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Showing posts from October, 2006

Update on Solidarity Net

Solidarity Net is the program of president Tony Saca's government to provide subsidies of $30 to $40 per month to poor families with children. As the school year nears its end, La Prensa reports on government statistics that 95 percent of families are complying with their agreements to keep children in school and enrolled in health programs.

Some 18,540 families are receiving the small monthly subsidy in communities considered to be the poorest in the nation. Only 5% of families have suffered reductions in their subsidies for failure to comply with the covenant of co-responsibility which requires them to send their children to school and keep them enrolled in medical programs. Some $2.5 million has been transferred to families so far under the program.

The La Prensa article reports that while their have been solid increases in school attendance, the most significant impact has been in enrollment in local health units, where increases have been as much as 300%. Those increases ar…

Participant in Jesuit killings being deported from US

A junior Salvdoran army officer who was convicted of participating in the murder of the six Jesuits and their housekeeper at the University of Central America in 1989 is being deported from the US, but has amnesty in El Salvador:
Oct. 27 (CWNews.com) - A former Salvadoran military officer who was convicted in connection with the 1989 murder of 6 Jesuit priests has been arrested in California and now faces deportation, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos was arrested at a motel in Los Angeles, and charged with entering the US illegally. He faces a deportation hearing next month.

Cerritos is one of 8 members of a military counter-insurgency unity who were charged with killing the Jesuit priests and members of their staff at a residence in San Salvador. The murders came at the height of the country's civil war, when many Catholic priests were viewed with suspicion because of links between Marxist guerillas and proponents of liberation theology.

Cerritos had been c…

What the gold miners are saying

As I have noted earlier, there are growing protests by civil society organizations in El Salvador against the prospect of expanded gold mining in the country. It is worth noting, however, that the gold mining companies continue to talk optimistically. One such company is Condor Resources:
Condor Resources plc is a young Australian-based mineral resources company that is developing a number of deposits in El Salvador and Nicaragua. The company is listed on AIM, with ticker symbol CNR and market capitalisation of just over £9 million or US$17 million. The Chief Executive is Nigel Ferguson, an exploration geologist with twenty years’ experience in the field including the assessment of the Geita Gold project for what was then Ashanti Goldfields. The company policy is to employ local personnel where possible, and the local workforce is typically employed from within a five kilometre radius of each operation. ...

Both El Salvador and Nicaragua operate attractive Mining Codes and allow for…

Poll on crime

A recent CID-Gallup/El Diario de Hoy poll shows a desire for get-tough measures to deal with criminals.

Polling Data

Which of these solutions would be the best to deal with crime in El Salvador?
Deploying the army to fight criminals - 29%
Enacting tougher punishments - 24%
The death penalty - 21%
Hiring more police officers - 15%
Allowing minors to be tried as adults - 12%
Do you have confidence in criminals being rehabilitated in Salvadoran prisons?
Complete confidence - 15%
Some confidence - 20%
Little confidence - 34%
No confidence - 27%

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- about the armed forces

Salvadoran bloggers on the left are writing posts questioning El Salvador's level of military spending, particularly where there are pressing social problems in the country including crime, sanitation, and poverty. This small Central American country of six million people had a military budget in 2005 of $162 million (source: CIA World Fact Book).

The blogger Hunnapuh looks at the level of spending(es) on the armed forces. He performs some basic math to show that persons in the armed forces above the lowest ranks are earning more per month than a teacher or a doctor. This disparity has lead Hunnapuh to campaign on his blog for the abolition of the army.

El Visitador disagrees, calling the army a necessary insurance policy(es). Without an army, he posits that El Salvador would look like Cuba and Mexico would be ruled by Commandante Marcos, as armed rebel movements take control of Latin American countries.

On the Hunnapuh blog, a poll (es) is being conducted asking readers if t…

Remittances continue to grow

The money sent back to El Salvador by Salvadorans living in the US and elsewhere continues to grow significantly according to recent released data:
Remittances to El Salvador grew 18.1% to $2.44 billion during the nine-month period, the country's central bank said in a press release.

Salvadoran banks handled 21.9% of remittances through their offices in the U.S. and paid out about 70% of all family remittances through their branches in El Salvador.

El Salvador received $2.83 billion in remittances last year, equivalent to 16.6% of the country's gross domestic product.
Why such strong growth? Are there that many more Salvadorans emigrating? Are Salvadorans abroad getting wealthier and having more money available to send home? Is there a perception that families back home are even more in need of funds than in the past? Are there other reasons?

There is little doubt about the importance that remittances now play in the economy of El Salvador and that this money provides a leve…

El Salvador Tourism

El Salvador's Ministry of Tourism has a glossy new public relations campaign to encourage the people of El Salvador to think of the country as a tourist destination. You can see two minute-long video spots here and here.

