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Showing posts from September, 2009

Funes approval rating highest in the Americas

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A collection of polling results assembled by the Mitofsky polling firm from countries in the Americas puts Mauricio Funes at the top when it comes to approval ratings. Funes scored an approval rating of 84% among the citizens of El Salvador, the highest of the 15 countries surveyed. Next highest was Lula of Brazil with an 81% approval rating. Barrack Obama was in the bottom half with an approval rating of 52%.




The opinion polls were taken during August and September 2009. Not included were Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Canada and Nicaragua. Nor was Honduras, in the midst of a military coup and power struggle, included.

Avoiding deportation back to gang violence

The Baltimore Sun has another story of a Salvadoran youth who fled to the US to escape the gangs of El Salvador and now seeks asylum in the US. The newspaper describes the legal fight waged by a lawyer in a prominent Baltimore firm providing pro bono representation to the 12 year old Salvadoran boy:
In general, asylum can be granted when someone has a well-founded fear of persecution for one of five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. The last category has been tried in gang cases, but the appeals board said those resisting gang pressure do not make up a social group.

[Lawyer] Chowdhury knew he had to thread the needle. Santos faced peril in El Salvador, the lawyer reasoned, not because he'd resisted the gang, but for a very basic reason: "Because he was his brother's brother." And a nuclear family has long been an accepted social group for asylum cases.

But as the asylum hearing approached, Chowdhury worried any ga…

Salvadoran leaders in US meet

Some 1.6 million people with their roots in El Salvador live in the US. The Washington Post describes a recent conference of Salvadoran American leaders who met to discuss how their various groups can work together in social and political spheres:
For nearly three decades Salvadoran immigrants have been among the nation's most organized newcomers, founding clubs to raise money for schools back home, establishing medical clinics for new arrivals and battling in Congress and courts to gain legal status for tens of thousands of political dissidents who fled persecution by the U.S.-backed government during El Salvador's civil war in the 1980s....

Among the clearest points of agreement was that Salvadoran Americans should insist that any legalization plan adopted by Congress allow about 200,000 Salvadoran illegal immigrants who were granted temporary legal status in the wake of a 2001 earthquake to be the first in line to become permanent legal residents.

Indeed, several participants…

El Salvador finally has new attorney general

Earlier this week, a new attorney general was finally sworn in for El Salvador. Romeo Barahona took the post after an agreement on his election was finally reached in the National Assembly. The position had been empty for 5 months since the prior Attorney General, Félix Garrid Safie, left office.

Election of an Attorney General requires a super majority in the National Assembly, so no candidate could get the post without the support of both ARENA and the FMLN. It took 5 months of negotiations before the two largest political parties finally agreed on Barahona.

The new Attorney General takes office at a difficult time. Corruption is high, murders go unsolved, and impunity is rampant. It's going to take more than a new person at the helm to change the institutions which make up El Salvador's legal system.

Funes address to United Nations

On Wednesday, El Salvador's president Mauricio Funes addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. The blog at Voices on the Border has a summary of the speech as well as a link to the full text in Spanish. The speech addressed El Salvador's accomplishments since Funes' inauguration and called for unity among various sectors and in the region.

Ousted president Zelaya returns to Honduras

In a dramatic development today, ousted Honduran president Manuel Zelaya secretly made his way back into Honduras where he could be found today at the embassy of Brazil. The Honduran government has demanded that Brazil turn him over since there were orders to arrest Zelaya if he ever came back into the country. Al Jazeera English network has a good video report of the day's events:
The ousted Honduran president has returned to his country nearly three months after being forced from power and into exile by a military-backed coup.

Manuel Zelaya took refuge at the Brazilian embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Monday, prompting Roberto Micheletti, the man who replaced him, to declare an overnight curfew and demand that Brazil hand him over.

Thousands of Zelaya supporters gathered outside the embassy as helicopters flew overhead and a small group of police stood nearby.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, called for dialogue between Zelaya and the de facto government and urge…

San Salvador -- cost of living

I'll let others interpret this information. A ranking of the cost of living in various cities around the world ranks San Salvador 242 out of 276 world cities for the cost of living. The survey indexes the cost of living for a typical expatriate from the US, with the index set so the cost of living in New York City = 100. In the index, the most expensive city was Tokyo with an index of 126.03 and the least expensive was Harare, Zimbabwe with an index of 17.12. San Salvador had a figure of 63.34, or 37% less than New York.

Necro- tourism in San Salvador

San Salvador has a new campaign to promote a famous cemetery as a tourism site. The cemetery "Los Ilustres" is the burial place of many prominent historical and cultural figures from El Salvador's past. The cemetery is filled with ornate and often grandiose tombs of famous Salvadorans and is located in the historic center of San Salvador. A recent press release from the Tourism Ministry described the promotion of the cemetery including nighttime tours of the tombs in a form of "necro-tourism."

You can do your own tour of the cemetery online. There is a multimedia presentation from EL Faro is here. Photographer Rene Aquiluz has a collection of photos from the cemetery here. Another photo gallery can be found at this link. You can also take a guided tour at the online forum Skyscraper City here.

Silva wins political asylum, still faces extradition to El Salvador

[This is a corrected version of my earlier blog post on this topic]

A story of corruption, drug-trafficking, bribery, international relations, murder and suicide is unfolding in El Salvador and the United States.

