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Showing posts from October, 2005

War crimes from the Salvadoran civil war on trial in Memphis

War crimes from the Salvadoran civil war go on trial in a federal courtroom in Memphis, Tennessee today. Colonel Nicolas Carranza, former Vice-Minister of Defense of El Salvador, comes face-to-face with five individuals who accuse him of torture, extrajudicial killing and crimes against humanity. The lawsuit is brought by the Center for Justice and Accountability which describes Carranza on the CJA web site:
Colonel Nicolas Carranza, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Memphis, was Vice-Minister of Defense of El Salvador from late 1979 to early 1981. In that position, he exercised command and control over the three units of the Security Forces - the National Guard, National Police and Treasury Police - responsible for widespread attacks on civilians. Despite being removed from his position as Vice-Minister due to U.S. pressure over his human rights record, Colonel Carranza was later brought back in 1983 as head of the brutal Treasury Police, where he exercised command over the membe…

LA Times story on Salvadoran gangs and US immigration policy

The Los Angeles Times has an in-depth report on the spread of Central American gangs and how US immigration policy does little more than give Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members a free trip home to El Salvador before they return illegally to the US. More revealing than the text article is the multimedia gallery which has video and photo coverage and a look behind the walls of prison in El Salvador.

Aftermath of Hurricane Stan

There are two stories today which relate to the aftermath of Hurricane Stan.

First, Tony Saca visited California this week. According to news reports, Saca is advocating for an extension of Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") to Salvadorans living illegally in the US as a result of Hurricane Stan. TPS allows illegal aliens to remain in the country without being deported when their home country is suffering from war or natural disaster. More than 200,000 Salvadorans already remain in the US under TPS as a result of the 2001 earthquakes.

Second, the AP notes the growing trend among donors of relief aid to Central America to avoid funneling aid through the government. Donors perceive government aid distribution as inefficient and corrupt:The two storms that slammed Central America brought into sharp focus a trend among U.S.-based development organizations and Hispanic community groups. When disaster strikes, the smart help goes directly to faith-based and other community organ…

Rollout of Solidarity Net -- Saca's anti-poverty program

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Solidarity Net, the anti-poverty program of Tony Saca's ARENA government commenced distributing subsidies this week to some of the poorest Salvadorans. The program is aimed at the portion of the Salvadoran population living in extreme poverty. Families identified as being among the country's poorest qualify to receive $15 per month if they have one school age child and $20 monthly for two or more children. In order to receive the payments, a parent must commit to have the children attend school and must enroll them with the local health units.

The program is being funded by a $21 million loan from the World Bank. The World Bank press release states:
As a central element of Red Solidaria, the Government of El Salvador has established, and is implementing, a conditional cash transfer program to encourage extremely poor families to send their 5-15 year old children to pre-school and primary school, fully immunize children younger than 5, and regularly monitor the health and nut…

A population at risk

A new report from Columbia University studies the vulnerability of national populations to natural disasters. The study finds that El Salvador is one of only 9 countries in the world where 90% of the population is at high relative risk of death from two or more natural disaster hazards. The types of disasters considered were drought, floods, cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides.

This vulnerability of El Salvador was brought home again today. Two quakes measuring 5.1 and 4.9 degrees in the Richter scale rattled the country overnight. There were no reports of injury, but the National Territorial Studies Services (SNET) said the tremors destroyed some stores and partially ruined some roofs at private residences.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Beta churns off the coast of Nicaragua, threatening to bring more heavy rains with the related risks of flooding and landslides in the coming week.

Funds redirected after Hurricane Stan

News from BNAmericas.com about the Salvadoran government's plans to redirect funds from existing projects to hurricane relief:

El Salvador's government has decided to put on the backburner a number of infrastructure and water projects as it reallocates US$63.8mn for repairing damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Stan and the Santa Ana volcano eruption, newspaper El Mundo reported.

