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Showing posts from December, 2008

What Salvadorans eat

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The online periodical El Faro provides great news coverage and analysis of El Salvador and just gave its website a facelift this week. This week's features included a photogallery illustrating what Salvadorans eat for lunch. Check it out.

Top ten religion stories in El Salvador for 2008

By Carlos X. Colorado

Pope Benedict XVI does not adhere to conventional practices regarding news cycles and so, with only three days left of the calendar year, he upset the tidy little applecart of what we thought were the top ten religious stories for 2008 from El Salvador. Rome’s naming of Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas as Archbishop of San Salvador also followed the Vatican tradition of raising eyebrows with the selection of a relative unknown to fill the most important position in the Salvadoran Church, rather than to give the post to a contender of high political profile (Rivera Damas in 1977, Rosa Chavez in 2008). The selection also echoes the Vatican’s willingness to go to relatively young man (Escobar is not yet 50; Luis Chavez y Gonzalez was not yet 40 when he was named last century!).

1. NEW ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR

Undisputedly the top religious story from El Salvador in 2008, the election of Msgr. José Luis Escobar Alas as Archbishop of San Salvador did not have time to reg…

No more children burned

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No more children burned, Don't buy fireworks.
Salvadoran bloggers have been promoting a campaign to stop the sale of fireworks and the resulting burns and injuries to children. Although the government has considered banning fireworks, the popular, but dangerous, tradition continues. Shooting off fireworks is a tradition on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Each year, photos of children and adults injured by fireworks, appear in the press, illustrating the tragedy.

Many Salvadoran bloggers have joined the campaign and are displaying the logo at the top of the post. I'm happy to add my name to the list. There is a partial list of participating bloggers at this post by Soy Salvadoreño.

San Salvador gets a new archbishop

The Vatican has named a new archbishop for San Salvador to replace the retiring Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle. He is José Luis Escobar Alas, the current bishop of San Vicente. The post of Archbishop of San Salvador is the head of the Roman Catholic church in San Salvador, and the holder of the post is influential in this country where the majority of the citizens are Roman Catholic.

The Bishop of San Vicente, Msgr. Jose Luis Escobar Alas, is only 49 years-old. He has had numerous administrative roles and was vicar general of the diocese of San Vicente before being bishop, and has experience as a seminary rector. He has studied in Mexico and at Rome’s Gregorian University, where Oscar Romero studied decades before.

More than two years ago, our friend Carlos X. Colorado prognosticated about possible successors to Saenz Lacalle, and listed Msgr. Escobar Alas as one of five possible candidates.

20,000 deported and 130,000 need to register for TPS

A total of 19,701 Salvadorans have been deported from the US during 2008 according to a report today in La Prensa Grafica. Of that total, 6212 were deported for having commited crimes including murder and robbery in the US, while the other 13,500 were deported for entering the US illegally. The total deportations are down slightly from 2007, but the number of persons with a criminal record is up.

Many Salvadorans arrive back in El Salvador courtesy of a one way flight operated by US ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). You can watch an ABC News video about the deportation airline run by the US government at this link.

Salvadoran authorities are concerned about the number of Salvadorans who have yet to re-enroll for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and might face deportation if they miss the deadline. Some 229,000 Salvadorans are eligible to stay in the US under the program, but as of this week only 90,000 migrants had re-enrolled before the end of the year deadline. On…

Feliz Navidad!

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With Christ, God has injected himself into history. With the birth of Christ, God’s reign is now inaugurated in human time. On this night, as every year for twenty centuries, we recall that God’s reign is now in this world and that Christ has inaugurated the fullness of time. His birth attests that God is now marching with us in history, that we do not go alone.

Humans long for peace, for justice, for a reign of divine law, for something holy, for what is far from earth’s realities. We can have such a hope, not because we ourselves are able to construct the realm of happiness that God’s holy words proclaim, but because the builder of a reign of justice, of love, and of peace is already in the midst of us.

Archbishop Oscar Romero
Christmas Day, 1977My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year for all the readers and friends of Tim's El Salvador Blog. May peace and justice flourish in 2009 in El Salvador and throughout the world!

