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The massacre of children and others at El Mozote

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Thirty-six years ago, from December 10-12, 1981, the armed forces of El Salvador massacred hundreds of children in the town of El Mozote and surrounding communities.    Last week El Salvador's government divulged the results of the first official register of the victims who died in that massacre.   Of 978 victims executed, 553 or 57% were under 18 years of age and 477 were 12 and under. Twelve infants died in their mothers wombs.  Henceforth, at El Salvador Perspectives, we will refer to this atrocity as the "Massacre of Children and Others at El Mozote."





Garden next to church in El Mozote where hundreds of
child victims lie buried.

As it covers the trial, the online periodical El Faro has offered us another view into the lives of the victims.    A photogallery at the site shows ordinary objects of life in the village.   The objects were recovered during the course of exhumations locating the bodies of the army's massacre.   Like the artifacts from Pompeii or Joye de C…

An education system in ruins

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At the end of November, the online periodical El Faro published on its website a wide-ranging investigation titled X-Ray of an Educational System in Ruins.   With data, video, interviews and analysis, El Faro presents a comprehensive look at an educational system which is largely failing to provide the education needed by the country's children.

Although annual spending to provide school uniforms, shoes, school supplies and a meager daily meal have helped boost attendance levels in the schools since 2009, the government has made little progress in actually investing in what is taught in those schools.  Yearly testing by the government of high school students shows the lack of academic progress year over year.

84% of school students in the country attend one of the 5136 public schools in El Salvador.

Each year the government gives a test to all high school students finishing their final year (the "PAES").   This year's scores were released on November 15, and the nat…

Week in review

Here are some of the news stories coming out of El Salvador this week. Edgar López Bertran died this week.    Popularly known as "Brother Toby," he was the founder of one of El Salvador's largest evangelical mega-churches, the Baptist Biblical Tabernacle Friends of Israel.   The reins of the church now fall to his son, Toby, Jr.
Testimony resumed in El Mozote massacre trial.   Additional witnesses are taking the stand in the trial of El Salvador's military command for its role in the 1981 massacre in El Mozote and surrounding communities.
Former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano was finally extradited by the US to Spain, where he has already been brought in front of a judge in connection with his role in the 1989 Jesuit murders case.   With one of the defendants finally physically present in Spain, the case can now proceed.
Meanwhile in El Salvador, Jesuits from the UCA went to court to ask that those who gave the orders for the Jesuit massacre be prosecuted i…

Mauricio Funes ordered to restore $419,145 in illicit riches

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El Salvador's first president to be elected under the banner of the leftist FMLN, Mauricio Funes, was elected in 2009 to great fanfare.   But in November 2017, he is living in exile in Nicaragua and has just been ordered by a Salvadoran court to pay back $419,145 for which he and one of his sons could not explain the origins.   Under Salvadoran law, public officials need to make an accounting for any increase in personal wealth during their time in office, and if they cannot explain it, it is presumed they came by the increase in wealth illicitly.   A separate claim against Funes' ex-wife and current government minister, Vanda Pignato, was dismissed.     

Funes immediately launched into another defense of himself from his Twitter account.   Funes announced that he would appeal the decision and challenged the government to prove that any of this money had come from Salvadoran government coffers.  Funes blamed the outcome on pressure from the right in the country.

For his part,…

Salvadorans have highest number of cases in US immigration courts

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In removal proceedings, where US immigration authorities are attempting to deport a migrant, there are today more open cases against Salvadorans than any other nationality.  This statistic comes from the TRAC immigration database at Syracuse University. 

As of the end of October 2017, there were 141,591 open cases involving Salvadoran nationals, which equaled 21.8% of the entire case load of removal proceedings in the US immigration courts.    Mexico had the next largest number of open cases with 140,894.

This is an important number to watch, because it represents the number of Salvadorans "in the pipeline" to potentially be deported, before even considering the effect of a possible cancellation of TPS protection for 195,000 Salvadorans in March 2018.

Certainly not all of these open cases will result in deportations.  For example, thousands of these cases are cases of asylum seekers who may ultimately by granted asylum in the US by an immigration court judge.   In other cas…

Come visit El Salvador

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Growth in the tourist industry would undoubtedly help El Salvador.    Recently the world travel press has been singing the praises of this great little country.

Lonely Planet starts its description of El Salvador like this:
El Salvador suffers horribly from bad press. While gang violence still dominates international headlines – and keeps so many adventurous travelers at bay – the vast majority of this beautiful country remains untouched by 'the troubles.'  Those visitors who do make the effort are invariably impressed by just how much this tiny country has to offer: world-class surfing on empty, dark-sand beaches; coffee plantations clinging to the sides of volcanoes; colorful Spanish colonial towns; and sublime national parks. There are few crowds outside the capital, San Salvador, which itself boasts more swagger than its Central American counterparts. Meanwhile TravelPulse wants people to know You're Missing Out on El Salvador:
Known as “El Pulgarcito of America,” or …

A strong rebuke for El Salvador on human rights

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein,  had tough words for El Salvador in his concluding statement this week, highlighting many areas where the country falls short of international human rights standards.  Here is a selection of his comments.

On extra-judicial killings: There are also alarming reports of extrajudicial killings and the return of death squads. No matter how serious the human rights violations committed by violent gangs, all perpetrators of violence need to be held fully accountable for their actions through judicial mechanisms. Victims on all sides deserve justice.On prison conditions: The Extraordinary Security Measures... have placed thousands of people in prolonged and isolated detention under truly inhumane conditions, and with prolonged suspension of family visits. The vulnerability of these inmates is highlighted by an outbreak of tuberculosis, affecting more than a thousand inmates, with several hundred also said to be sufferi…