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Showing posts from March, 2010

Combating dengue fever

El Salvador is in the midst of a national campaign against an epidemic of dengue fever. The mosquito-borne illness causes high fever, headache and joint ache, and in the hemorrhagic variant, can be fatal. 1965 cases of the disease have been reported in the first 70 days of 2010. The campaign consists of cleaning vacant lots, water disinfection and fumigation of houses, as well as ongoing education of Salvadorans on the importance of eliminating standing water where the mosquitoes breed. A dozen or more children died from dengue during 2009 in El Salvador.

Violence against women in El Salvador

A recent statement from the United Nations warns about the levels of violence including murder impacting women and girls in El Salvador:
24 March 2010 – Violence against women and girls in El Salvador remains prevalent and pervasive, with the number of murders on the rise and kidnappings, sexual assaults and sexual harassment all too frequent, an independent United Nations human rights expert has warned.

Rashida Manjoo, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, wrapped up a three-day visit to El Salvador on Saturday by stressing that the Central American country still faces “significant challenges” in dealing with gender-based violence.

“Of particular concern to me is the growing prevalence and forms of such violence, especially the alarming rise in the numbers of murders of women and girls and the brutality inflicted on their bodies, which is often accompanied by kidnapping and sexual assault,” she said in a statement.

Ms. Manjoo expressed concern that the violence against wom…

"How we killed archbishop Romero"

An English language translation of El Faro's interview with Álvaro Saravia is now available online here.

The introduction to the interview:
Major Roberto D´Aubuisson participated in the conspiracy to assassinate Archbishop Romero, although a son of former president Molina provided the sniper, asserts Captain Álvaro Saravia. Thirty years later, he and some of the other people implicated in the crime reconstruct those days of arms trafficking, cocaine and kidnapping. Reduced to ignominy, Saravia has been a pizza delivery man, a used car salesman and a drug money launderer. Now he is burning in the hell he helped create during a time when killing “communists” was a sport.

Funes asks forgiveness for Romero assassination

The president, Mauricio Funes, apologized today on behalf of the Salvadoran state for the death of the archbishop of San Salvador, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, which occurred on March 24, 1980.

"In my capacity as President, I apologize on behalf of the Salvadoran state for this assassination committed 30 years ago. On behalf of the Salvadoran State I apologize to the family of Romero, and I extend my condolences," said Funes, ... in the corridor between gates 8 and 9 of the airport terminal, where he unveiled a mural commemorating the religious leader.

Responding to the words of Funes, Gaspar Romero, brother of the martyred archbishop, said: "I accept with humility, love and gratitude the apology, albeit 30 years later. "

At the end of the ceremony, during a conference with local media, Funes said of the ritual of reconciliation: "I apologized because the state failed to investigate, but it is not for me to investigate, that is up to the judges of the Republi…

30th anniversary of Romero's assassination

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On March 24, 1980, while saying mass at the chapel at the Divina Providencia cancer hospital, archbishop Oscar Romero was slain by an assassin's bullet.

Listen to a special BBC radio program about Romero and his legacy here.

New video recounts the murder of Oscar Romero

In conjunction with its interview of Captain Álvaro Rafael Saravia, El Faro has released a video with English subtitles containing excerpts from the interview along with images, other eyewitness testimony, and the audio recording of the gunshot which martyred Romero:



Thanks to David for pointing out the video.

Accomplice to Romero murder speaks

Former Salvadoran air force captain Álvaro Saravia has previously admitted to participation in the plot to kill Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero, although he denies being the gunman. Today the online periodical El Faro published a lengthy story with an interview of Saravia where Saravia names names and provides details of the plot.

Shortly after the interview appeared on the El Faro site, the site was no longer reachable on the Internet. (coincidence?). I was able to grab a copy from the Google search engine cache, and you can download it here, if the El Faro site is not reachable.

Saravia says the gunman was a Salvadoran from the security team of Mario Molina, son of former Salvadoran president Arturo Armando Molina. Mario Molina, along with ARENA founder Roberto D'Aubuisson, were the intellectual authors of the plot to kill the archbishop.

More to come.

Reading Romero

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I would like to appeal in a special way to the army’s enlisted men, and in particular to the ranks of the Guardia Nacional and the police --- those in the barracks.

Brothers: you are of part of our own people. You kill your own campesino brothers and sisters. Before an order to kill that a man may give, God’s law must prevail: Thou shalt not kill! No soldier is obliged to obey an order against the law of God. No one has to fulfill an immoral law. It is time to take back your consciences and to obey your consciences rather than the orders of sin. The Church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such abominations. We want the government to understand seriously that reforms are worth nothing if they are stained with so much blood. In the name of God, and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repr…

Another bishop in a gunman's sights

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During this week that El Salvador commemorates the assassination of Oscar Romero 30 years ago, an attempt has been made on the life of another bishop. Bishop Martín Barahona leads the Anglican church of El Salvador. An unknown gunmen fired shots, missing the prelate, but gravely injuring his driver. From the Episcopal News Service:
On March 17 in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, an unknown man approached Barahona, who was accompanied by his driver Francis Martínez and a church musician, and started shooting at them. Barahona was unharmed, but Martinez was hit in the stomach and his arm was broken by one of the gunshots.

