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Title: El Salvador Human Rights Practices, 1995 
Author:  U.S. Department of State  
Date:  March 1996  
 
 
 
 
                              EL SALVADOR 
 
 
El Salvador is a constitutional, multiparty democracy with an executive 
branch headed by a president, a unicameral legislative assembly, and a 
separate, politically appointed judiciary.  Armando Calderon Sol of the 
Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party was inaugurated President 
for a 5-year term in June 1994.  In the Legislative Assembly, the ARENA 
party holds a plurality.  Seven other parties (or parties in formation) 
also hold seats, including the ex-guerrilla organization Frente 
Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN), and its offshoot, 
the Partido Democrata (PD). 
 
On April 31, the U.N. Secretary General declared the peace process based 
on the 1992 Peace Accords which ended a 12-year civil war irreversible.  
The U.N. Security Council ended the mandate of its observer mission 
(ONUSAL) and authorized the Secretary General to form a smaller U.N. 
mission.  Progress, though slower than hoped in some areas, continued on 
implementation of the Peace Accords.  The Government completed 
demobilization of the military-dominated National Police in December 
1994, and deployed nearly half of the planned 20,000 officers of the new 
National Civilian Police (PNC) in its place.  Land transfers, judicial 
reform, and electoral reform have all progressed although in each area 
there have been delays. 
 
The El Salvador Armed Forces (ESAF) continued to downsize and have 
approximately 18,000 of the 31,000 troop ceiling authorized by the Peace 
Accords.  Although the military is no longer responsible for public 
security, the President ordered the ESAF to conduct joint patrols with 
the PNC in rural areas in response to concerns about rising crime.  In 
practice, the military protects PNC officers in the execution of their 
duties.  Complaints against the ESAF registered with the Human Rights 
Ombudsman's Office (PDDH) declined significantly, and none was verified.  
Some members of the PNC committed human rights abuses including 
excessive use of force, denial of due process, and improper detention. 
 
El Salvador has a mixed economy largely based upon agriculture and light 
manufacturing.  The Calderon Sol Government maintained its predecessor's 
commitment to free market reforms.  People are free to pursue economic 
interests, and private property is respected.  The 1995 rate of real 
economic growth was 6.3 percent. 
 
In December 1993, the Government, in conjunction with the United 
Nations, formed the Joint Group for the Investigation of Illegal Armed 
Groups with Political Motivation in El Salvador.  The Joint Group found 
that some groups and persons continued to resort to violence to obtain 
political results, but concluded  that the Government is committed to 
combating politically motivated violence.  It also highlighted the 
growth of violent organized crime in El Salvador. 
 
The level of criminal violence, particularly murder, assaults, 
kidnaping, robberies, and crimes against women and children, remained 
high.  Allegations of politically motivated assassinations continue but 
are less frequent.  There were no confirmed cases of politically 
motivated killings, but investigations in a number of cases remain open.  
Some public figures reported death threats.  A particularly disturbing 
development has been the rise of vigilante groups which claim to be 
fighting crime and, in some cases, fighting corrupt public 
officials.  Such groups have claimed responsibility for killing some 20 
people whom they identified as gang members.  At the Joint Group's 
recommendation, the Government created a special unit within the PNC to 
investigate political and organized crime in August 1994.  This unit's 
operation was initially hampered by lack of technical and personnel 
resources.  It scored a major success in July, however, arresting a 
number of alleged members of a notorious vigilante group, which included 
several members of the PNC.  The PNC functioned without an Inspector 
General from April until October after the Vice Minister of Public 
Security dismissed the incumbent for poor performance.  The absence of 
an Inspector General hurt PNC credibility, but the new one was widely 
regarded as a solid choice. 
 
The PDDH improved under a new Human Rights Ombudsman, elected in March, 
but has not yet demonstrated its investigative ability.  The PDDH 
received a number of complaints against the PNC alleging excessive use 
of force, arbitrary arrest, and detention.  Allegations of judicial 
misconduct were the second most common.  Complaints against the ESAF ran 
far behind.  Delays in bringing detainees to trial continued. 
 
Prison conditions remain poor.  Discrimination against women, the 
disabled, and indigenous people, violence against women, and abuse of 
children are other human rights problems.  Reports of sexual abuse and 
mistreatment of women continued to rise.  Some 20 judges have been 
forced to resign since the judicial reform process began, and others 
were under investigation.  While moving deliberately, the new Supreme 
Court seated in 1994 displayed relatively greater energy in judicial 
reform.  Progress on the creation of the special courts and procedures 
for political and organized crime cases has been limited.  Problems of 
corruption and incompetence in the judicial system remained. 
 