The government has redirected US$30mn from the San Salvador capital beltway project - which was planned to circumvent the city in a 70km ring - to improve the capital's drainage system, build and reinforce retaining walls on rivers, and perform a series of road repairs.

Another US$13.8mn for improving the country's potable water quality and waste collection services have been redirected to unclogging the sewerage system at Ilopango lake and to performing flood mitigation works at Cordillera del Bálsamo, both located in San Salvador department.

An additional US$20mn, originally set aside to pro…

Brain drain from El Salvador

The World Bank this week issued a report on the phenomenon of "brain drain." Brain drain is the tendency of highly educated professionals to leave developing countries and emigrate to rich nations. Such emigration deprives the native country of important intellectual resources necessary for development and the well-being of the country.

El Salvador does not fare well in the data. Fully one third of Salvadorans with a professional education live outside of El Salvador.

An article in The Daily Journal describes the impact on a country like El Salvador facing brain drain:
The exodus of skilled workers from poor countries is clearly a symptom of deep economic, social and political problems in their homelands. Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist at Columbia University, who migrated from India in the late 1960's, said immigrants are often voting with their feet against ill-governed states and dysfunctional economies. They get their government's attention by the act of leaving…

The impact of gold mining

A few days ago, I mentioned a protest march against the granting of permits in El Salvador to a Canadian gold mining company. The struggle of those persons living near proposed mines who fear the environmental impact of gold mining against the powerful forces of foreign investment interests is likely to be an increasing visible one in El Salvador.

This week the New York Times is running a feature series on the social and environmental impact of worldwide gold mining. The article highlights the forces which will increasingly clash in El Salvador:
The price of gold is higher than it has been in 17 years - pushing $500 an ounce. But much of the gold left to be mined is microscopic and is being wrung from the earth at enormous environmental cost, often in some of the poorest corners of the world.

And unlike past gold manias, from the time of the pharoahs to the forty-niners, this one has little to do with girding empires, economies or currencies. It is almost all about the soaring deman…

Concerns that politics influences aid distribution

Two prominent voices in El Salvador warned against politicization of aid to the victims of Hurricane Stan and the Ilamatepec volcano. Sunday, the archbishop of San Salvador, Fernando Saenz Lacalle, used his regular Sunday press conference to warn that aid to the victims should be based on their needs and not on partisan political interests. The archbishop also called on legislators to act in a nonpartisan fashion to take steps to reduce the risk of future disasters.

Similarly Beatrice de Carrillo, El Salvador's human rights ombudsperson, spoke about her worry that the government's relief aid might be channeled to favor those municipalities controlled by ARENA. She announced that distributing aid according to partisan interests would violate the rights under the Salvadoran constitution for all citizens to receive aid in times of emergency.

Unfortunately, with elections approaching in the spring, the temptation to use aid distribution for partisan gain will be difficult to resi…

25th anniversary of FMLN

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In the reporting of the natural disasters earlier this month, I failed to note the 25th anniversary of the founding of the FMLN. October 8, 2005 marked 25 years since 4 revolutionary organizations came together to form the Frente Farabundo Mart&#237­ de Liberaci&#243n Nacional. The FMLN faced off against the US-backed Salvadoran military for the next 12 years of civil war in the country. You can read more about the FMLN's history at Wikipedia or the web site of the FMLN.

Since the UN-brokered peace accords in 1992, the FMLN has never won the presidency, but it has enjoyed considerable electoral success in mayoral and National Assembly elections. The party won the largest share of seats in the assembly in the most recent elections in 2003, and has always held the mayorship of San Salvador and other important cities.

In 2005, however, the FMLN has seen defections from its ranks as a split between the hard-line, orthodox wing of the party and reformers becomes wider. Firs…

Surfing in El Salvador

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Prior to the string of natural disasters which began with the eruption of the volcano Ilamatepec, I had planned on writing this post about surfing in El Salvador. Government authorities in El Salvador are regularly talking about increasing tourism to the country as a way to bring jobs and economic growth. For the most part, little progress has been made. One area which is growing, however, is surfing. El Salvador has the beaches and types of waves which surfers love.

