Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Postwar Kids

Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

Postwar Kids

Article excerpt

IT'S NOT A GOOD TIME TO HAVE GREAT HOPES for Salvadoran politics, especially if you are a young Salvadoran. As I write this, in mid-February, the country is still debating the legacy of former President Francisco Flores (1999-2004), who died while under house arrest facing trial under charges of money laundering. At the time of his death in January, we were still learning that most of that money-$15 million that Taiwan allegedly donated for the victims of two earthquakes in 2001- had gone to finance his rightist party, ARENA.

Just a few days after the Flores funeral, the Supreme Court charged another former president, Mauricio Funes, from the leftist FMLN, with illicit enrichment- he was unable to explain a significant increase of income while he was in office. His bank accounts and properties have been frozen and he awaits trial soon.

Yet another former president, Antonio Saca (2004-2009), the last ARENA president, is being investigated and questioned about a million-fold increase in his personal assets during his administration.

Even in a country as politically polarized as El Salvador, the accusations against these presidents raised doubts among the otherwise unconditional supporters of the two main parties that represent the political system's extreme right and extreme left, ARENA and the FMLN. Both parties grew out of the civil war that devastated the country in the 80s, and both have controlled the political system since the 1992 peace agreement.

For the generation that fought the war, and the one that grew up during it, politics have just become a continuation of that war. In public forums, in Congress and the media, members of both parties constantly quarrel with their political foes and blindly defend their leaders, aware that any damage to their own side means a victory for the other. That's how politics have been practiced for the last 25 years. But politics have never been so discredited as they are now.

Enter the postwar generation. Those born during or after the war. Although also divided between leftand right, they don't follow politics or defend their ideology with the same intolerance of those who embraced (or practiced) its more violent expressions in the 80s. The recent presidential scandals proved to them that corruption is not related to ideology. There are no good or bad sides; just good ideas and bad people. And a few good people too.

"The recent corruption scandals affect my faith in the system, of course," says Aída Betancourt, 26, a lawyer working at the local offices of the World Bank and a very active promoter of her generation's participation in public life. "It brings me hope. It makes me believe that there are some brave people outside the corruption rings and interests, namely the Supreme Court judges, sending these clear messages to stop corruption."

It's been 24 years since the war ended. Enough time for Aída's generation to grow up and become adults and demand their own spaces. And they are trying. At least some of them.

That is, some of those privileged enough to have an education, access to information, the urgency to change the country and their basic needs satisfied. Middle-class urban postwar kids with a social conscience. Los posts.

"My generation can be defined by the lack of the political fanatism that the previous ones had," says Juan Martínez, 29, an anthropologist who researches gangs. "You can see guys in ARENA publicly expressing their condemnation of Flores' actions, but they still declare themselves areneros. It's the same on the left. The Funesgate is a scandal. But they will remain leftists. Now we have some certainties about what these politicians do. They steal money from the people. We see these indictments as a step ahead, the democratization process is advancing."

These postwar kids almost speak a different language. They are more tolerant of ideological and sexual diversity, more skeptical about almost everything and curious and better connected with the rest of the world through social media. …

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