El Salvador: Progressive tax reform; economic destabilisation; women push abortion debate

August 24, 2014

El Salvador approves progressive tax reforms

El Salvador’s National Legislative Assembly passed a package of tax reforms on July 31, CISPES.org said on August 13. The laws aim to shifting the fiscal burden from the nation’s poor majority to the wealthy elite and ease the country’s dependence on international loans to finance important social investment.

The bill was approved despite a fierce campaign against it in the nation’s conservative media.

The measures were drafted by the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) administration, and passed with the votes of legislators of the FMLN and the conservative Grand National Alliance (GANA) party.

The package includes a tax on non-productive properties valued at more than US$350,000; a minimum 1% tax on companies’ net assets; a tax on financial transactions over $750, with exemptions for remittances sent from families living abroad, cash withdrawals, credit card payments, social security, salary or loan payments; and the elimination of the exemption of newspaper owners from income tax payment.

Salvadoran media continues to wage its crusade against the new taxes, and the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) opposition party has even threatened to file a suit against the bill’s constitutionality. Nevertheless, the FMLN administration has celebrated the package’s approval as another step towards economic justice and fiscal responsibility.

El Salvador: Destablisation targets food prices

In recent weeks, the cost of beans, a staple of the Salvadoran diet, has risen by 67% due to market speculation, CISPES.org said on July 25. The speculation appears to be a deliberate destabilisation tactic by the right-wing opposition against the newly elected FMLN administration of President Sahcez Ceren.

Similar practices of economic sabotage have been used by the conservative opposition in Venezuela, which is closely allied to the Salvadoran right.

El Salvador’s conservative media has used the crisis to smear the government. The opposition has circulated baseless claims that the government caused a shortage by selling the grain to Venezuela.

Market speculation by a handful of domestic buyers linked to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party has inflated the grain’s cost, and the agriculture ministry is investigating accusations against several companies for hoarding the grain to create false shortages.

Contrary to the right’s accusations, recent measures taken by the government had successfully lowered prices. Nevertheless, these destabilizing economic practices are a disturbing example of the powerful forces that the FMLN administration must contend with in its work towards social and economic justice.

El Salvador: Women's groups push for abortion reform

Salvadoran feminist and women’s groups are waging an international campaign demanding a pardon for the 17 women jailed in El Salvador for abortion, CIPSES.org said on July 15. The groups hope to challenge the country’s harsh anti-abortion laws and start to change the anti-choice views held by most Salvadorans.

Each of the 17 women was arrested while seeking hospital care for pregnancy complications, Medical staff notified the police on suspicions the women had intentionally interrupted their pregnancies.

All women were poor, with low education levels; none received proper forensic examinations, nor were they subject to due process before being sentenced to between 12-40 years in jail.

Feminist groups say the women’s treatment violates myany international treaties ratified by El Salvador, a country with some of the most stringent abortion laws in the Western Hemisphere. Interrupting a pregnancy is illegal in El Salvador, with no exceptions.

Multiple UN agencies have condemned and recommend changes to the laws, which disproportionately affect poor and working class women. Wealthy women, on the other hand, can seek reproductive care freely abroad or in private clinics.

The previous and present left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) administrations have made extraordinary strides in promoting and protecting women’s rights and participation. However, the legislature’s Human Rights Commission is still presided over by a legislator from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party. Last year, the conservative Supreme Court denied a young woman, given the pseudonym “Beatriz”, a life-saving therapeutic abortion.

Unsurprisingly, El Salvador’s right-wing parties have vehemently opposed pardons for the 17 women. As in the past, the FMLN has not taken a public position on the issue, likely out of fear of alienating socially conservative supporters. Some party leaders, however, have expressed public support for the women.

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