This article from the BBC tells the story:

Sitting on their boards, they wait in a small pack a few hundred metres off shore, watching the Pacific waves roll in. One by one, they catch one of the perfect right hand breaks, and ride them all the way in to the shore. Then, they paddle back out for more.

From a beach-front cafe, travellers watch this early-morning display. One swings gently in a hammock. Others are tempted by the smells coming from the kitchen, and tuck in to a typical local breakfast of eggs, fried planta…

Environmental concerns in El Salvador

A collection of stories about environmental concerns in El Salvador.

The newsletter of the Foundation for Self Sufficiency in Central America describes the perils to the environmentally sensitive Bay of Jalisco:
El Salvador ranks 2nd only to Haiti in the western hemisphere for deforestation. Only 2% of the original forest cover now exists. This desperate environmental situation led many internationally-known environmental organizations to give up on the country completely. Many have said there is nothing left worth saving.El Salvador certainly faces tremendous environmental challenges. The more than 40% of the population that lives in poverty has more concerns about their daily survival than about the long-term consequences of cutting down trees for firewood, burning garbage, or polluting the water with human waste. In the Bay of Jiquilisco, through ignorance and a lack of alternatives, some people catch fish with dynamite. The rich and powerful see the Bay as a potential source of reve…

Corruption and Press Freedom

There were two new indexes out this week ranking countries in the world. The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceptions of corruption in countries around the world. Countries are rated a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the most corrupt and 10 being the most clean. El Salvador's score of 4.2 indicated a perceived high level of corruption. Tony Saca attempted to put the best light on the figures by noting (correctly), the El Salvador was tied with Costa Rica for the best ranking of any country in Latin America.

The second index released was the Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index. With a ranking of 28th in the world, El Salvador placed ahead of all other countries in Latin America and ahead of the United States which ranked 44th. The index measures whether governments act to suppress reporting, it does not measure whether the media which is readily accessible to the population is slanted or controlled by ruling elites. An ar…

US deporting an increasing number of Salvadorans

The report in El Diario de Hoy calls it an "avalanche" of deportations. US Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff directed that at least two deportation flights depart for El Salvador each week. The United States plans to deport 892 Salvadorans over the next two months. 356 of the deportees have criminal records.

To date in 2005, 5975 Salvadoran nationals have been returned on deportation flights from the US; of those, 1,424 had criminal records. El Diario states that 20% were gang members. There were around 4900 deportations in 2004.

Salvadoran authorities are concerned that some criminals are deported prior to finishing their sentences in the US. They are concerned that they do not have the resources to cope with the US dumping hundreds of criminals a month back into Salvadoran society. In addition, authorities want the ability to detain the arrivals for a period of time to make sure that they are not wanted for crimes in El Salvador.

El Salvador tallies the costs of Hurrican Stan

El Salvador is starting to tally the cost of the flooding and mudslides associated with Hurrican Stan. ReliefWeb has some statistics from the UN:

36,000 people remain in shelters. The main health problems in the shelters are acute respiratory infections, skin problems, diarrhea, anxiety disorders and bacterial conjunctivitis. These are due to crowding, exposure to stagnant, dirty water, the weather, difficulties with personal hygiene and the loss of loved ones.Damages to the health care system included damage to the following 87 facilities: 70 health clinics, 7 administrative buildings, 6 health posts, and 4 hospitals.Agricultural losses include 625 tons of honey; 221,389 poultry birds; 187 head of cattle; 681 pigs; and 41 horses.Fishery losses include: Small-scale- 619,420 lbs, worth $342,890. Industrial- 66,000 lbs of lobsters, 21,250 lbs of shrimp, and 50,000 lbs of prawns.
Diario El Mundo and EL Faro both report Tony Saca's estimate that the government will need to spend $230 …

The slaughter of pedestrians in El Salvador

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El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a pedestrian.
La Prensa reported recent government figures which show that pedestrians, not drivers or passengers, are the most frequent victims on the roads of El Salvador.

