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Showing posts from November, 2008

The ongoing murder epidemic

On Tuesday, I pointed to a columnist writing about the need for prevention efforts to deal with Central America and El Salvador's high murder rates. The next day, a report was released by the Latin American Technological Information Network (RITLA), which gave the statistics for the murder rate among the population ages 15 - 24. As the BBC reports:
Latin America has the highest murder rates in the world for people aged between 15 and 24, according to a study by a Brazilian research group.

Using data from 83 countries, the group found that the probability of a young person being murdered in Latin America is 30 times higher than in Europe.

The grimmest figures are for El Salvador, where the murder rate among young people is 92 per 100,000 people.

A key factor there is the presence of violent youth gangs, the report says.

The study, called Map of Violence: The Young People of Latin America, was compiled by researchers at the Latin American Technological Information Network, Ritla.

The B…

Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias

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Happy Thanksgiving Day to all!

Crime and prevention

Andres Oppenheimer, the Miami Herald columnist who writes about Latin America, recently wrote about the crime problem in El Salvador and where the policies of El Salvador and the US should focus:
El Salvador's homicide rate of 68 killings a year per 100,000 inhabitants -- the world's highest after Iraq -- is followed within the region by Guatemala with 45 homicides, Colombia and Honduras with 43, and Venezuela with 41. By comparison, the U.S. homicide rate is 5.7 per 100,000 inhabitants, the study says.

And from what I heard from international experts and government officials during a visit here last week, a major increase in the number of U.S. deportations of undocumented migrants with criminal records is swelling the ranks of the unemployed in Central America, and further driving up crime rates.

''A friend of mine was robbed at gunpoint on a bus three times within one week,'' Acevedo told me. ``I've been luckier: I have only been robbed once, also at gunpoin…

Saca asks Salvadorans in US to stay there

El Salvador's president Tony Saca is touring the US asking Salvadorans to re-register for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS, granted by Congress to Salvadorans following the 2001 earthquakes and continuously extended since then, allows Salvadorans who were otherwise illegally in the US to remain and not be deported. From the (AP):
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- Salvadoran President Tony Saca will be traveling to the United States to urge Salvadoran immigrants there to reregister in a temporary visa program.

The Central American leader plans to visit Dallas, Houston and Los Angeles Dec. 6-9. Earlier this month, Saca visited Washington D.C. and New York's Long Island.

During his trip, Saca will ask some 240,000 Salvadorans to stay in the visa program created to help El Salvador after two deadly earthquakes in 2001. The U.S. government extended the program in September.

Salvadoran immigrants have until Dec. 30 to sign up for the extension, which allows them to stay in the United…

Murder of a clown

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My friend, the photographer Jesus Flores, recently wrote this tragic, ironic post in his blog about the murder of a clown in San Salvador:

This clown, 33 year old Geovanni Guzman, known as "Piecito", was shot 13 times in a place in the city center known as Parque San Jose, right in front of the old church there. I said to myself, "13 times, someone must have been really mad at this clown". And, I was correct. Witnesses told us that he was a robber and thief. Turns out, a number of the clowns that work on the public buses here are actually spotters for gangs, or else rob people when they get off. They come on the bus, do some schtick, see who has money or goods, and then call to the gang members. This clown was shot at about noon, three times in the face, and 10 times in the body.

Ouch.

As I left the scene, a group of what looked to be gangsters asked what I was doing. "Taking pictures of the dead clown" I said. They asked to see the photos, and as they were …

Eco-tourism for El Salvador

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Calling it "Central America’s most undiscovered ecotourism destination," an
article on the website of TerraCurve describes a new web portal for eco-tourism in El Salvador:
El Salvador is emerging, leaving its conflictual past behind and reinventing itself as an adventure and cultural destination. The Eco-Experiencias project is helping Salvadoran communities, workers cooperatives, NGOs, and private landowners to interpret themselves to create one of a kind, sustainable experiences that highlight unique cultural, natural and geographical qualities of the departments of Sonsonate and Ahuachapán.

EcoExperiencias El Salvador is the nation’s first international branding campaign to position El Salvador as an emerging, ecological destination.

