World Refugee Day -- the internal refugees of El Salvador

On June 20, World Refugee Day, El Salvador must deal with a reality of hundreds of thousands of internal refugees displaced by violence.   The following article was originally published by the human rights organization Cristosal.
The IDMC Releases 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement
Despite its relatively tiny size, El Salvador ranked tenth globally with 296,000 new displacements caused by conflict in 2017.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a global leader in analyzing displacement data, has released the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID). El Salvador ranked tenth worldwide for new displacements caused by conflict, with 296,000. This number represents 65% of all new displacements caused by conflict in the Americas. This is an increase from the IDMC's 2016 estimate of new displacements caused by conflict in El Salvador, which was 222,000. "We saw an increase in our own data as well," says Rina Montti, Coordinator of Cristosal's M…

Good news for El Salvador -- US unemployment low

When the US economy is creating jobs, El Salvador benefits.    This was easily seen in the May monthly report of family remittances received in El Salvador.   Remittances are the dollars earned abroad by workers who send them back to families in their homeland.

Remittances for the first 5 months of the year grew 8.95% from the same period in 2017.    Salvadoran families have received some $2.23 billion in funds from abroad this year.

El Salvador's Ministry of the Economy attributed the strong growth in remittances to the "dynamism" of the US labor market, where total unemployment has dropped to 3.8% and Hispanic unemployment has dropped to 4.9%.     Remittance levels are strongly correlated to employment levels in the US.

Future remittance levels do face certain threats, however.   The 195,000 Salvadorans with TPS protection will lose their work authorization in September 2019 and face a struggle to avoid deportation.   Other US efforts to remove migrants will also impac…

A Salvadoran reality of gender-based violence ignored by Jeff Sessions

Women, bringing their children, are fleeing gender-based violence in El Salvador and seeking asylum in the United States.   Yet, in the case of a woman from El Salvador, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is re-writing asylum law to eliminate the possibility of protection for these women.

From the American Immigration Council:
In the latest attack on asylum seekers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions single-handedly overturned years of immigration precedent to find that many victims of violence will not qualify for asylum. His strongly-worded opinion strikes an especially devastating blow to Central American asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom seek protection in the United States after fleeing gang violence, domestic violence, or both. Sessions certified to himself a 2016 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of A-B-, a case involving a woman from El Salvador who was granted asylum based on severe domestic violence she experienced. In his decision, he targets a…

Mauricio Funes and the garbage bags full of cash

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the title El Salvador Ex-President Funes’ Trash Bags Full of Money

Written by Héctor Silva Ávalos - JUNE 13, 2018

El Salvador has not sparked as much attention as its neighbors when it comes to corruption scandals, but a litany of accusations against former President Mauricio Funes and his relatives along with millions of dollars transferred in trash bags might change that.

The scheme was relatively straight forward. A member of the corruption network allegedly headed by former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes during his 2009 to 2014 term would arrive at a state bank, fill up big black trash bags with thousands of dollars in cash and then drive them to the presidential residence.

The money was allegedly for Funes, his family and other members of his inner circle who used it to pay for travel, properties, luxury goods and services such as plastic surgery, according to El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office.

The tra…

The battle over water legislation in El Salvador

The month of June has seen a surge in the conflict over the water crisis in El Salvador and what steps are necessary to solve it. This dispute has persisted without resolution for many years in El Salvador, but recent changes in power in El Salvador may be giving business interests an opportunity to enact their favored legislation.

Four days after the June 1 start of a new National Assembly dominated by parties of the right, the Assembly's Commission on the Environment and Climate Change announced that it would proceed with discussions of the “Ley Integral de Agua"  (Comprehensive Water Law).  The Commission made no mention of a proposed "General Water Law" which has been advocated for years by environmental groups, the Catholic church and the University of Central America.  After the conservative coalition of parties achieved a super majority in the March 4, 2018 elections, the prospect that they could pass the "Ley Integral" is now very real.  The Ley In…

Ex-president Mauricio Funes faces $351 million corruption charge

El Salvador elected him in 2009 with great hope and public acclaim -- Mauricio Funes was the first president of El Salvador from the left wing FMLN.   This weekend, however, El Salvador's attorney general is seeking an arrest warrant for Funes arising out of a corruption case involving the diversion of $351 million from Salvadoran government accounts.  Funes is in exile in Nicaragua where he has been since 2016.

From Reuters:
El Salvador’s attorney general ordered the arrest on Friday of former president for alleged embezzlement and money laundering, in addition to allegedly covering up various illicit acts during his government.  Funes, who has been in exile in Nicaragua since September 2016, is accused of using public funds to pay for trips, home remodeling and hospital bills, among other expenses.  The attorney general also sought the arrest of 29 other people, including relatives of Funes and former officials in his administration. The online periodical El Faro has a detailed…

Restoring El Salvador's coffee industry

In recent years, El Salvador's coffee production was hit hard by a fungus known as "roya" which decreased the coffee harvest by as much as 60% in the country.   This blow to the coffee sector cost tens of thousands of jobs in the small country.

This chart using data at the International Coffee Organization shows the steep drop off in Salvadoran coffee production starting in 2012:

Now Reuters reports on how many farmers are turning to higher quality beans, which require more intensive care but also fetch a higher price in world markets:
Farmers in the Central American country have turned to specialty coffee trees - identified by fanciful names such as bourbon, geisha and pacas - in hopes of reviving a local industry devastated by crop disease just a few years ago.  The trees produce some of the world’s highest quality coffee, beans with distinctive tastes prized by consumers in the United States and elsewhere who are willing to pay up for top-drawer coffee. Specialty cof…