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Showing posts from July, 2006

Mining grows as a political and social issue

Opposition to mining continues to gain prominence as a political issue in El Salvador. The relief agency Oxfam America reports that more than 1000 people participated in a week of action events on mining in El Salvador. From Oxfam's website:
In a national forum in El Salvador, the Minister of Environment, Hugo Barrera, assured participants that national and international laws will be respected in the process of approving mining projects. "“There are no laws that prohibit mining projects" Barrera said, "“but, there are mechanisms and laws for regulating them." He recognized that the Salvadoran laws may have gaps on account of inexperience. "Where the Salvadoran law falls short, we will apply regulations established in developed countries. Projects that contradict these laws and regulations will not be approved."”

Yanira Cortéz, Deputy Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, spoke of the close relationship between human rights and the environment. &q…

A travelogue entry

Two Canadians sailed into port in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador. They describe their impressions of the country in an article published in the Halifax Chronicle Herald: The Bahia del Sol, in El Salvador, is not really a bay, but an estuary called the Estero Jaltepeque, a place where the tide meets strong river currents.

On one side, a narrow spit of mainland lies between sea and estuary. Broad enough to hold hotels, restaurants and walled, gated luxury homes, this spit of land is bisected by a highway that leads to several small and quite impoverished settlements, and then the turn off to San Salvador.

Pigs, bulls, cows, roosters and dogs wander the road, eating whatever they can find -- fallen mangoes, cashew fruits, half-rotten cabbages, dry brush.

In the mornings, the road is jammed with human traffic as well: coconut vendors, cycling bread sellers with large round baskets filled with pan strapped to their handlebars, long lines of neatly dressed workers waiting for noisy smoke-belching…

Quick news items of the week

Another Salvadoran soldier dies in Iraq. A Salvadoran soldier who was guarding a convoy of trucks of the US contractor Haliburton, was killed in an insurgent attack. Sub-sergeant Donald Alberto Ramirez is the fourth member of the Salvadoran armed forces to be killed in Iraq since El Salvador deployed troops there in 2003, and the second in nine days. El Salvador has about 380 soldiers in Iraq. The recent deaths are leading to renewed calls to recall the troops.

The murder rate in El Salvador continues to climb. According to official statistics, there were 1873 murders in the first six months of 2006, an increase of 130 over the same period in 2005. Eighty percent of the murders were committed with firearms.

Heavy rains cause flooding in the capital. El Diario de Hoy has a photo gallery of images of flooding in San Salvador earlier this week. The images recall the flooding from Hurricane Stan last October and illustrate that the government has not yet been able to make all the imp…

Call centers recruiting Salvadorans abroad

An interesting article on the CNN website notes how foreign companies which operate call centers in El Salvador have started to recruit workers from the population of Salvadorans living in the United States. Call centers need English-speakers, and the companies hope to lure young people who learned English in the US back to El Salvador to work the phones. According to the story: In order to meet the demands of companies outsourcing their call centers to El Salvador, the Central American country is beginning a program to recruit its employees from an unlikely location: the United States.

The Salvadoran government's economic development organization has started a program called "Meet Your Roots" that "looks for children of Salvadorans born in the U.S. and Canada to reside and work temporarily in El Salvador in order to strengthen their identity and ties to the country," according to the organization's Web site.

While strengthening cultural ties, the Salvador…

US House members express concern about July 5th violence

Congressmen James McGovern and Tom Lantos are collecting support among other legislators to send a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing concern about the confrontations of July 5th and related events.

The letter reads:
Dear Secretary Rice,

We write to express deep concern about events that took place in El Salvador on July 5, 2006. On that day, anti-riot police took up positions before a march which was organized to protest increases in bus fares, as part of a larger ongoing demonstration about the cost of living in the country. During a confrontation between protestors and riot police, many shots were fired at police officers in what appears to have been an ambush by at least one gunman. Two officers were killed, and ten other law enforcement personnel were injured. The police then responded with a major show of force, entering the nearby National University, searching homes and organizational offices in the neighborhood, and making a number of arrests. Although …

16,000-mile ride for schools in El Salvador

Three British cyclists just completed a 16,000 mil ride to raise money for schools in Chalatenango, El Salvador. As detailed in this story, the trio spent 11 months, cycling from Alaska to the southern tip of South America. Their charity efforts raised more than $70,000 for building and outfitting school classrooms in rural El Salvador.

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- volunteer edition

Typically my bi-weekly posts concentrate on what native Salvadorans are writing in their blogs about their country. This time I will concentrate on the blogs of people volunteering their time in El Salvador.

