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Showing posts from January, 2007

Assorted economic news

More aircraft maintenance jobs coming to El Salvador. Air Canada has acquired an interest in the aircraft maintenance subsidiary of TACA airlines and plans to move maintenance of its fleet to El Salvador. According to a recent article in EDH, the expansion will create jobs for 517 engineers and 3,447 technicians between 2008 and 2012. JetBlue and America West already outsource some of their aircraft maintenance to El Salvador.
Peace not sufficient for economic growth. An article published by the Inter Press Service interviews several economists who look at a variety of structural factors which have prevented El Salvador from achieving real economic improvement for the bulk of the population since the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords.
Ethanol demand drives up corn prices. There is increasing demand for corn on world markets to use for the production of ethanol. As the US turns to ethanol as one element of reducing its dependency on oil, the price has begun to rise. The rise in c…

El Salvador's crime wave

The Economist magazine has published a very straightforward assessment of the fight against violent crime titled simply El Salvador's crime wave. From the article:
El Salvador’s president, Elias Antonio Saca, has launched new initiatives aimed at getting the country’s gang-fuelled crime epidemic under control, and says that additional measures are in the pipeline. The hope is that these efforts will fare better than the “mano dura” (hard fist) policies of the past, which are generally believed to have backfired by driving the gangs underground and closer together, and to commit increasingly more violent acts.

The Salvadoran public has greeted Mr Saca’s reforms with scepticism, and with good reason. At first glance, some of the measures appear cosmetic and lacking in strategic coherence, and are far short of the dramatic measures recommended by the US government and other concerned parties. Still, it is too soon to tell whether this is a turning of the corner, or just another instan…

A look back on El Salvador's civil war

The Washington Post runs a feature story today written by Manuel Roig-Franzia looking back on El Salvador's 12 year civil war, primarily through interviews with one guerrilla soldier and a government soldier who is currently the mayor of San Miguel:
SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador -- José Wilfredo Salgado says he collected baby skulls as trophies in the 1980s, when he fought as a government soldier in El Salvador's civil war. They worked well as candleholders, he recalls, and better as good-luck charms.

In the most barbaric chapters of a conflict that cost more than 75,000 lives, he enthusiastically embraced the scorched-earth tactics of his army bosses, even massacres of children, the elderly, the sick -- entire villages.

It was all in the name of beating back communism, Salgado, now the mayor of San Miguel, said he remembers being told.

But as El Salvador commemorates the 15th anniversary of the war's end this month, Salgado is haunted by doubts about what he saw, what he did and ev…

Laurie McGinley, photographer

One of the benefits of writing a blog like this one, is having contact with people with deep passions for El Salvador. One such person is photographer Laurie McGinley from Minnesota. I encourage everyone to visit her website and view her photo essays and read her blog. As Laurie writes:
Many images tell the story of a place or a people. During my travels my curiosity has fueled my desire to interview people and hear their stories. My first photo essay entitled, “Legacy of Violence” made it’s public debut at the annual fundraiser for the Resource Center of the Americas in April of 2005. The picture is vital to telling a story but, so often, a tale can be unearthed with a few questions and a patient ear. I strive to promote cross-cultural understanding, peace and growth through my photo essays.
Laurie has worked with El Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, and an article about those efforts appeared in the Minnesota Women's Press.

The Garcia-Prieto case

On Thursday and Friday, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights began a two day hearing in the case of Ramón Mauricio García Prieto Giralt. The Salvadoran government is being asked to account for its failure to act diligently in prosecuting a death squad killing diligently and its failure to protect the victim's family from subsequent threats and harassment as they pursued the case.

On June 10, 1994, Ramón Mauricio García Prieto Giralt, was gunned down by three men wearing military-style clothing in front of his wife and 5 month old son. The government did little to prosecute the case, but finally, after two years convicted one killer, labeled the murder "common crime," and declared the case closed. With this unsatisfactory result, and with threats and harassment of the García Prieto family, witnesses and lawyers, the family filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

The Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America has a
summ…

A trail of tears

The deadly road to "el norte":
Some 200 irregular Central American migrants die each year on Mexican soil trying to reach the United States, and more than 100 are left crippled after falling from trains or running from law enforcement officers, says a recent study by the Population, Borders and Migration Issues Commission of the Mexican Congress.

