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Showing posts from August, 2006

El Salvador travelogue

I en joy reading blog entries about trips people make through El Salvador. The blog at lukegibbs.com describes a trip through El Salvador with some very striking photographs. View the entries here and here.

El Salvador approves labor conventions

El Salvador's National Assembly has unanimously ratified four conventions of the International Labor Organization regarding the right of workers in the public and private sectors to organize. The loss of favored trading privileges with the European Union was the pressure that finally overcame years of resistance to the international worker's rights provisions.

This is good for El Salvador as it regains access to the important European market, and good for Salvadoran workers who get additional rights written into law. Whether the rights will be respected is another question, but you can't enforce rights which are not first written into law.

TPS Deadline is Friday

The deadline for Salvadorans in the United States on Temporary Protected Status to re-register is Friday, September 1. Tens of thousands of these immigrants have not done so, and could find themselves subject to being deported if they miss the deadline. Both the Washington Post and the Miami Herald have articles about the re-enrollment gap. The Miami Herald article describes the Salvadoran government's publicity campaign in this final week, including a trip by Tony Saca to the US to get his countrymen to register -- so they do not have to return to El Salvador.

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- watching the National Assembly

El Salvador has a legislative National Assembly where no party holds absolute sway. While the majority of deputies are from parties which will work with the President Saca's ARENA party, the FMLN continues to have sufficient votes to block much legislation. Recently, even though El Salvador has not suffered from al-Qaeda style terrorism, the National Assembly has been spending much time working on an anti-terrorism bill.

Rocío writes in her blog about a concern that "terrorism" is not well-defined(es) in the law. Because terrorist acts under the law can be any conduct intended to provoke fear, alarm, or insecurity in the population, it may be subject to abuse. Before such a law is adopted, Rocío believes the country needs to adopt measures to improve the judicial system in the country to protect jealously the human rights of its citizens.

Blogger Ixquic also makes several points about the proposed law in her post titled Parliamentary Terrorism(es). First, Ixquic fin…

National Day of Combat Against Dengue

The Ministry of Health made today a National Day of Combat Against Dengue. The mosquito-borne tropical illness has been particularly severe this year. According to statistics published in El Diario de Hoy, this year there have been 4,470 confirmed cases of classic dengue and 13,469 suspected cases compared to 3,527 confirmed and 7,350 cases suspected in the same period of 2005.

There have also been 146 confirmed cases of the more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever, compared to 94 cases in 2005. Two children have died.

Health workers, with assistance from forces from the army and police, have been engaged in a fumigation campaign to kill off the mosquitoes and their larva. Their efforts are concentrated in the departments of San Salvador, Sonsonante and La Libertad, which have been under a red health alert for the past week. 72 percent of the dengue cases in the country have been in those three departments.

The miners come to southwest Chalatenango

From one of my readers, a report given by a resident of El Salvador, living in southwestern Chalatenango in the municipality of La Nueva Concepcion. The information has been translated. Names are omitted for the protection of the individuals.23 August 2006In rural El Salvador, life is simple. Time goes by slowly. Each day resembles the next. This environment provides a sense of safety for the residents. This sense of safety is being compromised by the unsettling changes Pacific Rim stands to bring to several villages in southwestern Chalatenango, in northern El Salvador, if a mining project develops.Little is known of the southwest corner of Chalatenango, near the Rio Lempa, the largest and most important river in El Salvador. The area is unknown in the travel books, and it is hardly ever mentioned in the newspapers. In fact, this area of Chalatenango has been asleep for quite a while. Nothing big has happened here since the war.Ask anyone here what the government has planned for them…

US plans tougher stance on undocumented Salvadorans

The Bush administration is going to Congress to get the ability to deport Salvadorans who cross the border illegally, immediately upon capture. Head of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, called for an end to a judicial ruling which prevents Salvadorans from being deported without a judicial hearing:
Chertoff on Wednesday said Congress must immediately act to end a decades-old provision that prohibits Salvadorans from being deported.

After four months of inaction in court following the department's filing of a motion to quash the provision, Chertoff said, DHS now is counting on lawmakers. He would like to see legislation passed to eliminate a 1980s injunction preventing deportation of Salvadorans in the United States illegally. The civil war leading to the injunction ended in the early 1990s.

'I believe there ought to be widespread support' on Capitol Hill for the legislation, which is yet to be proposed, Chertoff told reporters. 'I would like to see…

Another Bush contributor to be ambassador to El Salvador

The US White House announced the nomination of a new ambassador to El Salvador:
The President intends to nominate Charles L. Glazer, of Connecticut, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of El Salvador. Mr. Glazer currently works as President and Chief Executive Officer of C.L. Glazer & Company, Incorporated. Prior to this, he served as Senior Vice President and Director of Jefferies & Company. Earlier in his career, he served as Senior Vice President of Blyth, Eastman, Dillion & Company, Incorporated. Mr. Glazer received his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.

Glazer is a member of the Republican National Committee and a major Bush fundraiser. In 2004, Glazer raised more than $200,000 for the re-election campaign of President Bush.

