Posts

Showing posts from February, 2007

Good jobs

Three recent stories about business in El Salvador creating good jobs:

Cutuco Energy, based in Houston, will begin construction in September on a new liquefied natural gas import terminal and power plant at the port of La Unión. According to the Cutuco Energy web site, work on the facility will create 1100 jobs to build and operate the facility which will also include a water desalinization plant producing 5.5 million gallons of fresh drinking water.

An auto parts plant, run by the business Arnecom, opened in Santa Ana province. The business is funded with Japanese and Mexican capital investments and will produce more than 600 jobs.

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.

That's about 5700 jobs, supporting 5700 families. Are these jobs create…

Bush and Saca meet in Washington

The president of El Salvador, Tony Saca, met with George Bush at the White House today. Here are there statements following their meeting:

PRESIDENT BUSH: Bienvenidos a mi amigo, Presidente de nuestro amigo de El Salvador. Gracias. Thanks for coming. We spent a lot of time talking together, because I value the advice of the President. We talked about a lot of subjects.

We talked about the fact that the first year of the trade agreement between the United States and El Salvador is coming up. And the President told me that a lot of people are benefitting -- a lot of people in his country are benefitting from the opportunities presented by trade. And I told him that people in our country benefit from the relationship. Under his leadership, the economy of El Salvador is strong. And I congratulate you for your leadership.

We talked about interesting opportunities available. And one, of course, is biofuels. We both recognize that the development of biofuels is in our national interests. And I…

Suspects in deaths of Salvadoran politicians are murdered

Another twist in the case of last week's murders in Guatemala. On Sunday, the four Guatemalan police officers arrested for the assassinations were found murdered in their jail cells according to press reports. It would appear that very powerful forces did not want them to do any talking.

Gold miners and activists to meet

Local community organizations opposed to mining and Pacific Rim, a Canadian gold mining company, are scheduled to meet soon. According to a Pacific Rim press release, the meeting will be facilitated by the office of El Salvador's human rights ombudsman:
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 02/21/07 -- A meeting scheduled for mid-February 2007 between Pacific Rim Mining Corp. ("Pacific Rim" or the "Company") (TSX: PMU)(AMEX: PMU), local community representatives, and two El Salvadoran Non-Governmental Organizations ("NGOs") responsible for organizing anti-mining protests at the Company's Santa Rita gold project in El Salvador in late 2006 is being rescheduled and moved to San Salvador from the local city of Sensuntepeque. Pacific Rim strongly supports these changes and is eager to continue to participate openly and in good faith.

The forthcoming meeting will be mediated by the San Salvador-based executive directorate of Procuraduria de De…

A model for progress against crime?

A recent article from the Miami Herald looks at the progress against crime made by the city of San Martin by controlling guns:
Fed up with violence that made this bustling city of about 150,000 among the most dangerous in this Central American nation - with an average of seven homicides per month - municipal leaders joined police in a program that outlawed weapons in public spaces such as parks, sports facilities and restaurants.

A year after the Libres de Armas (free of weapons) program was launched, San Martin has seen a significant reduction in the homicides and other violent crimes of the kind that are bedeviling El Salvador 15 years after peace accords ended a brutal civil war that left an estimated 75,000 dead.

"Things are much better," said Henriquez. "You can go out on the street now. You don't see dead bodies all over the place anymore.".....

The Libres de Armas program in San Martin is just one small initiative that has made a difference. The program, the…

Anti-terrorism law applied against street protests

El Salvador passed an anti-terrorism law in September 2006. At the time it was passed, many opposed the law on the grounds that its harsh penalties would be used to quash dissent and protests. Now it appears that some of those concerns may have been justified.

The leader of the street vendors in San Salvador, Vicente Ramírez, has been arrested under the new anti-terrorism law for his alleged involvement in street protests which turned violent in Apopa on February 10. In those demonstrations, street vendors had been protesting the Apopa city government's restrictions on their activities on the streets of the city. The protests turned violent, and Apopa government buildings were damaged, three persons were injured and other property destroyed. (You can read about those disturbances and see a photo gallery at the LPG website).

Ramirez was arrested about one week later under the provisions of the anti-terrorism law. After an initial hearing today, a magistrate in Apopa ordered Ra…

Guatemalan police officers arrested in killings

Four Guatemalan police officers have been arrested in connection with the assassination of three Salvadoran members of the Central American parliament, according to stories in the AP and elsewhere. According to news reports, the police officers all worked in the anti-gang unit of the Guatemalan national police. El Diario indicates that one of those arrested was the head of the anti-gang unit. The same El Diario story says that GPS devices, installed on Guatemalan police vehicles, provided evidence leading to the arrests.