The Anglican Episcopal Church of El Salvador issued a statement March 18 denouncing the attack, and Barahona held a press conference March 19, saying the attempt on his life is cause for serious concern in a country that has been rife with gang violence and criminal activity since the end of the civil war in the early 1990s.

"I leave the authorities to do their investiga…

Guide to the 30th anniversary celebrations for Archbishop Romero

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A guest post from our friend and Romero devotee Carlos X. Colorado:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Óscar A. Romero of San Salvador, the conmemoration of which will become a prominent activity for Salvadorans and Romero's admirers in the next week, leaving everyone else who is witness to the events perhaps wondering what all the fuss is about. Last week, the Board of Education of the State of Texas voted against including Romero in a list of historical figures who resisted against oppression because the group did not believe Romero to be sufficiently notable. (The Board's decision was rightly lampooned by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show: "You say we should not teach people this [who was Oscar Romero] because no ones knows it")

Most people know that Romero was admired by the leftist opposition and reviled by those close to the rightwing governments of the 1970s and 80s, and that Romero is the subject of an o…

Romero's life documented in film and video

If you want to learn about Oscar Romero for the first time, or want to introduce a friend to the life of "San Romero de las Americas," video and film is one way to do it.

There is a documentary called Romero by Romero which has a lengthy trailer available on Youtube. The documentary contains archival footage of Oscar Romero ministering to the people of El Salvador and interviews with his contemporaries. It's a good new addition to the English language material available about Romero and his work:


Part 1


Part 2.
Of course, the classic treatment of Romero's life in English is the well-known feature film Romero starring Raul Julia:

Trailer.


You can also search on YouTube for "Oscar Romero" and you will see a great number of Romero tribute videos of varying quality.

If you are in southeastern Wisconsin on Monday, March 22, you are invited to a screening of Romero as part of my El Salvador Movie Night series. The movie will be shown at 7:00 pm at St. John's Lu…

Agreement ends takeover of university

According to reports from El Salvador an agreement was reached last night to end the occupation of the University of El Salvador. The negotiations occurred under the auspices of Human Rights Ombudsman Oscar Luna. University officials have agreed to review the cases of 235 students who were denied admission to the university in the most recent round of entrance exams.

Protesters take over University of El Salvador

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Since March 4, masked protesters have controlled the grounds of the University of El Salvador, shutting down the country's largest public university. The protesters are youth who were not admitted following the last entrance exams. The entrance exams were taken by some 23,000 students and 9500 were admitted to study at the UES. Those who are mot admitted often have few financial resources and very likely cannot afford the higher cost privately run universities in the country.

The Rector of the University, Rufino Quezada, has been vocal in criticizing the police in being unwilling to retake the university. Quezada announced a plan to resume some classes away from the campus after a round of negotiations with the protesters was not fruitful.

El Faro has a photogallery of the takeover of the UES here.

Salvadoran state commemorates Romero anniversary

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During his recent visit to El Salvador, Brazil's president Lula de Silva visited the tomb of Oscar Romero with Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes.

This year, for the first time ever, official El Salvador is acknowledging and commemorating the life of Oscar Romero, as the thirtieth anniversary of his assassination approaches on March 24.

On March 4, the Salvadoran National Assembly passed a decree declaring March 24 each year to be Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero Day. On March 24, president Mauricio Funes, who commited himself to Romero's option for the poor when he was elected the country's first leftist president, will apologize on behalf of the Salvadoran state for Romero's murder at the hands of a right wing death squad.

Today a concert and cultural event was held in San Salvador in Romero's honor. President Funes, members of his cabinet, the diplomatic corps, and the slain archbishop's brother were in attendance.

In the past, many sectors of Salvadoran societ…

Cross border families

The website for Maryland Community Newspapers, Gazette.Net, has an excellent series of stories on Salvadoran families who have members living in the US and the strains caused by the global economic downturn. The stories and videos highlight some individual families as well as exploring the macro context of the flows of migrants northwards and remittances southwards.

This quote sums up some of the situation:
"[Migration is] one of the most heartfelt problems in El Salvador. .... We can't prohibit immigration, and we can't forget those people who leave, because they sustain us. But we have to create the conditions for them so they don't want to leave," said [Jorge Schafik Handal] Vega, who heads the parliament's commission on external affairs and Salvadorans abroad. "We can no longer depend anymore on exporting people to support our economy."

US and Salvadoran ambassadors

Fourteen months after Barack Obama became president of the US, there is still not a new US ambassador in the embassy in San Salvador. Last December, Obama nominated Mari Del Carmen Aponte to the position, but her appointment is stuck in the Senate. Some conservatives are urging that her nomination be rejected, citing allegations that in the past she had connections to someone who had connections to Cuban intelligence agents.

