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Showing posts from October, 2009

Deal reached in Honduras

A negotiated solution to the crisis in Honduras appears to have been reached. Ousted president Zelaya and the de facto government will form a power-sharing government and respect the outcome of the upcoming November presidential election according to this report from the BBC. The Honduran Congress must approve the deal.

The consitutional crisis began in Honduras on June 28 of this year, when democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya was forced out of the country by the Honduran military. In September, Zelaya snuck back into the country and has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy ever since then. The period since Zelaya's ouster has been marked by significant protests by citizen groups and repression by the de facto government.

More comments on violence amd the military

A collection of statements about violence in El Salvador and whether there should be a role for the military in patrolling the streets:

[S]even member organizations of the Central American Coalition for the Prevention of Juvenile Violence issued a communiqué rejecting the participation of the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES) in public security functions.In the statement, institutions such as the Centeral American University Human Rights Institute (IDHUCA) and the Center for Orientation Training, among others, demanded that President Mauricio Funes not incorporate the Armed Forces in the National Civilian Police’s work, saying that this is unconstitutional.
They added that the previous presidents used the military to fight crime and that “this measure has been ineffective” and, in fact, homicides have risen.

Instead, they called upon Funes to strengthen the Police with financial resources and training.


These institutions disagree with the majority of officials and organizations linked to…

Remembrance through art

From Madness to Hope was the title of the UN Truth Commission report which documented the violatons of human rights which occurred during El Salvador's civil war. Now a new dramatic work with the same name is being performed at the Los Angeles Theater Center. From the press release:
The new play by William Flores, "De La Locura A La Esperanza (From Madness to Hope)" commemorates the events of the difficult struggle as the people of El Salvador waged a fight for freedom against oppression. Flores, who also directs, has assembled a cast of over 30, including actors, dancers and singers, communicating a historical record of those turbulent times through dramatic scenes, songs and traditional folkloric dances.

The show is accompanied by visual exhibits from the Museo De La Palabra Y La Imagen including: From War to Peace (Images and documents about the Salvadoran Civil War); and The Legacy of Salarrue (Paintings, images, objects and manuscripts from the private collection of…

Stories of War and Hope

Worth a visit is the website El Salvador: Stories of War and Hope. The website has collected oral testimonies of participants in the events of El Salvador's civil war. The words of these participants put a human face on that tumultuous period for an English speaking audience.

Fracture in ARENA unity

ARENA, the conservative party which ruled El Salvador for twenty years before its defeat in presidential elections in March 2009, has an internal rebellion on its hands. As described in El Faro, twelve of ARENA's 32 deputies in the National Assembly have declared themselves independent of the party leadership. They are demanding 2 seats on COENA, the national executive council which directs the party. The president of ARENA and head of COENA is former president Alfredo Cristiani, and he has denounced the rebels declaration of independence from party leadership. On the ARENA website, a statement condemns Herbert Saca, cousin of former president Tony Saca, for instigating the rebellion for unnamed personal motivations. Herbert Saca was a close adviser to his cousin during the Saca administration.

The party has been searching for persons or reasons to blame ever since it lost the presidency earlier this year.

More tuna from El Salvador

The Spanish company Calvo Group has opened a major expansion to its tuna processing operation in El Salvador. It is a major source foreign investment in the country:
Grupo Calvo inaugurated new production lines yesterday in La Union Port, a project backed by a USD 2 million investment. Its new industrial enterprise, spanning 2,000 sqm, has the capacity to process up to 4,000 tonnes of a variety of products.

The factory has incorporated new machinery to process and can tuna loins, which will allow the company to increase its local supply as well as shipments to the European Union (EU), Central America, Brazil and Taiwan.

In total, Calvo has already invested around USD 140 million and will employ 1,500 fixed workers from La Union and adjacent municipalities.

At this time, it processes some 35,000 tonnes of tuna loins and high quality canned products in El Salvador, and that total will increase substantially thanks to the new investment.

In 2008, Calvo exported products from El Salvador wor…

Report accuses TACA subsidiary Aeroman of shoddy maintenance

I have written several times before about the growing numbers of US airlines which fly their passenger jets to El Salvador for maintenance work. The work is done by Aeroman, the maintenance subsidiary of TACA, and is a source of hundreds of good-paying jobs for the mechanics. I wrote about
Frontier Airlines, Jet Blue and America West sending their planes south.

When Southwest Airlines announced that it too might move maintenance work to El Salvador, my post produced a spirited debate about the possibility that safety might be compromised by using the less-expensive Salvadoran mechanics. There was no proof, and it might have just been put down to the pain of unionized American workers losing their jobs to foreign outsourcing.

But now National Public Radio in the US has run an investigative report including interviews with Aeroman mechanics and instances of faulty work creating unsafe conditions on US Airways passenger jets. From the report:

[T]he mechanics say managers keep pressur…

Should the Armed Forces fight the crime wave?

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Photo by Jesus Flores


Stories like this one are too common in El Salvador:
SAN SALVADOR – One person was killed and four others wounded when two suspected gang members shot up a tortilla stand outside the Salvadoran capital, police said Thursday.

They said the attack took place Wednesday night in a rural area of the municipality of Apopa.

The assailants walked into the small shop and opened fire, a police officer told Efe, killing Ernestina Barahona, 58, and leaving four other people wounded, including an 11-year-old boy.