The Government moved to improve the legal basis for respect for human 
rights.  In March the Legislative Assembly acted on a major Truth 
Commission (a body established by the 1992 Peace Accords) recommendation 
by voting unanimously to ratify two international human rights treaties 
(the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights and the Optional 
Protocol of the American Convention of Human Rights) and to recognize 
the compulsory jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human  
 
Rights.  Although it acted with some reservations, El Salvador has 
ratified four of the six international instruments recommended by the 
Truth Commission. 
 
In March the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), citing the reduction 
in complaints of human rights violations, removed El Salvador from its 
list of countries subject to permanent monitoring and ended the role of 
the UNHRC Independent Expert.  At the recommendation of the UNHRC, a 
delegation from the U.N. Human Rights Center in Geneva visited in June 
to begin the design of a technical assistance program for El Salvador. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
 
  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killings 
 
There were no confirmed cases of political killings, although there were 
murders with possible political overtones.  Political violence has 
declined rapidly over the last few years; common crime has risen just as 
rapidly.  The result is that most of the extrajudicial killings were due 
to vigilantism, rather than to political motivations.  The most 
notorious vigilante organization, the so-called Sombra Negra (Black 
Shadow) group, surfaced in San Miguel in December 1994 when it murdered 
three reputed gang members.  The Sombra Negra claimed credit for 
killings of alleged gang members during the early part of the year.  In 
May unidentified persons claiming to speak for Sombra Negra threatened 
allegedly corrupt judges, and "copycat" threats appeared, supposedly 
from new groups.  The existence of other groups was never proven, and 
those threats were never carried out.  In July the PNC's Organized Crime 
Division arrested 16 alleged members of the group, including 4 members 
of the PNC.  Of those arrested, nine, including two PNC officers, were 
bound over for trial; the investigation continues.  Immediately after 
the arrests, the PDDH published the results of an investigation into the 
December 1994 Sombra Negra killings.  The investigation castigated 
Sombra Negra for usurping the role of the State and noted that there was 
still no definitive proof of PNC involvement.  It also called for an 
exhaustive internal investigation into the possibility that the 
vigilantes might have ties to the police.  The PDDH report quoted an 
anonymous source as saying that Sombra Negra enjoyed logistic and moral 
support from some public officials in the Department of San Miguel.  The 
PDDH declined to name the officials.  Approximately 20 people have been 
killed by vigilante groups or in circumstances suggestive of their mode 
of operation. 
 
Although there were no confirmed cases of political killings, in some 
cases political motivation cannot be ruled out.  In  
 
February six unidentified attackers murdered the ARENA mayor of the town 
of Osicala, Jose Natividad Majano Garcia.  In March Joel de Jesus 
Melgar, the president of a local cooperative and an FMLN member, was 
kidnaped and murdered.  His family speculated that the motive was a land 
dispute involving the cooperative.  In April FMLN and municipal council 
member Jaime Coto was shot and killed; the killing may have been related 
to land disputes.  In July unknown assailants shot and killed Guadalupe 
Villalta, a member of a street vendors union.  The killing came after 
confrontations that occurred when San Salvador municipal police tried to 
clear vendors from a street the police claimed the vendors were 
obstructing.  In September the Criminal Investigative Division detained 
19 PNC agents for possible involvement in the murder of Adriano 
Vilanova, the suspect in a fatal hit and run accident.  In November 
Castulo Rodriguez Caballero, the ARENA mayor of a rural town was 
murdered.  Also in November, shots were fired at the car of Legislative 
Assembly Vice President and PD leader, Ana Guadalupe Martinez, seriously 
wounding the driver, a PNC officer.  In December FMLN leader Ramon 
Boanerges was shot and killed in his truck while driving outside the 
capital city.  These cases remain under investigation. 
 
There were no new developments in the investigations of the 1994 
killings of:  Simon de Jesus Cartagena Pineda and his stepdaughter, 
Javier Roberto Perdomo, Ismael Bernardino Sion, Bill Martinez Zaldana, 
Heriberto Galicia Sanchez, Jose Isaias Calzada Mejia, Luis Valdivieso 
Granados, Elba Irene Magana de Romero, and David Faustino Merino 
Ramirez.  Nor were there any developments in the investigation of the 
shootings that occurred at a bus cooperative protest near San Miguel. 
 
