Recommended reads

This week produced some good articles on El Salvador's gangs, politics and saint:

Sarah Esther Maslin writes Can religion solve El Salvador’s gang problem? -- a deep look at the current situation of gangs in El Salvador through the lens of young men who have left the gangs through conversion to evangelical Christianity.

Christine Wade writes El Salvador’s Elections Reveal Voters’ Frustration With Politics as Usual -- a good overview of politics in El Salvador following the March 4 elections.

Carlos Colorado writes Romero, Venue and Date -- an explanation of possible dates and locations for the canonization ceremony for Oscar Romero.

Seeking justice for 1982 murder of Dutch journalists

In early 1982, El Salvador was a dangerous place for journalists covering the civil war between FMLN guerrillas and the country's armed forces.   Despite the danger, four Dutch journalists,Koos Koster, Jan Kuiper, Joop Willemse and Hans ter Laag, ventured out to the Department of Chalatenango to get an interview with guerrilla fighters.   The Salvadoran army ambushed their group and killed all the journalists.  The 36th anniversary of the killings is this week.

The ambush was one of the war crimes documented in the 1993 UN Truth Commission Report following the conclusion of El Salvador's civil war:
On the afternoon of 17 March 1982, four Dutch journalists accompanied by five or six members of FMLN, some of them armed, were ambushed by a patrol of the Atonal Battalion of the Salvadorian armed forces while on their way to territory under FMLN control. The incident occurred not far from the San Salvador-Chalatenango road, near the turn off to Santa Rita. The four journalists wer…

A rehabilitation model

El Salvador has many challenges, but there are also examples of what can be accomplished where there is the will and commitment.   One such example is League Outfitters, recently featured on the PBS NewsHour.   Here is the introduction:
At a garment factory that makes T-shirts bearing the logos of American universities, about a fifth of the workers at high-school dropouts. But if they want to keep their jobs, they'll need to do something about it. Special correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro reports from El Salvador on the factory turned college pipeline that employs those normally left out of society, including ex-gang members. Watch the report or read the transcript here.

Armed forces again ordered to explain disappearances of youth

For a second time, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that security forces must deliver up what they know about young men who disappeared at the hands of the military.   The case comes from the Salvadoran town of San Martin, where repressive military tactics were being used to combat gang violence.

The Defense Ministry, the Armed Forces and the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) must investigate the forced disappearance of two teenage boys according to the ruling last week by the Constitutional Chamber. 
William Ernesto Hernández and Bryan Alexander García, both 17, disappeared on July 30, 2014. According to their relatives, they went out to get a haircut at an establishment near the San Martin market and, at noon, they were intercepted and seized by a military patrol. The capture was witnessed by several market vendors. The soldiers beat the young men and tied their hands with the laces of their shoes. Later, they were put aboard…

Nayib Bukele is in full presidential campaign mode

Discussions about politics in El Salvador in the week after the March 4 elections tended to turn to two main themes -- how could the FMLN lose so badly? and what about Nayib Bukele, the man not on any ballots and without a party on any of the ballots?

According to opinion polls, Bukele is easily the most popular politician in the country and trounces other potential presidential candidates in the 2019 elections.    After being expelled from the FMLN and removed as its candidate for mayor of San Salvador, Bukele announced his presidential ambitions.  He also led a campaign encouraging voters in the March 4 legislative and mayoral elections to nullify their vote or simply "stay home and watch television."

On March 5, the day following the elections, Bukele went onto Facebook live video to promote "the moment of opening our movement."   In the video he describes the prior day's election results as the "politics of the past" and presented himself as the …

The next election in El Salvador

The next election in El Salvador involves magistrates for the country's Supreme Court of Justice.  Saturday, March 10, lawyers across the country will go and cast their votes for candidates for the high court.   The elections are organized by the Federation of Attorney Associations of El Salvador (FEDAES). A video urges the lawyers to elect honest and competent judges:

Thirty thousand lawyers will be able to cast ballots for 22 candidates.  Bios of the candidates are available here. This election will reduce to 15, the number of potential candidates for the Supreme Judicial Court.   In addition to those 15 candidates, 15 more candidates are chosen by the National Council of the Judiciary.   This total list of 30 candidates represents the body from which El Salvador's legislative National Assembly should pick new magistrates to the court.

The National Assembly will ultimately elect five new magistrates this July, by a two thirds super-majority vote.   The five new magistrates …

El Salvador elections overview

There are many aspects of El Salvador's elections last Sunday worth pondering.   Some of those aspects are noted below, reflecting comments from a team of election observers I led, as well as analysis of news reports and official announcements.

The Results

As noted in my previous post, the FMLN suffered a major defeat last Sunday as voters fled from the party.   Preliminary results show the party falling from 31 seats in the National Assembly to just 22, while conservative ARENA may have as many as 40 seats in the 84 seat legislature:

Note:  the results from the most recent election are preliminary, and there may be movements of a deputy or two.
These results mean that the FMLN by itself cannot block any legislative action requiring a 2/3 (56 vote) super majority such as the appointment of Supreme Judicial Court magistrates, the Attorney General, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, or international borrowing.   Nor can the FMLN sustain a veto by president Sanchez Ceren of legislation wh…