In the first eight months of 2005, 959 persons were killed in traffic accidents in El Salvador. Of these, almost sixty percent (570) were pedestrians. Among pedestrians, persons over 60 years of age were most likely to be the victims, and the highest rate of accidents were in the metropolitan areas of San Salvador and Santa Ana.

After pedestrians, the most frequent fatalities on the road were passengers. If you have traveled in El Salvador, you will not be surprised to learn that the majority of the deaths for passengers were to persons riding in the back of pick-up trucks. Salvadoran streets and highways are crowded with pick-ups filled with passengers in the truck bed. The driver is the least likely to die in a traffic accident in El Salvador.

A…

Central American countries to cooperate militarily on disaster relief

Defense ministers from Central America met with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Florida last week. In their concluding press conference, reported in Reuters, the ministers announced plans to form a joint force to respond to national disasters such as Hurricane Stan:
Central American defense and security ministers agreed on Thursday to form a military "rapid reaction" force to respond to natural disasters such as deadly Hurricane Stan, which devastated part of the region this month.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the ministers announced at a news conference winding up a two-day meeting that the force, which would be comprised of engineering and medical troops, would come from a number of countries in the region but did not say which countries would contribute. (Panama and Costa Rica have no militaries).

U.S. officials said the force would not be used to battle crime or narcoterrorism, a touchy issue among human rights advocates because of a dismal history…

Short Takes

A collection of recent stories (without a real theme uniting them):

The BBC reports on Nestle's announcement that it will market a fair trade coffee in the United Kingdon. Nestle will purchase coffee from small farmers in El Salvador and Ethiopia for the new brand. Earlier discussions of coffee economy in El Salvador can be found here.
Salvadorans in the United States sent more than US$2 billion home in the first nine months of the year, an 11.2 percent increase over the same period last year according to the AP. 47% of the remittances originated in California.
The epidemic of homicides continues to plague the country. La Prensa reports that there were 343 murders in September, and a few days into October, the country exceeded the total number of murders for all of 2004. Nothing the government tries has had any impact on the murder rate.

Innocent Voices opens in US

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Innocent Voices (Voces Inocentes) finally opens in theaters in the US this weekend. But it is only in limited theaters across the country. If it is not showing where you live, here's a tip -- the movie has been released on DVD in Mexico and can be purchased from Mexican vendors on Ebay. Just type "voces inocentes" into the Ebay search box.

Innocent Voices is based on the experiences of a boy enlisted by the warring factions in the Salvadoran civil war, and has received favorable reviews in the press and awards at international film festivals. It was Mexico's entry in the 2004 Academy Awards.

Turning aid into political propaganda

Observers of the Salvadoran political scene will be saddened, but not surprised, by this report from the Hunnapuh - Commentarios blog:
All the mayorships, independently of the party that governs them, had done excellent work in the first days of the floods and the volcanic eruption. They demonstrated much efficiency in the attention to the victims, and for that reason they obtained the recognition of very many citizens.

But it seemed that later, orders arrived from the leaders of the parties, to the effect that the mayors would need to take account of the political benefits of what they were doing. Then they began to distribute t-shirts with the photos of the candidates. They appeared with little aid and many TV cameras, and the political show began. Thus appears, in an official party television commercial, mayoral candidates carrying aid.

If we observed carefully the aid given out in that ad, we will realize that what was invested in aid was not even half of what is costs to te…

The plight of the poor

The disasters of the last week bring into sharp focus the plight of the poor in El Salvador. It has been said that in such storms, "the rich get wet and the poor drown." This reflection from Rev. Hector Fernandez, Rector of the Lutheran University in El Salvador, says it well:
From the Poor to the Poor, from the People to the People

Excerpts from a reflection in response to the Scripture reading for October 9th.

