Having just paddled into El Salvador on my surfboard (see last week's blog for more info), I found myself to be a temporary celebrity and guest at the plush enclave of Barilla's Marina, a few hours drive from San Salvador.
I spent my first day talking to the Navy and the press about my boating incident and found out that El Salvador's government and media are similar to others in the world, completely deceptive and/or incompetent.
Most of the accounts of my rescue in the press stated I was saved by the El Salvador Navy, even quoting the Navy Admiral talking about their brave rescue. There were even quotes attributed to me, which I never said, stating things such as "how scared I was".
While disappointed that the real story of the brave men who came out to save me, and of Heriberto Pineda, manager of Barilla's Marina, who coordinated the rescue did not get exposure in the media I was at least satisfied that all my theories on the pathological lying of governments and the parrot-like repeating of their lies by 98% of media continued to prove true.
My first impressions of El Salvador came from Barilla's Marina itself, which is a very exclusive marine home for many of El Salvador's wealthy gangsters (politicians), each with their own private lockers shining with new jet skis, power boats and all the toys that ill-gotten money can buy.
Since the only article of clothing I owned was a swimsuit, I soon decided to head into town to buy a pair of shoes and some pants and a t-shirt.
The disparity between Barilla's and the nearest local town was stark.
Barilla's supplied us with a chauffeur driven panel van and advised us that the driver would stay with us wherever we went, for safety.
The town seemed very poor, and dirty, with mostly dirt roads and shacks and shanties encompassing the area.
Any retail outlet or bank was heavily guarded with numerous machine gun toting guards, metal detectors and bag searches.
Upon later going into the capital city of San Salvador, I would find much of the same.
While the city of San Salvador itself was cleaner and clearly more prosperous than the small towns I visited, the guards, guns, fences and metal gates remained ominously present.
El Salvador had been the battleground of a bloody civil war that lasted twelve years and took more than 75,000 lives from 1980-1992 and in many ways, the war still rages on, although much less openly than it had in the past.
In August alone there were 370 "murders" in this tiny country of only 7 million inhabitants as rival gangs continue to compete to be the top gang in the country (the government).
Humans still do not seem to realize that governments are not their protectors. They are not their providers.
Governments are the exact opposite. People provide for their government who uses force (military, police) to uphold its position as sole owner of the people in just another form of slavery.
It is in countries like El Salvador where the violence rages in the streets for domination over the people that this truth can be more evidently seen.
The turmoil in El Salvador (The Savior, in Spanish) is not only limited to human activity as the country sits on a geological hotbed of activity, regularly barraged by earthquakes, hurricanes and active volcanoes.
However, the ability of individuals to move forward, despite the numerous challenges present in a country such as El Salvador, never ceases to be amazing.
And, in fact, the civil war and its ongoing political turmoil actually helps El Salvadorans in many ways, as it does not enable the government in power to actually do much of anything, which is the best possible scenario for any governmental situation as the only thing a government can do, even at its best, is drain money from the economy and skew the natural business inputs and cycles that would normally provide businesses and entrepreneurs with information they need to operate at maximum efficiency.
El Salvador has one of the lowest tax burdens in the American continent at 11% of GDP (compared to the US at 25% and Sweden at 50%).
The VAT is the biggest source of government theft (tax), accounting for 52% of total tax revenue.
In 2001 the country made a move that was both smart and stupid at the same time. It authorized the US dollar as legal tender in El Salvador, virtually eliminating the colon, and all formal accounting was undertaken in US dollars.
This was smart from the perspective that all governments will rape and pillage their own fiat monetary unit until it becomes completely worthless, so this move gave the government of El Salvador one less option in which to deceive and steal from its citizens.
However, this is where the stupid part comes in, they chose the US dollar to be their currency flavor of the week under the obviously massive misperception that the US dollar was somehow of any value or stronger/safer than their own or any other currency.
The US dollar, as anyone with any knowledge of monetary truths and facts knows, has no actual value and any perceived value it has is diminishing by the day en route to what will likely be a complete collapse within the next 10 years, give or take 7 or 8 years.
In a sense, all El Salvador did was to take away the ability of their own government and central bank to destroy their currency and hand over that ability to the equally delusional George W. Bush and Ben Bernanke, two of the greatest pickpockets of all time.
In the very short term, however, the switch to US dollars has helped more than it currently hurts, as the perception that the US currency is stable has helped attract investment into the country and lowered interest rates, increasing economic activity.
Upon arriving in El Salvador I asked Heriberto, manager of Barilla's Marina, what El Salvador's largest export was. He replied, "our people," and he wasn't kidding.
Remittances from Salvadorans living and working in the United States, sent to family members in El Salvador, are a major source of foreign income and offset the substantial trade deficit of around $2.9 billion.
The other major commodity in El Salvador is coffee, a crop that has virtually dominated El Salvadoran economic life for centuries.
The civil war in the 80s and the fall of international coffee prices in the 90s has pressured the country to diversify its economy and thanks to the recent government's commitment to free market initiatives and conservative fiscal management that include the privatization of the banking system and elimination of price controls, GDP has been growing at a steady, moderate pace since the signing of peace accords in 1992.
Whether it be Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize or El Salvador, there is something about this thin, tiny base of land in between the vibrant, much more well advanced continents of North and South America that just cannot seem to really get its things together.
The only country that has really prospered in all of Central America is Costa Rica, with their policies on the protection of the environment and no military, whatsoever, both very progressive moves.
As with any country that has been battered so much by civil war for so long, the only way for El Salvador to go, really, is up. In that sense, the future for El Salvador is likely brighter than its past, and it does seem to be moving in the right direction in many respects.
In terms of tourism, while I never felt in danger at all during my stay, the ever present guards, all well endowed with machine guns and other armaments, along with the barricades and gates did not lend itself to a nice, pleasant atmosphere.
The route to a better life in El Salvador will hinge on the country continuing to rid itself of any form of government and stabilizing the region in a free market economy so as to achieve a solid base prior to the collapse of their adopted US dollar in the next 2-18 years.