El Salvador to withdraw troops from Iraq

President Tony Saca announced yesterday that the country's troops in Iraq will be withdrawn after the end of the year:
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- President Tony Saca announced Tuesday he will withdraw Salvadoran troops from Iraq after Dec. 31, pulling out the only remaining soldiers from Latin America.

Five of El Salvador's soldiers have been killed and more than 20 have been wounded since the country deployed troops there in 2003. It currently has 200 soldiers based near the southeastern Shiite city of Kut.

"We have fulfilled our mission with Iraq," Saca told reporters Tuesday in San Salvador....

In the five years that Salvadoran soldiers have been in Iraq, they have completed 350 health, education and infrastructure projects that benefited an estimated 7 million Iraqis.

"As president of this country and as the commanding officer of its armed forces, we should be happy with our participation in Iraq," Saca said. "We have helped rebuild a large part of th…

The Wall Street Journal's simplistic view of El Salvador

When it comes to El Salvador, Mary Anastasio O'Grady for the Wall Street Journal only knows a one note song. For the third time this year, she has written an editorial focusing on the treatment of the Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim by the ARENA government. This time she does it in the context of trying to explain the FMLN's lead in the race for president:
Wishes for peace on Earth are on the lips of the faithful throughout Latin America this week. But in El Salvador, these hopeful sentiments mask trepidation about what 2009 will bring.

The fears stem from the fact that the former guerrilla group Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation -- aka the FMLN -- is now leading in the opinion polls for the March 15 presidential elections. FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes is widely considered a moderate leftist. But other party honchos -- including vice-presidential candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén -- are of the more traditional (i.e., militant) FMLN variety. Many Salvadora…

Health alert for church mission trips to El Salvador

The Center for Disease Control in the US has issued a report concerning incidents of the disease histoplasmosis among church groups which had traveled to El Salvador on mission trips. Half of 33 travelers on recent church trips from Pennsylvania and Virginia studied by the CDC came down with the disease, and six required hospitalization. Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease found throughout the world and acquired from inhaling dust containing histoplasma capsulatum spores. The infection can cause a mild flulike illness and can result in loss of lung capacity.

The CDC had these cautions:
Persons in areas of endemic histoplasmosis who perform certain jobs or activities, such as construction and farming, are at risk for acquiring histoplasmosis (10). Travel clinics and organizers of group travel to areas of endemic histoplasmosis should be informed about the risk for histoplasmosis among travelers with potential exposure to H. capsulatum. Clinicians should consider a diagnosis of histoplas…

New IUDOP poll

A new poll from the Public Opinion Institute at the University of Central America in San Salvador (IUDOP) has been released. The poll shows the FMLN with a signficant lead in all categories for the upcoming 2009 elections, including a 16 point lead in the race for president.
PartyMayorsDeputiesPresident
None4.3%4.8%4.2%
FMLN34.6%40.5%44.2%
ARENA27.1%25.3%28%
PCN8.3%4.3%1.1%
PDC6.2%3.7%0.8%
CD0.2%0.2%

FDR0.2%0.3%

Don't know/
Won't say19%20.8%21.6%

Other results of interest from the poll:
50% of those polled have little or no confidence in the upcoming elections.

62% believe the economic condition of the country worsened in the past year.

80% believe the cost of living increased a lot during 2008.

62% agree with the statement - "if ARENA wins the next elections, the rich will be richer and the poor will be poorer."

63% disagree that an FMLN win will negatively impact relations with the US

In the race for mayor of San Salvador, Violeta Menjivar of the FMLN leads Norman Quijano of AREN…

Armed groups

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There is a new issue leading the ARENA government and its allies in the big media outlets to suggest the population should fear the FMLN. Government officials have recently asserted that 40 "armed groups" are organized throughout the country, particularly in areas which had been controlled by the FMLN guerrillas during the civil war. The controversy erupted with the December 14 edition of the right-wing newspaper El Diario de Hoy which ran a cover story with the headline "FMLN sponsors armed groups"


The article quoted government officials asserting that there were 40 armed groups in the areas which were controlled by the FMLN during the civil war. It asserted that the armed groups were being trained to use AK-47s and other weapons. The article included photos which appear to show a uniformed group of approximately 15 uniformed individuals, holding weapons in formation before a platform where FMLN officials sat. The paper stated that the picture was taken on O…

US Ambassador to change with administration

As of January 20, 2009, when Barack Obama is sworn in as president of the US, there will be a change at the head of the US Embassy in El Salvador. As described in this story in the Washington Post, the incoming president has asked the State Department to notify all ambassadors who are political appointments that their terms will not be extended past the end of the Bush administration. Charles Glazer, the current ambassador to El Salvador, was not a career diplomat, but was a businessman and prominent Republican fundraiser.