According to the report, Mexican law "treats these people like criminals or worse than how Mexican immigrants in the United States are treated."

The study adds that the law permits National Migration Institute officials to act at their own discretion "to pursue and jail Central Americans who enter Mexican territory illegally."

Some 25,000 Central Americans enter Mexico illegally each year, the study says. Nongovernmental organizations in Central America say that the number of migrants from the region killed in Mexico annually could be more than 450 because of the "hundreds" of disappeared, whose whereabouts…

New York Times Article regarding El Salvador's troops in Iraq

There is an article in today's New York Times which looks at the reasons that El Salvador continues to maintain a contingent of almost 400 of its soldiers on the ground in Iraq:
Officially, Mr. Saca’s government says the deployment of what is called the Cuscatlán Battalion is a way to thank the world for its assistance in helping stop the civil war here a decade and a half ago. Salvadoran officials say their country is an active part of the United Nations and believe in the world body’s effort to rebuild Iraq.

They stress the humanitarian dimension to their soldiers’ work there, like building roads, health clinics and schools, while acknowledging the dangers that have resulted in the deaths of five soldiers and the wounding of about two dozen more. They proudly note that El Salvador’s army, once linked to right-wing death squads, has been purged of its bad elements and is now one of the most respected institutions in the country.

But those arguments have not been enough to sway loca…

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- fifteen years after the Peace Accords

January 16 marked the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords which ended El Salvador's twelve year civil war. The event was marked by official celebrations, conferences, rallies and protests. The bloggers of El Salvador had much to say about the events and the country's progress. The general theme in the Salvadoran blogosphere was that of unfulfilled promise.

Jjmar, who posts at the Hunnapuh blog, does not want the significance of the Peace Accords to be underestimated and describes the accords as the basis for the most important democratic political reform(es) in the modern history of El Salvador. The accords opened to doors to the growth of democracy, guaranteed political rights and opened space where the FMLN could be transformed from a guerrilla movement into a political party, and the country established a Human Rights Ombudsman. But in the socio-economic life of the country, the accords had their greatest shortcomings. The historic structu…

Changing of the guard at the US Embassy in San Salvador

Douglas Barclay ended his tour of duty as the US Ambassador to El Salvador on January 17. He will be succeeded by Charles Glazer, a businessman and Bush fundraiser from Connecticut.

Ambassador Barclay is from Pulaski, New York, and you can read a retrospective view on this three years in El Salvador which appeared in his home town Oswego County Business Magazine. (I am also quoted a few times in that article).

Documentary about La Matanza

If you speak Spanish, you can learn more about the 1932 massacre known as La Matanza by watching the documentary film 1932, Scar of the Memory which is available for viewing over the internet at this link.

The documentary is from the Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen, the Museum of the Word and the Image. From the museum's web site:

The Museum of the Word and the Image (MUWI) is a privately funded, legally established non-profit organization, dedicated to investigating, rescuing, preserving, and presenting to the pubilc elements of the culture and history of El Salvador.

It possesses collections of manuscripts, photographs, audio recordings, films, videos, posters, objects, and publications, donated to the museum through the enthusiastic collaboration of the society that has responded to the call “against the chaos of amnesia.” Since 2004, the MUWI has preserved and shown to the public “The Legacy of Salarrué.”

This important heritage, previously in danger of disappearing, is being c…

75th Anniversary of La Matanza

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This is the 75th anniversary of "La Matanza" Following a failed uprising of campesinos led by Farabundo Martí, the armed forces of the government of Maximiliano Martinez slaughtered tens of thousands in reprisal. The memory of that event continues to shape the views of right and left in El Salvador today.

This Library of Congress article tells the story:
Between 1928 and 1931, the coffee export price had dropped by 54 percent. The wages paid agricultural workers were cut by an equal or greater extent. Food supplies, dependent on imports because of the crowding out of subsistence cultivation by coffee production, likewise fell sharply. Privation among the rural labor force, long a tolerated fact of life, sank to previously unknown depths. Desperate campesinos began to listen more attentively to the exhortations of radicals such as Agustin Farabundo Marti.

