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Showing posts from September, 2008

Is Funes' strength growing?

A new university-sponsored poll shows a much larger Funes lead than previous polls:
Public support for Mauricio Funes of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) is high in El Salvador, according to a poll by Universidad Francisco Gavidia. 47.4 per cent of respondents would vote for Funes in next year’s presidential election.

Rodrigo Ávila of the governing conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) is a distant second with 23.8 per cent. Less than five per cent of respondents would vote for other candidates, and roughly one-in-four are undecided.

The US sneezes and El Salvador catches a cold

The growing financial crisis in the US could have major negative ramifications for El Salvador. "We are in the presence of a big hurricane and we don't know whether it will grow to a Category 5 or whether it will end as just a tropical storm" said economic analyst Carlos Acevedo in La Prensa Grafica. As the banking and finance centers throughout the world are in turmoil, it is worth remembering that all the major banks in El Salvador are foreign-owned.

A direct effect of the economic slowdown in the US may be a decline in remittances from Salvadorans in the US back to their families. Statistics from the Central Reserve Bank of El Salvador are beginning to show remittances dropping off. Remittances have fallen for three straight months from the previous month, and remittances in August 2008 were lower ($305.7M versus $312.2M) then in August 2007. Since remittances make up more than a sixth of El Salvador's economy, any slowdown of remittances could be a problem f…

TPS extended again

The US Customs and Immigration Service announced that TPS -- Temporary Protected Status -- has been extended again for Salvadorans:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it will extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of El Salvador through Sep. 9, 2010. The extension will make those who have already been granted TPS eligible to reregister and maintain their status for an additional 18 months. There are approximately 229,000 nationals of El Salvador (and people having no nationality who last habitually resided in El Salvador) who are eligible for reregistration. TPS does not apply to Salvadoran nationals who entered the United States after Feb. 13, 2001.
The program is a humanitarian measure based on a policy decision not to return people to a country suffering from natural disasters. For Salvadorans, TPS only applies to Salvadorans in the US as of the time of the 2001 earthquakes who obtain the necessary registration. Th…

Organic farming in El Salvador

My friend Kelly Burns works with the SHARE Foundation in El Salvador and recently posted on her blog "Guacamole Chronicles" an essay she wrote about a project which SHARE helps support to teach Salvadoran farmers techniques of organic agriculture. Here's an excerpt:
Raul Morataya says he stopped using chemical fertilizers and insecticides five years ago when he began having liver problems attributed to his exposure to harmful chemicals. He said he tried growing the first year without anything and lost nearly his entire crop to worms. He started asking around and got some tips from different people on ways to grow naturally. He spent the previous day at a workshop on organic growing techniques. He says he’s excited about what he’s learned, but also feels encouraged that other people are out there doing the same thing. The group says that when they first started, people laughed at them. They didn’t believe you could grow crops without heavy-duty chemical pesticides and fer…

2009 Elections Blog

There is a new blog focused on monitoring the upcoming elections in El Salvador. Called the Free and Fair Elections in El Salvador Blog, the blog is following developments in the election races with links to both the Salvadoran press and other sources. So if you don't get enough coverage of the elections here, check this new blog out as well.

El Salvador's credit downgraded

US financial institutions were not the only entities getting downgraded by rating agencies last week. Standard & Poor's revised the credit outlook for El Salvador to "negative" from "stable" with an overall rating of BB+. A lower rating implies higher risk and makes it more expensive for a government to borrow funds from world financial markets.

According to the Reuters story:
S&P did say the rating, one notch below investment-grade, was supported by a stable monetary environment which benefited from dollarization in 2001. It also benefited from a track record of predictable, market-oriented policies that has created a favorable investment environment, sustained economic growth, and led to gradual debt reduction.

But the rating agency added that inefficient gains in productivity and rising inflation, peaking at 9.5 percent in 2008, undermine the country's competitiveness.

"Addressing these macroeconomic challenges will not be easy, given the nati…

El Salvador's star is rising in World Cup soccer

Fans of soccer across the world are starting to take notice of El Salvador's national team. After recent victories over Surinam and Haiti, the blue and white team is poised to advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying for 2010 in South Africa. As this article on the Bleacher Report website describes, much of the credit goes to Mexican coach Carlos de los Cobos:
Tiny El Salvador is now poised to make the final qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

At the head of this unexpected development is Mexican coach Carlos de los Cobos, a "homegrown" manager who found success at the helm of C.D. FAS, leading the club to two finals in 2006....

