery of the farm workers, who make up a large majority of the Salvadorian Population.”


These and other statements made by the Commission, which appear on page 155 of the Report, give the impression that El Salvador is unique in terms of its social and economic conditions, which the Commission considers to be wholly unfavorable for the great majority of the pop7lation and that “explain to a considerable extent, serious violations of human rights that have occurred and continue to occur in El Salvador.”


Massive poverty in this hemisphere, and not just in one particular country, has existed for many years throughout the region.  During the recent Thirteenth Annual Meeting of CIES, held in December of 1978, the problem of poverty in Latin American was included on the agenda, and it was acknowledged that the strategies followed to eradicate this problem have both internal and external implications for each economy.  At the domestic level, it is a question of strategies for employment, income distribution, and social development, public services and government activities in general.  Also acknowledged, however is the fact that the direction and magnitude of external financing play a preponderant role in supplementing each country’s internal resources, along with the ever-present desire of the countries to develop a new an more just international economic order and to formalize a juridical instrument that would put “Cooperation for Development” into practice, especially in this hemisphere.


The CIES meeting pointed out that more than 20 percent of the population of Latin America lives in poverty.  The Commission’s report states that in El Salvador “The highest five percent of families received 38 percent of the income, and the highest 20 percent of families received 67 percent of the total, while the lowest 40 percent of families received only 7.5 percent of the income.”  The Commission’s figures are based on statistics from a number of year ago; however, the most recent indicators that most closely approximate the situation in El Salvador as it now stands, could be as follows:  the highest five percent of families received 21 percent of the income between 1976 and 1977; the highest 20 percent received 48 percent of the total, while the lowest 40 percent of families received only 16 percent.  This is above the average for Latin America as a whole.  According to figures from the World Bank in November-December 1977, the highest five- percent of the Latin American population received 33 percent of the income, while the lowest 20 percent receive four percent.


This does not mean that efforts like those recommended by the Commission should be attempted and carried out.


The current Government of El Salvador, like the previous government, is engaged in establishing and maintaining agencies and in conducting programs for sustained development, which are designed to improve, in all its aspects, the lot of the most-needy sectors of the population, as well s the socio-economic situation of the country in general.  The five-year Development Plan, known as “Welfare for All,” attempts to accomplish this progressively but intensively, using for this all human and material resources that it is able to obtain, without of course neglecting the other obligations, functions and services that a modern state must fulfill and carry out.


Furthermore, there is a Ministry of Planning and Coordination of Economic and Social Development and a number of state or mixed capital institutions and agencies that work in a joint, coordinated and, insofar as possible, effective effort to make progress in the social and economic fields.  The active forces in Eel Salvador want a gradual and intense change and social justice,  Vigorous efforts are being made to achieve this, and progress has been made.


The Commission speaks of the tremendous concentration of land-ownership and of economic power in general in the hands of a few, with the “consequent desperation and misery of the farm workers.” Such a statement can only be explained by a lack of reliable and up-to-date information.  We can see that the middle class has grown in recent years on such a large scale that land-ownership is no longer “in the hands of a few.”


This does not mean that the farm workers, like the urban worker, are elements of the community who should be left out.  No, quite the contrary; the public powers and the more advantaged sectors of the population are obligated to find suitable means to improve, insofar as possible, the conditions of the poorer classes.  This is a sad truth both in El Salvador an in other parts of the world, because as has already been said, there are inequalities that should be minimized, if the common good is to be achieved.


The Constitution of El Salvador contains one title dedicated to economic and social guaranties; there is a Labor Code that guarantees exercise of the right of assembly and of union association, free collective bargaining, and the functioning of labor and administrative courts, the second of which deals with economic conflicts; the city worker and the rural worker receive a minimum wage; low-cost family housing is being constructed and distributed constantly; as part of the Agrarian Law, a technically prepared and applied program is being developed to distribute and award lands to farm workers, etc.  And this is happening in a country that is very small in terms of surface areas, with an exorbitantly large population.


The report does not mention the activities that the public sector has been conducting for the welfare of the farm worker, such as land awards; the establishment of a minimum wage and other social provisions; small irrigation systems; a land tax; the Lease Law and amendment to the Income Tax Law.


It is obvious that the subject matter of the chapter on economic and social rights of Salvadorians is a matter of top priority throughout entire Government Plan of El Salvador.  Unfortunately, the figures, statistics, and evaluations that the Commission has used to assess such rights are not in keeping with reality, as will be demonstrated in due course.  To mention only one example, the Report states that the literacy rate is 57 percent.  In 1975 figures state that literacy rate is 62 percent; in rural areas, the literacy rate is 47 percent, and not 30 percent.  According to the Commission’s report, life expectancy at birth is 58 years, which is what is was in 1960.  A recent study done by the World Bank raised that figure to 65 years in 1975.  (World Atlas of the Child, page. 30).


The Government of El Salvador feels that the Commission’s recommendation is so important that it should be answered in full.  By categorically affirming the constant efforts that the government is making to improve the quality and level of life of the entire population.


In order Ro  present a picture of El Salvador as it now stands to the international financial community and to seek and receive from it the necessary external financing resources, the Government of El Salvador will request a meeting of the Ad Hoc Country Review Group of the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter American Economic and Social Council (CEPCIES), for next April.


My Government would welcome the presence of the Commission at that meeting, so that the Commission may became aware of the great effort being made to achieve the ends and goals established.


The final document of that meeting should be regarded as an integral part of the observation that the government of El Salvador now presents to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.


9.       That Salvadorian nationals who are abroad because of expulsions decreed by the Government or for any other reason who wish to return to their homeland be permitted to enter the county without limitation or condition.


This is not as simple a matter as the Commission appears to regard it, undoubtedly because of its lack of reliable information form impartial persons instead of the information it in fact received from opposition political leaders or religious rebels, or relatives of Salvadorians now outside the country.


To speak of Government-decreed expulsions is an exaggeration.  Most of those individuals have left the country voluntarily because they were not in agreement with the regime or for other reasons, or because they have left to escape from the authorities who were seeking them for seditious acts or for other criminal infractions of a political nature.


Many of those people prefer to continue to live in other countries, where they have made friends and found a means of living.  Those who wish to return are few and those who do wish to return may do so at the appropriate time.


Finally, the Government of El Salvador wishes to state to the Honorable Inter-American commission on Human Rights that it does not accept the charges that have been made in its Report concerning supposed violations of such rights; most of those charges are for political reasons because of the serious crisis in the county which the Government is trying to overcome.  If any abuses of authority have been committed, there are laws and competent courts.  The Government does not intend to argue for the impunity of any guilty party; quite the contrary, it demands that the parties are tried and, where appropriate, that he receives the penalty that he deserves.


The Government of El Salvador, Mr. Chairman and members of the Honorable Commission, reserves the right to add to these observations in due course.


Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurance of my highest consideration




Sidney Mazzini Villacorta


Permanent Representative of El Salvador

To the

Organization of American States

[1]           Translator’s note: all page numbers cited hereinafter refer to the Spanish version of the Report.