The prosecution of those responsible for the 1991 murders of Lieutenant 
Colonel David Pickett and Private First Class Ernest Dawson came to a 
close.  Pickett and Dawson were in a U.S. army helicopter that was shot 
down by FMLN combatants in 1991.  A third crew member, Chief Warrant 
Officer Daniel Scott, was killed in the crash, but Pickett and Dawson 
survived only to be murdered by their FMLN captors.  Despite El 
Salvador's apparent obligations under international law, the Supreme 
Court ruled in August that the killers were protected by the 1993 law 
which granted a general amnesty for all political crimes committed 
during the war. 
 
There was progress in the investigation of the 1993 shooting of FMLN 
leader Francisco Velis Castellanos.  The authorities identified a former 
PNC detective, Carlos Romero Alfaro, as a principal suspect, and issued 
an order for his arrest.  Due to what PNC investigations called 
negligence, Romero Alfaro escaped arrest and fled to the United States 
where he was apprehended in September.  In early 1996, a magistrate 
judge ordered his extradition, but it has not yet taken place. 
 
  b.  Disappearance 
 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
The Constitution prohibits such practices, but complaints against the 
PNC for lack of due process and use of excessive force continued. 
 
The PNC was the subject of more complaints of human rights violations 
than any other government institution.  This reflects nationwide 
reaction to their arrest authority, to their use of force, and possibly, 
to their inexperience.  Out of a total of 4,696 complaints filed, the 
PDDH received 1,844 allegations against the PNC.  The majority were for 
improper detention and denial of due process.  The PDDH resolved a total 
of 172 cases during the year.  The most consistent criticism of the PNC 
from human rights advocates focused on the use of force to confront 
demonstrations by labor unions and groups of ex-civil war combatants 
demanding compensation.  Occasionally these confrontations became 
violent.  At times, the violence was initiated by the demonstrators who 
resorted to swinging clubs and throwing rocks; however, the PNC antiriot 
units were too quick to resort to tear gas and rubber bullets.  A young 
demonstrator died in November after the PNC unilaterally decided to 
terminate PDDH-led negotiations and to storm a government building 
seized by protesters who were holding hostages.  A PNC officer, Tomas 
Antonio Coronado Valles, fired a rubber bullet at close range at 
protester Rene Antonio Pineda, wounding him mortally.  The officer has 
been charged with murder.  The incident led to an agreement between the 
PDDH and the PNC to develop programs aimed at training security forces 
to confront such situations in a more humane way.  PNC handling of 
subsequent, similar situations was much improved. 
 
Prison conditions remained bleak, with overcrowding the most significant 
problem.  The largest prison, designed for 800 prisoners, holds 
approximately 2,400.  Most cells are 15 by 20 feet, and some hold as 
many as 24 prisoners.  Some prisoners must sleep on the floor or "buy" a 
bed when one becomes available.  Prisoners are fed, but most find it 
necessary to supplement their rations with help from family.  The 
prisons are violent, with guards exercising little control.  Killings 
among prisoners are common.  Following prison riots in 1994, the 
Ministry of Justice hired 500 additional guards.  Although conditions 
have not improved otherwise, no riots occurred in 1995. 
 
  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
 
The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention or compulsory 
exile.  The number of complaints of arbitrary arrest and detention 
continues to decline.  Complaints that PNC officers violated due process 
rights of detainees continued.  The courts generally enforced a ruling 
that interrogation without the presence of a public defender amounts to 
coercion, and any evidence so obtained is inadmissible; thus police 
authorities generally delayed questioning until a public defender 
arrived.  However, since low salaries and insufficient supervision limit 
the number of cases that public defenders handle, they are not always 
available when the police call. 
 
By law, the police may hold a person for 72 hours before delivering the 
suspect to court, after which time the judge may order detention for an 
additional 72 hours to determine if an investigation is warranted.  
Because of a lack of holding cells, such detainees are often sent to the 
prisons where they may be mixed with violent criminals.  The law allows 
120 days to investigate serious crimes, and 45 days for lesser offenses, 
before a judge must bring the accused to trial or dismiss the case.  In 
practice, the authorities rarely observed these time limits. 
 
Although the law permits release pending trial for crimes in which the 
maximum penalty does not exceed 3 years, many crimes (homicide, murder, 
manslaughter, rape, and crimes against property) carry penalties in 
excess of 3 years, thereby precluding release pending trial.  Because it 
may take several years for a case to come to trial, some prisoners were 
incarcerated longer than the maximum legal sentence for their crimes.  
Any detainee may request a review (habeas corpus) by the Supreme Court, 
but the court denies the overwhelming majority of such requests.  
Approximately 80 percent of all inmates are awaiting trial or 
sentencing. 
 
  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the 
Government respects this provision in practice. 
 
