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Showing posts from December, 2012

Top 10 Oscar Romero stories of 2012

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I am privileged once again this year to re-publish our friend Polycaprio's list of the Top 10 Oscar Romero stories of 2012.    You can find the original and much more at his Super Martyrio blog.

Our traditional end-of-year round-up of Romero stories for the past 12 months reveals that, while Archbishop Romero slept the sleep of the just in his canonization cause this year, 2012 may be recalled as, «The Year of the Monument.» The year was notable for some unexpected Romero tributes, memorials and monuments that will cause his legacy and legend to grow.The tributes we consider below go beyond the now traditional commemorations of Romero held every year, including around the date of his martyrdom. The March tributes now include those organized by the Romero Trust in London. “This year,” the Trust reported, “there was a record number of special liturgies, masses, talks, film showings, workshops and cultural events held in Scotland, Wales and England.” Here in America, Notre Dame U…

Prepaid cards to replace cash on bus routes

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In the greater San Salvador area, the bus system is going to switch from taking fares in cash to the use of pre-paid fare cards.    According to La Prensa Grafica, some 33 routes in the Santa Tecla area will make the change to the cards in January.  The government states that the remainder of the routes will convert over within the next 10 months.    Fare cards will be available at some 300 distribution points throughout the greater San Salvador area.

This seems like a positive step forward towards crime reduction on the bus routes.   No longer will the buses be carrying fare boxes loaded with any cash.   While fare cards will not eliminate robberies of passengers on buses and bus owners will still be threatened with extortion, it is a sensible measure as long as the cards are readily available to all who depend on the buses for their means of transportation.

More on plan for safe cities under gang truce

2012 is coming to a close with the gang truce still in effect in El Salvador, and murder rates still diminished.   IPS has a new article about the proposal for a next phase to the truce where the gangs would agree to respect "safe cities."  As described, the plan would eliminate all forms of gang crime, not just murders, in the ten safe cities:

Under the new peace initiative, the members of the maras promised not to commit crimes in 10 violence-ridden municipalities, and to hand their guns over to the authorities to prove that their intentions are sincere. Once crime rates go down in the 10 districts in question, the idea would be to expand the plan to other cities, and eventually, nationwide.  Neither the mediators in the talks nor the gang leaders have revealed to the press the names of the 10 municipalities, apparently to avoid putting media pressure on the local authorities in those districts.  “We want to gradually put an end to some things, but it can’t be done on a la…

Coffee production in pictures

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This is the time of year for the coffee harvest in El Salvador.   Reuters recently ran a photo-essay of pictures from the Santa Adelaida coffee cooperative in La Libertad department which you can view here.   Coffee from this certified organic finca is available online, including here.


Feliz Navidad!

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With Christ, God has injected himself into history. With the birth of Christ, God’s reign is now inaugurated in human time. On this night, as every year for twenty centuries, we recall that God’s reign is now in this world and that Christ has inaugurated the fullness of time. His birth attests that God is now marching with us in history, that we do not go alone. Humans long for peace, for justice, for a reign of divine law, for something holy, for what is far from earth’s realities. We can have such a hope, not because we ourselves are able to construct the realm of happiness that God’s holy words proclaim, but because the builder of a reign of justice, of love, and of peace is already in the midst of us.  Archbishop Oscar Romero
Christmas Day, 1977 My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year for all the readers and friends of Tim's El Salvador Blog. May peace and justice flourish in 2013 in El Salvador and throughout the world!

Celebration of Baktun in El Salvador

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On December 21, while people in the US and elsewhere in the English speaking world were largely making jokes about the "end of the world,"  in El Salvador festivities were held at various sites of ancient Mayan temples to celebrate the end of one Mayan era and the rebirth and renewal of another.   "Baktun" is the Mayan word for the calendar cycle, and on December 21, the 13th Baktun ended and the 14th began.

You can see a photogallery from the festivities in El Salvador at this link, and a video news report from La Prensa Grafica at this link.

Charges dropped against Alex Sanchez of Homies Unidos

This post is an update to a post I wrote in 2009 about the federal indictment of Alex Sanchez, the executive director of Homies Unidos in Los Angeles.   This week Sanchez received good news that federal prosecutors have dismissed the charges against him.   From the LA Times:

The U.S. attorney's office has filed a motion to dismiss racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder charges against a nationally recognized anti-gang leader named in a 2009 federal indictment targeting several gang members involved in multiple slayings, extortions and assaults.

The request to dismiss an indictment against Alex Sanchez, executive director of Homies Unidos, comes after three years of legal battles. Sanchez was among two dozen alleged members or associates of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, charged in an indictment in 2009.

Federal prosecutors are asking to dismiss the charges without prejudice, leaving the door open for new charges. But in the motion, prosecutors acknowledged th…

Romero for kids

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I returned to my office today from a planning meeting for a one day workshop about the life and witness of archbishop Oscar Romero.   As I was thinking about it, I remembered this charming blog post by my friend Olivia Amadon.  Some of Romero's lessons are best expressed by children:

he lives in our hearts  Señorita Reina holds up a black and white drawing of a bespectacled man with a red bishop's hat. "Who knows who this is?"

"MONSENOR ROMEEEEROOO!!!" cries a chorus of children.

"And who is Monseñor Romero?" she asks the crowd at Monday's morning assembly.

One by one the braver kids run up to the microphone, excited to be able to talk (or scream) into it for a moment.

