Artículos en Inglés

10 Jul 2013
Artículos en Inglés | Por: Marcela Solís

Marcos Rodríguez- CEO dialog of El Salvador

Translated by: Rodrigo Samour Calderón.

Who is Marcos Rodríguez?

Well, I am originally Uruguayan. I was born in 1953. I left Uruguay for Argentina in ‘73, during the dictatorship. When the coup d’etat in Argentina occurred, I left for Sweden. I lived in Sweden for 8 to 9 years. I am in fact a Swedish citizen; I have Swedish children and grandchildren. Afterwards I came to El Salvador and became a member of the Fuerzas Guerrilleras of the FMLN, in Chalatenango.

What career did you study?

Economics. I studied in Sweden and in El Salvador. I got my Masters on Decentralization and Local Development. I was one of the first members of FUNDE, in 1994. After 1993-1994 I left FMLN because I was a foreigner, following the Acuerdos de Paz (Peace Accords), since no reform was made on the constitution and foreigners were forbidden from politics.

How did he make it to El Salvador?

By vocation and in solidarity with the Catholic Church, Christian groups and I had already worked in Sweden in solidarity with El Salvador in 1984. In 1993-1994 I leave politics since the FMLN becomes a political party. I dedicated to intellectual work and academic research. I have published several books and articles. My specialty was decentralization and local development, citizen participation and transparency and anticorruption, later. I was FUNDE’s link with Transparencia Internacional (International Transparency) as the National Chapter and when I discreetly participated in the worktables for the elaboration of the Funes Government’s plan.

Subsequently, when the government was built (almost two months later during August and September), I was called and Hato Hasbun offered me to be his Transparency secretary. And I took the job.

You spoke of your job at funde. ¿do you feel a difference between being an active member of the civil society, then a public official, and now a member of a political party?

Well, I’m not really a member of a political party. I don’t think Miguel Siman is either. We are in a very similar situation. I coordinate the campaign, and there are many members in the program that are not members of the FMLN, just like there are people in the campaign elaboration and of other political parties that aren’t political party members or militants.

I went, logically, from being a regular citizen to the field of public official and now I’m in a mixed environment, you might say, from civil society to politics.

On the topic of transparency, it’s true that thousands of documents have been revealed, especially those on “la cosa publica”. Never the less, in the president’s or congress’ case, things that matter aren’t being made public. Why is this?

This happens because transparency is hard, and goes step by step. There are difficulties, and there are doubts. In truth, what was done in the actual government’s administration was, for the first time in 200 years, open the doors to transparency and the struggle against corruption as a government compromise. There have always been fiscalization entities: Corte de Cuentas, Fiscalia. But generally, when a public official was accused of improper conduct, the answer was “que me lo prueben en los tribunales”, (let the judges decide). It was seen as a problem of the courts rather than the government.

Then how does this government assume transparency?

New to this government is that, for the first time, a governmental entity assumes transparency as a part of their agenda, not just a part of law application and of other independent institutions of the State.

In this context, it’s logical that there would be a tug of war in law application. There is, in fact, around most important laws. And there is an organization targeted at settling these conflicts, such as the IAIP. If the public official disagrees with the Institute’s decision, he can always rely on the Sala de lo Contencioso Administrativo.

We at mediolleno requested on various occasions for capres to submit the budget on active transparency and the budget of “conversando con el presidente”. We received an unsatisfactory answer and asked again. We asked four times now and we have not yet received an answer. Why isn’t there a formal exchange of information in this sense?

For the same reason I have just told you. There are differing opinions. In truth, the answer CAPRES gives to your request is proper. There is no budget labeled “Active Transparency”; no budgetary entity named “Conversando con el Presidente”. Imagine if every activity by a state body had a specific budget. This isn’t true, neither for the Corte de Cuentas or the Supreme Court of Justice or any state entity. There are many activities that are developed on an established budget  and you could even say these are rather petty. And this is great, because thanks to this information officers and the offices were set up despite lacking an approved budget.

So this is why we’re told that there is no budget for active transparency?

