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El Salvador Table of Contents

El Salvador

Civic Action

The involvement of the armed forces in civic-action projects began in the mid-1960s. A hierarchy of government officials at the highest levels supervised the national civic action program. The ranking official, the director of civic action, was attached to the Ministry of Defense and Public Security, directly under the minister. A committee composed of the ministers of defense and public security, agriculture and livestock, public health and social services, education, and public works served as an advisory group for the director. Regional committees supervised the various projects assigned to their localities. These national and regional committees prepared programs annually, with the national group deciding on the allocation of tasks, resources, and priorities. The army's engineer battalion generally supervised construction and public works projects. Other ministries represented on the national committee monitored literacy, health, and welfare activities.

Civic action programs had a significant impact on the economy and society. The army's civic action program was largely responsible for the country's good road system (see Transportation , ch. 3). Members of the military not only maintained and repaired roads but also built new ones, often in difficult terrain. Although highway maintenance was one of their primary activities, the army engineers also assisted in public works projects ranging from bridges to earthworks, airfields, and sewers. A particularly important facet of the civic action program was the literacy campaign. The army operated literacy centers for the public in rural communities throughout the country, as well as for recruits at military posts. The army's public health program, which included periodic immunization campaigns conducted nationwide, was also a great benefit to the public. The Army Medical Service maintained a number of clinics that served the local population as well as military personnel in the major barracks (cuarteles), and the service also operated mobile health centers in isolated areas. Beginning in 1983, the army combined civic action projects with its "pacification" campaigns (see Left-Wing Extremism , this ch.).

The navy and air force gradually began increasing their participation in civic action in 1965, although their contribution was relatively small. The navy participated in search-and-rescue missions, particularly in the protection of fishing craft off the southern coast. The air force used its Cessna liaison aircraft extensively in civic action missions, especially in remote or isolated areas, where it transported medical teams to clinics and provided emergency evacuation.

Data as of November 1988