The court structure has four levels:  justices of the peace, first 
instance (district) courts, second instance (appellate) courts, and the 
Supreme Court.  Civilian courts exercise jurisdiction over military 
personnel who commit nonmilitary crimes.  Judges, not juries, rule on 
most cases; however, a judge cannot overrule a jury verdict nor can the 
defendant appeal it to a higher court.  Defendants may appeal their 
sentences, however, up to the Supreme Court. 
 
Two new court systems (family and juvenile offenders) began to function 
on the basis of revised legislation which introduced oral trials and new 
rights for the parties.  Both systems stressed conciliation as an 
alternative to adjudication.  A new Juvenile Code provided for due 
process in criminal cases, raised the age of majority from 16 to 18 
years, limited sentences to a maximum of 7 years, and introduced 
alternatives to incarceration.  The hasty passage of these laws led to 
numerous problems in implementation, largely a result of the continuing 
weaknesses of the institutions involved and their difficulties in 
assuming often radically changed roles. 
 
Under the Constitution, defendants have the right to a presumption of 
innocence, protection from self-incrimination, legal counsel, freedom 
from coercion, and compensation for damages due to judicial error.  They 
also have the right to be present in court and to confront witnesses.  
While compliance with these provisions is still far from satisfactory, 
it improved, in large part due to the judicial school's training 
programs and the evaluation activities conducted by the National Council 
of the Judiciary (CNJ--an independent body provided for in the 
Constitution to nominate, train, and evaluate judges) and the Supreme 
Court. 
 
The Assembly elected a new slate of justices to the Supreme Court in 
1994.  These justices continued their mandate to identify and dismiss 
inept or corrupt judges.  Since the program began, the Court has forced 
about 20 lower level judges to resign and is investigating several more.  
Judges who felt threatened by the CNJ were critical of the process of 
evaluations it conducted.  With a partial change of membership of the 
CNJ, and an entirely new Court, a cooperative relationship continued to 
develop. 
 
Despite some progress, problems of corruption and incompetence in the 
judicial system remained.  Although judicial salaries are now high 
enough to attract qualified judges, this is still not the case for 
prosecutors or defense lawyers.  Training programs are insufficient to 
compensate for inadequate university training, low pay, and poor 
supervision.  While the new laws emphasizing rights represent a marked 
improvement, they also add to the confusion by requiring new levels of 
coordination, comprehension, and thoughtful application on the part of 
court personnel.  Impunity, especially of the politically, economically, 
or institutionally well-connected, continues to be a problem.  ONUSAL's 
1994 comment that the judicial system's deficient institutions 
contribute to this impunity as well as to the increase in common and 
organized crime remains valid. 
 
There were no reports of political prisoners. 
 
  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
According to the Constitution, the police must have the resident's 
consent, a warrant, or a reasonable belief that a crime is being or is 
about to be committed, before entering a private dwelling.  Government 
authorities generally respected these rights.  Wiretapping of telephone 
communications by the Government, private persons, and political parties 
is illegal but occurs. 
 
Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
El Salvador has 5 daily newspapers, 10 television stations, 
approximately 100 licensed radio stations, and 2 major cable television 
systems.  Print and broadcast journalists regularly criticize the 
Government and report opposition views.  According to major media 
associations, the Government did not use direct or indirect means to 
control the media.  In December at the request of the Salvadoran 
Association of Radio Broadcasters, the National Telecommunications 
Association (ANTEL) closed 11 low-power, unlicensed radio stations 
operating in small rural communities.  The unlicensed stations charged 
that they were victims of a government attempt to restrict free speech.  
ANTEL countered that the stations' illicit signals interefered with 
legitimate use of the radio spectrum.  Negotiations continued.  Some 
media outlets accused the Government of favoritism in the apportionment 
of its advertising but they did not produce any firm evidence to 
substantiate their complaints.  Vigilante organizations threatened 
reporters and media outlets, but did not carry out any of their threats. 
 
The Constitution provides for academic freedom, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Constitution provides for peaceful assembly and association for any 
lawful purpose and the Government respects this right in practice.  
There is no requirement for permits to hold public meetings.  The 
Supreme Court declared in June that a 1994 decree by the mayor of San 
Salvador prohibiting public demonstrations in the capital during 
business hours was unconstitutional.  Throughout the year, ex-combatants 
demanding compensation and public workers wanting higher pay 
demonstrated publicly in San Salvador.  Confrontations between these 
groups and the PNC led to accusations by the PDDH, the FMLN, and the 
demonstrators of police brutality.  The demonstrators regularly broke 
the law; they blocked major thoroughfares, trespassed, and violated 
regulations prohibiting demonstrators from wearing masks and carrying 
weapons.  The PNC responded with tear gas, rubber pellets, and batons--
in the view of some, prematurely resorting to force.  In a November 23 
incident, a PNC officer killed a protester with a rubber bullet fired at 
close range. 
 
  c.  Freedom of Religion 
 
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government 
respects this right in practice. 
 