A blogger who goes by the handle Jefferson, has started a blog to chronicle his time in El Salvador. Illustrating the post with his own photography, "Initiation to San Salvador Via 9" vividly captures street life in El Salvador. Here's a taste:An old woman selling dried Yucca and Plantains in a bag enters the bus through the rear. She sells a bag of plantains to the man behind us, pouring salt and chile in the bag. She shakes the clear plastic bag, and hands it to the man. I gaze over Noah's shoulder, hoping to get a glimpse of the market place. Endless stations selling pirated movies. Overweight women, dressed in lacy aprons pushing wheelbarrows filled with tomatoes, mangoes, and apples. Big department store signs towering over tarps used as ceilings for the …

Soldier from El Salvador dies in Iraq

El Salvador continues to by the only country in the Americas supporting the US with troops in Iraq. Today a third Salvadoran soldier died in Iraq, the victim of an improvised explosive device exploded by insurgents. Tony Saca also gave indications today that he will continue to have troops in Iraq, sending another rotation of soldiers to southeast Asia in August.

Central America - Caribbean Games

The 20th Central America Caribbean Games are taking place now in Cartagena Colombia. The games feature the sports of the summer Olympics, and include the countries of Central America and those surrounding the Caribbean.

Currently El Salvador is in 5th place of the 17 countries in total medals won. El Salvador's hero to date has been Jorge Jimenez who has won three gold medals in archery.

A lost generation

The British paper, The Independent had this story about efforts to reunite children separated from their families during the Salvadoran civil war:
They represent a lost generation - thousands of children kidnapped by soldiers or otherwise separated from their parents during the bloody and chaotic civil war that tore apart El Salvador.

Many of them were later adopted and grew up in the United States and Europe, curious about their heritage but knowing nothing of their original families. Many thought their relatives were dead.

More than a decade after a ceasefire that ended the fighting, some of those children are discovering their birth families and learning about their past. A recently completed database established by the University of California Berkeley and an El Salvadorean group, Pro-Búsqueda, is allowing young El Salvadoreans trace their families and, if they choose, to make contact. (more)

Rainy season alerts

The government of El Salvador has issued alerts relating to the risks of dengue fever and heavy rains.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, "dengue is the most important mosquito-borne viral disease affecting humans." Salvadoran government statistics report that the average number of cases in the country has increased from 60 per week in June to 111 per week in July. This increase prompted the government to place three departments -- San Salvador, La Libertad and Sonsonante -- under a yellow alert, while the rest of the country is under a preventive green alert. So far this year there have been reports of 2435 cases of classic dengue and 76 cases of the much more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever, and one infant has died.

Meanwhile, the entire country is also under a preventive green alert related to risks from heavy rains. Saturated soil conditions and a weather system which could bring repeated storms raise the danger of flooding and mudslides.

In the rai…

Job approval ratings of Central American presidents

The CID-Gallup polling organization recently publicized job approval ratings of the seven presidents of Central America plus the Dominican Republic. In the public opinion study(PDF), Tony Saca had the second highest approval rating, with 48% of Salvadorans viewing his job performance as good or very good. He also had the third highest disapproval rating, with 28% of Salvadorans having a negative view of his performance on the job. This gap reflects the ongoing polarization of politics in the country.

The highest approval ratings were for president Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic. The lowest ratings went to Nicaraguan president Enrique Bolaños.

El Salvador near top on "Happy Planet Index"

El Salvador ranks in the top 10 countries in the world on the newly released Happy Planet Index of the New Economics Foundation. The Foundation describes its index as: "An index of human well-being and environmental impact", [which] moves beyond crude ratings of nations according to national income, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to produce a more accurate picture of the progress of nations based on the amount of the Earth's resources they use, and the length and happiness of people's lives.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) strips the view of the economy back to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what comes out (human lives of different length and happiness). The resulting Index of the 178 nations for which data is available, reveals that the world as a whole has a long way to go. In terms of delivering long and meaningful lives within the Earth's environmental limits - all nations could do better. No country achieves an overall 'hi…

Reporters harassed while covering demonstrations

Reporters Without Borders, an international organization dedicated to press freedom, issued a report yesterday raising alarm over attacks on reporters covering recent demonstrations in El Salvador:
Reporters Without Borders today condemned attacks by demonstrators on a total of 13 journalists during protests against public transport and electricity price increases that shook the country from 4 to 7 July. The press freedom organisation voiced solidarity with the Association of El Salvador Journalists (APES), which issued a report on the attacks.

"These events have revealed an alarming hostility felt by part of the population towards the media," Reporters Without Borders said. "“We appeal to the leaders of student movements and opposition parties to ensure respect for the principle of press freedom withing their ranks and we support the call by the APES for tolerance and respect for the work of journalists."

Reporters Without Borders added: "The validity of a cause…

18 With A Bullet

On Tuesday, July 11, public broadcasting stations in the US will air "18 With A Bullet," a documentary about the 18th Street Gang, one of the two rival gangs which plagues El Salvador. From the website for the program:
In San Salvador, El Salvador, two thousand miles from Los Angeles's 18th Street, a gang known as "18" governs its territory like an armed militia. In the mid 1990s, thousands of Salvadoran nationals living illegally in the U.S. were deported to their homeland. Some brought L.A. gang culture back with them to a country beset by poverty and awash in arms. Organizing support for gang members in need, meting out justice to those who would defy the gang's code and waging an endless vendetta against its enemies, 18 is helping to make El Salvador one of the most violent and crime-ridden countries in the world. "18 with a Bullet" presents a chilling portrait of six months in the life of this notorious Central American gang.
There is a New Y…

What is repression?