"HE WAS A PROPHET!!"
"...hee.. he... um... they killed him because he told the truth!"
"A PRIEST!"
"he walked with the poor!"
"he was a man who liked to visit the communities!!"
"...they shot him with a bullet in his heart..…

Tony Saca will run for another term as president

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Antonio (Tony) Saca made it official that he will be a candidate for president in 2014.  Saca  was president of El Salvador from 2004 through 2009 from the right wing ARENA party.  A president in El Salvador cannot be re-elected to successive terms, and ARENA's candidate in 2009, Rodrigo Avila lost by a wide margin to Mauricio Funes running as the candidate of the FMLN.    After ARENA's defeat, Saca broke with that party and has been seen aligned with the new GANA party.   In fact GANA's leadership has announced that Saca will be their candidate in 2014.

Saca's candidacy will make the 2014 a real three way race among Saca and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the current vice president from the FMLN and Norman Quijano the ARENA mayor of San Salvador.   I think in a two way race, Quijano would have easily beaten Sanchez Ceren.   The question is whether a Saca candidacy will split the right wing vote.   In that case, the most likely outcome would be the requirement of a  second r…

A Mother's Heart

As the headlines from Newtown, Connecticut, cause us to sorrow with the families who lost precious children in a senseless killing, I was reminded of this poem written by Laura Hershberger on her blog.  Laura wrote this after spending the day working with a team who was interviewing women who participated in the Civil War in El Salvador:
A Mother's Heart  I think every mother
has the same heart.
In that the thing that we love the most
And the thing that we most fear losing
Are the same.

Something in our biology
That makes us ache for our children if we haven't seen them enough
That puts our attention on something else first, before ourselves
Is he hungry? Is she safe? Will they always feel my love?

And it is that heart
That breaks
For other mothers
And their loss.

My heart, my mother heart,
breaks with the pain of the Salvadoran mother.

Who lost 1, 2, 4, 6, 12, children in the war
Whose child died of dengue
Whose child left for the States and never came back
Who wailed over the body of her 15 y…

Building on the truce

The truce between the El Salvador's major rival gangs continues to hold. along with the resulting dramatic reduction in the number of homicides in the country.     Now the original mediators of the truce as well as other actors are hoping to build on the momentum towards peace that the truce represents.

One proposal is the declaration of certain municipalities in the country as zones of peace.  From Insight Crime:
The leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18, and three other street gangs in El Salvador said they accepted a proposal to end all gang activity in designated "zones of peace" in the country.   In a statement released to the public, gang leaders said that they'd already handed over a list of 10 possible municipalities where they would agree to cease all criminal activity.  The creation of several designated "peace zones" in 10 municipalities was first proposed by Bishop Fabio Colindres and ex-congressman Raul Mijango on November 22. The two men …

Romero on the album "Martyr's Prayers"

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Our friend Polycarpio recently included this review on his SuperMartyrio blog



The first single from The Project’s album “Martyrs Prayers” is a heartfelt tribute to Archbishop Óscar Romero called simply, “Romero.” The unique and inspired album pays tribute to martyrs ancient and new from various Christian denominations. In addition to Romero, whose tribute song also appears in Spanish and Portuguese (the only martyr so honored among those selected), the album features songs about Saints Thomas Becket, Ignatius of Antioch, the martyred Pope Clement, Carpus of Pergamum, Quirinus of Neuss, Sadoth of Seleucia, the orthodox Maria Skobtsova and the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The selections reflect the diversity of the contributing artists who include Roman Catholics and Evangelicals, Methodists and Anglicans as well as varying political persuasions. The result is an honest, earnest and authentic vision that strikes a fitting balance between celebrating the inspiration that martyrs gi…

International court condemns El Salvador for El Mozote Massacre

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Today on the 31st anniversary of the El Mozote massacre, the Inter-American Court for Human Rights ruled against El Salvador and ruled that the country's amnesty law, enacted after the close of the civil war, should not impede investigations of the responsible parties.   From the New York Times:
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has ruled that a 20-year-old amnesty law does not cover war crimes committed during El Salvador’s long civil war. The ruling, which was announced Monday, ordered the government to investigate the massacre in the region of El Mozote 31 years ago and to prosecute and punish those hold responsible. More than 800 civilians, many of them children, were killed by the military in the worst massacre of the war, which began in 1979 and ended in 1992. But Salvadoran courts have refused to investigate the killings, citing a 1993 amnesty law. The regional court’s ruling means that “El Salvador will have to secure truth and justice for the crimes committed duri…

Scenes of the Christmas season

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The online news site LaPagina has a photogallery of images from the historic center of San Salvador where vendors set up extra stalls during this time of the year to sell Christmas gifts and decorations.  




See the whole gallery here.   It's quite a contrast to the sterile luxury shopping malls like the Gran Via or the Galerias.

UN expert issues warning on judicial independence in El Salvador

The Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, recently delivered comments after spending a week in El Salvador studying its judicial system.  The Special Rapporteur is an independent legal expert who reports to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.   She was in El Salvador at the invitation of the Salvadoran government.

At the end of her trip, Ms Knaul expressed serious concern over the attacks on judicial independence demonstrated in last summer's constitutional crisis:

[T]he judiciary serves as an essential check on the other branches of the State, the legislative and the executive powers. It is therefore of extreme importance that the judicial system be free from political or any other pressure. In El Salvador, serious interferences from other branches of powers continue to exist, as the recent institutional crisis between the Constitutional Chamber (Sala de lo Constitucional) of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Le…