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Widgets Magazine


Publicado el 8 de Septiembre de 2011

id: 46984
date: 12/7/2005 22:21
refid: 05SANSALVADOR3431
origin: Embassy San Salvador
classification: UNCLASSIFIED
destination: 04SANSALVADOR943|04SECSTATE33359
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


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E.O.: 12958:N/A
1. SUMMARY: Given its relatively small size (6.7 million
people in an area smaller than New Jersey), El Salvador
has a relatively rich media environment and a fairly well-
defined number of "players" jockeying for power and
influence.  Though their combined circulation is scarcely
300,000, newspapers may be considered the most influential
of the media.  Internet and cable television access
largely remains concentrated in the hands of educated
urban dwellers, though the GOES is making a long-term
effort to bring the Internet to all schools, and Internet-
ready "info centros" are available throughout the country.
While broadcast media reaches the largest number of people
on a regular basis, print media and a variety of
individuals and institutions - including churches,
political parties, the business community, academia, civil
society, overseas Salvadorans, and the U.S. Embassy -
wield considerable clout, with the degree of influence of
each depending on the issue involved.  END SUMMARY.
2. The media in El Salvador are relatively free, very
competitive, and highly influential.  News coverage is
generally balanced, and opposing opinions are presented. The
country's five national daily newspapers and six nationwide
free-to-air television stations subscribe to and monitor the
international wire services and also run regular news
segments from CNN, CNN Espaol, Univision and Telemundo, all
of which have "stringers" in El Salvador.  Their programming
and that of other U.S. and international stations are also
available via local cable television providers.  El Salvador
also has at least 150 radio stations and a variety of
magazines, though none like "Time" or "Newsweek."  Many
internationally-minded Salvadorans - those in the business
world in particular -- are also exposed to U.S. news and
ideas through their subscriptions to U.S. magazines and to
publications like the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) or the New
York Times (NYT). El Salvador's two largest dailies (La
Prensa Grafica and El Diario de Hoy - see para 3) have
agreements with both the WSJ and the NYT that allows them to
publish regularly Spanish versions of certain articles and
3. Annual surveys confirm television as the dominant news
source for Salvadorans, surpassing radio by a small margin
and newspapers by a much wider one.  Nevertheless, radio
remains the most demographically diverse info-entertainment
medium in El Salvador and the one that is most constantly
heard throughout any given day by listeners in their cars,
offices, or homes. Among the most important stations with
nationwide reach are Radio Cadena YSKL, YSUCA and the Radio
Association "ARPAS" network (leftist), and Radio La Chevere
(part of Grupo Samix which is owned by President Saca's
family). Both the free-to-air television channels and many
popular radio stations feature news commentary on morning
talk shows that are hosted by well-known journalists.
4.  By far the two most influential Salvadoran newspapers
are the major dailies, La Prensa Grafica and El Diario de
Hoy.  Both have circulations of about 100,000, and each has
a well-developed web site.  Both are owned and operated by
politically conservative families who have direct lines of
communication with the Presidential Palace.  La Prensa
Grafica's editorial tone is generally centrist and sometimes
critical of the government, while El Diario de Hoy's is more
openly conservative and is considered the nationalistic
voice of the elite "old guard."  But together with the other
three national dailies (conservative El Mundo, leftist Co-
Latino, and sensationalist Mas!), the print media's
influence is much greater than the circulation figures would
suggest.  Newspapers are closely read by the educated elite
in government, business, and civil society, and carry
regular features from American and European (principally
Spanish) journals.  It is also the print media that "break"
the big news stories that broadcast media then cover.  Op-
eds in the major papers are also an effective and direct
method of conveying messages to Salvador's elite and,
through them, to the Salvadoran public. Reflective of the
broad reach of newspapers is the fact that organizations and
private citizens frequently purchase advertising space
("campos pagados") in order to communicate their views on
specific issues to the general public.
5.  Both print and broadcast media depend heavily on
advertising dollars, print because circulation is relatively
low and broadcast because most entertainment content must be
bought from overseas suppliers.  As a result, not only will
media offer space and airtime to whomever can pay, media are
also generally reluctant to report too aggressively on the
news in a way that could offend their advertisers (including
the government).
6.  Members of the Cabinet and heads of various government
agencies frequently talk to the media and wield influence,
at least among the educated elite, in their areas of
responsibility.  With the general public, their popularity
varies according to their perceived success or lack thereof.
For example, recent polls have shown that the Ministers of
Economy and Labor have the lowest public approval ratings
due to low economic growth coupled with high unemployment
and underemployment.  The judiciary in particular suffers
from a lack of public trust and credibility and is thus an
important target for reform efforts.  Many institutions in
all three branches of government are perceived as
unresponsive to social concerns such as access to potable
water, affordable electricity, and decent health care;
public trust of the institutions seems to have a positive
correlation with trust of the individuals who head them.