  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice. 
 
The Government has provisions for granting asylum and refugee status.  
The Government cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Refugees and the International Organization for Migration in assisting 
refugees.  There were no reports of forced expulsions. 
 
Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens exercise the right to change their government peacefully 
through regularly scheduled elections.  The President and Vice President 
are elected every 5 years; legislative and municipal elections are held 
every 3 years.  The Constitution bars the President from election to 
consecutive terms.  Voting is by secret ballot, and there is universal 
suffrage. 
 
The number of women active in politics is relatively small.  In the 1994 
elections, Salvadorans elected nine women to the Legislative Assembly, a 
slight increase from the number in the previous Assembly.  The President 
and 1 of the 4 vice presidents of the Assembly are women, as are 2 of 
the 15 Supreme Court justices.  One cabinet minister is a woman, as are 
31 of the 262 mayors.  In March a woman was elected to serve as the 
Government's Human Rights Ombudsman. 
 
Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
The Government demonstrated a willingness to discuss human rights issues 
and problems with international, local, and nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's).  A number of local nongovernmental human rights 
organizations, including the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador 
(CDHES), focus primarily on alleged abuses by the Government.  The CDHES 
follows cases through the investigation and trial stages, provides free 
legal assistance, and publishes monthly reports.  Numerous other NGO's, 
as well as church, labor, and university groups, have human rights 
offices that operate without restriction.  In addition, various 
international human rights groups visit and operate freely, including 
migration and other humanitarian and technical assistance groups. 
 
The U.N. Mission to El Salvador, downsized in April, continues to 
monitor implementation of the Peace Accords.  It turned over its human 
rights monitoring function to the PDDH.  As the only human rights 
organization specifically established by the Constitution, the PDDH 
receives and investigates allegations of human rights abuses committed 
by government officials and, if warranted, lodges complaints against 
specific officials.  The PDDH still suffers from administrative 
confusion and a lack of well-trained personnel that hamper its 
investigatory capacity.  The new Ombudsman demonstrated a willingness to 
speak out on public issues. 
 
Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution states that all people are equal before the law, and 
prohibits discrimination based on nationality, race, sex, or religion.  
In practice discrimination against women and the disabled occurs in 
salaries, in hiring, and in access to credit and to education. 
 
  Women 
 
Violence against women, including domestic violence, is widespread.  
Although the Institute of Legal Medicine recorded a decrease in reports 
of domestic violence against women, from 312 reports during the July-
December 1994 period, to 235 during the January-June 1995 period, it is 
still a serious concern.  The Center for Women, a leading women's group, 
reported that out of the 571 women who requested legal advice on the 
most common women's problems such as housing, alimony, sexual abuse, and 
child custody in the first 6 months of 1995, 451 said they had been 
mistreated by their spouse.  The Attorney General's office received on 
average 10 cases a day of family violence, women being the main victims.  
In general, women are reluctant to report spousal abuse.  The PDDH says 
that in 1994 hundreds of domestic abuse victims who underwent 
psychotherapy refused to report their cases formally.  Major government 
institutions such as the PDDH, the Attorney General's office, the 
Supreme Court, and the PNC coordinated efforts to combat family violence 
via "The Program of Family Relations Improvement."  The National 
Secretariat for the Family has a much-publicized hotline for victims to 
report domestic abuse.  The hotline received 1,934 calls during its 
first 3 months.  Of these calls, 43.5 percent were reports of physical 
abuse. 
 
Reports of sexual abuse of women continued to rise.  In 1994, the latest 
year-long period for which statistics are available, the Institute for 
Legal Medicine received 684 reports of sexual abuse of women, compared 
with 598 reports in 1993.  The Attorney General's office reported 591 
cases of mistreatment of women in the first 6 months of 1995, compared 
to 445 in the last 6 months of 1994.  A main concern for women is that 
due to the lack of witnesses, only 10 percent of rape cases result in 
convictions.  NGO's pushed for new criminal legislation to strengthen 
the evidentiary value given to rape victims' testimony.  There are eight 
main NGO's actively coordinating efforts to promote women's rights.  
Media articles made women more aware of these NGO's and the services 
they offered, and encouraged women to report abuse and look for legal 
advice. 
 