The web portal is being developed in two phases. Phase 1, launched on November 13, 2008, presents an interpretive preview of western El Salvador’s four tourism destinations: the Route of the Flowers, the Western Pacific, Forests and Mangroves Re…

El Salvador broadcast stories

Two recent broadcast stories about El Salvador are worth watching or listening to. First is a news story from the English language version of the Al Jazeera network. The segment looks at the impact of the global economic crisis on El Salvador by focusing on the town of Intipuca, where remittances are an important part of the local economy (as is true everywhere in the country).

Second is a radio show on WAMU in Washington, D.C. This interview show focused on the 1989 murder of the Jesuit priests and the new attempt to try responsible parties in the Spanish courts. The guests were Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law and Director of War Crimes Research Office, American University, and Douglas Farah, former Washington Post Correspondent in El Salvador from 1987-1990.

Encouraging US government to encourage fair elections

Members of the US House of Representatives are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter urging US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to encourage El Salvador's government to take steps which would make possible free and fair elections in 2009. The SHARE Foundation and other organizations are urging interested US citizens to contact their representatives and ask them to sign on to this letter.

From the SHARE website, some of the talking points for contacting Congress would be:
With the upcoming Municipal, Legislative Assembly, and Presidential elections that will take place in El Salvador on January 18th and March 15th, 2009, I believe the United States can help ensure that the 2009 Salvadoran elections are free, fair, and conducted under the most transparent conditions.According to Salvadoran public opinion polls, 54.4% of the population has little or no faith in the 2009 electoral process, and 55% predict fraud in the upcoming elections.These will be the most fiercely cont…

Four years of blogging about El Salvador

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Tim's El Salvador Blog started four years ago today. Hopefully I've helped to make what's going on in El Salvador a little more accessible to English speakers. That's been my goal, and I would not have had the energy to keep up with the blog if it were not for the community of people who now participate in the comments or send me e-mail and let me know they appreciate the blog. So thanks to all of you (and feel free to let other people know about the blog as well).

19 years after Jesuit murders, current archbishop opposes Spanish probe

Today is the 19th anniversary of the assassination of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by Salvadoran armed forces. In his weekly press conference today, the archbishop of San Salvador, Fernando Saenz Lacalle,
opposed the efforts of human rights groups to prosecute military officers and former president Cristiani for the crime:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Salvador opposes reopening the prosecution of Salvadoran officials in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, the cleric said Sunday.

Human rights activists have pushed for a trial of a former president and 14 other Salvadoran officials in Spain, where five of the killed Jesuits were born.

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle called the killings at the height of the country's 1980-92 civil war "a frightful crime," but said he was sure that former President Alfredo Cristiani was not involved.

"Opening this case in another country's courts won't help …

TOHIL -- Music of El Salvador

A Salvadoran musical group which has been enjoyed by many who have visited the Lutheran churches in El Salvador is Tohil. This group plays a variety of Salvadoran folk music with a mix of traditional instruments. Now they have a website with full length versions of many of their songs as well as pictures from their recent tour through Germany. Enjoy!

Salvadoran court protects one of country's wealthiest citizens

I have written earlier about the case of Valat International Holding, which has been pursuing a judgment of $30 million rendered against on of the wealthiest families in El Salvador. Now the Miami Herald reports on a ruling in the Salvadoran courts which smacks of favoritism:
The Supreme Court of El Salvador has ruled that Oscar Antonio Safie Sacarias, one of the richest and most influential men in El Salvador, does not have to pay a $30 million judgment ordered by a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge.

The Salvadoran ruling also covers several of Safie's family members, and has been met by accusations of manipulation and favoritism.

In the United States, warrants have been issued for the arrest of Safie and the family members.

They are accused of being in contempt of the Miami-Dade court, and they could face perjury charges for saying they had no bank accounts in the United States, according to court documents obtained by El Nuevo Herald.

Safie is a Salvadoran media and textile mogul.

He o…

More information on Jesuits massacre case

The Center for Justice and Accountability, one of the human rights groups pursuing the action in Spain has now posted detailed information about the case, the defendants and the legal issues on its website. The CJA has successfully brought three other cases in the US courts against Salvadoran military officials for participation in the murder of archbishop Oscar Romero and other atrocities from the Salvadoran civil war.