7.  The 84 members of the national Legislative Assembly and
the mayors of El Salvador's 262 municipalities are also
highly influential with the general public, as are the
political parties.  After the March 21, 2004 election, only
the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the
Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) had
garnered sufficient votes to ensure their continued
existence.  Since then, however, court decisions have kept
the National Conciliation Party (PCN), the Christian
Democratic Party (PDC), and the Democratic Center Party (CD)
in existence; meanwhile, the FMLN itself has been beset by a
series of defections that drained it of leaders as well as
rank-and-file members, many of whom have joined a more
moderate splinter party, the Revolutionary Democratic Front
(FDR). Mayors and Legislative Assembly members, or
"diputados," are important target audiences to be approached
both directly and indirectly in pursuit of MPP goals,
including through NGOs or influential associations such as
the Corporation of Salvadoran Municipalities (COMURES).
Salvadoran political parties are influential because they
control the agenda of the Legislative Assembly and because
they have numerous loyal members among Salvadorans of voting
age.  While ruling party ARENA has great influence over the
priorities of the national administration, FMLN or former
FMLN mayors run El Salvador's capital and major cities, and
FMLN mayors most often appear in the media. ARENA hopes to
win more seats in the National Assembly and to capture
control of more city halls in the elections scheduled for
March, 2006; so far, polls indicate that ARENA's prospects
look good.
8. The Catholic Church, mainline Protestant and evangelical
churches, and social-activism NGOs, some of whom are closely
allied with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH),
are highly influential.  Left-leaning groups that had
expressed opposition to CAFTA-DR include El Salvador's few
labor unions, certain humanitarian service NGOs, economic
development think-tank FUNDE, and political NGOs such as the
Center for Solidarity and Exchange (CIS by its Spanish
initials).  Leftist daily newspaper Co-Latino and radio
stations such as YSUCA, Maya Vision, Radio Farabundo Marti,
and Radio Venceremos (the voice of the FMLN in the war
years) are the primary media for these groups.  A few
universities such as the Universidad Centroamericana Jose
Simeon Canas (UCA), the Universidad de El Salvador (National
University, or UES) and the Universidad Tecnologica wield
influence that is probably enhanced by their public opinion
polling capability.
9.  Close ties between the government and the formal private
sector (which falls, politically, between center-right and
conservative) give the business community good access to
senior government officials and a high degree of influence
over government decisions.  The free-market, free-trade
agendas of various private-sector associations are reported
regularly in the mainstream media and carry weight within
the Salvadoran government and Legislative Assembly.  These
groups include the leading economic and social think-tank
FUSADES, the National Private Enterprise Association (ANEP),
associations of small and medium-sized businesses and
exporters such as COEXPORT and FUNDAMYPE, and the Chambers
of Commerce (including the American Chamber of Commerce),
industry associations, and large conglomerates and their
owners.  Senior members of these organizations have
sometimes gone on to hold political office; for example,
President Saca himself used to be the President of ANEP.
10.  Other persons of influence are those who regularly
write newspaper columns and op-ed pieces and/or are
interviewed in newspapers and on television news talk shows
on the day's most pressing issues.  They include Peace
Accord negotiator and university rector David Escobar
Gallindo, former Ambassador to the United States Ernesto
Rivas Gallont, FUNDE head Roberto Rubio Fabian (see para 7),
Economist Rafael Castellanos, and FMLN guerilla leader-
turned FMLN-critic Joaqun Villalobos.  Professionals such
as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and professors are also
widely respected and trusted.
11. One cannot discount the influence of the two million
Salvadorans living overseas nor of the hometown associations
and lobbying groups they have formed.  In part because of
the remittance dollars they represent, these groups are
highly influential.  They tend to have political
orientations that encompass a wide range of views, but are
strongly pro-immigrant.  Many groups have sought voting
rights in Salvadoran elections (not allowed under the
current constitution) and therewith a more direct influence
on politics, but as yet they are only indirectly influential
in both the United States and El Salvador.
12. Finally, there is the rumor mill, kept active by close-
knit networks of families, friends, school classmates, and
other social circles.  For example, regarding visas, many
potential or actual applicants seem to trust the word of
migration-assistance NGOs, less-scrupulous attorneys and
"advisors," and their circles of family and friends more
than they trust official information coming from the U.S.
Consulate.  (This is, however, beginning to change as PAS
and the Consular Section have mounted a massive public
outreach effort across radio, TV and print media as well as
in Internet chat rooms; see para 17.)
