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Showing posts from January, 2008

Judges protest in streets of San Salvador

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Black-robed judges marched through the streets of San Salvador, protesting corruption investigations of four judges which have been launched by the country's attorney general. The BBC website has the story:
More than 400 judges in El Salvador have held a street protest to complain about accusations of corruption against four of their colleagues. Dressed in their robes, they delivered a letter of protest to the Supreme Court in San Salvador on Wednesday.

The judges were calling for prosecutors to investigate the cases with objectivity and prudence. They also want the government to drop plans to allow state prosecutors to determine criminal cases.

Prosecutors have opened investigations into various of the four judges' decisions, including one ruling to release a man three months after he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for murder. Defence lawyers for the judges say they were just applying the law.

Public opinions on mining

Mining companies, such as Pacific Rim, have not convinced Salvadorans that gold mining will benefit the country. Although some persons have asserted in the comments of this blog that opposition to mining is just the product of a vocal group of outside gringo environmentalists who care nothing for the well-being of Salvadorans, a recent opinion poll shows a strong majority of Salvadorans in the potentially affected regions oppose mining. The poll was reported in an article in ContraPunto:
The results of the poll from the [UCA public opinion institute] are more than clear. The populations that inhabit the territories where mining is planned don't approve the activities, and moreover they reject the declarations of the mining industry that assures them that with the activity hundreds of jobs will be created and there will be improvements for the social and economic development of the communities.

62.5% of the population polled expressed the opinion that El Salvador is not an adequ…

Bosque El Imposible National Park

One of El Salvador's natural treasures is Bosque El Imposible National Park. Located in far western El Salvador, the Rainforest Alliance described the park this way:
Because of it size and biological diversity, Bosque El Imposible National Park is considered the most important natural area of El Salvador. Located in the department of Ahuachapan, El Imposible contains a highly threatened dry tropical forest that forms part of the coastal mountain range Apaneca-Ilmatepec. The 9,000 acre forest ranges from 900 feet to 4,300 feet above sea level and is home to the country's most crystalline water. Bosque El Imposible's unique topography lends a splendid beauty to this refuge. More than 500 species of birds live there, including the great curassow, king vulture and turquoised-browed motmot. Ocelots are also found in Bosque El Imposible. Traders from Guatemala used to travel to El Salvador's markets through this forest, carefully leading their mules through the steep "I…

Snapshots of Salvadoran life

I came across a blog entry today from a blogger doing interviews with the NGO Foundation for Self Sufficiency in Central America in El Salvador. Here is a sample:
One that made a huge impression on me Don Daniel is so humble, he is a grandfather, and his skin is a toasted caramel color from working in the fields his whole life. He was one of the most beautiful gardens I have seen from mango trees to fields of corn, ginger, mint, tomato, peppers, okra, chilies, cucumber….the chickens at his house and the cats and dogs all look healthy, a bit of a rarity in these parts. He always says I am not an educated man, I do not know about these things of the world, but I know about the earth, I know about how to grow things, and even though I am not educated I look around and I think this or that. He has such interesting perspectives on things. He tells us about how the mayors and district leaders who are with the FMLN do not get any money to run programs in their areas, but those who are part of…

Voting themselves a pay raise

The people of El Salvador don't have a very high opinion of the legislators in the National Assembly. In a 2006 poll, only 8% of Salvadorans indicated they had confidence in the National Assembly (but still better than the scant 5% who trust the political parties). That opinion is falling farther as the news came to light that deputies in the National Assembly had voted themselves a pay increase in the last budget without any discussion. The salary increases ranged from $1840 to $2920 per month. At a time when many Salvadoran families are struggling with an increasing cost of living, legislators who increase the minimum wage $5 per month and their own salaries $2000 per month should not be suprised at the outcry against them.

Threats to independent radio station

The owner and journalists of radio station Radio Cadena Mi Gente have reported receiving death threats since the beginning of the year. The radio station has headquarters in Virginia, and also broadcasts over the internet and on an AM station in El Salvador. The editorial stance of the station is often critical of the current government's policies. The threats have been denounced by the El Salvador journalists association, the human rights institute of University of Central America, and other civil society organizations.

