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Showing posts from February, 2009

2008 Human Rights Report for El Salvador

This week the US State Department released its annual human rights reports concerning the record of the countries of the world in protecting the human rights of their citizens. The 2008 Human Rights Report for El Salvador is not much changed from the past few years. The report summarizes:Although the government generally respected the rights of its citizens, protection of human rights was undermined by widespread violent crime, including gang-related violence, high levels of impunity from prosecution, and judicial corruption. Other significant human rights problems included harsh, violent, and overcrowded prison conditions; lengthy pretrial detention; violence and discrimination against women; abuses against children, child labor, and forced child prostitution; trafficking in persons; and inadequate enforcement of labor rights.
The report's harshest critique applies to the ineffective criminal justice system in the country:
Although the constitution provides for an independent ju…

Yet more on the presidential elections

A collection of links to yet more information and news leading up to the elections which are little more than two weeks away.
US groups urge their government to affirm neutrality on political process. There is a current campaign including a letter in Congress urging the Obama administration to state expressly that it respects the Salvadoran democratic process and that Salvadorans would not be deported depending on the outcome of the election.

Political party platforms. SHARE Foundation provides English language summary of the ARENA and FMLN election platforms which you can read here.

National Public Radio story. NPR broadcast a story on El Salvador's elections titled Leftist On Track For Historic Triumph In El Salvador

Study shows spending on political advertising. No surprise that ARENA leads in the amount spent.

Yet another poll. La Prensa Grafica released its presidential poll results today showing Funes with a slim 30.9% to 28.0% lead.

An example of a current ARENA campaign …

So many polls, so little consistency

Here are the most recent public opinion poll results for El Salvador's upcoming presidential election. All these results were released in the last two days:

Borge y Asociados - El Diario de Hoy

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 40.9%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 40.0%

CIOPS - UTEC

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 48.9%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 50.5%

CID-Gallup

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 36%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 42%

Universidad Gavidia

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 36%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 42%

IUDOP - UCA

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 31%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 49%

In addition, two polls from last week:

Jabes - Diario El Mundo

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 40%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 37%

CS-SONDEA

Rodrigo Ávila - Arena: 30.1%
Mauricio Funes - FMLN: 41.3%


Thanks to Solava for his help on this post.

What El Salvador has to offer tourists

An article by Ben Brazil in Sunday's Washington Post titled A Little Risk, Stunning Reward in El Salvador sings the praises of El Salvador as a tourist destination. Most readers of this blog will already know about the sights and locations described in this article, but send it on to someone who does not yet know about what El Salvador has to offer. The article also has a candid discussion about how tourists should think about crime in El Salvador.

Brazil starts the article out:
I want to tell you about climbing a volcano in El Salvador. More specifically, I want to tell you about this one particular volcano, a perfect cone called Izalco, which rises above green fields of corn and coffee looking dark and primeval and slightly otherworldly. I want to tell you how, in the crater, you can stand among fumaroles that surround you with steam, and how it feels like a natural sauna in the clouds. But before I tell you about all that, I must confess to breaking one of my personal rules of …

Ex-Salvadoran general accused of immigration fraud

Yesterday the US brought felony immigration fraud charges against retired Salvadoran general Jose Guillermo Garcia. Garcia was a defendant in one of the most watched cases seeking to have Salvadoran military leaders held accountable for torture and human rights abuses during the civil war, Arce v. Garcia, often known simply as the case of the Salvadoran generals. In 2002 a jury awarded $54.6 million in damages to three victims of torture during the civil war in El Salvador. The federal jury in Miami found that Gens. Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova and Jose Guillermo Garcia ignored massacres and other acts of brutality against civilians during the war.

This week's charges do not directly have anything to do with the civil torture verdict. According to the charges, Garcia falsely told Salvadoran officials he had lost his passport and requested a replacement. Actually, the passport had been seized by U.S. authorities, the indictment states. Nonetheless, the Center for Justice and Acco…

Participation of women in Salvadoran politics

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The sociology and political sciences department of the University of Central America has taken a look at the participation of women in the recently held elections for mayor and deputies to the National Assembly.

Of the 1147 persons running for mayor in municipalities across El Salvador, only 115 (11.5%) were women. A scant 29 of those women won their elections in the 262 municipalities in the country.