You are a refuge for the scorned, a help for the poor in their misery, you serve as a protection for the rain and a shade for the heat. – Isaiah 25:4.

The biggest threat from the rains has passed, and we begin to catch a glimpse of the consequences. The structural sin of our country has again been made evident: years and years of a dominant system has shown today with great conclusiveness what it is to live in El Salvador as a poor person.

The reality strikes us brutally: these last events have provoked a deepening of poverty. Soon numbers and data will arrive that ref…

The downside of dollarization

In 2001, El Salvador abandoned its own currency for the US dollar. Business Week has a good article describing how turning over your monetary policy to the US Federal Reserve Board may not be such a good idea. Here is an excerpt:Yet El Salvador may still be in for a dollar-induced shock. That's because the government has effectively forfeited control of its monetary supply to the U.S. Federal Reserve. While the Fed was busy cutting rates to stimulate growth after September 11, that proved to be a boon. But with U.S. rates rising, dollarized nations like El Salvador are at risk for a credit crunch....

Of course, higher rates will help counter inflation from rising energy costs. And a moderate rise in interest rates is unlikely to sink El Salvador's economy, since two-thirds of its trade is with the U.S. A potentially far greater threat is the loss of a safety lever in the form of currency devaluation. Since El Salvador uses the dollar, it can't devalue to export itself out …

Alert goes to orange; classes resume

The red alert in El Salvador for additional landslides and flooding has been lowered to orange. The forecast shows improving weather, and the country is slowly starting to dry out. Schools have been re-opened (except for those operating as shelters, those in the red alert zone around the Ilamatepec volcano, and those damaged by flooding). 63,000 people are still in shelters but a few thousand have been able to leave.

There were preliminary figures from the government that $120 million would be needed to repair the highway system in the country. The government hopes to be able to reallocate funds from existing international loan credits to the repair projects.

Still raining

It was raining in parts of El Salvador today. The country continues under a double red alert for the threat of additional volcanic eruptions and for possible landslides. School classes are suspended for two more days. The number of persons in shelters is approximately 70,000.

Today is also the 19th anniversary of the 1986 earthquake which left more than one thousand Salvadorans dead and ten thousand wounded.

Hurricanes and the poor

The Miami Herald carries a story today pointing out that, like Hurricane Katrina, the impact of the flooding from Hurricane Stan was felt disproportionately by the poor and disenfranchised. The article starts out this way:
SAN MARCOS LEMPA, El Salvador - Blanca Imelda Tavez was still praying for the victims of Hurricane Katrina when Hurricane Stan's waters hit her home.

The Lempa River overflowed its banks late Sunday and flooded every single house along its banks. It took her TV set -- where she had been watching the devastating images from New Orleans -- her bed, clothes and the family cornfield.

Stan's floods and mudslides took 65 lives, left 65,000 refugees and destroyed 12 rural communities in El Salvador, still recovering from the devastating earthquakes of 2001. In neighboring Guatemala, they left nearly 200 dead.

But above all Stan highlighted the vulnerability of people like Tavez, who are left homeless because they are so poor that they can only afford land on the edg…

Guatemala's misery

Because this is a blog about El Salvador, I have focused on the flooding and landslides there. But as the week has progressed, it hs become clear that the tragedy, measured in loss of life, was much worse in Guatemala. Entire towns were wiped out by landslides, and many regions have not yet been reached by rescuers. The BBC reports:
Dozens are feared killed after a hillside collapsed in the lakeside village of Panabaj, swallowing hundreds of homes, officials said.

And at least 60 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds more are missing in the nearby town of Santiago Atitlan, only reached by outside emergency teams on Friday.

The BBC's Mariusa Reyes in Lake Atitlan says the remote Mayan highlands area, popular with tourists, has been transformed into a mud-ridden chaos.

