Critical Code Switching: The Effects of
Democratization in El Salvador
Dr. Hilary Parsons Dick
Conflict and Inequality in Latin America
29 April 2013
Critical code switching was the main focus of Ellen Moodie’s composition of El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty and the Transition to Democracy. This term surfaced after a peace agreement ended the civil war in El Salvador in 1992. When a civil war ends there is the common belief that all violence ends. However, this was not the case in El Salvador and violence continued after peace was supposedly established. In order to diverge the attention of continued violence within its country, El Salvador’s government sought to “re-label” the violence that was still present in its war-ridden country. Essentially, the violent crimes were still happening but the government labeled them as random crime, not political crime (Moodie 2010: 55). The distinction between the two is described as political violence being a grievance against the government due to the violation of human rights, whereas random crime is not an expression of grievance but rather the individual doing wrong (Hilary Parsons Dick, Personal Communication, February 12, 2013). The El Salvadoran government coded the crime as random because they wanted to establish a sense of order and normalcy so they could begin to rebuild their country into a democracy (Moodie 2010: 55). The transition from authoritarian rule to a democracy in El Salvador is known as the process of democratization. This process entails the establishment of free market economics and the assembly of political figures that promote democracy with an optimistic connotation. A democracy is a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people (Paley 2001: 6). Furthermore, it creates an image of social and political stability while promoting economic development (Hilary Parsons Dick, Personal Communication, February 19, 2013). In relation to El Salvador, I argue that through the government’s utilization of critical code switching, they have directly impeded the country’s desire for free market democratic governance by violating human rights, failing to reform state security and allowing an increase in gang crime. El Salvador’s civil war officially began in 1980 when citizens became outraged at the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The assassination came one day after Romero delivered a sermon that pleaded to soldiers to stop carrying out the government’s repression and violation of human rights; the rights of individuals to life and liberty (Miglierini 2010: 1). Consequently, a rebel group named the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) formed. The government targeted anyone in favor of socioeconomic reform, while the FMLN targeted government officials. Over the course of the war, nearly 75,000 lives were claimed and 85% of the violence was contributable to state security forces within El Salvador during the years 1980-1992 (Witte 2011). Despite the peace accords in 1992, violations of human rights continued and were simply relabeled as common crime by then president, Alfredo Cristiani (Moodie 2010: 56). The United Nations Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) Human Rights Division documented the first couple of months after the cease-fire was agreed upon. Essentially they said that executions and violent deaths had continued and there was a lack of effective action taken by the government to end, investigate, or punish those carrying out the crimes (Moodie 2010: 69). Cristiani’s use of critical code switching was a monumental barrier to the process of democratizing El Salvador. As stated earlier, democratization is the idea of creating a government for the people; a government that is vested in the people. Cristiani proved that he was not invested in the interests of his people because he relabeled crime occurring after the peace agreement as...
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