Reports are linking the killings to organized crime in the region.

UPDATE:

Read Raul Guttierez' analysis on IPS regarding the killings and their possible links to organized crime and police corruption in the region.

Update on killings in Guatemala

More information is available on the assassination of three Salvadoran members of the Central American parliament while they traveled in Guatemala. All three were members of El Salvador's ruling ARENA party, including Eduardo D'Aubuisson, one of the sons of Roberto D'Aubuisson, the party's founder.

1. At least two of the victims were killed with a single shot to the head, execution style. The car they were traveling in was riddled with bullet holes and completely destroyed by fire. The car was found on a remote back road, away from the main highway. More details can be found in this AP report

2. Statements from the Presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador pointed to potential dark motives:
It wasn't coincidental," the Guatemalan president, Óscar Berger, told reporters. "We have various theories, and we aren't ruling out the possibility that it was a political crime." The Salvadoran president, Tony Saca, decried the killing at a cemetery ceremon…

Three ARENA politicians murdered in Guatemala

Three members of the Central American parliament (PARLACEN) from El Salvador's ARENA party were found murdered last night in Guatemala along with their driver. The group was traveling to a working group meeting of PARLACEN. Gunmen apparently attacked the SUV in which they were driving; the bodies were found in the burned out shell of the vehicle. Among the dead is Eduardo D'Aubuisson, son of the founder of ARENA. There is no known motive for the crime. You can read the news reports from Reuters, the BBC or El Faro.

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- unable to escape the past

The ghosts of El Salvador's twelve year civil war continue to surface in the news from El Salvador. First there was the story of Will Salgado, mayor of the city of San Miguel. On January 29, the Washington Post ran a cover story on the aftermath of the civil war which started with these attention getting sentences:
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.
The skulls were taken from corpses of the El Mozote massacre victims in Morazan province which took place in December 1981. Salgado gave an interview to the periodical El Faro, in which he denies ever making such statements, but the Washington Post reporter is sticking to the story.

Blogger Jjmar has no doubt that Salgado made the statements in question, and wonders what that says[ES] for his country that such a man can be a popular mayor of a maj…

Salvadoran golf scorecards anyone?

Running a blog like this one, you get all sorts of requests. But this one is pretty unique:
Tim,

I am a collector of golf club scorecards from around the world and at this point in time I have scorecards from 214 different Countries and Islands of the world in my collection including every country in the North, Central, and South America with the exception of the beautiful country of El Salvador, and after reading your blog I was wondering if it is at all possible that you could "POR FAVOR" help me to obtain a golf club scorecard from any Golf Clubs in El Salvador for my collection, as I would be honored to add this beautiful country and any golf club to my collection, I am more than willing to pay for any postage involved, I hope that I have not offended you by my unusual request, I wish you a pleasant day and thank you for your valuable time.

B.D.
Woolgooga
Australia

If any readers have a Salvadoran golf club scorecard and would like to help this Aussie out, send me an e-m…

Preventing Millennium Challenge Account funds from supporting gold mining

Concerned that US tax dollars could go to support gold mining activities in El Salvador with potentially devastating environmental consequences, a letter is being circulated in Congress to urge that no such event takes place. Several groups are supporting the following drive.

Ensure that US funds are not used to support gold mining in rural El Salvador

Contact your congressperson and urge them to sign Rep. Michaud's Dear Colleague letter

BACKGROUND

Communities in rural El Salvador are being threatened by gold mining companies which have targeted them against their will for mining activity. These communities are gravely and justifiably concerned that mining activities —large-scale open-pit excavations using a cyanide extraction process—will damage their reforested land, contaminate their water supplies, and jeopardize their health.

Late in 2006, the US government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) awarded $461 million to El Salvador, including $233 million to build a "no…

D'Aubuisson resolution withdrawn

Image
Protesters including human rights activists, families of death squad victims and others converged on El Salvador's National Assembly on Thursday to demonstrate against a resolution to name former major Roberto D'Aubuisson as a "son of highest merit" of the nation. Faced with the overwhelming backlash to this proposal, the government removed it from the legislative agenda. The NGO Human Rights Commission of El Salvador proposed that naming assassinated archbishop Oscar Romero as a "son of highest merit" would be a more appropriate step.

