The mural in the town of La Laguna depicts a rifle firmly planted into the ground but one that, with time, becomes a tall corn plant with a dove hovering nearby.
The mural “from rifle to corn” depicts what happened in this part of the Salvadoran countryside, as it evolved from a theater of war in the late 1970s and 1980s to a thriving agricultural area, after rifles and other weapons were laid to rest with the signing of peace accords in 1992. Almost three decades since the documents were signed Jan. 16, 1992, ending decades of conflict and 12 years of civil war, the accords have come under criticism, mainly from the nation’s current president and his supporters. On Dec. 17, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele called the accords a “farce,” saying they had done little to provide a sense of safety, made no advances in the areas of justice or meaningful reforms in education, health care or other social programs for Salvadorans. “Why, if they were so good, did they not benefit the Salvadoran people?” Bukele asked. “Ah, the war stopped,” he added with sarcasm.
The violence of the civil war was replaced by crime and violence from Salvadorans who had become gang members in the U.S. and were later deported, returning to their country with a system of extortion that took root and flourished among the largely unprotected poor and middle class of El Salvador. Politicians from the two main political parties that held power following the accords abused the system for their financial gain while doing little to resolve the lawlessness that affected the lives of the majority. As a result, gangs established deep roots in Salvadoran society. It’s a problem that Bukele and his administration have not been able to solve. In a December 2019 interview with the CBS news show “60 Minutes,” Bukele admitted that the gangs “have a de facto power, a real one. They charge taxes. They actually say, ‘OK, if you pay this, we’ll provide security for your business.’ They have a quasi-security force.” But many say the failure of the parties that took part in the accords is not a reason to deny that the documents provided a foundation for a nascent, if imperfect, democracy in El Salvador.
In an interview published Jan. 16 in El Salvador’s La Prensa Gráfica newspaper, Hector Lindo-Fuentes, a Salvadoran historian and retired Fordham University professor, said the accords provided a way toward the peaceful transfer of power that did not exist before in the country.
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