The Constitution grants women the same legal rights as men but they 
suffer discrimination in practice.  A new Family Code went into effect 
in 1994 which amended some laws that discriminated against women, most 
notably the large number living in common law marriages.  The new law 
also established courts to resolve family disputes.  El Salvador 
ratified the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction, and 
Eradicate Violence Against Women. 
 
Women suffer from economic discrimination and do not have equal access 
to credit and land ownership.  Women are paid less than men, and over 25 
percent of working women earn less than the minimum wage.  Of the 
economically active female population, 65 percent work in the informal 
economy.  Training for women is generally confined to low-wage 
occupational areas where women already hold most positions, such as 
teaching, nursing, home industries, or small businesses. 
 
  Children 
 
Government concern for children's rights and welfare is reflected more 
in its efforts to reduce poverty and promote family stability through 
economic growth than in direct expenditure on children.  The Salvadoran 
Institute for the Protection of Children (SIPC), an autonomous entity, 
is responsible for protecting and promoting children's rights.  A new 
Juvenile Offender's Code went into effect in March, increasing the age 
of majority from 16 to 18 years.  The law guarantees minors due process, 
establishes additional treatment facilities for offenders, and reduces 
sentences for crimes by minors. 
 
The Government works closely through state institutions and with the 
United Nations Children's Fund to promote protection and general 
awareness of children's rights.  Children continued to fall victim to 
physical and sexual abuse, abandonment, exploitation, and neglect, 
however.  The Institute of Legal Medicine recorded an increase in 
reports of sexual abuse of children under 14 years of age, from 172 
reports in the first 6 months of 1994, to 203 between July and December 
1994, and 192 for the January to June 1995 period.  The Attorney 
General's office registered an increase in offenses against children, 
nearly one half of which were sexual abuse cases.  According to the 
PDDH, over 85 percent of all abuse occurs in schools and at home, with 
only a small percentage being reported.  Out of the 1,857 children 
attended at San Salvador's largest children's hospital between 1989 and 
1993, nearly one quarter were treated for sexual abuse carried out by 
family members or friends of the family.  In order to promote and 
protect the rights of children in the community, the Assistant Human 
Rights Ombudsman for the Protection of Minors began to organize 
municipal authorities, community members, education centers, and other 
institutions to monitor and combat abuse against children and to educate 
the community on children's rights. 
 
Child abandonment and labor exploitation increased.  The SIPC reports 
that in 1994 abandonment was the second most common problem seen among 
children; from January to April 1995 it was the leading problem.  The 
Attorney General's office runs a program for San Salvador's rising 
number of street children but lack of funds hampers the program.  The 
murders of 7 street children caused alarm and a call for tighter 
protection of the approximately 1,200 minors living in the streets of 
San Salvador. 
 
Relief from the child abandonment problem through adoption is limited by 
the 1994 Family Code which favors domestic adoptions over foreign ones.  
Infant malnutrition is also of increasing concern; Ministry of Health 
figures for the first half of the year indicate that 50 percent of 
infants under the age of five are undernourished.  Government primary 
nutrition programs exist but lack financial resources. 
 
  People With Disabilities 
 
Except for the war wounded, who have secured both government and 
international funding for rehabilitation and retraining programs, the 
Government has no program to combat discrimination against the disabled, 
nor are there any laws mandating provision of access for people with 
disabilities.  The Government does not enforce a decree passed in 1984 
stating that one out of every 500 employees must be a person with 
disabilities.  Access to basic education is limited due to lack of 
facilities and appropriate transportation.  There is no provision of 
state services.  Only a few of the Government's community based health 
promoters have been trained to treat the disabled, and they rarely 
provide such service, tending rather to focus on life-threatening 
conditions and preventive care for mothers and children.  It is 
estimated that between 7 and 10 percent of the population is afflicted 
by some form of disability.  There are few organizations dedicated to 
protecting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities.  
Foreign funds for badly needed rehabilitation services channeled through 
the Telethon Foundation Pro-Rehabilitation, a local private voluntary 
organization, help address numerous rehabilitation issues and provide 
alternatives for the education and rehabilitation of the disabled 
population.  A semiautonomous institute, the Salvadoran Rehabilitation 
Institute for the Disabled (ISRI), also provides assistance to the 
disabled.  ISRI offers medical treatment and counseling, special 
education programs, and professional training courses.  Founded in 1957, 
ISRI has 10 centers throughout the country and receives assistance from 
the Government and national and international private and 
nongovernmental organizations. 
 
