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A teflon president

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The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, is extraordinarily popular according to all recent public opinion polling.  In fact, in poll results published in July 2020, the Mexican Mitofsky polling firm shows Bukele having the highest approval rating among world heads of state , with an approval rating of 84%. (This is not the first time a Salvadoran president has led the world in Mitofsky poll approval ratings, Mauricio Funes also enjoyed an 84% approval rating and now is is a fugitive from corruption charges living in Nicaragua).  Nothing in the news seems to pull Bukele's ratings lower.     A May 2020 poll  by La Prensa Grafica showed Bukele with an approval rating among Salvadorans of 92.5%. A public opinion poll  from the University of Central America on the one year anniversary of Bukele's presidency gave him ratings of 7.7 out of 10 in general and with regards to his handling of the pandemic.   In that same UCA poll, 65.7% of respondents believed Bukele was doing a good

Bukele created CICIES, now it investigates his government

Investigators from the office of the Attorney General of El Salvador ("FGR" for its initials in Spanish) raided the offices of various government ministries between November 9 and 12 to gather documents and computer files. The investigators held a judicial order in an investigation of possible corruption in pandemic-related contracting by the government.   The transactions in question total as much as $155 million according to reporting by RevistaFactum .    Reportedly two thirds of the contracts used to purchase medical supplies during the pandemic are under investigation. While the Ministry of Health was the primary focus, investigators also showed up at the Ministry of the Treasury, the Ministry of Agriculture and the water authority ANDA, as well as several businesses tied to government officials or their families.  Among the questioned contracts are ones purchasing $12.6 million in PPE at inflated prices from a Spanish auto parts distributor which had no background

31st anniversary of massacre of Jesuits in El Salvador

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  Today, November 16, 2020, marks the 31st anniversary of the massacre by Salvadoran troops of six Jesuit priests, a female co-worker and her daughter during El Salvador's civil war.   With the global pandemic still being felt in El Salvador, the annual commemoration was necessarily different.   The University of Central America ("UCA") has been required to conduct all classes online since March, along with all other education institutions in the country, and its campus is closed.   Instead, the anniversary was marked with an online vigil on Facebook and YouTube which you can watch here . The past year has been full of developments, positive and negative, for the search for justice for the atrocity.  That search is now in its fourth decade. The positive development was the judgment of guilt and the sentence to 133 years in prison for former Salvadoran colonel Inocente Orlando Montano rendered by a court in Spain.  The court took jurisdiction of the case under principles

A mega project approved despite environmental concerns

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On November 3, El Salvador's environmental ministry ("MARN" for its initials in Spanish) gave the green light to a commercial/residential mega-development on the outskirts of San Salvador. The development is called "Valle El Ángel," a project of real estate developer Urbánica . The owners of Urbánica are the ultra-wealthy Dueñas family in El Salvador, and their proposed urbanization development of 8000 houses, shopping centers, churches and more would threaten the available water resources in the capital region, according to environmental and community groups. Most of the land, located along the Pan-American highway, is currently used to grow sugar cane. See photos here . On hearing the news, Carlos Flores, one of the leaders of groups opposing the project, decried the failure of MARN to address environmental concerns which had been raised.   Earlier this year, MARN had acknowledged questions about the hydrology impact of the development, but there has bee

What Biden's election means for El Salvador

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Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the US presidential election, signaling a potential change in the US policy towards Central America under Donald Trump which focused solely on blocking immigration.  According to surveys , Salvadoran US citizens gave a share of their votes to Biden (74%) greater than any other national group within the broader category of Latinx voters in the country. President Nayib Bukele sent a letter congratulating Biden on his election: Biden will take over from Trump, who in 2018 called El Salvador a “ shithole country ”  Despite that comment, Nayib Bukele famously stated after meeting with Trump on the sidelines of a UN meeting that Trump was ”nice and cool.”  Bukele met several times with Homeland Security officials from the US and his government was seen as one of Trump's closest allies in Latin America. With Trump, the relationship with the US rested on a basic proposition – in return for help on reducing the flow of migrants towards the US sou

Recent news from El Salvador

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 Here is a collection of recent reporting in English about developments in El Salvador. Rain-fueled landslide in El Salvador kills 9; 1 missing  (AP, Oct. 30, 2020) -- Intense rains caused a mudslide on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano, burying homes in Nejapa. ( Reuters ) Trump and Central America: Less Democracy for Less Migration (El Faro English, Oct. 29, 2020) --  With each new journalistic or judicial investigation into high-level corruption and crime, Central American leaders have found a lifeline in U.S. ambassadors willing to scrub their public image. By dint of blackmail, the Trump administration has demanded an end to unauthorized immigration, promising in return the label of “reliable partner” and issuing blank checks to the presidents of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America which have underwritten their attacks against the fragile democratic orders they lead. Commander of US Southern Command Visits El Salvador  (US Embassy, Oct. 21, 2020) -- U.S. Navy

Gangs and the Bukele administration

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime under the title  The El Salvador President’s Informal Pact with Gangs. Written by Steven Dudley - October 2, 2020 El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele has vehemently denied swapping favors with gangs, but a slew of government officials and a person working directly with the government say there is an informal pact between parts of the government and the gangs. Bukele’s public insistence that his government is not working with gangs followed a report in El Faro published on September 3 . The report drew from government documents and interviews to show government representatives had met with gang members inside and outside of the prison system to foment greater trust and trade favors, among them political access for Bukele’s political party, Nuevas Ideas, in gang-dominated areas to campaign for legislative and municipal elections set for February 2021. El Faro called the talks “negotiations.” The El Faro story came just mont