Democratization in El Salvador

Having improved its political and economic situation by becoming a popular tourist destination, El Salvador might seem like a fascinating place to a random visitor, yet its internal political and social processes have been very challenging for its residents. The state has also been affected by two civil wars to a considerable degree and has been experiencing economic and political difficulties (Montoya, 2018). During the decades of the military regime, El Salvador’s residents were fed with a false notion of democracy under the thin veneer of which the authoritarian government promoted rightist ideas (Montoya, 2018).

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Therefore, even after the civil war, the first elections that were supposed to hold a truly democratic value could not be seen as entirely liberating due to the social constraints that El Salvador’s residents refused to abandon. The shift toward democracy has been rather difficult for El Salvador as its citizens faced a range of impediments rooted in not only the political choices made by the ruling party but also due to the lack of readiness among the citizens themselves.

Herein lies the necessity to introduce the principles of democracy into every domain of the life of El Salvador’s citizens. The resulting change in the perception of democracy and the acceptance of the relevant values are expected to be observed in the specified society. Specifically, it is critical to address the internal conflicts within the state that have led to the two civil wars and the unceasing confrontation between the residents of the country.

The resulting reconciliation will pave the way to the gradual acceptance of democratic values and ideas. Although the process of democratization in El Salvador can be described as incomplete so far to explain the inconsistencies regarding people’s rights within the state, El Salvador also needs to align political democratization with the social one in order to encourage change.

Exploring the political context of the current democratization process, one has to mention the years of political repression that its citizens have witnessed, as well as the staggeringly high levels of poverty, which aggravate the current situation. El Salvador has been suffering from a dictatorship regime for several decades, after which two civil wars destroyed the very foundation of its social, financial, and economic security (Lakitsch, 2014).

Herein lies the stumbling block for the future democratization process; it is critical to ensure that people recognize the need for change and are willing to participate actively to create a new society based on the idea of equality. However, with the years of oppression, El Salvador’s citizens may be reluctant to challenge the status quo.

The problems described above are no longer a part of El Salvador and its policies, yet the aftermath of the specified events is still largely in its scale and predominantly negative. For instance, according to the recent statistical data, the levels of non-political violence in the state have been on the increase recently (“El Salvador’s politics of perpetual violence,” 2017). The lack of effort from the state officials to curb the violence rates indicates that the process of democratization in El Salvador is yet to have potentially promising effects on political, legal, and social justice. Indeed, the lack of security that has become an inseparable part of the citizens’ existence proves that the democratization process will need to include not only political changes but also shifts in the social justice system and the improved legal framework.

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The internal contradictions of El Salvador, which have been fuelling its political instability and prevented the democratization process, can be explained by the presence of deeply seated conflicts between the Right and the Left. Specifically, the competition between Nationalist Republic Alliance (ARENA), which represents the Right, and FMLN, which promotes the Left-wing agenda, can be seen as the foundation for the problems associated with the promotion of democracy within the state (Montoya, 2018). Because of the unceasing confrontations between the two parties and their proponents, as opposed to the search for a compromise for the benefit of El Salvador’s residents, the authorities have been failing to introduce the principles of democracy into the state.

In retrospect, the current conflicts can be explained by years of the totalitarian regime, which was foisted on the people of El Salvador by General Hernandez Martínez. Martínez established a military regime that suppressed any hint of democracy and freedom within the state, thus creating a politically, economically, and culturally stifling environment. Despite the fact that Martínez attempted to create the semblance of democracy within the state, the specified endeavors could only be considered as laughably dishonest. The situation was aggravated by the introduction of local puppet authorities with the help of fraudulent elections held in the 1970ies (Mainwaring & Pérez-Liñán, 2014).

The creation of the leftist movement, which took place roughly on the specified time slot, can be attributed to building social and political tension within El Salvador society. On the one hand, the specified change could be seen as a chance of enhancing the process of social democratization since it implied a shift in national thinking. On the other hand, the further steps taken by FMLN could be described as rather violent and, therefore, also being directly opposed to the traditional principles of democracy.

Moreover, the shift that occurred after Martínez’s government had been overthrown could not be described as intrinsically democratic, either. For instance, the fact that FMLN preferred to distance itself from the election process under the assumption that the specified change was introduced with the help of the American government could be seen as the reason for concern. Due to the previous history of political submission and the experience of freethinking being suppressed, El Salvador citizens, in general, and the members of FMLN, in particular, could not differentiate between the introduction of culturally alien values and the promotion of democratic principles that are universal in their nature (Montoya, 2018).

Thus, the resulting tension between the Right and the Left, which can be observed in El Salvador’s political arena, should be seen as the side effect of the deeply rooted societal issues within the state (Ramos, López, & Quinteros, 2015). The democratization process has been stalled, and the levels of crime within the state have risen due to the absence of a clear vector for further political and social growth.

The specified change can be implemented by enhancing the financial security of the population and introducing opportunities for citizens to receive proper education and employment chances. Therefore, it is critical for the democratization process to be supported by external help, in general, and funding for societal change, in particular. In addition, alterations on a legal level will have to take place in order to prompt further democratization.

Regulations that entitle all citizens to irrefutable rights and freedoms will have to be created in order to establish legal and social security for El Salvador’s residents. At present, democratization is hindered to a significant extent due to the increasingly high crime levels within the state (Mainwaring & Pérez-Liñán, 2014). Therefore, policies for curbing the rates of crime in the state are an essential addition to the current set of principles by which the state is regulated.

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In addition, a shift in the social perspective will be needed. When considering the failure of the initial phase of democratization in El Salvador, one should mention the fact that a range of its citizens was convinced about the phenomenon being administered entirely by the United States, which pursued their mercenary goals. While the identified statement is debatable, it is crucial to provide El Salvador citizens with independence and create an environment in which democratization will occur on their behalf (Mainwaring & Pérez-Liñán, 2014). As a result, a change in the social system and the political framework of the state will occur.

Although El Salvador has undergone profound changes over the past decade in the attempt to promote democratization, further changes on legal and social levels should be made in order to plant democratic ideas into the local society. Specifically, the very foundation for state governance will have to be reconsidered for the state to move from the current situation to the traditional democratic principles.

Specifically, it will be crucial to improve the levels of legal and social security within the state so that people could feel safe. The identified process has to be accompanied by a gradual shift in people’s perception of social, economic, political, and cultural interactions. Specifically, it will be critical to introduce the strategies that will allow for building the confidence of El Salvador’s residents. As a result, the democratization process will continue and is most likely to result in the eventual shift toward complete democracy interwoven into the cultural beliefs and political system of the state.


El Salvador’s politics of perpetual violence. (2017). Web.

Lakitsch, M. (2014). Political Power reconsidered: State power and civic activism between legitimacy and violence. Peace report 2013. Münster, Germany: LIT Verlag Münster.

Mainwaring, S., & Pérez-Liñán, A. (2014). Democracies and dictatorships in Latin America: Emergence, survival, and fall. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Montoya, A. (2018). The violence of democracy: Political life in postwar El Salvador. New York, NY: Springer, 2018.

Ramos, C. G., López, R. O., & Quinteros, A. C. (2015). The FMLN and post-war politics in El Salvador. Web.

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