The residents of a home for the blind went on a brief hunger strike in 
September protesting conditions at the home.  Widely reported in the 
press, it appears to be the first time that people with disabilities 
banded together for this sort of protest.  They succeeded in removing 
the director of the home and prompted the Government to create a special 
commission made up of representatives of the PDDH, the Legislative 
Assembly, and the home's residents, to address their complaints. 
 
  Indigenous People 
 
El Salvador is an ethnically homogeneous country, although a small 
segment of the population claims to have descended solely from 
indigenous people.  The last census of Indians showed 80,000 in 1930, or 
5.6 percent of the population.  In 1932 government forces killed 
approximately 30,000 mostly indigenous people following an uprising.  In 
the face of such repression, most remaining indigenous people adopted 
local customs and successfully assimilated into the general population.  
There remain a few very small communities of indigenous people who still 
wear traditional dress, speak their native language, and maintain 
traditional customs without repression or interference.  The 
Constitution makes no specific provisions for the rights of indigenous 
people. 
 
The indigenous population is believed to be the poorest group in the 
country.  In a 1994 study, the PDDH found that 90 percent of indigenous 
people lived in conditions of extreme poverty, with average monthly 
incomes one-half the legal minimum wage.  Employment opportunities 
outside the informal economy are few, and a high illiteracy rate 
precludes indigenous people from competing for skilled jobs.  Indigenous 
people generally earn less than other agricultural laborers, and 
indigenous women in particular have little access to educational and 
work opportunities since they head most of the households.  Access to 
land is a growing problem confronting indigenous people.  Few possess 
titles to land, and access to bank loans and other forms of credit is 
extremely limited.  Domestic violence is widespread within indigenous 
communities. 
 
The Salvadoran National Indigenous Association sponsored the first 
meeting of the indigenous population in August.  Leaders of the event 
called for respect for indigenous rights, as well as for constitutional 
recognition of their existence.  The National Council for Art and 
Culture opened an indigenous department, which works together with 11 
indigenous organizations to promote and support customs and traditional 
festivals. 
 
Section 6  Worker Rights 
 
  a.  The Right of Association 
 
The Constitution prohibits the Government from using nationality, race, 
sex, creed, or political philosophy as a means to prevent workers or 
employers from organizing themselves into unions or associations.  
Numerous and sometimes conflicting laws governing labor relations impede 
full realization of the freedom of association, although Labor Code 
amendments developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and 
approved in 1994 brought about some improvements.  The Labor Code 
prohibits partisan political activity by unions, but this prohibition is 
routinely ignored. 
 
In the 1992 Peace Accords, the Government committed itself to seek 
consensus on revised labor legislation through the Socioeconomic Forum 
with equal representation from labor (including groups aligned with the 
FMLN), the Government, and the private sector.  The Assembly passed 
legislation in 1994 streamlining the process required to form a union, 
extending union rights to agricultural, independent, and small-business 
workers, and extending the right to strike to union federations.  The 
legislation also established a tripartite National Labor Council to 
replace the Socioeconomic Forum. 
 
There are approximately 150 active unions, public employee associations, 
and peasant organizations, which represent over 300,000 Salvadorans, 
approximately 20 percent of the total work force.  The Labor Code 
forbids foreigners from holding leadership positions in unions, but 
unions freely affiliate with international labor organizations. 
 
Only private sector workers have the right to form unions and strike; 
employees of nine autonomous public agencies may form unions but not 
strike.  Nevertheless, many workers including those in the public sector 
form employee associations that frequently carried out strikes which, 
while technically illegal, were treated as legitimate. 
 
Negotiations between public employee associations and the Government 
generally settle public sector strikes, although the Labor Code provides 
for mandatory arbitration of public sector disputes. 
 
After a series of public sector strikes in mid-1994, the Government 
threatened to use the police to open public buildings which strikers 
forced shut.  Beginning early in 1995, the Government began to expel 
strikers from public buildings, an action which led to accusations of 
government oppression.  In several cases, the police used tear gas and 
rubber bullets against workers.  In the majority of cases, however, the 
strikers violated laws and initiated the violence.  In several street 
disturbances, strikers armed with clubs and rocks attacked the police.  
Public workers' unions claim that the Government failed to bargain in 
good faith. 
 
The law prohibits antiunion actions before a union is legally 
registered.  However, under the previous Labor Code, there were credible 
charges that the Government impeded union registration through exacting 
reviews of union documentation and strict interpretation of the 
Constitution, Labor Code, and union statutes.  ILO-drafted changes have 
streamlined the process and it is now difficult for management to use 
bureaucratic inertia to impede the formation of a union. 
 