Impunity violates human rights says Inter-American Court

The government of El Salvador has not fared well when its actions have been challenged in front of the human rights tribunals of the Organization of American States. This was brought home once again in last month's decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the Garcia-Prieto case.

An article by Raul Guttierez of IPS provides the background of the case:
On Jun. 10, 1994, García Prieto, his wife and their five-month-old son were intercepted by two masked men, one of whom shouted "We’ve come to kill you, son-of-a-bitch!" before hitting the businessman and shooting him at point-blank range, according to witness testimony.

Human rights organisations and the García Prieto family say the murder was linked to several killings carried out by death squads during that period against former commanders of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which had recently become a legal political party....

The plaintiffs in the case say the investigation int…

The failures of the Salvadoran judicial system

The Miami Herald runs a story today about the failure of Salvadoran courts to enforce a US court judgment against an influential Salvadoran family:
More than a year after a Miami judge ordered companies owned by one of El Salvador's wealthiest families to repay a loan of nearly $30 million, the judgment remains unpaid - buried in the bowels of El Salvador's supreme court.

Valat International Holdings Ltd., which owns the loan, is aggressively seeking its money from textile and telecommunications magnate Oscar Safie Zacarias and his family. Valat attorney Leoncio de la Pena says it is a test case to see whether El Salvador's business elites are above their country's law. A Safie first-cousin is that country's attorney general.

"The reason that the Salvadoran court isn't acting is because they are acting on the influence by Safie," de la Pena said. "You would assume a country that wants favorable trade with the U.S. would want to deal with this as qui…

Remittances continue growing

Remittances, the money sent home by Salvadorans working abroad, are perhaps the single biggest economic force in the country. The billions sent back in 2007 set another record :
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador. Money sent home by Salvadorans working abroad - mainly in the United States - rose to a record US$3.69 billion in 2007, about 6.5 percent more than in 2006, the government announced on Thursday.

Remittances rose by US$224 million, and now equal about 18 percent of the country's gross domestic product, El Salvador's central bank reported.

"The results on remittances were positive, when seen in the context of the U.S. economy, which is showing less growth," the Central Bank said in a statement.

Remittances are one of the main sources of income for this Central American nation, which uses the dollar as its national currency.

Start of a new school year

The new school year started this week and La Prensa has a photo gallery of images of kids and their teachers.

More 2009 political news

El Salvador's foreign minister, Francisco Laínez, resigned his post this week so that he could contend for the ARENA party nomination in El Salvador's 2009 presidential elections. As reported in El Faro, Lainez is only the latest of several ARENA party members interested in running for the presidency. Unlike the FMLN which moved quickly and with great unity to promote Mauricio Funes as its presidential candidate, ARENA's process has only been moving forward in fits and starts.

2009 also sees the election of mayors throughout the country. In San Salvador, the current mayor Violeta Menjivar is planning to seek reelection. ARENA candidates are lining up to run against her, perhaps motivated by the closeness of her initial election in 2006. The FMLN has held the mayor's office in the capital city continuously since the end of the civil war in 1992.

US lobbyist for El Salvador gold mines

This little news story says a lot about where power rests, when a Canadian gold mining company hires a Washington lobbying firm to lobby the US government concerning the Canadian firm's gold mining projects in El Salvador:
Gold mining company Pacific Rim Mining Corp. hired C&M Capitolink to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form.

The firm will lobby for informational meetings with Congress, the State Department and other agencies regarding the company's gold mining project in El Salvador, according to the form posted online Dec. 3 by the Senate's public records office.

Canada-based Pacific Rim acquired the El Salvador mining project in 2002 through the acquisition of another mining company.

Lobbyists are required to disclose activities that could influence members of the executive and legislative branches, under a federal law enacted in 1995. They must register with Congress within 45 days of being hired or engaging in lobbying.

BARACK O’FUNES: Will the FMLN’s candidate be a Salvadoran Obama?