Residents say very little help has arrived in their communities and some have not eaten for several days, she adds.

"There are no words for this. I have only tears left," teacher Manuel Gonzalez, whose …

Flooding Emergency -- How You Can Help

Below is an updated list of organizations working in El Salvador and the other impacted countries of Central America devastated by recent flooding and landslides. Your donations are needed.
Catholic Relief Services
Save the Children
Salvadoran Red Cross Society
Crispaz
Foundation for Self-Sufficiency in Central America
Share Foundation
Salvadoran Lutheran Synod.
Lutheran World Relief
Voices on the Border -- Donations to VOTB are tripled with matching funds.
SalvAide.
World Vision International
Oxfam America
United Methodist Committee on Relief
CRIPDES/Sister Cities

You can also get updates on the relief efforts from ReliefWeb.

And now an earthquake

As a reminder of other deadly disasters in El Salvador, a strong earthquake rattled the country at 11:40 this morning. The quake with a magnitude of 5.5 on the richter scale was felt throughout the country. Authorities do not believe the quake is linked to the ongoing activity at the Ilamatepec volcano. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

La Prensa has a useful map at this link which displays in graphical form the damage suffered by this small country in the past seven days. (Be patient, it takes a long time to load).

Rains start to diminish

The rains from storms associated with Hurricane Stan are beginning to diminish across El Salvador. As they do, the country is starting to take stock of the damage. The death toll has risen to 65 persons, and more than 54,000 persons are in 361 shelters across the country. School is still cancelled and the country continues under a red alert.

The damage is widespread across the country. Many roads are washed out, collapsed, or impassable. Thousands of houses have been flooded or destroyed in mudslides. Hundreds of farms are underwater and lost their harvest. Many acres of coffee farms around the Ilamatepec volcano were damaged by the ash spread by the volcano.

Meanwhile, signs of another impending eruption of the Ilamatepec volcano continue to grow.

Please support the organizations I listed in yesterday's post which are working to help the victims.

El Salvador emergency update

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The death toll in Central America from Hurricane Stan exceeds 130, with at least 62 in El Salvador. The number of victims in shelters has dramatically increased. 40,000 people are in shelters in El Salvador. It is overwhelming the ability of the country to cope. According to the BBC
The worst affected countries, El Salvador and Guatemala, are struggling to evacuate everyone at risk. Shelters in both countries are holding thousands of people, while road links have been cut off.

"The emergency is bigger than the rescue capacity, we have floods everywhere, bridges about to collapse, landslides and dozens of roads blocked by mudslides," a spokesman for the Salvadoran Red Cross said. Some foreign aid has been pledged and more is expected. USAID announced that it would donate $50,000 to relief efforts for victims of the volcano and flooding. The German government promised $240,000.

Meanwhile, Ilamatepec volcano continues to rumble. The government has now expanded the exclusion …

Unceasing rains

The flooding rains are expected to continue for another 48 hours. As much as 35 centimeters (14 inches) has fallen in coastal areas since Saturday. Bloomberg reports the widespread impact of the storms: Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- El Salvador is sheltering thousands of people in temporary refuges amid flooding and landslides brought on by Hurricane Stan and a volcanic eruption in the west of the Central American nation.

At least 16,688 people are in shelters from Santa Ana by the active Llamatepec volcano in the west, through central areas affected by floods and landslides, to La Union in the east, the country's National Emergencies Committee said on its Web site.

Rains brought on by the storm, which hit Mexico yesterday, triggered landslides and flooding across El Salvador since the beginning of the month, killing 38 people and prompting officials to declare a second ``red alert,'' the maximum state of emergency, after a first was imposed on Oct. 1 when Llamatepec began to spew …

Rains from Hurricane Stan lead to dozens of deaths

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Hurricane Stan came ashore in Veracruz, Mexico, but some of its worst impact is currently being felt in El Salvador. Torrential rains have fallen on the country since Sunday, causing mudslides, cave-ins, and flooding. As of the time of the time of this post, Salvadoran papers are reporting 49 deaths from the rains. More than 16,000 people have had to flee their homes at risk from flooding or mudslides. Countless homes have been destroyed in flooding or as hillsides, soaked from days of rain, give way and slide to the bottom.

