CICIES -- what it really is

During the presidential election campaign of Nayib Bukele, the fight against corruption was one of his major themes.    He used the slogan "there is enough money when nobody steals," and promised the creation of a Commission against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador ("CICIES" for its initials in Spanish).   The acronym CICIES was intentionally similar to CICIG, the anti-corruption commission in Guatemala backed by the United Nations which exposed and prosecuted corruption of powerful leaders in the country.
Seven months into the Bukele presidency, there is an entity called CICIES, and we are able to better understand what this organization will do and what will be its limitations.  CICIES is the creation of agreements executed between the Organization of American States (OAS) and El Salvador.  A key document was signed in December between the OAS and the office of attorney general (FGR) Raúl Melara, to describe the role of CICIES along with agreements with ot…

Optimism lodged in a president

For many years I have followed the public opinion polls conducted by the University Institute of Public Opinion (IUDOP) at the University of Central America.   The polls touch many aspects of how Salvadorans feel about their country, its leaders, and its institutions.   Throughout almost all of that time, Salvadorans have not felt good about the direction their country was headed, except during brief honeymoon periods following the elections of Tony Saca (ARENA) and Mauricio Funes (FMLN)(Saca has now been convicted of, and Funes accused, of looting millions from the country).

The most recent IUDOP polling results show a dramatic turnaround in those sentiments.  In 2017, 48.7% of Salvadorans believed conditions in the country were worsening and only 7.6% believed they were getting better. Entering 2020, however, 65.9% of Salvadorans believe the country is improving and only 5.4% believe things are getting worse.

One part of this change in attitude is a changing perception of the securi…

Back for 2020

El Salvador Perspectives has been gone for a few weeks to start the year, but luckily there were many others in the English language press covering events in El Salvador.   A recent series of articles has a common thread of looking at the impact of violence in El Salvador which forces people to be flee their homes. 

We’re deporting people back to gangs. What about offering refuge and aid?   In an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mark Fazlollah writes   "I found that the economic forces and violence driving people to leave are so strong that I don’t see how we can address our immigration problems without helping El Salvador tackle those issues. Short-term solutions are not going to work for problems that have been decades in the making, sometimes resulting from problematic U.S. policies."

El Salvador's Top Anglican Bishop Urges U.S. to Not Deport Son. Reuters reports that "The top Anglican bishop of El Salvador has urged the United States not to deport his s…

Top stories of the decade

As we close 2019, this is my list of the top 10 stories from El Salvador during the past decade.   It was a decade of changing personalities and parties in power, but also a decade in which major themes like violence, slow economic growth, and migration remained as entrenched challenges for the country.

Rise and fall of the FMLN.   The beginning of the decade saw the FMLN achieve its highest level of political power.   The party of the former leftist guerrilla movement won El Salvador’s presidency for the first time with Mauricio Funes in 2009, and his presidency started with very high levels of public approval.   But from this peak, the party’s fortunes steadily declined.   The FMLN lost four seats in the Legislative Assembly in 2012, and in the 2014 election would retain the presidency by the slimmest of margins.  Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who was president from 2014-2019, was an uninspiring leader who enjoyed little popular support.  Conservative parties in the Legislative Assembly pr…

Convictions in a mammoth gang trial don't include politicians

In El Salvador, a massive trial against members of the MS-13 gang recently concluded in San Salvador.  From the AP:
 A court in El Salvador has sentenced 373 convicted members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang to prison terms of up to 74 years for crimes ranging from murder and arms trafficking to terrorist association in a mass trial historic for the sheer number of defendants, authorities said Friday. The trial had featured the testimony of Noe, a pseudonym for an ex-gang member turned cooperating witness against his former homies.  His testimony revealed a broad range of criminal activities of MS-13.

As the judge in the case issued his ruling, he revealed videos which had not previously been shown in open court involving politicians who were willing to sit down and negotiate with El Salvador's gang leaders.  The judge criticized prosecutors for having failed to bring charges against politicians. "In this country then we have two types of gangster: gangster gangsters …

Bukele at Doha Forum and on 60 Minutes

Nayib Bukele had two appearances in international media on Sunday.    He gave the closing address at the Doha Forum in Qatar.    Bukele was in Qatar as part of an international tour that included stops in Japan and China.  The Doha Forum, which defines itself as a global platform for dialogue, this year discussed various topics under the theme of "Reimagining Governance in a Multi-Polar World."

Bukele's remarks can be summarized as "the world is now globalized, completely connected by the internet and our smartphones, and producing more than ever before in history with the resources to feed and provide health care to everyone on the planet.   Then why don't we?"   (He did not answer the question he posed). 

The second appearance was an interview on 60 Minutes on the CBS network in the United States.   The headline grabbing soundbites were "our whole economy is in shatters," and El Salvador does not "have asylum capacities, but we can build t…

Migration stats from the Northern Triangle

The most recent statistics regarding persons crossing the southwestern US border have been released. For the concerns of the Trump administration, the most important statistic is that border apprehensions have dropped very significantly.  From the dramatic surge during the spring and summer of 2019, monthly apprehensions are back in the historic "normal" level:

The reasons for this are many and varied, but I would assert that the two primary factors are (1) a much tougher immigrant enforcement strategy by Mexico stopping many from reaching the US border, and (2) the harsh cruelty of US border policies including metering of asylum seekers at ports of entry, the Remain in Mexico policy, and increased detention of all other border crossers.   I don't think migration rates are going down because conditions are suddenly getting better for desperate peoples around the globe.

For migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America, it is possible to do a deeper dive into th…