El Salvador acted only slightly more rapidly, presenting its new ambassador to Washington on the morning before Mauricio Funes' March 8 meeting with Obama. The new ambassador is Francisco Altschul.

Perhaps the US Senate needs to read the article by Sarah Stephens on the Huffington Post titled Why should we care about El Salvador?"
To the surprise of many, El Salvador under the leadership of this center-left president and a party representing a former guerrilla army is becoming the most reliable Central American ally of Washington.

But whereas the Bush …

Funes and Obama meet at White House

Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes met today with Barack Obama at the White House. Their remarks following the meeting were released by the White House:



You can watch the video or read a transcript here.

Practical El Salvador

Searching the Internet recently I came across the blog El Salvador: The Life. The site is "designed to help deportees and families of deportees (or anyone else planning to move to El Salvador) prepare for the process, what to expect and how to begin. This is not intended for tourist, but rather those planning to move." It has a number of posts about day-to-day life, including such topics as Internet access, the postal system, and plumbing. The most recent post provides a sample of grocery prices. Check it out.

Pacific Rim speaks about its fight with El Salvador

Canadian mining company Pacific Rim, which is in a battle with the government of El Salvador to force the country to grant it gold mining permits, spoke publicly this week about its pending international arbitration under CAFTA:
On January 4, 2010, the [Government of El Salvador "GOES"] filed preliminary objections to PacRim's claims under CAFTA and El Salvador's Investment Law. Copies of the GOES's filing and PacRim's response to ICSID are available on Pacific Rim's website (www.pacrim-mining.com). Under CAFTA Article 10.20, the Tribunal is to rule on the objections on an expedited schedule, has set a hearing on the objections for May 31 and June 1, 2010, and is expected to issue a ruling by September 2010. PacRim believes that El Salvador's objections are not only completely without merit, but are also frivolous, and that GOES filed them purely as an attempt to stall the arbitration proceedings. PacRim fully expects that the Tribunal will reject the …

Oscar Romero and his legacy

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March 2010 is an important month for historical memory in El Salvador because it contains the 30th anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero. On March 24, 1980 Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated by El Salvador's ruling oligarchy. The bishop who carried El Salvador's poor in his heart, was murdered for his tireless denunciations of the oppression and violence he saw sponsored by the Salvadoran state. Throughout the month leading up to March 24, I will have a series of posts about Romero and his legacy.

The basic story of Romero is contained in this article from US Catholic:
Oscar Romero gave his last homily on March 24. Moments before a sharpshooter felled him, reflecting on scripture, he said, "One must not love oneself so much, as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and those that fend off danger will lose their lives." The homily, however, that sealed his fate took place the day before when he…

CAFTA's 5 year anniversary

The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) turns 5 this month. An article from the Latin Business Chronicle looks at the benefits of the treaty from a business standpoint:
Over its first few years, U.S. companies reaped significant benefits. Between 2005 and 2008, U.S. exports to the region increased by around 48 percent to reach $24.3 billion, while U.S. imports from the region increased by 10 percent to $14.4 billion. Inward foreign direct investment as a percentage of region’s GDP rose from 3.4 percent in 2005 to almost 5 percent in 2008, and higher remittance inflows and tourism from the United States helped lift per capita income. “Before the recession, the countries of the region all increased their exports by double-digit rates,” says David Lewis, vice-president of Manchester Trade, a Washington, D.C., trade consultancy. “They were very aggressive about taking advantage of new opportunities in agri-industry, agricultural products, and textiles. [CAFTA] was a shot in th…

The opposition to dams on El Salvador's rivers

There is organized opposition to the construction of hydroelectric dams on the rivers of El Salvador. In January, the government suspended any project work for the proposed El Cimarron dam on the Lempa River. From the group International Rivers:
The act of coming together to strategize about protecting their communities against the ravages of big dams has finally paid off for some communities. The Salvadorian government announced in January that it was scrapping the proposed El Cimarron Dam. The dam, which would have blocked the Lempa River, would have displaced nearly 35,000 people from their homes and farms.

In his announcement that the dam was shelved, President Mauricio Funes said it would not be built in its current design because of the environmental and social problems it would cause. El Cimarron dam would have been the sixth largest hydroelectric dam in El Salvador. The project, which does not have a feasibility study yet, included a river diversion and an 8km tunnel. It has …

Narcotics trafficking in El Salvador

The US State Department released its 2010 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report today. An excerpt from the report discussing El Salvador follows:
Status of Country. El Salvador remains a transit country for cocaine and heroin from the Andean region of South America, en route to the United States. While it remains difficult to determine reliable estimates of quantities flowing through El Salvador land routes or territorial waters, USG experts estimate that approximately 400 metric tons of cocaine flows through the Eastern Pacific region. In 2009 the Government of El Salvador (GOES) continued to target maritime and land trafficking of cocaine and heroin along its coastline and overland routes, as well as narcotics-related money laundering. El Salvador hosts a Cooperative Security Location (formerly known as the Forward Operating Location) at Comalapa airport. The base is crucial to regional detection and interception efforts. Transnational street gangs are involved in stree…