News of the legal action in Spain was carried today by Reuters, CNN, New York Times, and the LA Times.

From the LA Times article:
Carlos Martin-Baro, brother of slain priest Ignacio Martin-Baro, said he hoped the pursuit of justice could help El Salvador emerge from its current "tragic and violent reality," which many people believe is a legacy of the war and its unresolved divisions. The tiny country remains badly polarized and awash in slayings, kidnappings and drugs.

"Amnesty laws in a given moment might be used to normalize civilian life, but they do…

Human rights groups start proceeding in Spain in Jesuit case

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November 16, 2008 will be the 19th anniversary of the assassination of the Jesuits, one of the most notorious crimes of El Salvador's civil war. In 1989, as FMLN guerillas were making an offensive into the heart of San Salvador, elite Salvadoran troops entered the University of Central America and killed six outspoken Jesuit priests: Ignacio Ellacuría, Rector of the University; Ignacio Martín-Baró, Vice-Rector; Segundo Montes, Director of the Human Rights Institute; and Amando López, Joaquín López y López and Juan Ramón Moreno, all teachers at UCA. In addition, the troops killed the Jesuits' housekeeper and her young daughter.

Today came the news that human rights advocates have brought suit in Spain against former Salvadoran president Alfredo Cristiani and 14 military officers for the Jesuits' murder. The Association for Human Rights of Spain, supported by the Center for Justice and Accountability based in San Francisco have filed the proceeding on behalf of Alicia Mart…

Evangelizing in El Salvador's prisons

My news searches on Google this week came across an interesting story titled American Evangelists Bring Hope to the Gang Prisons of El Salvador. It describes a Christian evangelism team who perform feats of strength and power while bringing a Gospel message to prison inmates. They've recently been touring the prisons of El Salvador:
The country of El Salvador has been ravaged by over 20 years of civil war and gang violence. The president of El Salvador, Antonio Saca, is searching for peace for his country. He personally invited the Central Oregon based Freedom Team to come and share their message of hope and love. In cooperation with General Prison Director Secretary, Rafael Enriques, from October 12 to October 29, 2008, the Freedom Team visited 12 federal prisons across El Salvador, performing feats of strength and sharing personal testimonies....

The President of El Salvador is hoping for such a change for his country. During the Freedom Team's visit to the federal prisons,…

Another close election possible for San Salvador's mayor

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In 2006, Violeta Menjivar narrowly won election as mayor of San Salvador, by a margin of 61 votes over the ARENA candidate. She is running again as the FMLN's candidate to run the country's largest city, but a recent poll shows that her prospects of being re-elected may be up in the air. The poll was conducted by the Technological University of El Salvador (UTEC) and released on October 28.



When asked if Menjivar should be re-elected, 56.5% said "no" and only 38.1% said "yes."



When asked who is best prepared to govern El Salvador, Menjivar and ARENA's candidate Norman Quijano, virtually tied in the poll results.



When asked which party they would support if the election of mayor took place today, 40.2 percent say they would vote for the FMLN candidate while only 33.3 percent would vote for the ARENA candidate.

In addition to Quijano and Menjivar, two other candidates have been nominated by their political parties, Celina de Monterrosa for FDR, and Gloria d…

Keeping priests out of politics

The Roman Catholic bishops of El Salvador have called for priests to keep politics out of their sermons. From the blog Clerical Whispers:
The Bishops’ Conference of El Salvador has called on priests and religious to foster harmony among all Salvadorans and to abstain “from all active participation in politics,” as elections in the country draw near.

In a statement, the bishops said that “because of her universality and catholicity, (the Church) cannot attach herself to historical contingencies.”

However, they also noted that as citizens, priests have the right to express a personal opinion and to exercise “in conscience” their right to vote.

The bishops urged Salvadorans to work for peace, unity and dialogue amidst the diversity of opinions in the country.

Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador explained during a press conference that the statement is intended to keep politics out of homilies, which are supposed to “convey the voice of God and the teaching of the Church and not…

What will Obama presidency mean for Latin America?

