El Salvador self-defense group poses potential security concerns

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime on April 26.
A self-defense group operating in a rural community of El Salvador is asking for formal legal recognition, a reminder of security concerns elsewhere in the region caused by similar non-state actors taking justice into their own hands. 
The group, based in the town of San Nicolás Lempa in the department of San Vicente, is made up of about 60 citizens. The group's members are seeking legal recognition in order to be able to operate openly and to gain access to more arms and equipment, La Prensa Gráfica reported.

The origins of the self-defense group date back to 2015, when former combatants from the country's 1979-1992 civil war rearmed themselves following the appearance of Barrio 18 members in the community and the assassination of a community leader and his daughter, presumably by the gang.

Since that time, the self-defense group has worked somewhat surruptitiously with the armed forces and the National…

Life as an undocumented Salvadoran in Trump's USA

Life as an undocumented migrant in the US has never been an easy one.  In Trump's America, it can be down right terrifying.  

Aura Bogado, writing in The American Prospect provides a portrait of daily life of one undocumented woman from El Salvador in a piece titled Fire and ICE: Hiding in Plain Sight.  Here's an excerpt:
As women from Central America who are terrified of Donald Trump, they watch one another’s backs the way immigrants and refugees would under a new administration that partly came into power on the promise of mass deportations. These days, the women say, every knock on the door, every step outside, and every ride on public transit merits scrutiny....  ICE employs what it calls a sensitive location policy, which dictates that agents should take considerable measures to avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools, and churches. Yet since Trump assumed office, ICE has detained a woman at a hospital, a father a few blocks from his daughters’ schools, and a gro…

The immigration court bubble

The fact that there is an enormous backlog in US immigration courts is well known.   The backlog has prompted the Trump administration to promise to hire many new immigration judges and to speed up the process.

What is less well known is that Salvadorans make up an increasingly large percentage of the open cases in immigration court.  Using data through March 2017 from the TRAC database at Syracuse University, there were a total of 572,608 open deportation proceedings in immigration court and 123,036 of these cases involved Salvadorans (21.5%).   Only Mexico had more of its nationals in deportation proceedings with 128,659.

This chart shows the growth of open US Immigration Court cases involving Salvadorans over time:

This bubble, which coincides with the flow of unaccompanied minors and mothers with children from 2014 forward, points to a very large number of Salvadorans who are already in the pipeline to be deported in the coming months and years, even without any more round-ups or …

The artist who paints historic reality

The image at the top of this blog is a mural by Salvadoran painter Antonio Bonilla which is located in the Guzman Anthropology museum in San Salvador.  The mural is entitled 200 años de lucha por la emancipación en El Salvador (2011) (200 years of struggle for the emancipation of El Salvador) and was commissioned by then president Mauricio Funes for the 200th anniversary of the independence of Central America from Spain.

Bonilla's works are intensely political, commenting on the social reality of the country.   The paintings can be satirical and ironic with a rejection of the official telling of Salvadoran history.

Other well known works of Bonilla include his painting Réquiem para los mártires  of the massacred Jesuit priests and their housekeeper and her daughter which hangs in the chapel at the UCA and another large mural of Salvadoran history at the convention and fair grounds (CIFCO) titled  Alegoría de la guerra civil y los Acuerdos de Paz (Allegory of the civil war and th…

Trump uses MS-13 violence to justify anti-immigrant policies

The street gang Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 is US president Donald Trump's rhetorical ISIS for the Americas.   Trump uses the spectre of MS-13 gang violence to generate fear of every migrant from a region just as he uses the spectre of ISIS to generate fear of Muslims and migrants from the Middle East.  Trump and his attorney general Jeff Sessions have frequently referred to the Central American gang as the reason the US must build a southern border wall and must increase immigration enforcement and deportations.

Jeff Sessions being interviewed on FoxNews played the MS-13 card hard:
 Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed Tuesday to "devastate" the Central American gang MS-13, calling the group "one of the most violent gangs in the history of our country, no doubt about it."  Sessions spoke to Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" hours after President Trump blamed what he called "the weak illegal immigration polices" of the Obama administratio…

Uber may be coming to San Salvador

The ride-sharing service Uber may be coming soon to San Salvador.   According to a report in LPG's El Economista, Uber has begun taking applications from potential drivers in the country at the website

Persons interested in becoming drivers will need to have their own car with liability insurance, and a certified clean driving record.  

Since the Uber app requires that customers of the service have a credit card to enroll, this will be a service useful only to the middle and upper classes in the country.  It will also be interesting to see if the app can acquire acceptance in El Salvador with its high crime rate, and where in my experience most people have a prior relationship with the drivers and taxis they might hire.    The cash free transactions of Uber may be attractive to drivers and passengers alike.

Re-branding El Salvador and this blog

El Salvador has developed a new logo to brand itself when it goes out to seek foreign tourists and investors.   The new logo was designed by the consulting firm Interbrand who explains the concept:
The new brand strategy is based on a previous study conducted by the El Salvador Government and further research carried out by Interbrand. It looks to “put El Salvador on the map as one of the new destinations and growing global economies,” says Interbrand.  A new visual identity also aims to increase international awareness of El Salvador and promote investment, exports and tourism in the country.  The logo centres on the letter “V” within El Salvador’s name and sees a “kaleidoscope” of colourful graphic icons related to the country – including a volcano, birds and waves – bursting out of it.  The logo also includes a tagline beneath the country’s name that reads: “Great like our people”.

Indigo blue has been chosen as the main colour throughout the identity due to its historic associati…