According to this report in El Faro, until a new ambassador is confirmed, the embassy will be lead by current Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Blau.
El Faro also had this comment:
Different from early administrations with respect to the electoral situation, Glazer took care not to make public comments that had the potential of influencing the decision of Salvadorans about which party or presidential candidate they would come together to support in the elections. Far…

Salvadoran woman dies in Kentucky jail awaiting deportation

A funeral was held on December 10 for Ana Romero, a Salvadoran woman being held in a county jail in Kentucky prior to being deported back to El Salvador. Her apparent suicide after being held for months in Kentucky jails has raised questions for some about the detention of illegal immigrants in local jails prior to deportation by ICE.

An article on Kentucky.com describes the background of Ana Romero's death:
Romero, who came to Kentucky from El Salvador three years ago, was arrested Jan. 14 by state police after giving federal immigration officials a false identification card. Aguilar said officers were looking for another suspect when they knocked on Romero's door.

As a result of the January charges, Romero spent five months in the Shelby County jail and was transferred to the Franklin County Regional Jail in May, where she stayed the last four months. Romero entered a guilty plea Aug. 7. She was required to pay a $100 fine, but she did not receive additional jail time.

Family m…

The World Bank and food security

A recent article in the Business Standard harshly criticizes World Bank policies for decreasing the food security of developing nations around the world. The article uses El Salvador as a case study of the World Bank's impact:
Inside and out, the rusted towers of El Salvador’s biggest grain silo show how the World Bank helped push developing countries into the global food crisis.

Inside, the silo, which once held thousands of tons of beans and cereals, is now empty. It was abandoned in 1991, after the bank told Salvadoran leaders to privatise grain storage, import staples such as corn and rice, and export crops including cocoa, coffee and palm oil.

Outside, where Rosa Maria Chavez’s food stand is propped against a tower wall, price increases for basic grains this year whittled business down to 16 customers a day from 80.

“It’s a monument to the mess we are in now,” says Chavez, 63.

About 40 million people joined the ranks of the undernourished this year, bringing the estimate of the w…

El Salvador to abandon dollar?

For years, significant majorities of Salvadorans have believed that the switch from the Salvadoran colón to the US dollar as the country's national currency caused prices to rise and was otherwise bad for the economy. The FMLN opposed dollarization from the start, although Mauricio Funes has said that he would not return to the colón. Figuring out the net impact of dollarization is frankly not an easy task.

Now it is possible that El Salvador may be on a path to abandon the dollar, but not to return to the colón. Last week presidents of Central American countries met and agreed to combat the current global financial crisis through regional integration including the adoption of a common currency and common passport.

Excellent article on leftist politics in El Salvador

I want to point all the readers of this blog to an excellent article by Jacob Wheeler of In These Times titled El Salvador’s New Left. The article takes a look at the changes in the FMLN reflected in the presidential campaign of Mauricio Funes. The Frente now encompasses both an old guard for whom the rhetoric of death to capitalism comes easily and a presidential campaign with a platform of social democratic policies. As Wheeler writes, "El Salvador remains a country living in the past and present — divided by ideological lines, between left and right, and with many of the same faces from the civil war, shouting toward anyone who will listen. Whether Mauricio Funes will bridge that divide — or disappear into it — remains an open question."

New poll gives Funes solid lead

The publication of a new poll shows that Mauricio Funes continues to enjoy a healthy lead over Rodrigo Avila as El Salvador heads towards presidential elections in March 2009:
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Former broadcast journalist Mauricio Funes is widening his advantage over his strongest opponent ahead of next year’s presidential election in El Salvador, according to a poll by CID-Gallup. 44 per cent of respondents would back Funes of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in the 2009 ballot, up four points since August.

Rodrigo Ávila of the governing conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) is second with 31 per cent. A quarter of respondents remain undecided.