Carlos Roberto Silva Pereira was a fugitive from justice in El Salvador when he was arrested in southern California in October 2007. He had fled El Salvador where he faces corruption and money-laundering charges. Silva has been held by US authorities since that time and has not yet been extradited back to El Salvador. He has also allegedly been linked by Guatemalan authorities to the murder of three Salvadoran deputies to the Central American Parliament and their driver in February 2007.

A US immigration court has now apparently granted the political asyluym request of Silva who asserted that his prosecution in El Salvador was politically motivated. According to Inside Costa Rica:
Several Salvadorean sectors rejected on Friday the US [immigration court] decision to grant poli…

Making a free education freer

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For many Salvadoran families, although the government provides a free public education, the cost of schooling still keeps kids from class. This is so because schools require that students have school uniforms, shoes and school supplies. There may be additional cost if a student needs transportation to get to school.

The new FMLN administration in El Salvador is following through on a campaign promise to lower those costs. From an update from CISPES:
On August 24, Vice-President and Minister of Education Salvador Sanchez Cerén officially opened the bidding process for some 7 million yards of fabric for the production of school uniforms, as the first step towards implementation of President Mauricio Funes’ plan to distribute two school uniforms, one pair of shoes, and a set of school supplies to every public school student in the country. The program will not only benefit 1,360,000 students, but will also create jobs for small- and medium-sized Salvadoran businesses. Fabric will be p…

New York Times features El Salvador

With plenty of bad news coming out of El Salvador, it was nice to see the New York Times do a long story on tourism to El Salvador, focusing particularly on surfing. The article is titled: Surfers Are Here! El Salvador Sheds Its Image. Here is an excerpt:
On a trip to El Salvador in March with my husband and two friends, I encountered tiny, colorful inns overlooking the Pacific, friendly local surfers, fishermen trolling along mangrove-lined channels, and family-owned waterfront restaurants specializing in fresh ceviche and camarones a la plancha, or grilled giant shrimp. Adventure travel to the country is indeed just starting here. Surfers — always the first to sniff out an untrammeled destination — have begun to come in force, leaving newly built hostels, bars and cafes along the coast near the town of La Libertad, where many of the best point breaks are.

The fact that tourism is taking its time to develop is a chance to do it right, says Mr. Beers, who guides instructional tours her…

Suspects held in Poveda murder

Police in El Salvador have arrested suspects in the murder of documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda, including one who is a member of the National Police. AFP carried today's report of the arrests:
SAN SALVADOR — Four suspects, including a policeman, have been arrested over Franco-Spanish journalist Christian Poveda's murder in El Salvador, police said, indicating the killing was ordered by a jailed gang member.

"After an investigation, four people have been detained for involvement in the murder of Mr Poveda," assistant police director Mauricio Ramirez said.

Police described the four as a policeman and three members of Mara 18, the violent gang which Poveda meticulously chronicled for his 2008 film "La Vida Loca," about the heavily-tattooed gangsters who engaged in drug trafficking and extortion.

The film had already been released but was set for a wider European distribution on September 30.

Police and the prosecutor's office said Poveda's murder las…

Festival of the Lanterns

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September 7 is the eve of the feast day of the Virgin Mary's birth, and in Ahuachapan in western El Salvador, it is the Festival of the Lanterns (farolitos). The streets and public places of the city are filled with lanterns and memorials to the Virgin. Over the years the festival has grown beyond its religious roots and now includes showcases of artisan works and many food offerings.

A video taken yesterday and one taken last year show the lanterns lighting up the city and the celebration in the night streets.

Nejapa fireballs

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Monday, August 31, was the annual Day of the Fireballs in Nejapa, El Salvador. It is part of an annual tradition in the town of Nejapa, where men from opposing teams hurl flaming fuel-soaked rags at each other. The tradition dates back to 1917 when the villagers of Nejapa escaped unharmed from a volcanic eruption, and as a result, thanked their patron Saint Geronimo who, legend has it, fought the devil with fireballs. The BBC has a video here.

Photojournalist Poveda killed in El Salvador

The French photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda was shot dead in El Salvador yesterday. No motive for the crime is known. From AFP:
President Mauricio Funes said he was "dismayed" by the photographer and journalist's killing, which he "strongly condemned."

The Central American leader called on authorities to "conduct all necessary investigations so that those responsible are brought to justice". He called on the country to unite to "combat together" the scourge of violence hitting El Salvador.

Poveda, police say, was on his way back from filming in gang-controlled La Campanera, a poor suburb north of San Salvador.
Poveda's most recent work was the documentary La Vida Loca, an unflinching portrait of youths caught up in El Salvador's gang culture.




Movie trailer for La Vida Loca.

Gallery of images of Poveda.

Drug murders

Not all of the recent wave of murders in El Salvador is linked to gang activity. The trafficking of drugs through the country can also lead to violent deaths as this article in the Latin American Herald Tribune demonstrates:
A man suspected of being a drug trafficker and informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and two men accompanying him were gunned down by unidentified individuals, El Salvador’s National Civilian Police, or PNC, said Sunday.

Edwin Reynaldo Argueta was pulled out of a local nightspot where he and four friends – two of whom were also murdered – were enjoying themselves, a PNC spokesman said.

All the victims had gunshot wounds, the police spokesman said, adding that the other two men who had been with Argueta survived the attack.

The spokesman said that the case had been handed over to the Homicide Investigation Division.

The gunmen who killed the 37-year-old Argueta are linked to the Coyote cartel, which operates out of Guatemala and has connections with a …