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El Salvador's Legislative Assembly attempting "Amnesty 3.0"

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This November week in El Salvador is an important one for the country's historic memory.   It is the 30 year anniversary of the "final offensive" launched by FMLN guerrillas in the country's civil war and of the November 16, 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, a domestic worker and her daughter at the University of Central America.  It is a time to reflect back and to pray "Nunca Más"   Never Again.

Yet in the midst of remembering those events, deputies in El Salvador's Legislative Assembly are also considering a "Special Law of Transitional and Restorative Justice for National Reconciliation."  It is a measure which critics say could work to blot out the memory of atrocities committed during the war, denying victims justice, and undercutting the possibility of "Never Again." 

The impetus for this proposal is a 2016 decision of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court which overturned a blanket amnesty…

In other news

An assortment of other news related to El Salvador this week:

Democrats on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report disclosing that when the Trump administration cancelled TPS for El Salvador and other countries, career diplomats recommended a 36 month transition period following cancellation before any deportations would start.  But some in the administration worried that date would fall just before the 2020 presidential elections, so the administration decided to grant only an 18 month period.   (Now that period is of indeterminate length because of an injunction delaying the termination of TPS in a case called Ramos v Nielsen).Speaking of Ramos v. Nielsen, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly agreed to award Crisitina Ramos, the lead plaintiff in that case, the "Order of Merit, 5th of November 1811, Hereoes of the Country's Independence."   The recognition of Ramos for her part in the lawsuit which obtained an injunction halting the termination of TP…

El Mozote soldiers testify

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A few of the hundreds of small children who were victims at El Mozote
On Friday November 1, the trial for the massacre of children, the elderly and others in El Mozote and surrounding communities took a new turn. For the first time, two soldiers who were part of the troops present in El Mozote during the massacre testified. The soldiers, who were cooperating with prosecutors, took the witness stand with their faces hidden and their voices disguised.   They testified against their superior officers and against the high military command who had sent their unit to do its bloody work in rural El Salvador in December 1981. They testified under the pseudonyms "Juan" and "Sol."
As Nelson Rauda points out in El Faro, the testimony of these two soldiers provides a key piece of the case. The fact of the massacre has been well established by civilian witnesses from Rufina Amaya to those who testified at the current trial over the past three years. But those witnesses were not…

Judges and child sexual abuse

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The dismissal of a case of child sexual abuse committed by a sitting judge in El Salvador has rocked the country.   It appears that just about every sector of society is outraged at the appearance that judges in El Salvador are protecting their own, and not protecting the most innocent of victims. 

The case involves Salvadoran magistrate Eduardo Jaime Escalante Díaz, 50 years old, who was accused of sexual assault of a child.   Specifically the allegation is that he enticed a 10 year old girl on the street to approach him and then touched her genital area before fleeing after a neighbor shouted at him.

The Legislative Assembly revoked Escalante's judicial immunity from suit so that he could face justice in a criminal court.   Last week, that court ruled that a criminal case against Escalante could not proceed.  The court ruled that the proof provided by the prosecutors was insufficient to establish the crime they had charged against Escalante, "sexual assault of a minor&quo…

Good news, but why?

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El Salvador has good news to celebrate as November begins.   The month of October closed with a post-war record low number of homicides according to official statistics. 

As shown in the chart above, the average number of Salvadorans killed in acts of violence has dropped from 9-10 per day to an average below 4 in only five months.       

President Nayib Bukele has been quick to take credit for the improved statistics:
112 homicidios en total. Dejando a agosto 2019 en segundo lugar con 130 y septiembre 2019 en tercer lugar con 143.

Los 3 primeros lugares los ocupan meses ocurridos en nuestro Gobierno (que solo lleva 5 meses). — Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) November 1, 2019
We are able to confirm that October 2019 has become the month with the least homicides since the Peace Accords...
.... 112 total homicides.   Leaving August 2019 in second place with 130 and september 2019 in third place with 143.
The first 3 places are occupied by months which have happened during our Government (…

TPS holders from El Salvador protected until January 2021

Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") has allowed 195,000 Salvadorans, who lacked legal immigration status in the United States in February 2001, to remain in the US for more than 18 years.   The program required formal extensions by the US government every 18 months, and every Salvadoran government in that time period celebrated each extension as a sign of its good working relationship with the US.

When Donald Trump came into office, his administration soon announced that the program would not be continued, a decision which was promptly challenged in the courts by the ACLU and others.   The government of Bukele , in connection with negotiating other migration-related documents which the Trump team wanted, has now procured a promise that Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries would have some extra grace period to remain in the country after the conclusion of any lawsuits if the courts allowed Trump to terminate TPS.           

Not surprisingly, Bukele announced this new promise with a t…

El Mozote -- the long slow slog towards justice

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It has been almost 38 years since the December 1981 massacre of almost 1000 civilians including children, the elderly and others at El Mozote and surrounding communities in northeastern El Salvador.   Justice for this war crime has not yet arrived.

This month saw the third anniversary of the reopening of a criminal case to prosecute those responsible for the atrocity.   A judge restarted that case after a 1993 law which granted amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes was nullified by the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court.

In the years since, the proceeding has advanced in small steps.  Family members and witnesses have testified to those horrific days, and experts have testified to what the bones and remains of children and women and the elderly revealed.

Earlier this year, the judge overseeing the case added additional criminal charges against the accused military officers, joining kidnapping, torture and forced displacement to the list of crimes.  He …