Gold mining company intends to bring claim against El Salvador

The Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim today filed a notice of intent to bring an arbitration claim under the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) against the government of El Salvador for the government's failure to grant Pacific Rim the permits necessary to proceed with its planned gold mine. The filing was announced in a company press release issued today.

In addition to issuing the press release, Tom Shrake, Pac-Rim's CEO, held a conference call with stock analysts today to explain the decision to commence the arbitration prcoess. The directions for listening to a recording of the call are in the press release.

During the call, Shrake stated that the arbitration claim would seek to recover Pac-Rim's investments in the country and "hundreds of millions of dollars in damages." According to Shrake, the local population and political leaders are in favor of the development of the mine, but the current national government was unexplainably unwil…

Deporting family members

I attended a forum today on US immigration policy which included several personal narratives of the effect on families when US authorities seize a family member and deport him or her. US immigration laws are very mechanical -- compassion and appeals to a sense of fairness are not legal arguments to be allowed to remain in the country. It's a situation which many Salvadoran families with relatives working in the US have to face often.

The forum reminded me of the importance to listen to the stories of immigrants and not just focus on numbers and statistics about the flow of persons across borders. In one such story, published this week on the New America Media website, called How is Deporting My Brother a Solution to Gang Violence?, the son of Salvadoran migrants describes the impact of having his gang member brother deported back to El Salvador:
OAKLAND – Today, my step-brother Frank, 23, was deported back to El Salvador. The thing I remember most about him is seeing him laugh. H…

The other candidates

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Despite the space given to covering ARENA and the FMLN in El Salvador's presidential election, there are two other candidates running for president under the banner of two of El Salvador's smaller political parties.

Carlos Rivas Zamora is the candidate of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). Zamora was the popular mayor of San Salvador from 2003-2006. Zamora quit the FMLN in 2005 in disputes with the hard-line leadership of the FMLN. He ran as a center-left coalition candidate for mayor in 2006 against Violeta Menjivar, and his candidacy almost cost the FMLN the election. Zamora follows the path of Hector Silva, another former mayor of San Salvador kicked out of the FMLN in a dispute with hard-liners, who ran as a center-left candidate for president in 2004, losing to Tony Saca.

Jose Tomas Chevez is the candidate of the Party of National Conciliation (PCN). He is a banker and a pastor at the enormous evangelical ELIM church in San Salvador. I am unaware of prior politi…

Election News Update

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My friends at the SHARE Foundation published this El Salvador Elections Update, and graciously agreed to let me republish it here.


OFFICIAL CAMPAIGN SEASON STARTSCampaigning "Officially" Starts for the 2009 Salvadoran ElectionsThe official "campaign" period started November 14, 2008 for the Presidential election and on November 17, 2008 for the Legislative Assembly elections. The Salvadoran Constitution provides that presidential election campaigns should last only four months, and parliamentary election campaigns should last only two months, while municipal campaigns should last only 30 days. According to political analyst Napoleón Campos, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has permitted "proselytism" by political parties for the past two years, which constitutes a violation of the Salvadoran Electoral Code. The two principal political parties initiated their campaigns a year ago, which served as an excuse for the TSE not to exercise its authority ov…

HIV/AIDS and El Salvador

December 1 is World AIDS Day, and so it is worth looking at the situation relating to HIV/AIDS in El Salvador. A recent USAID profile provides an overview of the prevalence of the disease and efforts to combat it.
HIV and AIDS Estimates

Total Population 5.9 million (mid-2007)

Estimated Population Living with HIV/AIDS 36,000 [22,000-72,000]

Adult HIV Prevalence 0.9%

HIV Prevalence in Most-At-Risk Populations
Sex Workers: 3% (2007)
(16% of sex workers in Puerto de Acajutla, 2006)
Homosexual males: 17.8% (2006)

Percentage of HIV-Infected People Who Need Treatment That Receive ART 39% (end 2006)
While these statistics classify El Salvador as a "low-HIV prevalance country," there are some factors which create the risk that the danger could grow:
Factors that put El Salvador at risk of a larger epidemic include early initiation of sex, limited knowledge or practice of preventive practices among people engaging in high-risk behaviors, and the coun…