El Salvador: New law guarantees social programs

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved the Social Development and Protection Law on April 3. The law was presented by President Mauricio Funes last year to ensure the groundbreaking social services initiated by his administration continued.

These programs are designed to address the needs of historically abandoned and excluded sectors. The law mandates a “legal framework for human development, protection and social inclusion that promotes, protects and guarantees the fulfillment of people’s rights”.

It specifically targets Salvadorans living in poverty or facing discrimination, and gives special priority to children, women, young people, the elderly, people with disabilities and indigenous people.

Guillermo Mata, a legislator from the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), said: “We are guaranteeing a series of human rights for people, not as a handout, but as a right.”

Among the wide range of social initiatives now cemented into law are: free uniforms, shoes, and school supplies as well as school meals and a daily glass of milk for all public school children; the Ciudad Mujer (Women’s City) service centers that provide reproductive and mental healthcare, legal support, childcare and employment training for women; pensions for impoverished senior citizens; the Family Farming Plan, which provides seeds, supplies and technical support to small-scale farmers; and a free, comprehensive public healthcare system for all.

The FMLN-backed Funes administration ushered in a dramatic rise in social spending compared with previous right-wing administrations that cut social investment every year. The results can be seen in the presidential elections, won by FMLN candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

[Abridged from Committees in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.]