If you had asked for a document estimating the costs of Active Transparency, that would be different. If you look at the archives of MedioLleno, there was an interview with Active Transparency. I recall that you received it and asked how much it cost and they replied $9800, and my reaction at the time was “man, it’s true that there is no itemized budget, but they should at least say that there is no itemized budget detailing the costs”

There is always conflict between law and ethics in public administration. Then, I believe that the correct answer should’ve been “There is no itemized budget, but the costs are around $9800 and it breaks down like this”.

Same thing with the  budget item “conversando con el presidente”?

Yes. In “Conversando con el presidente”, who interviews the president? It’s the Ministry of Transportation’s Chief of Communications Minister, and at the same time he had an interview in Chanel 10. You might ask ‘will he be paid three salaries?’ No, he will be paid the same salary, and he might choose to do the other jobs out of personal prestige, or devotion to public service; even if there is no budget assigned. You will then find many  state activities that have no fixed budget but are carried out under the general budget the state institution has been given.

How is active transparency born? Do you think it has any editorial?

Since 2009-2010, we have strived to prepare and actively participate in the discussion, approval, and implementation of the Law to Access Public Information (LAIP). We’ve done two rankings and two press conferences, among other activities. There was surprisingly large press coverage, but when I woke up the other day and watched the media, I saw no mention of these advances, only criticism. That was ungrateful, especially considering the effort being done without budget and help.

This is why you created transparencia activa?

After getting the same results three months later, we decided to create our own entity to inform about breakthroughs in the field of transparency. That is the purpose of Transparency: to let people know, as clearly as possible and from the government’s viewpoint, on advances made regarding transparency and the fight against corruption.

There is no national publication that in a year and a half can publish as much information on the topic of transparency than Transparencia Activa, especially if you count the number of articles, documents, links, etc. Transparencia Activa’s purpose is hence fulfilled: it informs people on transparency from the government’s viewpoint.

What about the editorial line?

In this sense, we publish the editorial board. Even before being asked how much something costs, we tell them the cost, and if we were asked about salaries, we would provide information on salaries, too. No medium is as open as Transparencia Activa in this sense.

On the reply given by the Presidency (the UAIP), I would’ve replied to MedioLleno’s request by saying that “even though the document doesn’t exist, the cost is approximately this and that.” End of discussion. From a strictly legal point of view, it’s perfectly legal to simply state that the document doesn’t exist and that’s that. If the document doesn’t exist, the government isn’t forced to produce it. Nonetheless, I believe that an effort must be made to produce an answer if it is of public interest.

Does that logic apply in the case of publicly releasing advertising expenses?

Yes. The first time this was asked, I sent my opinion as Subsecretary of Transparency, with the signature of the Secretary Hato Hasbun that this expenditure should be made public. In theory I believe that the state should be as open as possible.

Transparency for the private sector, civil society, and the business sector is different. I couldn’t ask the private sector to disclose information that is a competitive advantage. Why? Because this hinders its capability (even though there are various businesses that present themselves as transparent).

We spoke about the lack of coherence between the speech and the executive branch’s actions. Did this influence your decision to resign?

No, not at all. I must admit that when you work in the government it’s like being in a bumper car, since not everyone agrees with what you do. However, I must say that despite these difficulties, the government manages to work towards these achievements. This means we have to take credit for our accomplishments and blame for our limits.

Why did you resign from the position of subsecretary of transparency and anticorruption?

For the same reason you are here and that you elaborated the Plan de Gobierno de los Jóvenes. The political system is weakest during the pre electoral periods, because you need to have your credit card recharged. So, four or five years ago we had this erroneous idea as citizens that when campaigns approach, it’s best to get out to avoid being drawn into politics. That’s changed. Now it’s “better to get in,” because it’s when you have to obtain commitments to parties and the political system.

So then you retired from that post to enter politics?

I said “I have no doubt that whatever happens in Transparencia y Anticorrupción, Salud, Educación, and Medio Ambiente depends on the needs of the moment and society’s capacity for politics. But politics in the noble sense, not the vulgar sense.

Hence, I simply deemed it a good time to get involved in politics. Even though I earn less and lack security, I’m privileged to have participated in the construction of a government program. For me it was a privilege. I didn’t leave with the regret of leaving something, I felt good. And now I’m striving to make the electoral period and the programmed construction to be as transparent as possible. Because there are transparent and not-so-transparent ways of doing politics.