13.  Economic Growth and Development, Trade and Investment:
Stimulating growth, jobs, and investment is a top concern
for both the GOES and the Mission.  Though public opinion
polls show many Salvadorans are skeptical about the short-
term benefits of adhering to what has come to be known as
the Washington Consensus, they also show that, ultimately,
Salvadorans believe open markets and free trade are the only
ways their country can develop.  ARENA's decisive victory in
the March 21, 2004 presidential election and subsequent
polls that give President Saca positive ratings in the 70th
percentile indicate that stimulating growth, jobs, and
investment is a top public concern, as is maintaining good
relations with the United States in order to achieve those
goals.  In this environment, the views of pro-business
governmental and nongovernmental institutions and those of
prominent members of the business sector carry lots of
weight.  Though there was opposition expressed by some of
the groups mentioned in para 7, pro-CAFTA forces won the
day, making El Salvador the first CAFTA-DR country to ratify
the agreement, in December 2004.
14.  Democratic Systems and Practices:  In order to promote
reform of El Salvador's public institutions, decrease
corruption, and thereby increase public faith in and support
for democratic institutions, the Embassy continues to
provide information, financial support, and exchange
opportunities to local academic, media and civic
organizations working to shape policy and/or promote
participation in democratic processes.  Some helpful
strategies include supporting NGO activities such as the PAS
and INL-funded Culture of Lawfulness program, and using
USAID funds to finance programs aimed at reforming the
judiciary, promoting transparency, and seeking/incorporating
citizen input into decision-making.
15.  Law Enforcement and Judicial Systems:  In order to
build public understanding of the related threats from
terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and other crime, and to
increase support for combating them, the Mission is working
with the judicial sector to strengthen criminal statutes
against conspiracy and alien smuggling, and with the
recently-formed GOES anti-gang commission to reduce gang
membership and violent crime related to gangs.  Our
educational exchanges and INL programs, especially those
working directly with the police and municipal governments,
are conduits to share U.S. best-practices, and to provide
material support for anti-crime measures, drug abuse
prevention, and treatment programs.
16.  In April 2005, the State Department decided to seek
agreement with El Salvador to establish an International Law
Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador.  Post correctly
anticipated opposition from the FMLN and others, who charged
the ILEA would be a new "School of the Americas" training
police in torture tactics.  Groups of Embassy officers and
interagency ILEA representatives met with the FMLN and
judicial-issues NGOs to address their concerns, and invited
them to observe ILEA-type training taking place in El
Salvador.  Opposing voices continue to be heard from time to
time, but they seem confined to the nongovernmental
Federation for Legal Studies (FESPAD) and the much-
splintered FMLN.
17. To curb illegal migration yet facilitate legal travel to
the U.S., the Mission is actively increasing public
understanding of the U.S. visa process and the dangers of
illegal immigration through public meetings, interviews and
press briefings and through regular communication with the
Directorate of Migration and the Foreign Ministry.
Representatives from the Consular Section and the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) appear almost weekly on radio and
television, and hold regular sessions with NGOs and GOES
agencies dealing with migration, including the National
Civilian Police (PNC), the Salvadoran immigration service,
and various adoption services.  Post also shows "message"
videos in consular waiting areas.  The fact that El Salvador
depends on the nearly $3 billion in remittances it receives
annually (equal to about 14 percent of its GDP) hinders
these efforts, as do very real hopes of greater economic
opportunity and reunification with family members in the
United States.  While it is difficult to change the cost-
benefit calculation in the minds of individual intending
immigrants, GOES officials and newspaper editors have
recently shown less of a tendency to turn a blind eye toward
unlimited emigration, while paying more attention toward
some of the adverse effects of family disintegration and
even the massive inflow of remittances.
18.  Close Ties with Neighbors and Key Allies: Along with El
Salvador's support in international fora on issues such as
free trade and democracy and its leadership in regional
integration efforts, El Salvador's contribution of five six-
month rotations of 360 troops each to the Coalition effort
in Iraq is a policy the Saca Administration has continued,
despite polls showing the majority of the public opposed.
Continued close military relationships are key to this
effort, given the high public credibility of the armed
forces and their commitment to remaining out of politics.
The Mission will also continue our multiple collaborations
with the Salvadoran armed forces, using IMET and FMF funding
for training and supplies/repairs, and organizing public
events showing our appreciation for Salvadoran collaboration
in international peacekeeping efforts.
19.  COMMENT:  Since Post first composed an Influence
Analysis cable in March 2004 (reftel A), three more
rotations of Salvadoran soldiers have served in Iraq, CAFTA
has been ratified, and El Salvador has continued to be one
of our closest allies in the Hemisphere.  Recent newspaper
commentary suggests, however, that influential circles
believe El Salvador ought to be getting more from the United
States - greater immigration benefits, more development
assistance, increased aid in the aftermath of the
devastation of Hurricane Stan in October, greater
understanding about the difficulties of accepting Salvadoran
criminals deported from the U.S., and so on.  Post will
continue to seek opportunities to emphasize the long-term
commitment of the United States to El Salvador over many
years, and on the part of many agencies: USAID, the Peace
Corps, the U.S. military, the Department of State, and more.

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