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Showing posts from May, 2009

Funes testifies in trial of son's murderer

El Salvador's president-elect, Mauricio Funes, testified emotionally today in the trial for the murder of his son Alejandro in October 2007. The
BBC reports:
The president-elect of El Salvador has made an emotional statement at a trial for his son's murder in Paris.

"I am a man who is not seeking vengeance... only the truth," said Mauricio Funes. He wept in court.

Alejandro Funes, 27, a photography student in France, died in October 2007 from stab wounds on a pedestrian bridge near the Louvre Museum.

Mohamed Amor, the main suspect, has asked the family for forgiveness. The motive of the attack is unclear....

President-elect Funes's brother was shot dead at the beginning of El Salvador's civil war in 1980 and safety had been a factor in Alejandro leaving the country, plagued by gang violence, to study in France.

"We thought he would be safer here.. I would never have imagined that he would be beaten to death here," said Mr Funes, unable to stop himself fr…

A view from the left of Funes' victory

A video essay about Mauricio Funes' victory in El Salvador is worth watching as a discussion starter. The video states that the victory of Funes and the left should be "understood as the culmination of decades of struggle against neoliberal economics and government repression." The essay starts with the inspiration of Oscar Romero and continues to portray a fairly binary view of the good forces of the left struggling against the dark forces of ARENA on the right. Ultimately it is too simplistic, and loses credibility in places, such as when the narrator seems to imply that the murder of the son of Mauricio Funes in Paris was part of political violence in El Salvador.

El Salvador health statistics

The comments on my recent post about the Millennium Challenge Account spun off into questions about El Salvador's health care system. These questions are important as Mauricio Funes comes into office saying he is going to increase the amount of spending on healthcare, particularly for the poor and alter the way healthcare resources are distributed. To assist in the discussion, here are some of the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization:
StatisticEl SalvadorAmericas Avg.
% children dying before age 52.4%1.9%
Measles immunization 98%93%
Maternal mortality per 100,00017099
Access to improved drinking water84%94%
Access to improved sanitation86%87%

Life expectancy in El Salvador:
1990 - 58 years for men, 69 years for women
2000 - 67 years for men, 74 years for women
2007 - 68 years for men, 75 years for women

In 2007, the average life expectancy for men in the Americas was 73 years and 78 for women.

Health expenditures in El Salvador were 6.0% of gross domestic product in 20…

Millennium Challenge in El Salvador

During the presidency of Tony Saca, El Salvador qualified for more than $400 million from the US Millennium Challenge Account. The funds are designated for poverty reduction in the northern zone in the country. Probably the most prominent part of the Millennium Account project is a highway improvement project running east-west through that zone:
The overall project will be to rehabilitate, expand, rebuild and maintain 648km of highway, 331km of which correspond to the Longitudinal del Norte highway, which runs from the country's La Virgen border with Guatemala to its La Concepción border with Honduras, plus a total of 317km of intersecting routes.

The works will be funded with US$233mn of a US$461mn donation from the US Millennium Challenge Corporation, approved for the country in June 2006 to reduce poverty in the northern zone.
According to an article in the Nica Times, the Millennium project will continue in El Salvador under Funes:
The MCC compact with El Salvador focuses on ed…

Funes visits Chavez in Venezuela

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Mauricio Funes paid a courtesy call on Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela today. Chavez spoke of Funes' election as a victory for the Salvadoran people. Funes thanked Chavez for Venezuela's support of El Salvador. It's worth noting that Funes visited Brazil's president Lula, whom Funes regularly cites as a model, in the first week after his election, but is only now visiting Chavez, the iconoclastic left-wing leader of Venezuela.

UPDATE:

There is a fuller description of Funes' trip to Venezuela in English at this link.

Hillary coming to Funes inauguration

The US State Department has announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend the June 1 presidential inauguration of Mauricio Funes in San Salvador. Obviously her presence shows how silly were the right wing campaign ads which suggested that a Funes/FMLN victory would harm the country's relations with the US.

In case you were wondering, U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and Florida Governor Jeb Bush attended the 2004 inauguration of Tony Saca.