Samuel, a Salvadoran blogger, expressed his rejection of ARENA's celebration of D'Aubuisson in this video:

The extortion racket

One of the most troubling aspects in El Salvador's recent surge in violent crime has been the dramatic growth in instances of extortion. Gangs and other criminal elements, including corrupt police, have been implicated in demanding protection money from bus operators. In an article titled Your Money or Your Life, Raúl Gutiérrez looks at the problem:

SAN SALVADOR, Feb 15 (IPS) - Bus drivers and conductors are being targeted by extortionists and murderers in El Salvador. Lack of security, which also afflicts other trades, has become a profitable business opportunity for criminals and police alike.

At first, the authorities assumed that gangs were responsible for the crimes, but some members of the business community reported that police were taking advantage of the climate of impunity and muscling in on the business, which has already cost the lives of dozens of transport workers for not paying protection money....

In 2006, this kind of violence killed at least 70 drivers and condu…

Water for El Salvador -- more reading

Some additional resources for anyone who wants to explore water issues in greater depth:

The Water Debate -- BBC News.

Context matters: how state forms and reforms influence water provision in Latin America, Haglund-Gomez, November 2006

ID21 Urban Development -- British site with articles on water and sanitation issues worldwide.

Private Sector Participation and the Poor -- paper looking at various privatization projects.

1998 Water Resources Assessment of El Salvador -- US Army Corps of Engineers

Water Aid International -- international NGO dedicated to water and sanitation issues.

Running Dry: the humanitarian impact of the global water crisis -- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Water - El Salvador -- Public Citizen

Water and Development -- section of Global Issues web site.

Outrageous -- Salvadoran legislature plans to honor D'Aubuisson

The Salvadoran press is reporting that Thursday morning El Salvador's National Assembly will address a resolution to declare former major Roberto D'Aubuisson, a "Son of Highest Merit" of the nation. D'Aubuisson is best known as the organizer of death squad activity in El Salvador during the 1980's, and as the founder of the ARENA party. The measure has been criticized by the human rights office of the Catholic church and the human rights institute of the University of Central America.

Responding to criticism of the measure, a legislator from ARENA could respond only that D'Aubuisson had "never been convicted by a court" of any criminal act.

While the Salvadoran court system never brought justice for D'Aubuisson's victims, the UN Truth Commission, which took testimony and reviewed the record of the war years, left no doubt about D'Aubuisson's role in death squads which summarily rounded up, tortured and executed political opponents,…

Water for El Salvador -- some thoughts

Here are some propositions which I believe come out of the review of El Salvador's water issues in this blog over the past 10 days.

1) Ensuring the affordable availability of water is a fundamental obligation of governments. It is a fundamental obligation of El Salvador's government. A lack of potable drinking water to many citizens is a challenge which the government should recognize and address.

2) The water system needs investment. Wells, pipe systems, sewage treatment, and system maintenance all require significant amounts of capital. Any approach to water issues must also deal with reducing sources of contamination to El Salvador's ground water.

3) Privatization advocates can't simply say that private enterprise is more efficient than government. The profit motive has no necessary correlation to providing safe, affordable water to more and more areas of the country. Privatization of water systems has only been effective in situations where the state had a …

CARE Spheres

Image
A public art project is raising money for CARE - El Salvador. Brightly painted spheres are appearing all over, created by local artists. Money from sponsoring an artist's sphere goes to support the development projects of Care, which include projects for improving water and sanitation. Learn more at the CARE web site, or see a photo gallery of the spheres from La Prensa Grafica.

Water for El Salvador -- the need for clean water sources

With surface water contaminated through El Salvador, getting access to clean sources of water can be an expensive proposition. This story from National Public Radio describes the situation:
El Salvador isn't a place where you'd expect to find water problems. After all, it gets nearly six feet of rainfall each year. But Ricardo Navarro says clean water is in short supply. Contaminated water kills thousands of Salvadorans every year. Most are children.

"When we talk about the water problem in El Salvador, we are talking about that: the lack of clean water to drink," says Navarro, president of an environmental group called the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology.

He says the country has failed to protect a precious resource. Farmers have cut down forests that used to store rain water. Ranchers have allowed their livestock to pollute rivers. Communities have put latrines too close to shallow wells.

"Big enterprises… use the river as a place where they can thr…

Water for El Salvador -- the Cochabamba saga

Opponents of privatization of water systems frequently point to the experience in Cochabamba, Bolivia, as the prime example of why such plans harm the poor. A PBS documentary described the situation:
Cochabamba put its water system up for auction in 1999. Only one bidder showed up. The company, called Aguas del Tunari, a division of the large American construction firm Bechtel, promised to expand water service. In exchange the contract guaranteed the company a 15-17% profit.