Marti came from a relatively well-to-do landowning family. He was educated at the University of El Salvador (commonly re…

Remittances hit another record in 2006

From Reuters:

SAN SALVADOR, Jan 17 - Migrant workers from El Salvador sent 17 percent more money home to their families last year than in 2005, the central bank said on Wednesday.

Remittances increased to $3.32 billion from $2.83 billion.

Money sent home by roughly 2.5 million Salvadorans working in the United States is the main driver of El Salvador's tiny economy.

Central Bank chief Luz Maria de Portillo said last month that El Salvador could see another increase of 10-15 percent in remittances this year.

Assessment of the Peace Accords and their aftermath

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As I have been noting in this blog, January 16 marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords which ended the 12 year long civil war in El Salvador. The conflict left more than 75,000, mostly civilians dead, and thousands more "disappeared." Here is my own assessment of the Peace Accords and their aftermath:

End of a bloody conflict. The Peace Accords produced a termination of the armed conflict. The ravages of war, felt most acutely by the poor and displaced, came to an end as the FMLN laid down its arms and the armed forces returned to their barracks.

But...Many will note that violence has not ceased in El Salvador. The violence today is the violence of criminal activity spawned by hopelessness, gangs, poverty and the disintegration of Salvadoran families. Still, even the very high toll of almost 4000 murders in 2006, does not approach the deaths of 10,000 or more civilians in a single year at the height of the civil war.

Creation of the civilian Na…

Internal security since the 1992 Peace Accords

In a recent report by the Rand Corporation titled Securing Tyrants or Fostering Reform?: U.S. Internal Security Assistance to Repressive and Transitioning Regimes, the research institution studied US support to El Salvador's internal security forces following the civil war. The following is the summary of their conclusions:
In El Salvador, U.S. assistance improved the accountability and human rights practices of the Salvadoran police but did not improve the effectiveness of Salvadoran security forces, as the rate of violent crimes soared. The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. military played a critical role in helping dissolve the three military-controlled internal security forces that had reputations for human rights abuses: the National Guard, the Treasury Police, and the National Police. A single new police force, the National Civilian Police, was created, which established a doctrine that emphasized human rights and civilian leadership. U.S. success was possible becaus…

The Sao Paulo Forum and rallying for Social Peace

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Two events this weekend gave the people of El Salvador forums to express their hopes for the future of the country. This weekend the 13th annual meeting of the Sao Paulo Forum took place in San Salvador. This annual event is a gathering of the political left from throughout Latin America and their supporters from other parts of the globe. Hosted this year by the FMLN, the final declaration of the Forum declared itself in steadfast oppostion to neoliberalism, colonialism, and imperialism, and expressed solidarity with the leadership of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Evo Morales.

Across the city, on Saturday, the government sponsored a major rally and concert to inaugurate the start of 2007 as the Year of Social Peace. With musical acts, speeches from both political leaders and religious leaders, thousands waived flags and enjoyed the event.

Rejections of government celebration of 1992 Peace Accords

Monday, January 16, is the 15th anniversary of the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords which ended El Salvador's 12 year civil war. The government plans celebrations to mark the event and the progress which has been made since the end of the war. Yet numerous civil society organizations are rejecting the celebrations and declaring that the Peace Accords are an unfulfilled promise for the country.



From the Terra news site is an article about a communique from various humanitarian organizations including La Asociación Pro Búsqueda de Niñas y Niños Desaparecidos (Pro Búsqueda) and the Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDHES). These organizations protest that human rights violations from the civil war have been allowed to go unpunished:



"Successive governments installed since 1992 have sustained an unacceptable state of impunity that protects those responsible for committing crimes against humanity against the civilian population." The associations declared that "the …

Need to address root causes of Salvadoran emigration

Tanya Snyder, executive director of Voices on The Border, recently wrote the following which appeared in an op/ed column in the Baltimore Sun:

Until the Salvadoran government takes seriously the commitments it made 15 years ago to foster democracy and human rights, El Salvador will continue to send hundreds of its sons and daughters to us every day. It must also address the economic issues that were swept under the rug with the peace accords and are now being swept under the rug as the government struggles to control gang violence.



