Grantee Spotlight: TRACODA, 2021 Democracy Award Recipient
In 2017, a group of Salvadoran young professionals all under the age of 30 saw a need for citizens to stand up for democracy in El Salvador. In response to longstanding issues in the country, including corruption and lack of transparency, the group of engineers, lawyers, sociologists, and students established the Asociación Transparencia, Contraloría Social, y Datos Abiertos (Transparency, Social Oversight, and Open Data Association, or TRACODA), a National Endowment for Democracy grantee.
“Corruption and the perception of corruption is quite widespread in El Salvador, so for decades now, there has been this growing feeling of antipathy towards anything that is related to politics,” says Diego Jacobo, vice president of TRACODA. “The ability to actually hold a public official or an institution accountable is very important, and that is why TRACODA was born.”
To engage citizen participation, especially among youth, TRACODA develops programs and provides tools for citizens in El Salvador to participate in the political process, request public information, and serve as citizen watchdogs to monitor the use of public resources.
“We consider that the right to access public information is absolutely essential so that citizens and the media can continue to oversee how every last cent of taxes is used, how each and every one of our public resources is used,” continues Carlos Palomo, president of TRACODA. “We demand greater transparency in the use of resources, so that we can guarantee to the best our ability that our public officials respond to the interests of the majority and not to the interests of a small group of private interests.”
Since the organization’s founding, TRACODA’s members have promoted electoral reforms, conducted oversight of the Salvadoran legislature, engaged in dialogue with legislators and overseen selection processes for the Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice magistrates. One of the group’s major victories was promoting reforms in the Corte de Cuentas, El Salvador’s court in charge of overseeing and auditing public spending. In 2018, TRACODA created a citizen observatory of the Court, and then the organization worked collaboratively with the Court to create and lobby for a comprehensive package of reforms to strengthen citizen oversight.
“We are proud of the fact that we are a youth group that was founded about four years ago, but we have been able to work alongside public institutions and several actors from civil society that have decades of experience as partners on a level playing field to promote reforms, improvements to our system, and better tools for citizens to be able to hold our government accountable,” said Jacobo.
In 2021, a change of power in the Legislative Assembly and the Covid-19 pandemic have stalled reform efforts. Additionally, in recent months, the Salvadoran government has stepped up investigations and harassment of civil society organizations, creating a challenging environment for groups like TRACODA. Despite the setbacks, TRACODA continues to work with organizations across El Salvador and the region to denounce the deterioration of human rights and preserve the public’s right to access information.
“As El Salvador’s democracy grapples with deteriorating institutions, rapid concentration of power, and a new authoritarian populism, the need for civil society and, one hopes, the broader population to defend and demand transparency, accountability and access to information has never been greater,” said Miriam Kornblith, NED Senior Director, Latin America and the Caribbean. “TRACODA is leading the way with its inspiring composition of young professionals from across the country committed to democratic principles and new collaboration in the face of these worrisome developments.”
The group recently participated in a campaign #DefendamosNuestrosDerechos that encourages youth to defend their rights, fight for transparency, and denounce injustice.
“It is very important for young people to act,” says Palomo about the need for youth in El Salvador—many of them too young to remember the country’s long civil war—to become involved in promoting social causes and to defend democracy. “Believe me, even though we are young, we can achieve significant changes. We can contribute new ideas, we can provide new approaches, and we have the strength of will and desire to change the world.”
Learn More About TRACODA
2021 Democracy Award Recipient Bios
Carlos Eduardo Palomo Sosa
Diego Mauricio Jacobo Valladares
2021 Democracy Award Recipients
Established in the midst of the Indignados (‘Outraged’) protests of 2015 in Honduras, Producciones Red Comunica, Investiga y Conecta S. de R.L de C.V, Contracorriente, emerged from a need to provide citizens with objective, accurate information on issues of human rights, corruption, and the environment, among others.
Myrna Mack Foundation, Guatemala
Since its founding, the Foundation has trained civil society and government agencies on democratic governance, political participation, transparency and citizen security with a comprehensive view on human rights.
Human Rights Collective Nicaragua Nunca Más, Nicaragua
Human Rights Collective, Nicaragua Nunca Más is an organization dedicated to preserving historical memory and seeking justice for victims of the state-led violence unleashed by the Ortega regime in 2018.
TRACODA, El Salvador
The Asociación Transparencia, Contraloría Social y Datos Abiertos (Transparency, Social Oversight, and Open Data Association, or TRACODA) is an organization made up of young professionals with a variety of backgrounds that devote themselves to strengthening democracy and the fight against corruption in the public and private spheres.