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Showing posts from December, 2009

Third environmentalist murdered in El Salvador in 2009

Another environmental activist has been murdered in the department of Cabañas. This follows by just five days the murder of Ramiro Rivera, another leader in the fight against gold-mining in that part of the country:
SAN SALVADOR – An environmentalist was murdered and one of her small children wounded over the weekend in a rural area in Cabañas, a province in central El Salvador, raising to three the number of activists killed this year, environmental groups said.

Dora Recinos Sorto was gunned down Saturday [December 26] in an area of the Trinidad district, where environmentalist Ramiro Rivera and a 57-year-old women riding in a vehicle with him were killed on Dec. 21.

“She was shot five times in the back,” Cabañas environmental committee coordinator Francisco Pineda told Efe, adding that Recinos Sorto was the wife of another environmentalist.

The 32-year-old woman, who was pregnant, was with the youngest of her six children at the moment of the attack, Pineda said.

The child “was wounde…

Funes popularity remains very high

President Mauricio Funes continues to have very high popularity in El Salvador after 6 months in office. A recent Mitofsky poll reported in Angus Reid Global Monitor
finds that 88.2% of Salvadorans approve of the way Funes is doing his job. That's up 4% since August.

Fireworks injuries still afflict the smallest in El Salvador

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Despite the efforts of campaigns like the video above to keep fireworks away from children, the tragedy continues. Thirteen children were hospitalized with burns from fireworks over Christmas Eve in El Salvador. The tragic injuries to children occur year after year as a result of the tradition of shooting off fireworks on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve.

It's probably unrealistic to think this issue will change any time soon. But maybe if there is greater awareness of the human cost, more publicity campaigns, and parents who take responsibility, these holiday tragedies will begin to diminish.

Words from Christmas Eve -- 30 years ago

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Photo of nativity scene taken December 2005
at the chapel at Divina Providencia in San Salvador.

God keeps on saving in history.
And so, in turning once again
to the episode of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem,
we come not to recall Christ’s birth twenty centuries ago,
but to live that birth here,
in the twentieth century, this year,
in our own Christmas here in El Salvador.
By the light of these Bible readings
we must continue all the history
that God has in his eternal mind,
even to the concrete events
of our abductions,
of our tortures,
of our own sad history.
That is where we are to find our God.

Words of Archbishop Oscar Romero
Christmas Eve, 1979, three months before he was assassinated in the chapel where the photo above was taken.

Another anti-mining activist killed

Another environmental leader, active in anti-mining protests and other issues, has been killed in the department of Cabañas. From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Prominent environmental activist Ramiro Rivera, who survived an attempt on his life in August, was killed last weekend in the central Salvadoran province of Cabañas, a colleague said.

“It was an ambush,” Francisco Pineda, coordinator of the environmental committee in Cabañas, told Efe.

Rivera was fatally shot Sunday while driving to his home in the city of Ilobasco. Also killed was a 57-year-old woman traveling in the same vehicle, while a girl of 13 was wounded.

The attack happened even though Rivera “traveled with security” since the failed assassination attempt of Aug. 7, Pineda said. He said Rivera played a leading role in battles against proposed mining projects in the region.

“We see that the fundamental cause (of the murder) can only be his being against those projects and in defense of the lives of present and future …

More arrests in Poveda murder case

More than three months after the murder of French journalist Christian Poveda, police have arrested 10 more gang members for the crime. Poveda's most recent work was the documentary La Vida Loca, an unflinching portrait of youths caught up in El Salvador's gang culture, and the release of that film appears to have prompted the killing. According to an AP story:
"The information we have is that some gang members did not approve of the way it (the documentary) was done, and the way it was shown," [police commissioner Augusto] Cotto told a news conference.

What they didn't like, he said, was the fact that "in the documentary they were put out in public, their illegal acts were made public, the consumption of drugs, that increased a leadership struggle in the gang ... that had already been under way for a long time."...

He said police officer Jose Napoleon Espinoza — who allegedly collaborated with gang members and received money from extortion schemes — h…

The Coffee Harvest

After a three month absence from blogging, Stephanie is back writing at The Plantation Diaries. She is in the middle of the coffee and corn harvest at Finca de Angeles, and her recent posts share stories and pictures of the work. Here's an excerpt:
After breakfast, the women strapped their baskets to their waists held by a sling around their neck. Beto called the women in the order they showed up. I was surprised to find out how well planned the work is. I was always under the impression that the pickers just worked an area, harvesting which ever tree suited them. The coffee trees like most crops are planted in evenly spaced rows. Beto assigned one women at the beginning of every row. That would be their work line for the day. Meanwhile the children ran around delighted to have such open spaces to play. Their only task in helping their mothers, was to carry spare empty sacks and water bottles. We do not employ child labor here!

Before walking away from the field this morning, I tu…

Tony Saca -- good riddance

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The ARENA political party, which had governed El Salvador for 20 years from 1989-2009, today voted to expel from its ranks former president Tony Saca, who left office just 6 months ago. Former president Alfredo Cristiani announced that Saca was expelled for betraying the principles of the party, including instigating the recent defection of 12 ARENA deputies in the legislature. The party blames Saca for hand-picking Rodrigo Avila as its 2009 presidential candidate, and then losing to Mauricio Funes in the March presidential election.

