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10 changes in culture that El Salvador does not accept

The draft Law on Culture conducted by a Colombian consultant commissioned by the Ministry of Culture brought radical changes to the vision of institutional work culture in El Salvador. The document emerged from a process that the same presidency ended abjuring, proposing the creation of tax incentives and a ministry, and turn over the management of the Houses of Culture to municipalities.

The proposed Law of Culture that the Colombian attorney Gonzalo Castellanos produced and delivered to the Ministry of Culture, is a work with reformist goals: ranging from a structural change in the state protected culture to fiscal and economic reforms.

Decentralization, figuring in the transfer of ownership from the executive to the municipalities, is one of the novel components that stand out in the proposal, submitted 10 days ago at the Teatro Presidente, San Salvador, and that was aborted at the last minute by the Culture Department of the Presidency of the Republic.

On Wednesday, the Secretary of Culture, Magda Granadino, admitted that Castellanos had delivered a draft law but what she wanted was an eventual Culture Law in El Salvador developed in consultation with the society and not to start a debate from a precisely worded document that could be taken as if it was a final draft.

"What I want is that you participate, and not as someone said, give you something already prepared," she told in a press conference of the presidency. She revealed that preparation of the proposal got out of hand not only by the Secretariat of Culture but also by the Legal Secretariat of the Presidency.

Castellanos’ document is over 100 pages. In terms of organization, the proposal shaped into 107 articles motions the transformation of the institutional structure. It aims to raise the Secretariat to the ministerial level, but would create a ministry without vertical management. In contrast, the model breaks ministerial pyramid structure and delegates power to several existing players and managers who have not been involved in cultural management so far. The document also speaks of the formation of multiple councils seeking citizen participation in the construction of Salvadoran culture, including in decision-making and management.

This draft law sees municipalities as key elements for cultural development. The draft law proposes the creation of municipal councils, and assumes that each city council creates its own arts system: from the creation of the school of arts and music, to the formation and management of a municipal library. Currently, territorial cultural work depends on the houses of culture. This structure, founded in the 70s, has come at the expense of cultural diffusion: many houses of culture in rural areas work more as communal houses and their contributions to the community are scarce, not creating cultural networks in municipalities where they were founded. The houses of culture, part of the structure of the Presidency of the Republic since 2009, constitute also territorial, geopolitical presence and potential of jobs.

The draft law also implies a transformation that affects other ministries such as Finance and Education.

The Ministry of Education would face a formalisation process from the inclusion of arts and music in elementary and secondary education up to higher education, including the professionalisation of art. This would mean working together with universities in creating higher education careers and accredit education levels of national artists.

In statements given at the Cultural Center of Spain and Classical Radio, Alexis Campos, project coordinator of the National Law of Culture, described the draft law as not theoretical but an action of building as the draft law pretended to explain that cultural investment is social investment and not an expense, as people and private companies commonly think.

The proposed law of Castellanos- author of the Colombia Draft Film Act and the Costa Rican draft Law of Film – argues that culture should receive the same economic benefit that it brings to the economy. In other Latin American countries the contributions exceed about 3 points of GDP. In the case of El Salvador, this would amount to about 690 million dollars. Global GDP today is about 7% by productive and creative sectors and distribution of cultural goods, products and services, says the consultant. This perspective also implies the opening of other state institutions and private enterprise. The law would guarantee the right of cultural actors to credit, which hardly applies today in El Salvador.

The economic and fiscal reforms that the law would promote have a number of incentives for private capital funding to support heritage, film or editorial industries. There are also incentives for owners of heritage buildings who cannot maintain them due to expensive restorations.

As regards heritage, the law would cancel the Special Protection of cultural heritage that was created after the signing of the Peace Accords. Current law lacks a structural system for promoting and safeguarding the immense intangible wealth such as village festivals, traditions, traditional knowledge, oral traditions, languages, shows or collective knowledge of the people.

The new law proposes significant changes to the design and cultural work, that the culture secretary, Magdalena Granadino stated that "were reflecting the reality of the country."

The following is an account of the 10 highlights in the draft law that involve a substantial change, a reform of the cultural management in El Salvador.

1. Creation of the National System of Culture

The draft law envisages the creation of a system composed of a set of public and private entities, people, processes, resources and regulations that work in coordination with each other. Decentralizes institutional management culture. (Art. 5)

2. Creation of the Ministry of Culture

The draft law proposes a change of the Secretariat of the Ministry. The creation of the ministry would involve a structural change. The minister would chair a number of councils and would work directly with representatives of various cultural sectors, from artists, entrepreneurs and universities to representatives of Indigenous peoples. The Ministry would coordinate the national culture system, social investment, sectorial participation and would also coordinate and execute the national plan of cultural rights. (Art. 6). The law would promote sectorial participation through the creation of national and sectoral councils: heritage, arts, access to reading, music, cinema and theatre. It is also possible to create or merge councils. (Articles 9 and 10)

3. Creating satellite accounts for culture

Satellite accounts would collect the socioeconomic contribution produced by various cultural fields. This contribution would be refunded for investment in culture. Satellite accounts permit to identify and collect what cultural industries produce and contribute to the country's economy with the view that this justifies the increased state investment in culture. (Art. 24). This initiative would mark an exception within the general management of tax revenue. The general rule is that the state's money goes into a general fund, from which the Treasury decides how and where to use it. 