While authorities did not suggest a motive for the attack, protection payments extorted from bus drivers and owners of small businesses represent a major source of income for El Salvador’s fearsome youth gangs.
The year 2009 seems to be headed towards the highest murder total yet. Just in the first 13 days of October, there were 201 homicides -- an average of 15 a day. The wave of murder and extortion disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable parts of Salvadoran …

IUDOP poll on Salvadorans and religion

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The Public Opinion Institute at the University of Central America (IUDOP) has just released a poll on the religious practices of Salvadorans. The wide-ranging poll taken during June of this year asked 1260 Salvadorans 100 questions about the role of religion in their lives. Almost 90% of Salvadorans identify themselves as Catholic or Protestant Christians:

Catholic 50.4%
Protestant 38.2%
Other 2.5%
None 8.9%
This poll continues a steady decline in those identifying themselves as Roman Catholics and an increase in Protestant denominations. In the past 11 years the percentage of Catholics has fallen from 64.1% to 50.4% and the number of Protestants has increased from 16.4% to 38.2%:



Among the Protestant denominations, the percentages of affiliation were:

Assemblies of God 21.3%
Baptist Friends of Israel (Brother Toby) 11.5%
Elim 9.0%
Church of God 7.0%
Baptist 7.0%
Prophetic 6.1%
Pentecostal 4.5%
Apostles and Prophets 3.9%
Light of the World 3.7%
Jehova's Witnesses 3.1%
Adventist 2.9%
Prince o…

Preserving indigenous language

An interesting article from IPS describes attempts to preserve Nahuat as a living language in El Salvador. Indigenous people are almost invisible in El Salvador following a centuries long history of oppression. Nahuat is the language of the Nahua/Pipiles people. From the IPS article:

”Yek shiajfikan” reads a sign hanging above the gate of the ”Dr. Mario Calvo Marroquín” elementary school in the Salvadoran town of Izalco, welcoming pupils in Nawat, the language that was spoken by the area’s native communities.

A small group of no more than twelve boys and girls are gathered in a small classroom in the southwest province of Sonsonate, singing the national anthem, in a scene that could be set in any other school in the country – except here they’re not singing it in Spanish, but in Nawat, the language of their ancestors.

In 2002, teachers at this school took it upon themselves to begin teaching their pupils the language that was spoken by the Nahua-Pipil communities when the Spanish co…

Climate Change in El Salvador -- Blog Action Day

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October 15 is the worldwide Blog Action Day. Thousands of blogs today are dedicated to the single global issue of climate change.

Because of its exposure to the effects of tropical storms and its low-lying coast line, El Salvador is at risk from the impacts of global climate change. The primary impacts of climate change could be temperature increases, changes in rainfall patterns, and flooding from sea level increase. A "Country Note" prepared by the World Bank looks at climate change and the agricultural sector in El Salvador and noted the following:
According to a study on adaptation strategies to climate change realized by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in collaboration with the National Service of Territorial Studies (SNET) in the coastal plains of El Salvador, between the municipalities of Zacatecoluca, Tecoluca and Jiquilisco, the following was concluded for the year 2015; i) loss of between 10 and 19% of the territory due to sea elevation of 13-…

Fulbright fellow to study economic development projects

Driving my car last week, I heard a radio interview with Chris Halberg, a recent Marquette University graduate who won a Fulbright fellowship to conduct a study in El Salvador of the impact of certain economic development programs in rural areas. You can hear the interview and Halberg's discussion of the current situation in El Salvador at this link.

TACA and Colombian airline to merge

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El Salvador-based TACA Airlinesannounced this week that it is merging with the larger Colombian airline Avianca. The companies indicate that they will continue to operate the airlines with separate identities going forward. Since 1961, the airline has been owned by the Kriete family. They will own about 1/3 of the shares of the combined company.

You can read a history of the company at this link from its founding by a New Zealander who flew in the Canadian air force in World War I until the present time when TACA operates an extensive route system throughout the Americas.

Scenic treasures of El Salvador

Travel writer Gerogia Brown has an article this weekend in The Guardian titled the lakes and volcanoes of El Salvador which highlights some of the scenic spots of El Salvador. Here is an excerpt:
Antonio's fishing boat bobs on the glassy surface of a huge crater lake, dwarfed by a panorama of dramatic volcanic peaks. Beneath us the water plunges to a depth of 240m, perhaps more. "Now we are at the deepest part. They call it the place with no end," shrugs Antonio. "This is a good place to swim."

Like many of the fishermen on lake Ilopango, Antonio swims for a living, using the traditional and dangerous method of freediving to catch fish from the shallower parts of the lake. I, however, am a bit concerned about what strange creatures may lurk beneath, and certainly don't want to try to catch anything. I stare at the sparkling water, only to hear squeals of delight from behind me. A group of local boys are launching themselves from the branches of a tree almost…

Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage stalls in El Salvador

Attempts to amend El Salvador's constitution to prohibit same sex marriages have stalled in El Salvador's National Assembly for now. The decision of the FMLN to withhold its support from the amendment kept the proposal from gaining the necessary two-thirds majority vote. The IPS news service has a lengthy analysis of the politics of LGBT rights and the constitutional amendments in El Salvador:
The proposed reform would add a stipulation that only "men and women who were born so" are competent to enter into marriage. In addition, "Marriages between persons of the same sex celebrated or recognised under the laws of other countries, and other unions that do not fulfil the conditions established under Salvadoran law, will be null and void in El Salvador." ...

Amendments to articles 32, 33 and 34 of the constitution, closing off any possibility of marriage or civil union between homosexuals, or the adoption of children by same-sex couples, were introduced to Co…