Of 427 persons nominated by political parties for the National Assembly, only 103 (24.1%) were women. The elections resulted in women being 16 of the 84 deputies.

The graphic below shows the relative percentages of men(green) and women (blue) as legislators and mayors after the elections:



As the article points out, "the data demonstrate that there is no equality of conditions for the participation of women in politics and that inside the parties little has been done so that women can have realistic possiblities of being elected."

Three weeks to go

Three weeks are left before El Salvador's potentially historic presidential election. The country is in the midst of an election campaign fought out on the airwaves, at rallies, on the internet, in billboards and newspapers.

This week's poll results came from CS-SONDEA which gave Mauricio Funes an 11 point lead, 41.3% to 30.1%. I don't know anything about CS-SONDEA so I can't comment on its reliability as a polling organization, but my own sense is that the election is closer than this poll would indicate.

Those CS-SONDEA poll results suggest almost 30% of the voters are undecided. I doubt that as well, but I do wonder if there will be higher turnout for the presidential election than in January. Turnout for the January election of mayors and legislators totaled 54%. That turnout was lower than seemed to be the level of interest in the opinion polls leading up to the election. It is possible that people were not energized to vote for mayors and legislators, but a pre…

ICE Air

A news outlet in San Antonio Texas has posted a lengthy story and a video about the ICE Air -- the regular air flights by US immigration authorities deporting Salvadorans and others in the country illegally. The story is similar to one run by the LA Times a year ago

Oxfam issues report on mining in Central America

Oxfam America issued a report today titled Metals, mining, and sustainable development in Central America. From Oxfam's press release announcing the publication of the report:
[H]igh gold and minerals prices in recent years have renewed mining companies' interest in Central American metals. The Oxfam report pays special attention to Pacific Rim Mining Corporation's El Dorado Mine in El Salvador, Goldcorp Inc.'s Marlin Mine in Guatemala, and Goldcorp's San Martin Mine in Honduras.

While mining companies and the governments that support new mining proposals have emphasized the benefits of mining, organized sectors of civil society are more concerned with the long-term costs. And there is a growing awareness of the decision-making role of communities near these projects.

"Mining companies must respect local communities' right to free, prior, and informed consent," said Offenheiser. "If they do not, a mining' project's costs will likely outweig…

Salvadoran expats' role in the elections

The New York Times published a story on Friday about how Salvadorans living in the US get involved in the elections in their home country. After noting that both FMLN and ARENA supporters have campaigned in the US, the article explains why:
While Salvadorans who remain here can’t vote in their native country, they can call relatives and press them to vote for a favored candidate. That is what they are doing, Salvadorans here say, and perhaps the reason they do so with urgency and ardor is that homeland politics is not just a matter of sporting interest.

One of the major concerns among many Salvadorans in the United States is that the money they send home — $3.8 billion in 2008 — no longer goes as far because of inflation in El Salvador, which the C.I.A.’s World Factbook put at 8 percent for 2008. They worry about the declining earnings of Salvadoran farmers because of continental trade agreements, about distances relatives have to travel for clean water, about endemic corruption.

“The…

A New Archbishop

Guest post by Carlos X. Colorado

The new Archbishop of San Salvador, Msgr. Jose Luis Escobar Alas took possession of his archdiocese in a solemn ceremony at the San Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral, attended by cardinals and government officials, including the outgoing ARENA President of El Salvador and the outgoing FMLN mayor of San Salvador, who took turns reading from Scripture at the ceremony. The 49 year-old new archbishop offered a striking contrast both in style and in substance to the man he is replacing, the 75 year-old Msgr. Fernando Saenz Lacalle.

Where Saenz’ homilies were typically light fare, Escobar’s inaugural homily was methodical and thoughtful, striking many notes that should be music to the ears of San Salvador clergy and lay activists, many of whom have grown weary of Saenz. Most dramatically, Escobar reiterated off the bat that he remains opposed to gold mining in El Salvador for the foreseeable future. Appearing to close off any possibility of reconsidering or r…

Rodrigo Avila refuses to debate

Televised debates of presidential candidates happen in the US and elsewhere, but they won't happen in El Salvador this year. CNN en espanol, the international Spanish-language news channel, invited the Salvadoran presidential candidates to debate. Mauricio Funes (and the minor party candidates before ending their campaigns) agreed to debate, but Rodrigo Avila of ARENA has refused to participate. A statement from CNN, reprinted on the website of friends of Mauricio Funes, expressed regret that Avila was unwilling to share his views face-to-face.