Awash in blood

An article from the Los Angeles Times titled El Salvador Grapples with Rising Bloodshed brings home graphically the toll of murderous violence that continues to wrack El Salvador:
Whoever is doing the killing, youths are disproportionately affected. Half of homicides last year were committed by people 18 to 30, according to the National Civil Police, and 70% of victims were between the ages of 15 and 39.

Nearly two decades after El Salvador's civil war, a new generation is experiencing what [Father Antonio] Rodriguez calls a naturalization of death. He says he's seen the change in his own spiritual evolution since arriving here from Spain in 2000.

"Death has become natural to me. Ten years ago, this kind of thing was an inconceivable scandal to me. Now I live with death in a very natural way. If it happens to me, imagine those born into this culture.

"Death made natural."
Through the end of April, 1395 Salvadorans had been murdered in 2009, an average of 12 per day.

The Challenges for Funes

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Mauricio Funes will take office on June 1 as El Salvador's first leftist president. His challenges will be many. An article from The Economist summarizes many of the challenges. Some of the challenges are political:


In the backroom bargaining that characterises Salvadoran politics, the support of the smaller parties is often won in exchange for high-profile positions on key congressional committees, or concessions on issues of particular interest to party leaders. In this manner, Mr Funes should be able to win sufficient support to pass some of his laws. Arena’s attitude, however, is likely to be one of non-co-operation with the new authorities. Without the support of Arena, the government will lack a two-thirds majority needed for certain reforms, and also to secure approval for budget financing from foreign sources, which raises the risk of fiscal and financing problems.

For Mr Funes, the relationship between his moderate government on the one hand, and the FMLN and its radica…

Study of the impact of DR-CAFTA on labor rights

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) has released a report on the impact of the DR-CAFTA trade agreement on the labor conditions in the Central American countries who are parties to the pact with the US. From the executive summary:
Despite the promises by the governments and U.S. funding, labor conditions in the DR-CAFTA countries have not improved and violations continue unabated. WOLA also finds that the governments are unable or unwilling to reform the labor legislation identified in the White Paper, and that the judicial systems continue to be inefficient and incapable of enforcing judgments.
The 28 page report reviews the DR-CAFTA countries in several areas, and finds little improvement. Although there are some promising initiatives in El Salvador and other countries, the larger dynamics affecting workers' rights have not yet moved significantly.

John Edwards in El Salvador

Former US Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards was in El Salvador this week with David Snell, the president of the Fuller Center for Housing. The Fuller Center has active projects to build housing for the poor in El Salvador. Snell is blogging about the trip:We’ve had a full week in two days. Senator Edwards is known here in El Salvador and so we’ve had meetings with some key government leaders—the Presidents of the Supreme Court and the Legislative Assembly among them. Last night we had dinner with members of the presidential transition team. Elections this spring turned the presidency over to the liberal FMLN party from the conservative ARENA and the new president takes office on June 1. ARENA has been in power for 20 years, so this is a significant change. We may be able to meet with the President-Elect later today.

In these meetings the Senator has been consistent with a couple of messages: we need to maximize the opportunity presented by new administrations in Washin…

A serious challenge

One of the most serious challenges facing El Salvador is from the organized drug trade. Its corrupting influence has proved irresistible to some within El Salvador's police as the online site Inside Costa Rica describes:
San Salvador - Salvadorian interim Attorney General Astor Escalante confirmed that the drug trade has penetrated top national police authorities, evidenced Saturday after a drug dealer was sent to prison.

There has been information for long time about those relations, but the recent capture of Reynerio Flores by INTERPOL in Honduras and his imprisonment in a maximum security penitentiary, prove the need to continue investigating.

The most important thing is that we are strengthening institutionality, and when we are provided with incriminating information we are severe in using the full weight of the law, said Escalante Saturday in La Prensa Grafica daily.

Interviewed on television, head of attorneys of the Unit against the Organized Crime Rodolfo Delgado said drug…

Fireflies on the Plantation

I came across a new blog based in El Salvador tonight. The Plantation Diaries is written by a blogger who goes by the name "La Finca," and she writes about her life managing a coffee plantation in El Salvador. The blog is well-written with some gorgeous photographs, like today's entry about fireflies:
The fireflies are out tonight for the first time. It is winter here in El Salvador, and I am used to seeing these masters of illumination in the summer when in the states. The Northern winds are gusting and they are helpless to control their flight as they get knocked about in the air. They have taken refuge on the ground and there are hundreds of twinkling lights. One could imagine the stars have come for a visit.
Read more here.