In the hours and days after the violence in front of the University of El Salvador, I have been struck by the number of communications I have seen from opposition groups complaining loudly about "repression" of protests by students and others. For example, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) sent out an "Action Alert" denouncing "repression against students and university workers." The FMLN renounced the repression of the Saca government. A group of civil society organizations, including MPR-12 and BPS, issued a statement the day after the violence, condemning the brutal and violent actions of the Saca government, and never mentioning the execution of policemen.

But where is the evidence? What do all these words mean? The newspaper Diario CoLatino, which is friendly to all these organizations, has never mentioned a single injury among the demonstrators that day. Rumors of three students being shot and killed are app…

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying - UES shootings

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On Wednesday, July 5, protesters amassed outside of the University of El Salvador (UES) in San Salvador. The demonstrators were voicing opposition to an increase in the cost of bus fares and in electricity, just approved by the government in response to rising world oil prices. Street demonstrations against government policies and rising prices are common in El Salvador, especially around the UES, but this time the events turned deadly violent.

Although the order of events is not clear, some elements of the protesters (referred to by the media as "supposed students") went beyond marching to vandalism, and tire burning. Riot police approached and chaos erupted. The extensive media coverage of the chaos caught clear images of a masked man with helpers firing an M-16 at police, and another using a home-made weapon. The police used rubber bullets and tear gas as helicopters flew overhead. A shot went through a university office and struck a university employee in the chest. …

More on protest shootings

Dominating the news from El Salvador are the shootings during street protests in front of the University of El Salvador which left two policemen dead and many wounded. Photos and video from the video taken by the media show masked persons firing an automatic weapon at police.

La Prensa has links to video reports here and here, and a photo gallery here.
El Diario de Hoy has a photo gallery from the protests. Diario CoLatino has its own photo collection here.

The Associated Press reports that police have arrested a participant in the shootings:
On Thursday, Interior Minister Rene Figueroa said police arrested Luis Antonio Herrador Funes, 37, who allegedly was captured on tape shielding a man who was shooting an M-16 rifle. Police were still looking for the shooter.

Herrador said he was a member of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, but denied participating in the violence.

President Tony Saca blamed the violence on the FMLN, which fought a 12-year civil war against the …

Bloody protests against bus and electricity price increases

A protest against rising bus fares and electricity prices turned violent on Wednesday. From the BBC:
Two police officers have died in El Salvador after clashing with students at a protest over bus ticket prices. At least 10 other officers were wounded in the violence, which broke out when police fired tear gas to disperse protesters in the capital San Salvador. The demonstrators responded by shooting in the air and vandalising patrol cars and officers made 20 arrests.

Police had no information on student casualties, but a university employee was reportedly shot in the chest....

The students had gathered at the university to protest against a hike in electricity rates and public transport fees. The government recently took an unpopular decision to increase the cost of a bus ticket in response to rising global energy prices....

President Tony Saca condemned the killing of the two officers and blamed the violence on the opposition Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party (FMLN).

Protests against Au Martinique Silver, Inc

Opposition to gold mining in El Salvador is leading to growing protests in El Salvador, the US, and Canada, home to most of the mining companies. The following communication from the US-El Salvador Sister Cities organization sets out their program:

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July 3, 2006

As communities gather in Chalatenango to strengthen their resistance to foreign mining interests and carry their message directly to the national government, a complementary movement grows in North America. Representatives from US-El Salvador Sister Cities (USESSC), the SHARE Foundation, Mining Watch Canada, and the Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy, among others, have come together in solidarity with the communities of Chalatenango to stop unwanted mining development from continuing in the region. North American supporters of the Salvadoran communities say that Canadian exploration company Au Martinique Silver, Inc., is behaving irresponsibly towards both its investors and the affected Salvadoran…

Top 10 Romero Quotes

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From our friends at the San Romero Discussion Group:



The San Romero Yahoo! Discussion Group has made its selection of the TOP TEN OSCAR ROMERO QUOTES of all time, and the slain Salvadoran archbishop's impassioned assassination-eve plea to his country's military to "Stop the repression!" has topped the selections. Romero was Archbishop of San Salvador from 1977 to 1980, raising his voice to defend the interests of the poor masses and to stave off a civil war that finally exploded after his March 24, 1980 assassination in a San Salvador suburban church. The previous day, the popular cleric had delivered a stinging rebuke that culminated in a fervent entreaty, the quotation topping the list. "In the name of God, then," Romero had said, "and in the name of this suffering People, whose laments rise to Heaven, each day more tumultously, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!"

Carlos Colorado, the moderator of the gr…