Two months after taking over the water system, Aguas del Tunari raised the water rates. People, resentful and angry, took to the streets in protest. One of their leaders was Oscar Olivera, a long-time union activist. He and others tapped into the anger many Bolivians feel about their country's long history of political corruption and foreign domination.

"Everyone was protesting, everyone," journalist Luis Bredow tells Finnegan. "I've never seen anything like it in Bolivia. Housewives were thro…

Water for El Salvador -- ANDA and the Perla scandal

El Salvador's water utility, ANDA, has been beset by problems, and the highest profile problem is the corruption revealed in the Carols Perla case. In August 1994, president Calderon Sol appointed Perla, a Salvadoran businessman, as the first civilian president of ANDA. The Coordinating Commission for Water Resources Reform (Comisión Coordinadora para la Reforma Sectorial de los Recursos Hídricos, COSERHI) was created, with Perla as chairman, to reform the water sector. At least through the late 1990's, Perla was looked at approvingly by outside agencies, as in this Kennedy School of Government case study from 1999.

But by 2003-04, that had all changed. Perla stood accused of embezzling millions from ANDA, of engaging in bid-rigging and similar practices, and enriching himself at the expense of a water system which desperately needed investment. An article in the Texas Observer stated:
Let’s take, for example, Señor Carlos Perla, ex-administrator of ANDA, the public water…

Water for El Salvador -- competing visions

The current debate in El Salvador with respect to delivery of potable drinking water to all of its citizens, is the debate over whether or not water should be delivered by a government agency or a private contractor. Should the current government water administration, known by its acronym ANDA, be eliminated and replaced with contracts allowing private sector companies to be responsible for the distribution and sale of water?

The ARENA government, with its free market economic approach, wants to privatize water delivery:
According to the President of the national water agency, Cesár Funes, a water sector reform proposal will be introduced early next year. Under the proposal his agency, ANDA, would be downsized in favor of a newly created national water commission, to be called CONAGUA, which would establish a three-person panel to regulate water rates. Representation on that panel, according to the proposal, would come from the President, the Economy Ministry, and the National Associat…

Water for El Salvador -- the preciousness of water

In thinking about water policy for El Salvador, it is worth considering the centrality of water to human existence. From a speech of Monseñor Eduardo Alas, Bishop of the Diocese of Chalatenango, at the first meeting of the National Forum for the Defense of the Sustainability and Right to Water on July 14, 2006:
Water is a gift from God, a gift from God from which life originates. Water is an element with creative power. Year after year, we witness a patented miracle. When the first rainstorm falls, everything is dead, dry. When the first storm comes, we then notice that many living things were dead. It is until the first storm that the earth brings forth life once again. What has happened? Water has arrived! Water is life and the generator of life.

Among all of the natural resources, that which is most ours is water. We are ourselves principally made of water. I am water. How much water is there in each one of us! We are water. Take the water out of us and we die. It is the most vit…

Water for El Salvador -- understanding the issues

Over the next several posts, I plan to look at the issues involved in providing a safe and dependable drinking water supply in El Salvador. This topic provokes regular protests in the streets of the country, raises issues of government corruption and privatization of important resources, and generates strong feelings on all sides.

To start, it is important to have a background understanding of the problems, and an excellent resource I have found is the Wikipedia article on Water supply and sanitation in El Salvador. Here are the opening paragraphs:
Access. Access to water and sanitation in El Salvador remains low by regional standards. Access to safe water stood at 84 percent in 2004 and access to adequate sanitation at 62 percent. Access is particularly low in rural areas, where about 36 percent of the population lives. It stands at 70% for safe water and 39 percent for adequate sanitation. (for water access data see [1] and for sanitation access data see [2])

Productivity and publi…

Pollo Campero on the plane

Anyone who has flown from El Salvador to the US knows what this ad is talking about:



(If you get El Salvador blog posts by e-mail, you'll have to go to the website to see this YouTube video)

Salvadorans favor gun control

One of the measures for dealing with crime in El Salvador is the implementation of gun control. A recent poll by La Prensa Grafica and reported by Angus Reid, finds strong support for gun control in the country:
Many adults in El Salvador believe their country should institute tougher regulations for the use of weapons, according to a poll by LPG Datos published in La Prensa Gráfica. 69.2 per cent of respondents would forbid people from carrying firearms....

On Jan. 25, El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved the government’s proposal to introduce a new Arms Law that will allow the prohibition of firearms in certain places and times. The bill will become law only upon approval by the Defense Ministry and the regional governments of the areas where the measure would be implemented. The law would grant the president full power to dictate by decree when and where to ban the carrying of arms.