Working wonders with the country's confidence level so far, de los Cobos has deflected questions about eventually working with Mexico's national team by saying that he is "very happy in El Salvador, the people treat me so well here."

For a football-mad country starved of any real success for more than…

The Salvadoran Armed Forces and the elections

In its discourse leading towards the 2009 elections, ARENA has tried to suggest that the armed forces will (or at least "should") oppose a communist FMLN electoral victory. Recently, there was a march of retired veterans of the armed forces, sponsored and promoted by ARENA and the Rodrigo Avila campaign. As described on the Sister Cites web site:
The Association of Military Veterans (ASVEM), comprised of ex-military members from the Salvadoran Civil War, marched in San Salvador joined by Rodrigo Avila, the presidential candidate for the right wing party National Republican Alliance (ARENA). At the ASVEM meeting, Avila said that if the Mauricio Funes, the left wing presidential candidate from the Farabundi Marti Liberation Front (FMLN), wins the presidency, Funes will likely abolish the military, or overturn the 1993 Amnesty Law and bring the ex-military members to trial. He stated that if this were to happen, it would create social upheaval in the country. Mauricio Funes h…

El Salvador report card

Our friend and occasional guest blogger Carlos X provides today's post about the necessity to acknowledge that real progress has been made in El Salvador over the past 15 years, even if much is left to be done:


The Salvadoran government has published a celebratory summary of post-war gains entitled Una Historia de Progreso (“A History of Progress”). A version of the color pamphet is available online at http://www.casapres.gob.sv/especiales/analisis%20censos/acensos2007.pdf

The booklet contains a series of charts comparing the country conditions in 1992 and 2007 along various factors. Needless to say, the charts show a much improved situation. Nevertheless, many of the statistics reveal gaping challenges, which the government presents as astonishing “gains,” but as we look at them here, they can be seen as lingering failures.

Still, these statistics drop a major gauntlet before the Left, which deserves a serious answer. We can dissect and nitpick the statistics (hopefully, we do m…

El Salvador wins more airline maintenance work

I have written before about the sizable aircraft maintenance business in El Salvador. The leading company is Aeroman, which is 80% owned by ACTS, the aircraft maintenance arm of Air Canada. Formerly, Aeroman was owned by TACA, the Central American airline based in El Salvador. Operating out of El Salvador's international airport, Aeroman employs more than 1200 engineers and technicians.

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times published an article highlighting the growing trend of airlines outsourcing their maintenance work to Aeroman:
Aeroman performs a variety of maintenance tasks, including sprucing up cabins, upgrading electronic systems and performing the rigorous "nose-to-tail" checks required for all commercial aircraft by the FAA, typically every 12 to 18 months. The company serviced about 120 aircraft last year.

Located in a modern facility at El Salvador International Airport, about 30 miles south of the capital, San Salvador, Aeroman employs 1,300 workers.

Ent…

Live streaming TV from El Salvador

Two commercial television stations now make their programming available streaming live over the Internet. You can watch either Channel 12 or Channel 33. You'll need a high speed internet connection, and sometimes the video is a bit choppy, but generally the quality is pretty good.

Festival of Farolitos

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Laura V is a Peace Corps Volunteer in El Salvador and this week wrote in her blog about the festival of farolitos in Ahuachapan celebrated on September 7:
The English word for ¨farolitos¨ is ¨lanterns.¨ but farolitos is also used as the name of a celebration we have here, and only here, in the department of ahuachapán. in all of el salvador, only two towns have a farolitos celebration: ataco and ahuachapán. on september 7th of every year, in these two towns, people come from all over to hang their own farolitos in celebration of the virgen mary. la virgen de maria is the patron saint of both ataco and ahuachapán, and on september 7th, both towns are absolutely glowing.
Read the rest of her blog entry here including many pictures from this year's festival. To see more, you can also watch this video on YouTube.