Most people leave home because they have to. El Salvador must rededicate itself to making sure that its people can be safe and prosperous at home. This should include nonrepressive crimefighting strategies, a criminal justice system with real investigating capabilities, a stronger separation between the police and the military, and a new dedication to finding economic solutions to aid the country's poor. The United States should support these efforts if w…

Wooing El Salvador's expatriate community

The Washington Post has a story about El Salvador's Consul General in Washington, D.C., Ana Margarita Chavez, and the government's attempts to win the loyalty of Salvadorans living abroad:
Her approach dovetails with a wider charm offensive recently launched by Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca, of the pro-business ARENA party, to cement his support among Salvadoran expatriates.

The stakes are high. The Salvadoran government estimates that more than a fourth of the country's citizens live in the United States. The expatriates have been lobbying hard for the right to vote from abroad, and it is generally considered a matter of just a few years before they will get it. Even now, they are believed to exercise enormous sway over voters back home thanks to the estimated $3 billion they send their relatives annually.

During the presidential election in 2004, Saca and his opponent campaigned personally in the Washington area. And shortly after taking office, Saca expanded the…

The biggest pupusa in the world

Enjoy this photo gallery from La Prensa Grafica of cooks in Olocuilta, El Salvador, creating the largest pupusa in the world. The pupusa was ten feet across. (requires FlashPlayer installed).

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- about a new year

Salvadoran bloggers begin 2007 with a call for realism when looking at the situation facing the country. There was considerable reaction to the end of the year statements(es) of the president, Tony Saca, who asserted that the economy was growing very healthily and declared that 2007 was to be the "Year of Social Peace."

JJmar at the Hunnapuh blog comments on the government's patting itself on the back(es) regarding economic growth in 2007. He points out that the government's statistics of 4.7% economic growth had been discredited and that growth was only 3.5%. More importantly, the root of the growth was increasing remittances from Salvadorans who had emigrated abroad and not from economic vitality domestically. Exports were increasing, but these were also tied to the Salvadoran diaspora as "nostalgia" foods were sent to emigrants in the US and elsewhere looking for a taste of home.

Ixquic reflects the hopes and dreams (es) of many Salvadorans. She a…

Prison riot in El Salvador

Overcrowded prison conditions and the vicious rivalries between gangs produced a deadly riot Friday in one of El Salvador's prisons. The BBC has the report:
At least 21 inmates have been killed in a riot at a maximum-security prison in El Salvador. Security forces have now regained control of the Apanteos jail, near Santa Ana, 66km (41 miles) west of the capital, San Salvador. The riot broke out on Friday when a member of the infamous Mara 18 gang began fighting a guard, sparking battles between hundreds of inmates.

The jail holds 2,000 inmates, some of them the most dangerous in the country....

After the argument between the gang member and the guard, rival gang members began fighting among themselves with makeshift weapons such as shovels and pieces of broken masonry. Hundreds of police, soldiers and security guards were deployed to restore order and some inmates have been transferred to other jails.

Prisons in Central America are often overcrowded - Apanteos was built to hold 1…

Impact of sale of Salvadoran banks

As I noted a few weeks ago, the largest banks in El Salvador have now all been sold to foreign owners. Raúl Gutiérrez has written an article on the Inter Press Service predicting bad results from these developments:
SAN SALVADOR, Jan 5 (IPS) - International financial consortia have already squeezed local shareholders out of banks in El Salvador, and now they are expected to sideline the state, all of which will contribute to widening the gap between rich and poor.

Salvadoran financial groups ended the year with enormous revenues from the sales of most of their bank shares to transnational conglomerates, such as Canada's Scotiabank, the U.S.'s Citigroup, Bancolombia, and Panama's Banistmo which was then sold to Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking (HSBC).

The coup de grace was given by Bancolombia, which bought the Banco Agrícola (Agricultural Bank), the last remaining financial group owned by local capital, in December.