Latin Pulse features Salvadoran election outcome

Latin Pulse provides online bilingual video content with news and analysis from Latin America. Latin Pulse recently published on its website a 30 minute video titled "El Salvador's Historic Election.



Accompanying the longer video was a 10 minute interview with Mauricio Funes including English subtitles.

The Economy -- Funes meets with world bankers

Preparing to face the economic challeges confronting El Salvador, president-elect Mauricio Funes was meeting with world finance officials according to this report from Xinhua: MEXICO CITY, May 6 (Xinhua) -- El Salvador's President-elect Mauricio Funes began a two-day meeting with international financial institutions including the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday, according to news reaching here.

Funes told media in San Salvador that the meeting would be used to define 'counter-cyclical measures which must be put in place as soon as possible to face the crisis,' according to website El Salvador.com. He also said he may separately seek additional lending from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration.

El Salvador's exports have been falling at a rate of 11.7 percent and imports of intermediate goods have been falling at 25.7 percent due to the current world economic slowdown.

A big c…

US recession deals blow to El Salvador real estate

An article on the Global Property Guide describes how the financial crisis and its impact on Salvadorans abroad has prompted the real estate market in El Salvador to stall:
El Salvador experienced a property boom from early-2000s to mid-2008, benefitting from billions of dollars of remittances from US-based Salvadorians. But because of the US recession and credit crunch, El Salvador’s real estate market is now frozen.

Thirty per cent of construction firms’ activities have been paralyzed, due to limited bank loans for housing and other infrastructure projects, according to CASALCO (Camara Salvadoreña de la Industria de la Construccion or Salvadorian Construction Industry Chamber).(more)

Post-election politics

El Salvador's two sets of elections in January and March of this year proceed to a new legislature which commenced on Friday, May 1, and the inauguration of Mauricio Funes as president on June 1. El Salvador will be faced with divided government as political events last week illustrated.

Former president Alfredo Cristiani was named the new leader of ARENA. The party will look to the wealthy businessman and politician to restore its fortunes after its presidential election loss to Mauricio Funes and the FMLN. Cristiani was president of El Salvador from 1989-1994, and signed the 1992 Peace Accords which ended the civil war. Currently a court in Spain is considering the possibility that Cristiani should be tried for crimes against humanity arising out of the November 1989 murder of the Jesuits and his role in covering it up.

One of Cristiani's first acts as ARENA's new head was to throw the party's support behind the election of Ciro Cruz Zepeda, from the right-wing P…

Pacific Rim sues El Salvador for $77 million

Pacific Rim, the Canadian gold-mining company, filed an international arbitration against El Salvador under DR-CAFTA this week. The suit had been anticipated ever since the company served a preliminary notice of its intent to arbitrate last December.

A copy of Pac-Rim's arbitration demand is available at this link. Pac-Rim asserts that the government of El Salvador is in violation of Chapter 10 of DR-CAFTA, which provides protections to foreign firms investing in DR-CAFTA countries. As described in this blog several times before, Pac-Rim believes that El Salvador has arbitrarily and contrary to Salvadoran law, denied it permits to extract gold at its El Dorado mine.

The arbitration demand takes aim squarely at President Tony Saca as the person behind the denial of the mining permits. But since Saca will soon be leaving office, it will be new president Mauricio Funes who will have to deal with the arbitration demand during his term in office. Funes stated during the campaign t…

El Salvador and the H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu)

If you are coming to El Salvador on a flight from Mexico or the United States, where there are hundreds of confirmed cases of flu caused by the H1N1 virus, expect to be screened by Salvadoran health authorities. This video from La Prensa Grafica shows the masked and gloved health workers who are now present in Comalapa airport:



Yesterday El Salvador installed a thermographic camera to scan arriving passengers to determine if they have a fever:



Video.


According to LPG, the Health Ministry has identified 3 cases of suspected H1N1 flu in the country, among three youth who had just returned from Mexico. Specimens have been sent to the CDC in Atlanta to confirm the type of flu.

Tony Saca has declared a health emergency in the country to combat the possibility of the flu virus. El Salvador's health ministry has a web page devoted to "gripe porcina" at this link.