  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Constitution and the Labor Code provide for collective bargaining 
rights, but only to employees in the private sector and in autonomous 
government agencies, such as utilities and the port authority.  However, 
both private sector unions (by law) and public sector employee 
associations (in practice) use collective bargaining extensively. 
 
The Ministry of Labor oversees implementation of collective bargaining 
agreements and acts as conciliator in labor disputes in the private 
sector and autonomous government institutions.  In practice, ministers 
and the heads of autonomous government institutions often negotiate with 
labor organizations directly, relying on the Labor Ministry only for 
such functions as officially certifying unions.  The Ministry often 
seeks to conciliate labor disputes through informal channels rather than 
attempting strictly to enforce regulations, leading to charges that the 
Ministry is biased against labor.  Corruption continues to be a serious 
problem affecting labor inspectors and courts. 
 
The Constitution prohibits discrimination against unions.  It provides 
that union officials at the time of their election, throughout their 
term, and for 1 year following their term shall not be fired, suspended 
for disciplinary reasons, removed, or demoted except for legal cause.  
Employers generally observed this provision in practice, but in some 
cases fired those attempting to form unions before receiving their union 
credentials.  Even under the revised Code, there were credible reports 
of government inaction following dismissal of legally recognized union 
representatives.  The law requires employers to rehire employees fired 
for any type of union activity, although the authorities sometimes 
failed to  enforce this requirement.  In many cases, employers convince 
fired employees to take a cash payment in lieu of returning to work. 
 
There are nine export processing zones (EPZ's).  Labor regulations in 
these zones are identical to those throughout the country.  Companies 
operating in the EPZ's, while providing higher salaries and benefits 
than companies outside the EPZ's, strongly discourage organizing.  There 
were credible reports of some foreign-owned factories dismissing union 
organizers.  In addition, unions accused some companies of physically 
abusing their workers.  While labor inspectors and courts have been 
ineffective in investigating and reacting to such complaints, the 
Government has formed interagency committees (consisting of 
representatives of the Labor Ministry, Economic Ministry, and the PDDH) 
to investigate alleged violations. 
 
  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The Constitution prohibits forced or compulsory labor, except in the 
case of calamity and other instances specified by law.  This provision 
is followed in practice. 
 
  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
The Constitution prohibits the employment of children under the age of 
14.  It provides for exceptions only where such employment is absolutely 
indispensable to the sustenance of the minor and his family, most often 
the case with children of peasant families who traditionally work with 
their families during planting and harvesting seasons.  Children also 
frequently work as vendors and general laborers in small businesses, 
especially in the informal sector.  Parents of children in circumstances 
such as these often do not allow their children to complete schooling 
through the ninth grade as the law requires, since the labor which the 
children perform is considered vital to the family.  Child labor is not 
found in the industrial sector.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible 
for enforcing child labor laws. 
 
  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
In July the Government raised the minimum wages for commercial, 
industrial, service, and agroindustrial employees by 10 percent. 
The new rate was about $4.40 (38.50 colones) per day for industrial and 
service workers; and about $3.30 (28.60 colones) in wages, including a 
food allowance, per day for agroindustrial employees.  (Full-time 
employees who are paid minimum wage receive pay for 30 days a month.)  
Despite these increases, minimum wages did not keep up with the Ministry 
of Economy's estimate of the increase in the cost of living.  An 
estimated 40 percent of the population lives below the poverty level.  
The Labor Ministry is responsible for enforcing minimum wage laws and 
does so effectively in the formal sector. 
 
The law limits the workday to 6 hours for minors between 14 and 18 years 
of age and 8 hours for adults, and mandates premium pay for longer 
hours.  The Labor Code sets a maximum normal workweek of 44 hours, 
requiring overtime pay for additional work and limiting the workweek to 
no more than 6 days. 
 
The Constitution and the Labor Code require employers, including the 
Government, to take steps to ensure that employees are not placed at 
risk in their work places, and prohibit the employment of persons under 
18 years of age and all women in occupations considered hazardous.  
Nevertheless, health and safety regulations are outdated, and inadequate 
enforcement remains a problem.  Workers can remove themselves from 
dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their employment only in 
situations where they can present a medical certificate issued by a 
doctor or the Social Security Institute indicating that their health is 
at risk while using certain equipment or substances.  The Ministry of 
Labor attempts to enforce the applicable regulations and conducts 
investigations which sometimes lead to fines or other findings favoring 
workers.  The Ministry has very limited powers to enforce compliance, 
however, and has suffered resource cutbacks which curb its 
effectiveness. 
 
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[end of document]

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