What are the implications of there not being a subsecretary of transparency?

Surely they haven’t found one yet. Here lie two different things: cause and effect. The cause is that we’re currently in the last year of government and it’s always hard to hire people at this time. It’s much like attempting to hire a CEO for a company that you have announced will close in a year. He won’t leave his current post for something that’s closing. This is, undoubtedly, a restriction.

Secondly, my accomplishments in transparency are not only mine but also that of at least 200 people, including information officers, Sub Secretarial staff, and the civil society. What does this mean? It means that the day you leave a job and the work you’ve done falls apart, it means you didn’t do a very good job. And it hasn’t.

We’d like to know what is the methodology you follow to elaborate fmln’s government plan?

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not only intention but methodology is needed. The methodology we use is basically to create different spaces for dialogue around certain issues of public policy, which is organized by FMLN and includes participation by other sectors of society; which eventually may also participate in other areas of dialogue involved, to collect input demands and proposals of public policies that are then subjected to a process of political and technical refinement. Said process requires attention to your proposals, those of  the Salvadoran youth, and older generations.

What kind of spaces?

The most basic is door to door. We picked up 200 ballots that answered three questions. 91% of the 200,000 ballots say that the problems most felt by the people are the job market, basic goods, and public safety. 5 years ago they said something different. Most demands were oriented towards the social aspect of society, and now they’re focused on productivity and jobs.

Another space is for specific topics. 35 tables were formed, amongst them politics, macroeconomics, health, and education. Tables were also set up abroad, in 17 countries and 40 cities, which comprise the international space. And a document emerged with proposals made by Salvadorans abroad.

Is managing social networks important to you?

Yes. We weren’t as successful in Facebook and Twitter. I think the problem there is that people like to write and receive an answer from a person and not a logo. This dialoguing with the CEO Dialog of El Salvador feels cold. Tony Saca has been more successful in this aspect, because the account is called ‘Tony Saca’.

How do you finance these operations?

They’re financed by the FMLN. However, we choose to spend less private and public money on TV propaganda. This is also a political decision. I saw with satisfaction the activities of Quijano saying “I’m at San Martin collecting input for Plan Pais”. I said excellent because it is not just going to swear in staff. And the candidate Tony Saca has begun to say that he will form a citizen advisory council so this is great as well.

Do you see a legitimate interest in our youth to improve things?

Absolutely. That’s their greatest contribution to society. Their contribution is demanding change. As one grows old, one adapts to the way society works. For example, when a child doesn’t have something he cries. As you grow older, you get used to the way things are. When you reach a certain age, you smile upon hearing complaints.

The role of the new generations is to push for a brighter tomorrow, and your generation is very similar to mine. I was born in the 60s, into a rebellious generation. This means that every 30 years, new generations assume their role of changing the world.

What are the greatest mistakes and the greatest accomplishment of this government?

The greatest accomplishment is adopting measures so that we never forget that we live in a country of 7 million, and that in this country that’s not enough for progress. If we ignore the fact that most people lack private education, and refuse to endorse public policies for 7 million people, we’re in big trouble. This led to war, which isn’t  good public policy. This administration’s greatest accomplishment is inclusion.

What about its greatest flaw?

Its greatest flaw might be inconsistency on various issues, which were begun but never finished. I think he could’ve been more consistent on issues such as transparency. I doubt it necessary to wait 15 months to form the Instituto de Acceso a la Información Pública. I believe that conviction and perseverance are necessary in a government.

What advice do you have for young salvadorans interested in politics but don’t join out of fear?

That they’re missing out on a once in a lifetime opportunity. One day they will realize that the world isn’t perfect, and that it could use some improvement. They will either realize this saying ‘I did my best to change things’, or ‘I didn’t do anything to make a change’. I’d rather say ‘I did the best I could, and if things aren’t better, then let others take over.’

Tiro al plato

Marcos Rodríguez: Me

Favorite Book: La trilogía del milenio

Socialism: A nice dream

Transparency: Authenticity

Accountability: Humility

Young: Future

Mauricio Funes: President

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