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Showing posts from May, 2010

Pacific Rim v El Salvador - preliminary hearing

The opening hearing in the arbitration filed by Pacific Rim against El Salvador commenced today, Monday, May 31, and can be watched live at this link. The hearing is scheduled for today and tomorrow. The government of El Salvador is attempting to get the case dismissed at the outset. A decision on these preliminary motions is unlikely for a number of months.

Tropical storm Agatha kills 9 in El Salvador

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The rains of tropical storm Agatha produced flooding and landslides in El Salvador which left nine people dead according to El Diario de Hoy. That newspaper has a special section devoted to the damages located here. More than eight thousand people were forced from their homes by the water.

One of the worst hit towns was Juayua, where 425 millimeters (16.7 inches) of rain fell between Saturday and Sunday. A family of three died there when a landslide buried their home.

The brunt of Agatha's force was borne by Guatemala where more than 80 died in flooding and mudslides. Death were also reported in Honduras.

Schools are closed today in El Salvador due to the state of emergency, as the past week of rains has left many areas at risk.

Get a current El Salvador weather forecast at this link.

Heavy rains afflicting El Salvador

The rainy season has arrived in El Salvador, and heavy rains related to the first Pacific tropical storm of the season, Agatha, have produced flooding in El Salvador. The government has raised the country's alert level to orange, as the rains threaten to push rivers out of their banks. There have been evacuations in areas at risk for landslides and flooding. At least one person has died. Events on Sunday to commemorate the first anniversary of Mauricio Funes in office have been cancelled.

There is a photo gallery from La Prensa Grafica here showing images from the flooding.

El Salvador has not been as heavily impacted as its neighbor Guatemala where a dozen have died from Agatha's downpours, and that country is also dealing with the impact of the eruption of the Pacaya volcano. In both countries, poor communities built on hillsides and along waterways suffer most from natural disasters.

Left has growing discontent with Funes

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As Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes approaches the anniversary of his first year in office, there are plenty of signs of growing discontent on the left end of the political spectrum.

This set of photos from El Faro from May 1 labor day celebrations show many protesters mocking Funes. Recently demonstrators against the Chaparral Dam project marched many kilometers from the countryside to stage a protest at the presidential offices. The marchers expressed their disillusionment with Funes after giving him their votes a year ago.

Another set of marchers came protesting from the north of El Salvador. They want to stop the Chaparral dam, but have not found an ally in Funes. This photo gallery shows their march which ended at the Presidential House in the capital.

Funes recently let go his Minister of Agriculture from the FMLN, and the resulting spat has included accusations that the president has directed that agricultural supplies destined for poor farmers be given to areas sup…

Urbanization

The number of Salvadorans living in urban areas has increased significantly over the past 40 years. In 1970, 39% of Salvadorans lived in urban areas, and today 70% of them do. This has produced a variety of impacts from urban sprawl, to resource demands, to a reduction of land devoted to farming. El Faro has a photo gallery here which illustrates some of the impact when city meets countryside.

Making pupusas

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The website Epicurious.com featured the Salvadoran national dish, the pupusa, in its series Around the World in 80 Dishes. There is a recipe for pupusas there, as well as a video for making the pupusas. The recipe is pretty traditional, but the video shows a "pupusa" pressed in a tortilla press and fried in oil which is unlike any pupusa I have ever seen a Salvadoran make.

When I think of making pupusas, this is the kind of image I see:

Foreigners and hospital bills

I'm not quite sure what to make of this story which aired on a Green Bay, Wisconsin, television station about a woman who gave birth in El Salvador and claims she was detained for weeks in the hospital until her family came up with the cash:
It was supposed to be a two week trip to El Salvador for a Green Bay family to visit relatives. Carly Clavel, seven months pregnant, got the okay from her doctor to travel. But while in El Salvador, Carly felt sick and went to the hospital where she says she was forced to have a C-section.

"None of my records at the hospital showed I needed a C-section I think they just did it because they saw America and they saw dollars," said Clavel.