Political analysis by: Carlos X. ColoradoThe rise (or fall) of Barack Obama’s presidential ambitions may have unexpected consequences in the other American hemisphere country fighting in the Iraq war.The selection of journalist Mauricio Funes to be the FMLN candidate in El Salvador raises interesting parallels between the two would-be presidents.Messrs. Obama and Funes are both in their 40s and their key appeal to voters is as intergenerational and bipartisan outsiders promising to reform their respective political systems.The question arises of whether, if Mr. Obama gets to Washington, Señor Funes can ride his coattails in San Salvador.An Obama presidency would eviscerate the principal argument being readied against Mr. Funes – that the 48 year-old is too inexperienced to be the Salvadoran president.That argument would seem almost laughable if Obama, who is two years younger than Funes, was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States (the Salvadoran election will take place t…

Violence in El Salvador as a new year starts

It has not been a promising start to the new year for the levels of murders and violence in El Salvador. Although the level of murders declined slightly in 2007 when compared to 2006 (but expect ARENA to take full credit for being on the "right path"), the newspapers have been filled with a round of killings in the country.

Last week five people were shot dead by unidentified attackers in the department of Santa Ana, in western El Salvador, police said. According to police, four adults and a 14-year-old boy were shot numerous times as they chatted late Sunday in front of the home of one of the victims in the town of Argentina. Preliminary investigations appeared to indicate that none of the victims had ties to criminal gangs, and the motives for the crimes remained unknown.

Police also said in a separate incident one 11-year-old boy was killed on the outskirts of the capital, San Salvador, as he amused himself in a playground with other children.

After a prominent gang chie…

Should fireworks be banned?

El Salvador's government is considering a ban on the production and sale of fireworks. There were a reported 140 people who had to be treated in hospitals for burns caused by fireworks between December 24 and January 1, down 30% from the year before. As a ban on the fireworks is considered, El Faro placed on its website a photo gallery of stark images of many victims.

An article in ContraPunto highlights the difficult decision. According to the article, there are at least 269 shops making fireworks throughout the country. The Association of Salvadoran Fireworks Producers estimates that some 400,000 persons in the country who receive some income from the production and sale of fireworks. In a country with a scarcity of jobs, eliminating an industry, even one with the dangers of fireworks, is not attractive.


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I'm back. A busy schedule at work kept me from posting recently, but I should be back to regular updates.

Top stories of 2007 from El Salvador

Here's my roundup of the top El Salvador stories of 2007:

Murder of Salvadoran deputies in Guatemala. On February 19, three Salvadoran deputies to the Central American parliament were murdered with their driver in Guatemala. High ranking Guatemalan police officers were arrested, but then murdered in an attack within a high security prison. The alleged mastermind, linked to organized crime and drug-trafficking, was finally arrested in January 2008, but many questions are still unanswered as we start 2008.

Mauricio Funes named the FMLN's candidate for president. Almost 18 months before the 2009 presidential election, the FMLN selected popular television personality Mauricio Funes as its candidate to replace Tony Saca. The move showed a pragmatism of the FMLN leadership who chose electability over hardline orthodoxy.

Inflation affects everyone. The pocketbook of the typical Salvadoran family was hard hit by inflation this year. Corn and bean prices were as much as doubled. …

Arrest of mastermind in politician murders in Guatemala

Ten months after the murder of three Salvadoran politicians in Guatemala, authorities in that country have arrested the alleged mastermind according to press reports:
Guatemalan police captured a man suspected of ordering the murder of three Salvadoran politicians last year, prosecutors said on Thursday.

Carlos Gutierrez, 34, was arrested near the border with El Salvador after investigators traced over 60 telephone calls between him and the suspected killers, public prosecutor Alvaro Matus told reporters.

The charred and bullet-riddled bodies of three Salvadoran members of the Central American parliament and their driver were found abandoned at the end of a dirt track last Feb. 19.

Days later, four Guatemalan policemen were arrested for the crime, tracked to the scene by a satellite positioning system in their car. The policemen were then murdered inside a maximum security prison.

Investigators had said they knew the identity of "Montana 3," a code name used by Gutierrez during h…