El Mozote case continues

The legal proceedings in the case to hold former military commanders responsible for the 1981 massacre at El Mozote and surrounding villages will continue Thursday and Friday of this week.  New witnesses will be testifying in front of a judge in a courtroom in San Francisco Gotera, Morazan about the events more than 36 years ago.   Their testimony will be added to testimony from other witnesses taken originally in the case before it was shut down by the 1993 amnesty law.

Lawyers representing the victims, who are pushing the case forward, held a press conference earlier in the week to denounce yet again the lack of action by the attorney general in the case and the military's failure to provide any records or information about the historical events.   The victims see an attempt to delay and obfuscate on the part of the defendants:
However, lawyers of Tutela Legal stressed that military authorities of the time cannot claim ignorance due to the high rank they held, including former …

Government makes public show of security measures

At the same time that journalists and human rights groups are denouncing the problem of extra-judicial killings by security forces in El Salvador, the government is increasing even more its iron fist approach to law enforcement.

The government has announced that it is deploying more military and police at bus stops, markets and plazas and other places where people congregate in San Salvador.   In the two days since the announcement, I saw heavily armed soldiers and military equipment at such places at Plaza Salvador del Mundo and the Arbol de Paz traffic circle.

In addition, the security forces were enacting random checkpoints on the streets in the capital city, adding to the vehicular chaos of San Salvador.   Passengers at bus terminals were being checked for identification to determine if they were on wanted lists. Police were also shown checking finger prints of youth who were not carrying identification with them.

The government announced that it had staged round-ups of gang memb…

Independence Day in El Salvador

September 15 is Independence Day in El Salvador and the rest of the countries of Central America. The country commemorates its 196 years of independence from Spanish colonial power. The day is filled with patriotic displays, parades, flag waving and the singing of the national anthem.

Here is a video of El Salvador's national anthem along with the words to celebrate the day.

There is an English translation of the lyrics here.

The girls in the gangs

The life of young women involved in the gangs of El Salvador is rarely told.    This week a feature length article in the Pacific Standard by Lauren Markham titled The Girl Gangs of El Salvador provides a nuanced look at how young women may voluntarily or involuntarily become involved with the dangerous street gangs.  
Here is an excerpt: Elena ran with a cool, alternative crowd of party kids, a relative social minority in El Salvador. She and her friends were always struggling to find weed on the street. Buying in bulk, she realized, would be cheaper, would make the stash last longer, and would also make her more popular among her friends. So one day she asked the tweaked-out neighborhood guy she usually bought from if he would take her to the headquarters so she could buy a larger quantity—a risky move, she knew, but one that played to her streak of recklessness and aspirational bravado.  He took her to the "destroyer house," a small two-room structure where gang members c…

The mayor and his party

Nayib Bukele was elected mayor of San Salvador in 2015 on the ticket of the left wing FMLN.   In the campaign, as well as during his time in office, he has always kept himself at a distance from the party leadership.   His agenda as mayor has always been branded as Bukele's agenda for the city, not the party's agenda.

Such independence is sometimes tolerated, but never appreciated, within the hierarchy of the FMLN. Although Bukele will be running again on the FMLN ticket for re-election as mayor of San Salvador, it appears clear that the party will not choose him as its 2019 presidential candidate.

This week the relationship between Bukele and the FMLN hit a new low.   Bukele was unable to gather votes in the San Salvador municipal council for two of his big improvement projects in the city's historic center when FMLN council members voted against him.    Bukele went to Twitter to complain that some members of the FMLN were no different that ARENA, with the only exception…

Leaving gang life for church

The Christian Science Monitor has a good article up on its website about the phenomenon of gang members leaving the gangs based on conversion in evangelical churches.  Others have reported on this happening as well.  The CSM article is titled God vs. gang? For some ex-gangsters in El Salvador, rehab happens at church.   Here is an excerpt:
More than 400 ex-members say that evangelical groups have helped them leave the gangs – a drop in the bucket here, where as many as 60,000 gang members control large parts of the country. But in a society where gangs are so deeply entrenched and government attempts to curb the violence have often failed, some churches’ experiences suggest that addressing the basic needs that many young people hope to find in gang life – acceptance, belonging, stability – can also be key to getting them out....  A lack of institutional support for, and even suspicion of, groups trying to engage with gang members and help set them up on a different path looms particul…

Local tourism in El Salvador

This weekend El Salvador held the Festival of "Pueblos Vivos"  at the convention grounds in San Salvador.   The event organized by the Ministry of Tourism allows cities and towns and artisans from around the country to show off their local culture, attractions, and artisan work.    The event kicked off with a parade of costumed marchers, dancers and musicians from the Salvador del Mundo plaza to the convention grounds.

The event showcases the fact that every corner of El Salvador holds treasures, sometimes hidden sometimes not.    You may have to ask directions and you might find things don't operate at their scheduled times, but it is always worth the effort.

Images from the Festival: