A strong rebuke for El Salvador on human rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,  had tough words for El Salvador in his concluding statement this week, highlighting many areas where the country falls short of international human rights standards.  Here is a selection of his comments.

On extra-judicial killings: There are also alarming reports of extrajudicial killings and the return of death squads. No matter how serious the human rights violations committed by violent gangs, all perpetrators of violence need to be held fully accountable for their actions through judicial mechanisms. Victims on all sides deserve justice.On prison conditions: The Extraordinary Security Measures... have placed thousands of people in prolonged and isolated detention under truly inhumane conditions, and with prolonged suspension of family visits. The vulnerability of these inmates is highlighted by an outbreak of tuberculosis, affecting more than a thousand inmates, with several hundred also said to be sufferi…

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Visits El Salvador

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, visited El Salvador this week.  Today he went to the University of Central America as part of the commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the murders of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by government soldiers. Zeid is the first holder of that position to ever visit El Salvador.

During his visit he met with the president and other senior officials and legislators.    He also heard from human rights advocates in the country about their many concerns over extrajudicial killings, LGBTI hate crimes, discrimination and violence against women, and more.

In remarks in the chapel which holds the remains of the murdered Jesuit priests, Zeid spoke of the need for ongoing commitment to human rights and the search for truth, justice, and accountability.   Human rights advocates welcomed Zeid's visit to the country as affirmation for their ongoing struggle to advance human rights on the nationa…

Progress in Jesuit murder case on 28th anniversary

Today is another anniversary of the November 16, 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by soldiers of the Salvadoran armed forces.    With this anniversary comes some progress towards justice in the case.

The United States Supreme Court rejected yesterday a last ditch effort by former Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano to stay his extradition from the US to Spain where he is a defendant in a court case against the military officers behind the massacre and its cover-up.   At the time of the massacre, Montano served as the Vice Minister of Defense for Public Safety, in command of the National Police, the Treasury Police, and the National Guard. 

Montano had been fighting his extradition case for two years while in federal prison for immigration fraud.  He had earlier been convicted for lying when he first entered the US in the years following the Salvadoran civil war.   Spanish authorities sought his extradition, and the Obama and Trump administrations …

El Salvador government vows crackdown on Uber

Since arriving in El Savador, the ride sharing company Uber has grown rapidly.   Uber currently reports that it as 1000 drivers and more than 33,000 users in the country.

This success, and complaints from the country's taxi drivers, have garnered the attention of the Salvadoran government.    On Thursday, the Vice Minister of Transportation Nelson Garcia warned that Uber drivers could face fines or have their cars seized, and asked users to discontinue using the service.

A simple way to understand this dispute is this.   If your car is for personal use only, you get an El Salvador license plate which starts with the letter "P".    If your vehicle is used for commercial purposes, you are supposed to have the appropriate license plate for that category of use.   For example, local taxi-cabs should have license plates which start with the letter "A."   These commercial license plates cost more, and the government asserts (correctly I am sure) that Uber drivers are …

Tropical storm leads to sea turtle deaths

Two weeks ago, between 300 and 400 vulnerable and endangered sea turtles were found floating dead off the coast of El Salvador. The reason for the die off was something of a mystery.

Guardarrecursos del MARN localizaron entre 300 y 400 tortugas marinas muertas flotando a unas 7 millas náuticas frente a Bahía de Jiquilisco — MARN El Salvador (@MARN_SV) November 2, 2017
Now scientists at El Salvador's environment ministry (MARN) believe they have identified the factors leading to the sea turtle deaths.    They point to the Pacific tropical storm Selma which struck El Salvador on October 28.   That storm altered the course of currents on which the turtles travel and also stirred up sediments on the sea floor.  The sediments nourished micro-algae which produce saxitoxin, a powerful paralyzing poison     These toxins have been identified in the corpses of dead turtles studied  by the scientists.

Authorities in El Salvador have an ongoing campaign to try and …

Possible FMLN candidates for president in 2019

The positioning to become the FMLN's candidate for president in 2019 has begun.  First to move was Gerson Martinez, the current Minister of Public Works.  Martinez resigned from his position as minister which he has held since 2009, in order to be free to campaign.    Martinez' action was quickly followed by statements from Vice President Oscar Ortiz and Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez each stating that they would not rule out being a candidate for president in 2019 on the ticket of the left wing party.

Another person whose name has been mentioned from the FMLN is Medardo Gonzalez, the Secretary General of the party.

Whoever is chosen by the FMLN will have to face one of several announced candidates from ARENA, and San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele, who has chosen to run for president outside of either major political party.

Deportation numbers to El Salvador decline by almost half

During 2017, El Salvador has seen a reduction of almost 50% in Salvadorans deported back to the country from Mexico and the United States.  Although some might be expecting a large increase in deportations given the rhetoric coming out of Washington, in fact the opposite has been the case so far in 2017.     

El Salvador's General Directorate of Migration and Immigration (DGME) regularly publishes statistics about those who are returned to the country by bus (from Mexico) and by air (from the US).  Here are the DGME statistics for the last three years including data through November 6 for 2017:

Salvadorans deported from Mexico:
2015 -- 30,405
2016 --  28,394
2017 -- 9,728

Salvadorans deported from US:
2015 -- 21,752
2016 -- 24,004
2017 -- 13,653

The reduction in deportations from Mexico almost certainly reflects a reduced flow in migrants leaving El Salvador since Trump came to office and the perception of a hostile environment in the US currently.  Migrants picked up in Mexico …