4. Creation of the National Endowment for the Arts and Culture

The National Endowment for the Arts and Culture would be a special fund to stimulate cultural creativity. It would be nourished by donations, amounts by the satellites account for culture, 10%  would proceed from public shows, 10% from movie theatres, fines and penalties for those who violate or break the law. The fund would be created by an executive committee. (Arts. 98 – 104)

5. Decentralization: municipal participation

Municipalities would take the reins of cultural work. The draft law envisages decentralization of cultural work through the creation of municipal councils. By law, each municipality must create a library. Municipalities would also work with the development plan of cultural rights and heritage protection. To date, the network of cultural centers was the only territorial working tool of the state, and they would be integrated into the system. Each municipality would create and maintain their own schools of music and art. (Articles 12, 19, 90)

6. New fiscal vision

The draft law would create tax incentives for property owners or donors for cultural institutions. Exempted would be book fairs, theatre festivals and cultural products such as books. International film and entertainment activities would hand over 10% of their profits to cultural activities fund in exchange for exemption from national taxation. (Art. 99). There would be tax breaks of up to 50% of income tax for property owners to preserve cultural property and the same incentive of 50% of income tax to welcome owners or investors to finance Enhanced Safeguarding Regime applicable to cultural expressions. In the case of the film industry there would be a discount of  50% on income to investors in projects of development, production, promotion and public communication of Salvadoran films. The draft law would remove the VAT on movie tickets and the theatres would stop paying for city councils for each function. These funds would go to the National Trust for Art and Culture (FONAC). Finally, 50% discount on income would also be applied to individuals who make donations in cash to FONAC. (Arts, 43, 46, 85, 102)

7. Reform of the Heritage Law

The draft law devotes most of his articles-from 25 to 62 - to cultural heritage. They include new fields of heritage conservation, such as intellectual property, Indigenous peoples (arts. 58-60), underwater archeology (art. 39), and intangible assets, such as languages, in this case the Nahuatl. It prohibits the export of goods through the reinforced regime of furniture protection (art. 34), which does not allow the departure of any capital asset furniture. The current law, created after the signing of the Peace Accords, has a patrimonial vision of property, and does not include the intangible. The reform of the law would provide tax incentives to landowners to preserve property or otherwise sanction or condemnation of them.

8. Recognition of intellectual property

The artists would get 10% compensatory remuneration of the gross value of their work by successive sales. Aboriginal peoples would have the right to protection of their collective rights, dress and language, according to Articles 60 and 61. This would allow Indigenous people not to be exploited through tourism and trade. (Articles 60, 61, 75).

9. Formal education in the arts and music

The draft law foresees the creation of the National Artistic and Musical Training. The artistic and musical training would be provided by public, private or mixed institutions, and educational levels would be preschool, primary, secondary and vocational or specialized. This system would integrate Youth Choir and Orchestras and the National Youth Philharmonic, the Schools of Arts and Music, conservatories, nonprofit institutions, organizations that develop education or training activities in this field. This system would be supported by the work of the Ministry of Education, and would include art and music education in their curricula; the Ministry of Education would certify academic degrees, and technical or higher education levels. The system would strengthen professionalization programs at advanced graduate level. (Arts. 15, 20)

10. Social security

The proposal established the creation of a social security system for artists. The FONAC would earmark 10% for social security fund and pensions for artists. Artists also would go through a process of accreditation to apply for these processes. (Art. 68).

Given the approach of the proposed changes in the draft of the National Law of Culture that "were not totally reflecting the reality of the country," Castellanos replies: "It’s not my business, in any way, to define whether the text discussed, or to be discussed or to be adopted is identical to the one I elaborated, or if it is better, or is of lesser importance, as it is a sovereign and autonomous decision of all of you to define what is the vision of political and cultural instruments you want and dream of.

The draft Law on access to information, or the Gender Equity, or the environment, also involved a reform of dozens of policy regulations, changes of institutional vision and even creation of new institutions, but their managers believed in their importance for the country and defended, negotiated and modified them to ensure that El Salvador would have these laws that brought the changes that were deemed necessary to strengthen institutions and improve the quality of life of the citizen.

Show latest news, more from September 2012.

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