At less than four pounds little Sebastian and his mom stayed at the hospital under what she calls deplorable conditions.

"The conditions in the hospital were horrible. Rats were crawling on my bed when we were in the hospital. They were not taking care of my son properly," she said.

Carly says h…

Migrants as God's ambassadors

I count myself fortunate to know Father Dean Brackley,S.J. who teaches at the University of Central America. I commend to readers of this blog Father Brackley's article written in the National Catholic Reporter titled Migrants: illegals or God's ambassadors?. His article provides an important contribution to the discussion of immigration reform by bringing together the perspective of Christian compassion and a viewpoint influenced by the experiences of many of those living and struggling south of the US border.

Sons file legal complaint against killers of poet Roque Dalton

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Anniversaries of Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton's birth and execution have been the occasion in the last week for calls for his killers to face justice. This article from IPS describes the issue:
As well as being one of El Salvador’s most celebrated poets, Roque Dalton was also a committed political activist and a member of the People’s Revolutionary Army (ERP), a leftist guerrilla organisation, in the 1970s.

On May 10, 1975, Dalton was gunned down by his own ERP comrades-in-arms, four days before his 40th birthday. His execution was ordered by the ERP leadership, which accused him of insubordination and of working for the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

It was subsequently determined that the accusation that he was a CIA collaborator was false.

The whereabouts of his remains are still unknown. Friday, May 14, was the 75th anniversary of the birth of El Salvador's revolutionary poet. His two sons chose that day to file a complaint with El Salvador's attorney…

GOP still blocking Obama nominee to El Salvador

As mentioned before, certain Republicans are blocking Obama's nominee to be the new ambassador to El Salvador. Last December, Obama nominated Washington, D.C. lawyer Mari Del Carmen Aponte to the position. She was questioned in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March about allegations from the mid 1990's about her relationship with a Cuban diplomat allegedly tied to that nation's intelligence services.

According to the Miami Herald:
Her Obama administration nomination to the El Salvador job was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations committee April 27, with 10 Democrats endorsing her -- including Cuban-American Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey -- and eight Republicans voting no.

But the Republicans will put a hold on her nomination when it comes up in the full Senate, meaning it will need 60 votes for confirmation unless they lift the hold, said congressional staffers who asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the topic.
A …

El Salvador suspended from world football competition

Football (soccer) is the favorite sport in El Salvador. This week comes word that Fifa, the governing body of word football has suspended El Salvador from internaitonal competition, as reported in this BBC story:
Fifa accused the Salvadoran government of interfering in the game by refusing to recognize local football officials [Fifa] had appointed....

Last year Fifa assigned a special commission to reform the finances of El Salvador's football federation, Fesfut, after the resignation of its head, Rodrigo Calvo.

But the new left-wing government of President Mauricio Funes has refused to recognise the commission.
Fifa says it considers this to be political interference in the game.

In praise of Salvadoran capitalism

James Dunlap is an American living in El Salvador. In an essay titled Expatriate to El Salvador? , Dunlap praises the industriousness of Salvadoran capitalism at all levels in the society. Here are some excerpts:
Salvadorans are hard working and friendly people and here individuals from all walks of life are busy trying to get ahead. Most seem weary of politics and wish to move beyond the troubled past. El Salvador really has two economies, especially in the capital, San Salvador. One economy features upscale shopping malls and exclusive beach hotels. The other exists on the streets of the city. Despite the pressures of a worldwide economic downturn, people in both sectors are making heroic efforts in the pursuit of free enterprise...

San Salvador has a dynamic business community. One trip down the street that bisects the city’s central shopping district, known locally as El Paseo, is proof of this phenomenon. The street is lined with restaurants, nightclubs, shopping centers, home s…

Lake Suchitlan

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A Russian internet site recently posted the photo above, and also a gallery of other pictures of migratory birds at Lake Suchitlan in north central El Salvador. The photos are a reminder of the ecological paradox which this lake represents. While it is home to many species of birds, both native and migratory, it is also a cesspool of contamination from El Salvador's sewers and factories.