Meanwhile, the conservative El Diario de Hoy, has published an investigative report revealing that Saca's presidential office spent $219 million more than was budgeted by the National Assembly. The spending by the presidency was out of proportion to all other sectors of the Salvadoran government -- Saca's spending on goods and services was greater than the spending of the ministries of health and education combined. While the ministry of h…

Remittances to El Salvador Drop

Remittances from abroad are one of the main drivers of El Salvador's economy, and this year that flow of money is down more than 9%:
SAN SALVADOR – Remittances from emigrants, most of them in the United States, fell 9.3 percent in the first 11 months of this year compared with the same period in 2008, El Salvador’s central bank said Thursday.

Salvadoran households received $3.13 billion from relatives abroad between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, down $321.7 million from last year’s level, the Banco Central de la Reserva said in a statement.
For El Salvador to recover from the economic downturn, the US economy will need to recover and produce jobs for Salvadorans living in the US.

Nominee for US Ambassador to El Salvador

President Obama has nominated Mari Del Carmen Aponte, a lawyer and former president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, to be the next US Ambassador to El Salvador. Her background:
Mari Del Carmen Aponte is currently an attorney and independent consultant with Aponte Consulting. From 2001-2004, Ms. Aponte was the Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA). Prior to that, she practiced law for nearly twenty years with Washington D.C. based law firms. Ms. Aponte also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of La Raza and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. She is also a member of the Board of the University of the District of Columbia and Rosemont College. She served as president of the Hispanic National Bar Association; the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia; and is a member of the District of Columbia Judicial Nominations Commission. In 2005, she was also elected to the Board of Direc…

The rise and fall of ARENA

A guest submission from occasional contributor to this blog, Carlos X. Colorado.


When Mauricio Funes won the presidency of El Salvador for the FMLN, the notion that the executive would be held by any party other than the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) was so foreign to analysts, that many wondered aloud if the party that had ruled El Salvador since the Cold War era would hand over power willingly. Today, the idea that President Funes could be troubled by the persistent power of ARENA seems downright laughable. Let us say it: in the political firmament of El Salvador, ARENA is an imploded star.

The once dominant party of the post-Civil War era which produced five consecutive presidents of El Salvador, finds itself in shambles today. Defeat at the polls quickly led to finger pointing and to bitter recriminations that laid bare decades of family feuds. After a dramatic defection of a third of its deputies in the National Assembly, the party that had been feared as a formidable…

Video on environmental risk in El Salvador

As the climate change summit in Copenhagen opens, Salvadoran Ecological Unity (UNES) relased a video about environmental risks and climate change in El Salvador. It's worth a look.



Link to video.

Totaling the costs

It is beginning to be possible to total the cost of last month's flooding and landslides in El Salvador. Beyond the 199 lives lost (with 77 people still missing) and some 1900 houses destroyed or greatly damaged, there are economic costs from the destruction of bean and grain crops as well as damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure. From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
SAN SALVADOR – Full recovery from the early-November floods and mudslides that devastated much of El Salvador and left 199 people dead will require spending at least $343 million, an official with the U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean said on Friday.

That figure includes the cost of efforts to reduce the risk from future weather disasters, ECLAC regional councilor Ricardo Zapata told a press conference in San Salvador.

Reporting on the preliminary findings of an international commission named to survey the damage from last month’s storms, he said the floods and mudslides caused…

Soto's mother-in-law cleared

According to EFE, a court in El Salvador has acquitted the mother-in-law of U.S. trade unionist Gilberto Soto, from charges she was the intellectual author of his 2004 murder. The court decided to acquit Rosa Zelaya de Ortiz, mother-in-law of Soto because there insufficient evidence and because of contradictions in the testimony of one witness who allegedly had knowledge of planning the crime.

Soto was a Salvadoran born Teamster from New Jersey. While in El Salvador in 2004, he was gunned down outside his mother's home. The police called it a domestic dispute, arresting gang members allegedly hired by Soto's mother-in-law. Others were sure that it was related to his union organizing efforts among truckers in El Salvador's ports. But recently, the focus has been on connections to drug-trafficking and a criminal cartel known as the Perrones. Mauricio Funes ordered the Soto case be reopened earlier this year,

The FMLN, Funes and 21st Century Socialism

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During his presidential campaign, Mauricio Funes always dressed in a white shirt, while his running mate for vice president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén always wore the red of the FMLN. The message was clear -- Funes was distancing himself from the traditional hard-line FMLN of Sánchez Cerén. As president, Funes is finding he still needs to draw those distinctions.

Sánchez Cerén was in Venezuela at the end of November for the First International Gathering of Parties of the Left, and the Extraordinary Congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. In a speech to the assembled socialist partisans, Sánchez Cerén strongly supported the program of Hugo Chavez to create a Fifth Socialist International and spoke against the "imperialist" designs of the United States. El Salvador's vice president stated:
The peoples of Latin America must unite because the Empire has a desperate attitude of wanting to return to rescue its presence on the continent, but the aspiration of people…