A national red alert continues in effect. Schools remain closed, and the population is being advised to stay in places of safety. Many roads are impassable because of sinkholes, mudslides or flooding. The emergency is greatly taxing the resources of the government and charitable organizations.

Coverage of "Las Lluvias" (the Rains)

The most detailed coverage on the web (in Spanish) comes from the web sites of the major Salvadoran papers La Prensa Grafica and…

Flooding emergency worsens; Ilamatepec rumbles

The Salvadoran government increased its alert level to red for dangers from torrential rains inundating the country. La Prensa already reports 23 deaths in landslides throughout the country caused by this latest onslaught of rains. School classes across the country have been suspended for two more days.

The current weather system is an effect of Tropical Storm Stan, currently centered over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. The rains are expected to last for another 72 hours. You can see a current satellite image of the weather system bringing the rain at this link.

Meanwhile the Ilamatepec volcano has returned to rumbling. The volcano had been quiet for approximately a day after its eruption on Saturday morning. Authorities now say there could be a second eruption, perhaps larger than the first.

Mother Nature's double blow

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Mother Nature is dealing a double blow to El Salvador. The region around the Ilamatepec volcano near Santa Ana in the western part of the country remains under a red alert because of the threat of further volcanic activity. Meanwhile, the government has place all of the country under an orange alert because of heavy rains, threatening to bring more flooding and landslides to San Salvador and elsewhere.

The government has cancelled school classes throughout the country as a preventive measure. Heavy rains in past weeks have left the ground completely saturated and rivers were already at very high levels. Mudslides caused by heavy rains killed at least four people in the past two weeks in the country.

El Salvador's tallest volcano, Ilamatepec erupted at 8:04 a.m. on Saturday morning. The volcano's last eruption was in 1904, but there had been an increase in seismic activity at the volcano since July of this year. The eruption was marked by glowing rocks being blown as far as a mil…

Eruption kills at least two, causes damage

Excerpts from the Associated Press story on today's eruption:

A volcano in western El Salvador erupted on Saturday, sending a column of ash 50,000 feet into the air and killing two farmers buried by chunks of earth and boiling water that tumbled down the slopes....

Emergency response officials said two farmers from Palo Campana died after being buried by massive chunks of earth and boiling water that tumbled down the side of Ilamatepec following the eruption. Two other residents of this coffee-growing town were missing.

The ground was smoldering when soldiers arrived to assist in the evacuations. Falling ash had destroyed coffee crops and damaged trees in surrounding forests.

Small bodies of water were steaming and bubbling from the heat and ash covered the ground as far as the eye could see. Problems with landslides worsened as afternoon rains pelted the area

El Diario de Hoy has extensive coverage, including photo galleries, at this link.

Ilamatepec volcano erupts

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The Ilamatepec volcano erupted today, spewing ash and large rocks over the countryside. A plume of gas rises kilometers into the air over the volcano. The government has issued a red alert and some seven thousand people are being evacuated. Here is the report from Reuters:
SAN SALVADOR, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Authorities evacuated hundreds of people living on the slopes of a volcano in western El Salvador on Saturday after it spat large rocks and ash from its crater during an early morning explosion.

El Salvador's geological study center said the Ilamatepec volcano, also known as Santa Ana, spat heavy rocks as far as a mile (1.6 km) from its crater. The government issued a red alert to nearby villages but no injuries were reported.

Mauricio Cromeyer, who owns a house near the volcano, told Reuters by phone that rocks about a yard (meter) wide were falling around his property.

Situated in a major coffee-growing area 40 miles (64 km) west of San Salvador, Ilamatepec, the largest of the c…