Not everyone agrees with the message of the ad campaign, however. A friend recently sent me this satirical response to the Ministry of Tourism.

El Salvador and Honduras argue over tiny island

Image
El Salvador and Honduras are again disputing the border between them, only six months after signing an agreement resolving boundary issues lingering from the Soccer War. This time the dispute involves an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Fonseca as described by Reuters AlertNet:
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Almost three decades after El Salvador and Honduras fought a short but fierce "Soccer War" that killed thousands, tensions over their disputed border are again on the rise.

Honduras' Congress said in a resolution late on Tuesday that the country's sovereignty was being threatened by its Central American neighbor.

"If we want peace, we have to be ready for war," said Roberto Micheletti, the president of Congress and a prominent figure inside the ruling Liberal Party, adding that Honduras needs to beef up its armed forces.

The latest twist in a century-old dispute is centered on the tiny, uninhabited island of Conejo, or "Rabbit", which…

Thanks for your comments

In the almost two years this blog has been in existence, I have been gratified to see more and more people posting their comments to what I write. Sometimes the commenters agree with me, often they do not. Always they add additional points of view, frequently with an abundance of passion.

So thanks to Miguel, Wally, Samuel, El-Visitador, Polycarpio, Mayra, Hodad26, Mysterious Me, Tambopaxi, David, gapgirl, Indira, the ever-present "Anonymous," and many others for participating in the discussions.

If you have been commenting anonymously, I encourage you to pick a screen name to sign your posts. The screen name does not need to be linked to anything and does not need to reflect your identity. But it will enhance our discussions when we can see that "BigHeartedSalvadoran" posts a comment everytime I mention pupusas, or that "Guillermo23" favors solutions to the country's problems involving grassroots organizing.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, …

PDDH Beatrice de Carillo speaks to present realities in El Salvador

Dr. Beatrice de Carillo, El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudswoman (PDDH in Spanish), spoke recently at the 25th anniversary celebration of the SHARE Foundation in Washington, D.C. Her extensive remarks covered all aspects of the present reality in El Salvador and are well worth reading. Here is short excerpt where she describes some of the unfulfilled promise of the Peace Accords which ended El Salvador's twelve year civil war:
As it has been proved, the texts concerning the Peace Accords contain abundant material about political reforms that needed to be made to assure a pacific coexistence between political actors. For better or for worse, some 14 years later after the signing of the Peace Accords, all political actors still make use of institutional channels to get access to power.

However, it hasn't been possible to go beyond political accords. In few words, the end of the civil war didn't mean a variation of the country's distribution of wealth. On the contrary…

El Salvador video on YouTube

There are many videos from El Salvador on the YouTube video sharing site. Here is one. I plan on highlighting more videos in future posts.

DR-CAFTA's negative impact on Salvadoran farmers

A recent article from the Inter Press Service looks at the impact of the DR-CAFTA free trade agreement in the first year of its implementation. The article points to evidence that cheap agricultural imports from the US are threatening the existence of small corn and rice farmers in El Salvador:
The massive influx of U.S. goods demonstrates the competitive disadvantage under which small Salvadoran farmers must labor, and they feel their future to be most uncertain.

For example, Miguel Alemán, a leader of the Confederation of Agrarian Reform Federations, said, "a sack of fertilizer cost 18 dollars last year, and now it's gone up to 23 dollars. We were selling a hundredweight (quintal) of creole maize at 11 or 12 dollars, but this year it's only worth 8.50 dollars."

"Under CAFTA, U.S. maize sells in El Salvador at 6.40 dollars, so who's going to buy from us?" the small farmer asked. "Last year I cultivated just under a hectare of maize for my family'…

Chaparrastique volcano rumbles

El Salvador is a land of volcanoes, and one of them is rumbling. From the AP: SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador Authorities in El Salvador declared an alert on Tuesday for an area around the Chaparrastique volcano after the peak began rumbling ominously.

Interior Minister Rene Figueroa urged about 45,000 people who live within an area roughly 4 square kilometers (1.4 square miles) around the peak to be ready for a possible call for evacuations.

Seismologist Carlos Pullinger said the volcano had been experiencing relatively small, imperceptible tremors for days, but that in the last several hours had emitted 'continuous, abnormal vibrations.' Such vibrations are sometimes observed before an eruption.

The 2,129-meter (7,025-foot) volcano, located about 145 kilometers (90 miles) east of San Salvador, the capital, erupted in 1976. San Miguel, one of the country's largest cities, is located 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the volcano.

Update on slaying of priest

On October 4, in my round-up of Salvadoran blogs, I mentioned the slaying of Catholic priest Ricardo Antonio Romero. The two operative theories were the possibility that Fr. Romero was killed by gangs or killed by death squads for his political views.