Citizens of two countries

The Los Angeles Times has published a story about persons with dual citizenship, with a particular focus on Salvadorans who become US citizens but keep their citizenship back in El Salvador as well. The article starts with the story of one Southern Californian who has returned to El Salvador to enter local politics:
Salvador Gomez Gochez was 25 when he first came to Los Angeles with $3 in his pocket and painful memories of his Salvadoran homeland torn apart by repression and war.

Working his way up from a parking lot attendant to a manager, he learned English, bought a home, volunteered for a Salvadoran community organization and became a U.S. citizen, grateful to the country he says saved his life.

But Gomez Gochez, now 54, also retained his Salvadoran citizenship. Now, as a dual citizen, he has made the dramatic decision to return to his impoverished hometown in El Salvador and run for mayor after nearly three decades away. His hope: to revive his town's agricultural base with his…

Latest polls show FMLN strength

The latest poll by the daily paper El Mundo showed the FMLN with a measurable lead in the voting preferences of Salvadorans. The paper surveyed some 1258 Salvadorans in 58 municipalities across the country. In the race for president, the paper reported 33% planned to vote for the FMLN's Mauricio Funes while 22% planned to vote for Rodrigo Avila of ARENA with a third undecided.

In other results published in the paper, regarding the elections for deputies in the National Assembly, 37% said they would vote for the FMLN compared to only 20% for ARENA. A third of those polled were undecided.

Finally, the paper's polling figures in San Salvador also show the FMLN with the advantage in the campaign for mayor, with Violeta Menjivar likely to be re-elected.

Showing a high level of interest in the upcoming elections, 75% of Salvadorans interviewed plan to cast votes in the 2009 elections.

A poll published by the very conservative El Diario de Hoy in July, found that Funes only lead…

Elections update

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El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE for its initials in Spanish), opened the 2009 election process this week. The TSE officially set the dates of January 18, 2009 for elections of mayors and deputies to the National Assembly, and March 15, 2009 for the presidential election. Candidates for president can register between now and January 13, 2009. The TSE announced there would be no reforms in El Salvador's electoral system between now and the elections.

The TSE has been criticized by the FMLN for opening the election cycle without taking into account the outcome of the 2007 census. The FMLN believes the census will require reallocating deputies to the National Assembly with more deputies being allocated to the urban areas of San Salvador where the FMLN has greater strength.

Another criticism of the TSE has been a change to allow vote tally sheets to be submitted without a seal and signature from the local election officials. The FMLN introduced legislation to rep…

Mastermind of 2007 politician murders arrested

Manuel Castillo, the alleged "intellectual author" of the murder in February 2007 of 3 Salvadoran deputies to the Central American parliament as well as their driver, has been arrested.  The 2007 murders in Guatemala have been tied to narcotics trafficking. 

Castillo had been identified months ago for his role in the murders.   He was a deputy in the Guatemalan legislature and the elected mayor of the Guatemalan town of Jutiapa in a region police say is dominated by drug smugglers.

Although the supposed mastermind of the murders has been arrested, and much is known about how the murder took place, there are still many unanswered questions about the link between the Salvadoran politicians and the Guatemalan  criminal ring which wanted them dead.  The answers to those questions, if the answers ever come, will shed light on how pervasive the corrupting influence of drug money has become in El Salvador.   

FMLN reverses position on Amnesty Law

In 1993, the Salvadoran National Assembly passed an amnesty law which blocks the prosecution of persons for crimes committed during the civil war, including such high profile cases as the assassination of Oscar Romero, the murder of the Jesuits, and the massacre at El Mozote.  For years the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights has told El Salvador's governments that the law should be repealed to allow for justice in the situation of these crimes.  As recently as September 2007, the FMLN pushed legislation in the National Assembly to repeal the Amnesty Law.

As described in this article in El Faro, the FMLN has reversed itself.  The FMLN and its presidential candidate Mauricio Funes have now made it clear that they will take no steps to repeal the law.  As El Faro points out, the reasons given by Funes -- to avoid opening old wounds, and to have El Salvador look forward and not backward -- are the identical reasons given by presidents Tony Saca and Francisco Flores in explaining …

Pictures telling a thousand words

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A photo journalist in El Salvador who works under the pseudonym Jesus Flores has put a collection of his work up on the web. Called The Hidden El Salvador, the site presents dozens of sometimes dramatic and often emotional pictures of modern day El Salvador along with captions which provide the context of the scene.