Views of CICIES and Bukele's first 100 days

Trump's border wall in El Salvador

Although Donald Trump faces political challenges in building a physical wall across the southern US border, he is having more success in extending a southern frontier first to the southern border of Mexico and now into Central America.  BuzzFeed describes how this is happening:
In recent months, the Trump administration has begun arm-twisting governments in Latin America into doing its own border work, much like the EU has done with Libya to deal with its immigrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, the US has threatened the Mexican and Guatemalan governments with sanctions, while also offering Guatemala the promise of work visas for its citizens — and has at least partially succeeded in having them deter immigration through their territories....  These may be the tip of a growing iceberg, with deterrence policies likely to expand ever southward. Last week, acting US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan traveled to Panama to di…

US Supreme Court allows Trump to slam door on asylum seekers

Salvadorans fleeing violence and persecution because of their political beliefs, their religion, their sexual orientation, their opposition to gangs, their gender, or any other reason will be precluded from seeking asylum in the US under a ruling Wednesday from the US Supreme Court.   At least while lower court litigation is still pending, the court ruled that the Trump administration may enforce a rule (known by its critics as "Asylum Ban 2.0") that denies asylum to anyone who crossed the southern US border after July 16, 2019 unless they first applied for and were denied asylum in Mexico (or another country like Guatemala). 

This rule now applies to thousands of Salvadorans who crossed the border in just the past several weeks since July 16.  It will also apply to Salvadorans who are currently waiting in lines at US border crossing points to request asylum the "right way", under a US practice of "metering" the number of asylum seekers who can enter.


Bukele blocked investigative journalists from announcement of CICIES

At the August 6 press conference to announce the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (“CICIES” for its initials in Spanish), security guards prevented the entrance of journalists from two online periodicals, Revista Factum and El Faro. 

It struck many as no coincidence that just these two sets of journalists would be targeted by the Bukele administration.   Both periodicals have published articles asking uncomfortable questions about the Bukele administration and officials within it:

Bukele returns the budget of the OIE to the shadows (Revista Factum)The money is enough when the contracts are for the friends of Nayib.(Revista Factum)Bukele has already spent $2 million from the secret billfold of the presidency (El Faro)Alba Petroleum gave two loans to ministers in Bukele's government (El Faro)
After the event, Bukele tweeted a statement from his Secretary of Communications proclaiming that the journalists from Factum and El Faro have been banne…

#SurfCity El Salvador

Salvadoran government officials launched an initiative named "Surf City" Friday in an event along the Pacific shore where El Salvador gets prime waves for surfers.  Throughout his candidacy and now as president, Nayib Bukele has been promoting a vision of surfing as an engine for tourism in the country.  As he nears the 100th day of his presidency, his government ministers rolled out this plan for tourism development along the coast. 
The Salvadoran government today designated 21 kilometers of the Pacific coastline as the "Surf City National Tourism Zone."  The zone stretches from Deininger Park in La Paz department to El Zonte Beach in La Libertad department.  The plan includes creating conditions for businesses to operate and grow, access to financing, technical assistance, and development of human resources.  The Ministry of Tourism promised  public and private efforts for tourism promotion, the attraction of investment, site management and sustainability.

The …

Anti-corruption commission launches today in El Salvador

Today El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, announced the launch of the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador ("CICIES" for its initials in Spanish).  Bukele was accompanied by Luis Porto, a representative of the Organization of American States (OAS), in making the announcement.  They told the assembled dignitaries and reporters that El Salvador's Foreign Ministry would be signing a letter with the OAS regarding OAS backing for CICIES.   The OAS role will be in the form of technical assistance for the effort.

A summary of the mandate of CICIES was set out in a press release today from the OAS:
On September 6, 2019, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) and the Government of the Republic of El Salvador set up the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES), an entity that begins operations immediately and will expand investigation activities in accordance with the legislation of the Republic …

Development v environment -- where will new government position itself?

Six months ago I described how a proposed high density residential project to be built just northeast of the San Salvador metropolitan area will be an early test of the priorities of the new government of president Nayib Bukele.  We may see the results of that test soon.

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 they plan a mega-real estate project in the municipality of Apopa, just northeast of San Salvador at the base of the San Salvador volcano. The proposed urbanization development of  8000 houses, shopping centers, churches and more would threaten the available water resources in the region, according to environmental and community groups.  Most of the land, located along the Pan-American highway, is currently used to grow sugar cane.

Opponents to Valle El Ángel argue that this mega-project will cause the over-exploitation of already stressed …