Our country is one of the most beautiful places in the world; tropical and surrounded by volcanoes and rivers, with a strategic geographic location equidistant from North and South America, with multiple direct flights.
Our political problem isn’t hard to understand. Our government is based on a system of checks and balances just like the United States, with three branches: Legislative, Judicial and Executive. The legislative and executive branches are elected by the people, but that is not the case with the judicial power.
Our legislative branch is composed of 84 senators, elected to conform a National Assembly during three year periods, and each one them has several assistants, and a long list of fringe benefits (bodyguards, new cars, fuel, travel expenses, etc.) plus generous salaries, financed by the salvadorean taxpayer.
This is where our problems begin.
Not only is our National Assembly a source of widespread corruption. It also fosters red tape. Working commissions prolong decisions and conduct lengthy and unproductive hearings, often passing or obstructing laws by system fatigue.
Many of our senators are a national shame, some have been indicted for a crime or involved in criminal activity. Others cannot resist the temptation of what we know as “the black briefcase”: Hefty sums exchanging hands under the table when a crucial vote is on the floor.
The power of small parties is another problem during elections. Senate seats are allocated based on a dubious residual formula that no one can explain and should be abolished in order to limit the vicious circle of corruption and red tape.
El Salvador, with only 13,000 square miles (about the size of Massachusetts) is composed of 14 non independent states. In your country each senator represents 3,230,000 citizens, whereas in El Salvador each senator represents 65,000 citizens. If we use the same percentages we would only need 3 to 5 senators. As we very well know that is not possible, but at the same time if we could vote for a reduction of the number of senators, and their personal benefits, the vote would be won by those who want a Legislative composed of no more than 27 senators with moral and legal authority to represent the people. As it stands today the legislative is refuge for people with criminal backgrounds like Jose Luis Merino and Francisco Merino and others mentioned in child abuse, irresponsible parenthood, etc.
Gangs, drug trade, money laundering have flourished in our country in front of a passive National Assembly. Unfortunately, salvadoreans cannot change our corrupt and bureaucratic legislative branch, since the 84 senators dictate the laws of our land.
In order for El Salvador to become a partner of the United States, we need to change the people that representing us. We need to remove those who are only interested in milking the system. Without education, honesty, experience and a proven track record as law abiding citizens our senators will continue to be easy prey of the Man with the Black Briefcase.
We are living a political campaign, to elect a new National Assembly, full of empty promises. At the same time, education reform is stagnant, hospitals have no medicine, our agriculture is at its worst, and gangs have made our country, one of the most dangerous in the world. El Salvador can only solve its problems with honest and educated senators, in a system where integrity sits at the head of the table.
For this reason, I strongly recommend, in order to foster a stronger bilateral relation between your country and ours, you know where to start!