MS-13 in the news

When US president Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions talk about southern border enforcement, they often bring up the gang MS-13 as the prime example of "bad hombres" who will be blocked from entering the US and be deported if they are already in the country.   MS-13 plays a role in their rhetoric similar to ISIS -- a threat to the US homeland which must be met by tough measures to block the entrance of refugees and others fleeing violence, and which requires aggressive law enforement strategies at home.     It is a theme playing out in US headlines and social media memes; in the last few days alone there are dozens of stories about MS-13 violence in the US.

This week, the Republicans again blamed the Obama administration for the presence of MS-13 gang members in the country.   Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Sentate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, sent a letter to the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, demandi…

Collateral damage from banning gold mining

Many people around the world celebrated when El Salvador became the first country to ban all metallic mining including gold mining.    In tiny El Salvador, with limited water resources free of contamination, the threat of environmental degradation from mines was seen as too great.   Add to that, most believed that the economic benefits would only go to the multi-national companies which would own and operate the mines.

But an article in the Guardian reminds us that there is another class of gold miners in El Salvador.  "Artisanal" gold miners, who dig for gold by hand from small, older mines, will soon be put out of business by the new law.   As one of these miners stated:
“We’re lucky if we get $20 or $40 every two days. There are weeks when we don’t find any gold,” he says. Soza has worked all his life as a güirisero, the Salvadoran term for a small-scale, artisanal miner. He works five days a week inside an underground mine, dragging carts filled with heavy rocks or deali…

Pope Francis names first cardinal from El Salvador

Pope Francis has named the first cardinal of the Roman Catholic church from El Salvador.  Seventy-four year old Gregorio Rosa Chávez is the auxiliary bishop of San Salvador and will now wear the red hat of the princes of the church.     Rosa Chávez was named auxilliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982, a post he has held for the past thirty-five years under a series of archbishops in San Salvador.

From Crux, a Catholic website:
On choosing Rosa Chávez from El Salvador, the pope bypassed the titular archbishop of the diocese, José Luis Escobar y Alas, once again making the point that when he gives red hats, he’s more than willing to go beyond the traditional “cardinal sees,” something he’s done in the previous three consistories he’s celebrated.  This pick in particular says a lot about Francis, because Rosa Chávez was a close collaborator of slain Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered in 1980 while he was saying Mass.  Talking to Vatican Radio in the days previous to the beatifica…

Migration stories

I spend a lot of time these days talking about migration and US immigration policy.   I talk about it in workshops and conferences in El Salvador.   I talk about it to church groups and others in the US.   I write about the subject constantly as part of El Salvador Perspectives.
One thing I am convinced about is that we need to hear each other's stories.   US audiences need to understand the violence and desperation which force people to migrate from El Salvador and the other Northern Triangle countries.   Audiences in El Salvador need to hear accurate stories of  what awaits anyone who might attempt the perilous journey through Mexico and what awaits them legally, culturally, economically and socially in the US.

Two well written, photographed and video-ed pieces of journalism came out this past week which help understand those stories.   I urge you to read them in their entirety, not just the headlines, and then share them and encourage friends to do the same.

In an article titl…

Coffee excellence for El Salvador

The Cup of Excellence is a competition of coffee quality which takes place in coffee-producing countries around the world.   The competition just concluded in El Salvador with the winning coffee finace located in La Palma, Chalatenango.    You can read about all the top farms in this year's competition here.
From Daily Coffee News:
The 2017 auction, organized by the nonprofit Alliance for Coffee Excellence and in-country partners following a successful 2017 Cup of Excellence quality competition, shattered previous CoE El Salvador auction records, with numerous international coffee buyers offering more than $95 USD per pound for a honey-processed Pacamara coffee from the Santa Rosa Farm. The previous individual high in El Salvador was $50.10....  The auction represents a major win for the Santa Rosa farm — founded in 1979 by Jorge Raul Rivera near the municipality of La Palma in Chalatenango Department — but also for the Pacamara variety, known not only for its extraordinarily lar…

Oscar Romero assassination case reopened

The case of the murder of Oscar Romero, former archbishop of San Salvador, is actually proceeding in a court in El Salvador.
From Reuters: A judge in El Salvador on Thursday reopened the nearly four-decade-old case of murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero, an icon of the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America, and asked that prosecutors seek criminal charges against the main suspect.  The ruling, by Judge Ricardo Chicas, follows a decision last year by the country's constitutional court to repeal an amnesty law that prohibited criminal trials stemming from the Central American nation's bloody civil war from 1980 to 1992.  The main suspect in the killing of Romero is Alvaro Rafael Saravia, a former soldier who had his case dismissed in 1993 as a result of the amnesty law. Saravia was sued in a civil lawsuit in the United States for his role in Romero's role.    Saravia defaulted and never appeared in the case.   After hearing testimony about Oscar Romero's importance and Sa…

Gang truce case proceedings

The current attorney general of El Salvador, Douglas Meléndez, is prosecuting the mediators of the 2012 gang truce and those government officials he accuses of participation in implementing the truce. The defendants include Raúl Mijango who mediated the truce, Nelson Rauda, former director of the prison system, and other prison officials.

In a proceeding today, the judge agreed to lift the confidentiality seal over the case to allow the case to proceed in public.   With the seal lifted, Paolo Luers,  who is often linked to the truce himself, described today's events in a blog post.  The preliminary hearing is expected to last three days.

The 2012 gang truce began in March 2012 and led to an immediate drop in the homicide rate of more than 50% as El Salvador's gangs ceased shooting at each other.  At the same time, a group of top gang leaders in the prisons were transferred to lower security facilities with more privileges.   Government officials denied that there had been any …