For part of his time as a television journalist, Funes did work for CNN en espanol, but the network asserted that would not impact the impartiality of the debate forum. Much more likely, Avila knows he would not stand up well to the debating skills of Funes, honed over years on his daily interview show.

Salvadoran national team continues World Cup quest

Yesterday saw El Salvador's first match in the "hexagonal" qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup. The top 3 of 6 soccer teams in this round will qualify to play in the World Cup next year in South Africa. Playing at their home Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, the team in blue played to a 2-2 tie against the team from Trinidad and Tobago. The other teams in the hexagonal round are the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras. Prior to the game, President Tony Saca promised the team $10,000 for each goal it scored.

New perspective on politics

The blog at the NGO Voices on the Border has recently published some interesting posts on the political situation in El Salvador. Most recently, a post titled A Shift Towards the Center? looked at recent public opinion polls reported in Salvadoran papers to see a possible trend of the population moving towards the political center, while at the same time becoming less partisan or more apathetic.

Singing the praises of Juayúa

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In his blog, the El Salvador Gringo has recently had a series of posts about the town of Juayúa, located in the mountains in Sonsonante Department. One of his posts describes the weekend food festival in Juayua:
The whole town gathers in town square for the event and food is served and eaten at plastic tables and chairs under the shade of multi-colored canopies and trees. Dozens of food vendors set up along one side of the plaza and people line up at individual tents to sample their fares....

The prices are great! Many without established favorites like to sample a variety of items from a number of tents. The aroma of all the delicious food and coffee is amazing! Try the Riguas de Coco… a cornmeal and coconut mixture cooked in the leaf, then fried on the grill and finally topped with a perfectly sweet coconut sauce. I would stay away from the grilled frogs… but that might just be a personal preference. The elote loco is a little crazy… hence the name… but it’s worth a try: boiled corn,…

No more troops from El Salvador in Iraq

The last of El Salvador's troops in Iraq supporting the US coalition returned Saturday:SAN SALVADOR (AFP) — The last 200 Salvadoran soldiers deployed to Iraq as part of former US president George W. Bush's "coalition of the willing" returned home Saturday, ending that country's five-and-a-half-year commitment.

Soldiers from the Cuscatlan battalion arrived at the Comalapa air force base southeast of San Salvador and waved Salvadoran and Iraqi flags as they boarded trucks bound for the capital.

The trucks first stopped at a statue of Jesus Christ, at the entrance to the city, where a military bishop held a thanksgiving mass.

"It was an enormous experience ... working shoulder to shoulder with other countries toward one objective: stability and peace in Iraq," battalion commander Cesar Acosta told AFP.

Five Salvadoran soldiers were killed and 20 wounded during their time in Iraq.

Stationed in Al Kut, on the Tigris River near the Iranian border, the Salvadoran c…

Christian Democrats and PCN drop out of presidential race

At the beginning of this week, there were four candidates for president of El Salvador to be elected on March 15. Now there are only two:
The National Conciliation Party [PCN] announced it was leaving the race for lack of funds and expelled its candidate for refusing to abide by the decision. The candidate for another small conservative party, the Christian Democrats, dropped out of the race earlier this week.

Since dropping out, neither party has taken sides in the race, although many Salvadorans believe a deal was struck with Arena for their departure. “I have no doubt that this is because of some request from Arena,” said Roberto Rubio, a political analyst and director of the National Foundation for Development.
There was no doubt that a deal had been cut in the mind of Ernesto Rivas, who called the PCN, the "most prostituted" party in the history of the country. Regardless of the underlying reasons, the departure of the PCN and Christian Democrats from the races, leaves…

National Catholic Reporter story on recent elections

The National Catholic Reporter has published an article titled Elections in El Salvador yield ambiguous results in its most current issue. The article has a number of quotes from the reporter's interview of me, but also does a good job of summarizing many of the results and the open questions produced by the January elections.