The appointment of major campaign contributors to ambassador positions is a time-honored tradition of both US political parties. The current ambassador to El Salvado…

Millennium Challenge Account questions

El Salvador is currently negotiating with the US Millennium Challenge Corporation to obtain a $440 million grant for poverty reduction and economic development. I previously wrote about El Salvador's application here. Now a recent item on the website of the Center for Global Development has raised questions about the relationship between the road building El Salvador wants to fund and poverty reduction:
Road to growth, but with poverty reduction? El Salvador is another road-dominated compact, namely a highway to the North Zone and a network of connecting roads. While in theory highways and rural roads can better connect the poor to growth--and infrastructure in developing countries has been under-funded over the last decade-- there is no evidence that El Salvador conducted a real poverty impact assessment that evaluates exactly who will be served, how many people will actually benefit, and if the roads will serve their needs (what kind of access is most important to the people it…

Minimum wage increases

The government of El Salvador will be increasing the minimum wage in the country effective September 1. The minimum monthly wage varies by sector of the economy:
SectorOldNew
Agricultural$74.10$81.51
Retail and services$158.40$174.24
Industrial$154.80$170.28
Maquila$151.20$157.25
The minimum wage for each sector increased ten percent except in the maquila textile factories where there is only a 4% increase. The government asserts that the maquila industry is in too fragile a condition to support a larger increase. The large number of workers in the informal sectors of the economy do not have the protection of minimum wage laws.

Looking for solutions

I am going to wind up this series of posts on the gang problem in El Salvador with a list of measures that address some of the root causes. These steps offer a more comprehensive approach than the enforcement-only approach of policies like Super Mano Dura.

Prevention. The government and civil society organizations must be active in developing programs that provide alternatives to joining a gang. Youth centers, sports leagues, school activities, and job training may offer another option and make the gang lifestyle look less attractive in comparison. This should be coupled with anti-gang education that de-glamorizes the gangster life.

Rehabilitation. When gang members are arrested, prison in El Salvador is often just a year or two of training for additional responsibilities in the gang. The criminal justice system needs to look for ways to rehabilitate, particularly younger first time offenders, with education and skills training. Then there needs to be a system for re-inserting t…

Words to ponder

In considering the tragedy of youths in El Salvador being lured into gangs, it is worthwhile to ponder these words of assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero:
God has sown goodness.

No child is born evil.
We are all called to holiness.
The values that God has sown in the human heart
and that present-day people esteem so highly
are not rare gems;
they are things that appear continually.

Why then is there so much evil?
Because the evil inclinations of the human heart
have corrupted people, and they need purification.
The original, pristine human vocation is goodness.

We have all been born for goodness:
no one is born with inclinations to kidnap,
no one is born with inclinations to be a criminal,
no one is born to be a torturer,
no one is born to be a murderer.
We have all been born to be good,
to love one another,
to understand one another.

Why then, Lord, have so many weeds
grown up in your field?
The enemy has done it, says Christ.
People have let weeds grow in their hearts:
evil company,
evil propensities,
evil …

Causes of the gang problem

In thinking about the problem of gangs in El Salvador, it is worthwhile to review the various theories about the factors which have promoted the growth of gang violence in the country. Set out below are a number of those factors -- there is no doubt that it is the combination of many of these factors, and not a single factor, which is driving the problem.
Poverty. Gangs and crime are a product of the unemployment and poverty which impacts many areas of the country. With jobs difficult to come by and with great disparity in the distribution of wealth, young men turn to gangs as a way to survive. Gang members come from the poor communities, not from the children of the rich.

Violence of Salvadoran society. Another theory, which appeared in several of the comments this week, is a view that Salvadoran society it simply more violent than others. The gangs are an expression of this innate violence.

Materialism. Salvadoran media and advertising is filled with images of a consumer-driven …

Exploring the gang problem

In exploring the problem of the gangs in El Salvador and other Central American countries, there are several good studies and articles available on the Internet. The ones I recommend include:

Neither War nor Peace -- International comparisons of children and youth in organized armed violence by the Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence project (COAV). The El Salvador report in this extensive study offers a look at the social forces giving rise to gangs in El Salvador.

North American Transnational Youth Gangs: Breaking the Chain of Violence by the US-based Heritage Foundation offers research statistics and history surrounding the gang issue.

Gang Uses Deportation to Its Advantage to Flourish in U.S., Los Angeles Times, October 30, 2005. This excellent article provides a look into the connection between a US immigration policy of deportations and the spread of the gangs.

Mara Salvatrucha: What is it, Why is it here, and What is to be Done About It? by Karen Muth. My daught…

Pain in the Salvadoran community

The e-mail arrived with the subject line "Pain in the community." It was not good news. Two youth, William and Moises, had been killed by gang members coming from a neighboring district. William and Moises were not gang members; they were only victims. Moises was attending secondary school, partly funded by a scholarship through my church.

The e-mail described the boys funeral:
We passed through the streets of Tonacatepeque, the youth of the community and the fellow students carrying the bodies for burial in the cemetery. It was an afternoon of great pain. The mothers and family members cry bitterly, but the fathers don't cry, they don't speak. Now they think only of showing themselves "passive, strong" -- as they bury their sons.

