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:

The campaign to save TPS

The decision by the Trump administration to terminate the DACA program in 6 months if the US Congress does not act to protect Dreamers is a blow for the approximately 28,400 Salvadoran young people who currently enjoy that protection.*    But for El Salvador, the much bigger looming decision of Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions is whether to extend or terminate Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") for approximately 195,000 Salvadorans in the US.

TPS is a humanitarian provision in US immigration law, which temporarily suspends deportations of persons to their home country after their home country suffers some type of disaster.    The rationale is that the US should not deport people back to a country already stretched to the limits by an earthquake or a hurricane or similar catastrophe.  

TPS exists for undocumented Salvadorans in the US following the 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador.  Salvadoran nationals have been eligible for this status if they have been continually in the US…