The website Just the Facts has collected the public statements of Barack Obama about his Latin America policy at this link. With the US focused on a financial crisis and two wars, it is doubtful that implementing these policies will occupy a very high position on Obama's list of tasks to accomplish at the beginning of his administration.

For a sense of current US aid policy towards El Salvador, you should also review the Just the Facts' compilation of excerpts from official descriptions of aid to El Salvador, which describes current projects including cultural exchanges, law enforcement collaboration on gangs and drugs, and implementation of the "Enduring Friendship maritime security program," among other things.

Funes congratulates Obama

Following the victory of Barack Obama in the election for president of the United States, Mauricio Funes issued a statement congratulating the president-elect. "These winds of change have begun to blow from the United States to refresh the global atmosphere, in need of more democracy and greater social justice. The Americans have not been afraid to choose change, as they have staked out the future and not the immobility of the past," said Funes.

Salvadoran youth members of the FMLN, gathered in Plaza Barrios, in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, to celebrate Obama's victory.

With Obama's triumph, it is worth revisiting the prescient post by our friend Carlos Colorado titled BARACK O’FUNES: Will the FMLN’s candidate be a Salvadoran Obama? which looks at the similarities between the candidates for change in the two countries.

Obama or McCain -- the Salvadoran view

In advance of tomorrow's US presidential election, some opinion polls have asked people in El Salvador and the rest of Latin America who they would prefer be elected president, John McCain or Barrack Obama.

The El Salvador Gringo points to Gallup polling showing a preference for Obama:
El Salvador has a pretty good feeling that whoever gets elected next year is going to have an impact on their country. In fact, 43% think that either Obama or McCain taking office will make a difference in El Salvador. Which do they prefer?

Gallup Polls has the answer. From May to September 2008 they conducted surveys in 70 countries to see who the world preferred to see elected into the Presidential office in the United States.

Despite the fact that they prefer Obama over McCain, the difference between the two candidates [in El Salvador] is one of the narrowest in all South American countries. Only 24% prefer Obama, while 14% would vote for McCain if they could. The other 63%? Undecided.
Also out are …

Día de los Difuntos

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Today, November 2, Salvadorans commemorated the Día de los Difuntos, the Day of the Deceased. Families go to cemeteries throughout the country, decorate grave sites with flowers and other decorations and have a picnic. You can view a photogallery from La Prensa Grafica.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, civil society groups and citizens held activities including a worship service and music to remember victims of the civil war at the Monument to Memory and Truth in Cuscatlan Park.

Competitors conspired to keep wheat prices high

During the past 18 months, Salvadorans have suffered from soarig prices for basic foodstuffs. In September, the Salvadoran authorities made it clear that not all of the price rise came from the forces of a "free market." The government has taken action against the two sellers of wheat flour in El Salvador who had conspired to divide up the market and not compete against each other.

In September, El Salvador's Superintendent of Competition announced
$4 million in fines against the companies MOLSA and HARISA. They were found guilty of entering into a conspiracy to divide the market 55% to one and 45% to the other in order to keep prices high:
The agreement between MOLSA and HARISA distorted the competitive conditions of the market for wheat flour and caused artificially high prices. Such circumstances affected in a negative manner the food situation of the population, principally in the lower income sectors, and the small, medium and large businesses that utilize wheat …

Summit focuses on economic crisis

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The Ibero-American summit of heads of state from Latin America, Spain and Portugal spent much of its time on the world economic crisis and its impact on the region. From news reports:
SAN SALVADOR (AFP) — Leaders from Spain, Portugal and Latin America on Friday called for an emergency world summit overseen by the United Nations to tackle the financial crisis, as recession fears rose.

Economic concerns dominated the 18th Ibero-American summit, which ended Friday in San Salvador.

A final statement called for participants to take steps to "urgently" organize an international summit on the crisis....

The leaders also signed agreements to fight poverty among young people, the main theme of the three-day summit before the crisis took over.

"Some 150 million youths will benefit from these policies," said President Antonio Saca of El Salvador at the summit's close...

The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) this week warned that the region woul…