El Salvador supplies peacekeeping forces in Mali

It used to be that a mention of United Nations peacekeepers in conjunction with El Salvador was a reference to the UN Observers Mission (ONUSAL) which was on the ground in El Salvador in the first few years after El Salvador's civil war ended in 1992.   Today, however, El Salvador is sending out peacekeepers of its own to different parts of the globe.  It happens without much notice, but for three years El Salvador has been sending military units to participate in UN peacekeeping efforts in Africa.

From Dialogo, the Digital Military Magazine this week:
United Nations (UN) delegates screened the equipment and flight technology the Salvadoran Air Force’s (FAS, in Spanish) Gavilán I Air Contingent will use as it joins the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA, in French) in September 2018....  The Gavilán I contingent will consist of pilots and specialists in communication, maintenance, and weaponry. “This is the third air contingent FAS de…

Does the Salvadoran diaspora care about elections?

Citizens of El Salvador who live outside of the country are eligible to vote in the upcoming 2019 presidential elections.   Yet as of the September 6 deadline, only about 1% of the eligible voters (3541) outside of the country had taken the steps to sign up to vote in 2019.

The essential requirement for voting is that a Salvadoran citizen must have an unexpired national identity card (DUI) with their current address outside of El Salvador.   For each election, they must register online to vote in order to have a ballot sent to them. 

It is not clear why so few have registered to get a ballot.  Perhaps they simply don't see how the election will impact their lives, especially those living in the anti-immigrant atmosphere generated by Donald Trump in the US.  There have also been some reports of difficulties in using the online site of the Salvadoran election tribunal where voters register. 

With these low registration figures and the reported website problems, the TSE has extende…

Patriotism on parade

I have always known Salvadorans to be very patriotic with a great love for their country.   This love shows up in many ways today, September 15, when El Salvador and the rest of Central America celebrate Independence Day.   The day celebrates the independence of the region from colonial Spain.

At schools large and small in every part of the country this month, students have been practicing in bands and marching groups to prepare for civic parades.   The parades might be big or small, from a parade simply leaving the school and marching through the single street of a small town, to participation in national celebrations at a stadium in San Salvador with helicopters flying overhead and cultural dancers and military bands performing.

Here are images from one parade, which took place today in the town of Tonacatapeque, northeast of San Salvador.

Still no Supreme Judicial Court magistrate appointments

El Salvador's National Assembly remains unable to agree on new magistrates to El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court.   A super-majority vote of members of the Assembly is required, to decide on the magistrates to be named and their appointment to specific chambers of the court.   So far, no combination of parties has been able to come up with the required votes for a given slate of judges.  Two months have passed since the deadline to name new magistrates to the court.

The parties are bargaining back and forth over different names from a list of 30 candidates.  The risk of such bargaining is that it can produce judges who see themselves as beholden to one particular party or another.     The bargaining does not always (ever?) appear to be focused on which are the most qualified candidates.

According to La Prensa Grafica, the primary dispute among the various parties involves which magistrates will go to fill the open positions in the Constitutional Chamber.   That Chamber is th…

Tony Saca sentenced to 10 years in prison for corruption

Former president of El Salvador Antonio ("Tony") Saca was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for corruption pursuant to a plea deal with the country's attorney general.  Saca governed the country from 2004-2009 after being elected on the ARENA party ticket and also made an unsuccessful bid for another term as president in 2014. 

Today's sentence did not come as a surprise.   Saca had already confessed and provided the details of the corruption scheme.   The plead deal and confession allowed Attorney General Douglas Melendez to secure a conviction, something he has had a difficult time doing in high profile cases in the past two years.

The conviction of Saca comes at a bad time for ARENA leading up to the presidential elections.   Saca's confessions include descriptions of how some of the embezzled funds were used to advance ARENA political campaigns.  (In the same way, Saca's presidential bid had been aided by part of $10 million in earthquake relief fund…

More US underwear to come from El Salvador

US consumers may look on tags on their underwear and find that it is "hecho en El Salvador" -- made in El Salvador.  El Salvador garment factories have long been a source of underwear for the US market and that trend is continuing.

An article on an apparel industry website today notes that HanesBrands is investing to expand its factories in El Salvador where underwear for the US market is sewn:  According to an article in Just-Style, the garment manufacturer will invest a total of $10.4 million on its facilities here and increase employment by 430 jobs.

HanesBrands decision to increase investment in El Salvador is attributed in the article to a new customs union among Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as well as the country's decision to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan. 

You can read HanesBrands public relations pieces about its operations in El Salvador here.

Balance those public relations pieces with a 2010 inspection report by the Fair Labor Association which found …

Diplomatic spat over Taiwan continues

The US, which has had diplomatic ties with the Peoples Republic of China since 1979, continues to fume that El Salvador decided to cut its own ties with Taiwan and establish diplomatic relations with the communist government in Beijing.   Yesterday, the State Department announced that US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes was being recalled to Washington:
The Department of State has called back the U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein, the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes, and the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Panama Roxanne Cabral for consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan. Our three Chiefs of Mission will meet with U.S. Government leaders to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions and economies throughout Central America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, four US Senators have introduced a bill requiring a downgrade of US relations for any government which acts adversely …