It now appears that it was neither. A suspect has been arrested and has confessed to the killing for "sentimental reasons." It also appears that Fr. Romero was in state of great intoxication earlier in the day. The circumstances surrounding the death has lead to the arcbishop of San Salvador, Saenz-Lacalle, to apologize to the faithful for the instance of immorality in the clergy.

The circumstances surrounding this murder highlight a regular problem for trying to understand El Salvador. Anytime a person is murdered who has progressive political views, or is associated with an organization on the left, there are those who are quick to jump to the assertion that a "death squad" was involved. I admit to falling into…

More on the alleged assassination plot

Yesterday, there were press reports about a foiled plot to shoot down the presidential helicopter of Tony Saca. The Reuters report which I quoted listed the suspect as George Nayes, a Cuban-American who had reportedly been involved in recruiting Salvadorans to work in Iraq.

The Salvadoran press, names the suspect as George Nayor and/or George Nayes. He is described as a businessman who ran restaurants, including one known as "Karaoke George" and a gymnasium in San Salvador. The Salvadoran government is tying him to the Medellin drug cartel. Although some press reports describe Nayor/Nayes as a Cuban-American, others describe him as being an American of Lebanese descent. La Prensa describes him as the designer of two plazas in San Salvador, the plaza Palestina and the plaza Arafat which show solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

Does it seem odd that a promoter of Palestinian causes who also provides recruits for the US war effort in Iraq? Perhaps not, since Tony Saca, …

Foiled plot to kill Tony Saca

El Salvador's president revealed today that police had foiled an alleged plot to kill him, as reported in Reuters:
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Salvadoran President Tony Saca said on Friday police had uncovered a plan to assassinate him by firing a rocket at his helicopter, and linked it to his crackdown on organized crime and drug gangs.

Saca said the plot had been masterminded by George Nayes, a Cuban-American deported last month to the United States, which wants to investigate his possible links to Colombian drug traffickers. Police backed up Saca's claim...
Nayes is apparently a US citizen. An Internet search shows that Nayes was interviewed by El Diario de Hoy in November 2004 in connection with Nayes' efforts to recruit Salvadoran ex-soldiers to work in Iraq on behalf of an unnamed company.

El Salvador may profit from Kyoto protocols

The Inter Press Service has a new article regarding El Salvador's efforts to attract investment in renewable energy and other projects in order to sell carbon reduction credits under the Kyoto protocols:
SAN SALVADOR, Oct 4 (IPS) - El Salvador is studying the Kyoto Protocol carefully, not because it has to cut its emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, but because this international agreement opens a way to earn profits and encourages investment for development.

The treaty on climate change provides a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which allows rich countries -- the only ones obliged by the treaty to reduce their emissions -- to implement projects in developing countries, such as afforestation or reforestation, or to finance activities that reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), which are mostly released by burning oil, coal and gas.

There is also provision for Emissions Trading, which allows the states party to the Protoco…

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- death squads and golf courses

The brutal killing on September 25th of Salvadoran Catholic priest, Ricardo Antonio Romero, has prompted much comment in the Salvadoran blogosphere. Fr. Romero's body was found bludgeoned to death on a roadway 40 miles west of San Salvador. The slaying was added to the daily murder tally(es) at 100 Days in the Republic of Death.

The blogger Hunnapuh notes that there are two operative theories(es) about the motives for the slaying of the priest. Either he was killed by gangs operating in the region, or he was killed by a death squad because of his work in solidarity with the poor in the region of his parish. Hunnapuh sounds a note of alarm, admonishing those who would dismiss the possibility that "escuadrones de la muerte", backed by wealthy interests, have returned to El Salvador.

Tepezcuintly, who also blogs with Hunnapuh, has no doubt(es) about the return of death squads and who is backing them. Along with similar blogs, he heaps scorn and hatred on the ARENA gov…

One year anniversary of Ilamatepec volcano eruption

One year ago today, the Ilamatepec volcano near Santa Ana erupted, spewing hot ash into the air and causing landslides of boiling mud. El Salvador's newspapers have online photo galleries to commemorate the event. La Prensa has two galleries, here and here, which show some of the damage to fincas near the summit of the volcano and other shots of the volcano as it is today. The pictures from El Diario de Hoy focus on the families who are still homeless, living in shelters including the gymnasium in Santa Ana.

The volcano has subsided to its normal level of activity and shows no more signs of additional eruptions. The Salvadoran government has installed new monitoring equipment to track any new seismic events. You can view satellite images of the volcano, prior to the eruption, on Google at this link.

The explosion of the volcano was the beginning of a week of calamity for El Salvador, as Tropical Storm Stan then inundated the country with floodwaters for the next several days,…