Moises and William lived in a poor "colonia" or neighborhood to the northeast of San Salvador. It is a place of small cinderblock houses on tiny lots with electricity but no running water. Most households are led …

Youth at risk

The latest edition of Salvanet, the newsletter of CRISPAZ (Christians for Peace in El Salvador) is available at this link. The focus of this edition is on youth at risk in El Salvador and the thorny problem of gangs. Worth reading.

Concerns about a violent left

The Los Angeles Times runs an article today regarding concerns that groups on the radical left, willing to resort to violence, are surfacing in El Salvador following the violence on July 5 outside the University of El Salvador:
"We have to admit that a new revolutionary fringe is forming," said Beatrice Alamanni de Carrillo, El Salvador's ombudswoman for human rights. "It's an open secret."

A 1992 peace treaty between El Salvador's right-wing government and the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, brought this country's civil war to an end after more than a decade of guerrilla warfare and government-sanctioned killings and massacres. The FMLN became a legitimate party and entered politics.

But frustration with the country's lingering poverty, and the continuing political domination of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, known as Arena, has fed a growing discontent within the ranks of the FMLN, analysts say.

"T…

How to measure poverty in El Salvador

Has El Salvador made progress in reducing poverty since the end of the civil war? If so, by how much? Is that progress continuing? As a recent article carried by IPS News points out, answering those questions can be difficult, and some progress is an illusion:
Efforts in some Central American countries have also yielded positive results. El Salvador boasts significant progress in terms of reducing poverty rates -- by around 20 percent -- but discrepancies in methodological criteria for measuring poverty in the country call into question the true magnitude of the achievement.

The National Office of Statistics and Census, which published the first MDG progress report (2004), calculates that 57.8 percent of the country's population survived on less than a dollar a day in 1991. The figure was reduced to 38.9 percent in 2002, or 10 percentage points away from meeting the goal of an overall poverty rate of 28.9 percent by 2015.

In terms of the percentage of people living in extreme pov…

Memories of La Bajada 1990

A second post from Carlos X regarding La Bajada, the religious observance which culminates the week of August festivals in El Salvador.

TRANSFIGURATION - "La Bajada," San Salvador, 1990

Of all the "Bajadas" I attended in my youth, the one I attended in August 1990 was the most poignant. It was my first return to El Salvador more than a decade after leaving the country on the eve of the Civil War as a ten year-old child. The pageantry and flair of "La Bajada" brought back a flurry of vivid recollections from my childhood growing up in El Salvador; memories that I had scuttled as unnecessary for assimilation and survival in America. The sounds of the street, the rush of sounds and sights and smells of San Salvador in August, took me back to the egg, back to my personal Eden. The return was made even more moving because of the reason that motivated the trip back: the death of the grandmother who had raised me during my childhood while my mother tried to …

El Salvador del Mundo -- La Bajada

Image
Today's post was written by Carlos X, noderator of the San Romero mailing list:

Arguably, there is nothing more quintessentially Salvadoran than the religious ritual known as "la Bajada" (the Descent), a religious procession that commemorates the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Divine Savior of the World (Jesus). San Salvador Archbishop Msgr. Fernando Saenz Lacalle has said that the celebration touches "the very essence of the Salvadoran national identity." In fact, the very name "El Salvador," means "The Savior," and is a reference to "The Divine Savior of the World," who is honored in the observance. "The date on which we celebrate this feast," Msgr. Saenz explains, "is related with the foundation of the city and the history of the country." In fact, San Salvador (which translates as "Holy Savior") has celebrated the feast since 1525, and has observed something like the current version of the &quo…

The most expensive coffee

Forbes Magazine recently serached out the most expensive coffees in the world. From El Salvador came the coffe of Los Planes, ringing in at $40 per pound. The coffee ranked number two in the 2006 El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition, with an international jury scoring it 93.52 out of 100. It's not yet available to consumers.

El Salvador's economic statistics

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Board recently completed consultations with the government in El Salvador and published these economic statistics:
[The Salvadoran] economy has strengthened. Growth has picked up and is running at 3 ½ percent thus far in 2006 (2 percent per year in 2000-05), spurred by investment and exports. Despite the full pass-through of higher oil prices, year-on-year inflation fell to 3 ½ percent in May 2006, the lowest level in the region. The external current account deficit widened slightly to 4½ percent of GDP in 2005. Sovereign spreads have remained among the lowest in the Latin America region.

Fiscal policy has aimed at stabilizing the public debt/GDP ratio and strengthening debt management. The 2006 budget limits the deficit to 3 percent of GDP, which implies a primary deficit of some 0.7 percent and will maintain public debt at around 42 percent of GDP, with the nonfinancial public sector debt at 40 percent. Tax revenue has been strengthen…

The August festivals commence

The August festivals and vacations, dedicated to the patron saint of San Salvador, El Divino Salvador del Mundo (Divine Savior of the World) have commenced. The period from August 1 to August 6 is a time of parades, trips to the beach, eating, religious festivities and more. La Prensa Grafica has a special section devoted to this week of celebration.