While supporters of this sort of transaction argue that the…

Founder of Lutheran church, Dr. Robert Gussick, dies

The Rev. Dr. Robert F. Gussick passed away on January 4, 2007. Rev. Gussick was a minister from Wisconsin who founded the Lutheran church in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America. In 1947, Gussick began his mission work in Guatemala and El Salvador, facilitating the creation of valuable educational resources and providing comprehensive theological training that qualified many local candidates to be ordained as Lutheran pastors, or to serve as lay leaders While serving as the Executive Director of Lutheran Border Concerns Ministry (LBCM) from 1971 to 1982, Gussick led a holistic outreach to the people of Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico. Gussick’s wife, Ruth Yunghans Gussick, participated fully in his distinguished ministry career. They have two daughters, Carol Felsch and Mary Lohrbach.

Rev. Gussick's ministry lives on in the thriving Lutheran churches in the region.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next

An assortment of news items to close out 2006 and begin 2007:

According to at least some sets of statistics, the number of murders in 2006 was exactly the same as the number in 2005 -- 3761 -- an average of more than 10 per day. 101 people were murdered between December 23 and January 1 to close out the year.Tony Saca has proclaimed that 2007 will be the "Year of Social Peace."

14,328 Salvadorans were deported from the US during 2006, twice the level of the preceding year. 120 arrived today as the first deportees of the new year.

A string of earthquakes which began in early December in the western part of the country, continues to rumble, with hundreds of homes being damaged. The quakes have reached as high as 5 on the Richter scale.

La Prensa published a gallery of its best photos from 2006, and El Faro had a 2006 photo gallery of its own.The first baby of 2007 born in El Salvador was named Priscila Abigail, the new daughter of Yancy Rosibel Rodríguez.

Civil war tourism

USA Today carried a story this week about efforts in El Salvador, mostly by former FMLN guerrillas, to attract tourists to sites from the civil war:
For a fee, former guerrillas will take visitors on tours of former battlefields or mountain hideouts, while museums display war memorabilia. The government has applauded the effort as a way to draw more tourists to El Salvador.

The former Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, which led the guerrilla uprising, has teamed up with local business leaders to create the so-called "peace route."

The mountain town of Perquin, 175 miles east of San Salvador, was considered the "guerrilla capital" during the fighting, and it served as the FMLN's headquarters. Today, it is home to the "Museum of the Revolution," and features cannons, uniforms, pieces of Soviet weaponry and other weapons of war once used by the FMLN.
Perquin has its own English-language website atwww.perquin.org which provides information t…

New feature on blog

As a new resource for readers of the blog, the right hand column now has links to a listing of books, both fiction and non-fiction, related to El Salvador. The links are generated by "LibraryThing" a new web service which lets you catalog and share information about the books you are reading. Check it out.

Poll reflects Salvadorans views of democracy

In early December, the annual Latinobarometro poll results were released. This annual poll surveys respondents throughout Latin America about politics, their government and their views of the problems facing their countries. In a number of areas, Salvadorans were some of the most pessimistic in Latin America about the status of their democracy and the ability of the government to solve their problems. Here is a collection of the poll results.

When asked to rate how democratic El Salvador was on a scale of 1 to 10, Salvadorans rated it 4.8, only Paraguay was lower. Only 22% of Salvadorans would describe their country as "very democratic."

Only 14% of Salvadorans believe their government is run for the good of all the people. (Only Ecuador was lower), and only 25% are satisfied with the state of their democracy, a level which dropped 12% in just the past year.

Only 23% believed elections in El Salvador are clean (only Ecuador and Paraguay had lower levels of confidence). …

Top El Salvador Stories of 2006

Here's my round-up of the top El Salvador stories of 2006:

Death of Schafik Handal. The long-time leader of the FMLN died suddenly of a heart attack in January. Schafik Handal's funeral brought tens of thousands to the streets of San Salvador.Elections for legislative assembly and mayors. Salvadorans went to the polls on March 12 to vote for deputies in the National Assembly and the mayors of towns and cities. ARENA and the FMLN ended up with almost a 50-50 split in the National Assembly, with the balance of power being held by the minor parties who tend to form alliances with ARENA. The FMLN lost control of a significant number of municipalities and almost lost the mayor's race in San Salvador.Wave of violence rolls over country. El Salvador is now known as the most violent country in Latin America, and nothing the government has attempted to do has had any impact in reducing the murder rate.DR-CAFTA in first year of implementation. El Salvador was the first countr…