Lake Suchitaln, also known as Embalse Cerron Grande, was formed in 1974 with the construction of the Cerron Grande dam. It represents the largest freshwater body in the country of El Salvador. There is this description of the lake in the Ramsar wetlands database::
Artificial water reservoir that constitutes the largest freshwater body in the country. The reservoir provides relevant environmental products and services such as fisheries production and hydropower generation, water filtration and flood control. The site serves as a place of refuge, breeding and resting ground for several thousand w…

Funes extends army public security role

President Mauricio Funes today announced that the presence of Salvadoran soldiers in the streets to fight crime will be extended and expanded. From the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes announced Friday a one-year extension of the deployment of troops to help police battle crime.

“The military presence in the streets has had a very positive impact, all the opinion polls reflect that,” he told members of the armed forces at an event marking the Day of the Soldier.

Funes said he was expanding from 19 to 29 the number of zones to be patrolled by soldiers.

“We trust that in these 12 months they (the troops) bring the results the population hopes for,” he said, stressing that the “participation of the armed forces, while very valuable, must be seen only as an exceptional measure.”
Besides participating in joint patrols with the National Police, troops will have a role in patrolling the country's borders and will be deployed within some of the country's…

Protecting the sea turtles of El Salvador

A new program called a "Billion Baby Turtles" will be announced in El Salvador on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jacques Coustean on June 11. The program is described on the blog of SEE Turtles:
[T]the beaches of El Salvador ... are home to one of the most endangered sea turtle populations in the world, the Pacific Hawksbill turtle. Until last year, virtually 100% of the Central American nation's sea turtle eggs were collected for sale or eaten in bars and restaurants. Thanks to recently passed conservation laws and innovative public-private partnerships, that's all changed. In 2009, for the first time in decades, nearly one million baby sea turtles found their way to the ocean in El Salvador and 2010 should see a continuation of that success. The innovative approach of Billion Baby Turtles involves collaboration between former egg collectors, local non-profit organizations, government agencies, the tourism sector and international foundations around the wor…

Don't pay the rent

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Thanks to the folks at the Voices on the Border’s blog for bringing to our attention a new grassroots movement in El Salvador to stand up to extortion:
A couple weeks ago, Salvadorans tired of the extortion and violence that plagues their neighborhoods began a calling on their fellow citizens to overcome their fears and not pay when the violent street gangs try to extort money. The movement uses the face of Don Ramón, a Mexican sitcom character from the 1970s known as a “rent-dodger,” to convey its message that the people are tired and should no longer going to pay extortion (or “the rent” as it is called on the street).

In a short period, the image of Don Ramón has been spray-painted all over the capital, and found its way onto t-shirts and bumper stickers, and banners that have been unfurled on bridges, monuments, and bridges. Almost 20,000 people have joined the movement on Facebook
The movement has been supported by public officials from both major political parties, including the ma…

New article on the mining conflict

There ia a new article on the web about the conflict over gold mining in northern El Salvador. The article, by Leonard Morin, is titled El Salvador's Misfortune in Gold: Mining, Murder, and Corporate Malfeasance, and covers the conflict up to the present day from a point of view sympathetic to the anti-mining activists.

More cell phones than people

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Surfing the internet this week, I came across this little statistic: cellphone penetration in El Salvador now exceeds 100% which means there are more cell phones than people in the country. This happens as people have more than one cell phone or SIM card, perhaps on different cell networks.

Most Salvadoran cell phones are pre-paid accounts, with recharge cards being available for sale at the tiniest stores in communities everywhere. An article in IPS last year explains the growth of cell phone usage:
Telecommunications manager Saúl Vásquez said many people own more than one cell phone, because they are drawn in by the constant promotions offered by the telecoms companies.

Blanca Flores, a student of communications who has two cell phones, said she purchased her second after having problems with the first.

"I kept losing my Claro connection, so I decided to get another number, from Telemóvil," she told IPS.

The large proportion of Salvadorans who live outside of the count…