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Showing posts from January, 2013

Women in prison

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Women in Ilopango prison -- photo by Jesus Flores
A friend of mine left for El Salvador today on a medical and holistic healing trip to El Salvador.  As part of this trip, her team has been invited to provide medical screening within a women's prison in El Salvador.  She asked me to write a post about the conditions of incarceration for women imprisoned in El Salvador.

According to the most recent statistics, this month there are 2648 women prisoners who make up 9.8% of the total prison population in El Salvador.   Children under age 5 can stay with their mothers in the prison.

When you research prison conditions for these women, you get two different pictures.   The official picture from the government's prison administration shows women inmates participating in a variety of activities in attractive surroundings.

There is the:


Celebration of elderly women prisoners eventChristmas Pageant in the Ilopango prison.Graduation from the Literacy program.
But the picture from visito…

Mining activists seek support in the US

The Salvadoran anti-mining movement made a stop in my home town of Milwaukee recently to seek support for its efforts to continue the de facto prohibition on metallic mining in El Salvador.   Milwaukee is also the home of the Commerce Group, a gold mining company which so far has been unsuccessful in its attempts to sue the government of El Salvador under DR-CAFTA.
The visitor to Milwaukee was Franciscan brother Domingo Solis.   An article in the Catholic Herald describes his message to people in the US: Br. Domingo has been fighting the mining companies for 20 years, mostly as a “rank-and-file activist,” but now he’s the head of the office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation for the Franciscans in El Salvador.

“(We) work in support of justice and, where there’s not a movement, to promote the creation of the movement,” Br. Domingo said. “Where there’s not justice, to seek justice and open opportunities for dialogue and reconciliation.”

Br. Domingo said he’s generated a lot of i…

El Salvador's legislature approves the vote for citizens outside of country

Approximately one out of every four person born in El Salvador today lives outside of the country.   Until now, they could not vote in the country's elections unless they returned to El Salvador to cast a ballot   This week the National Assembly adopted a law which will allow those citizens outside of the country to vote starting with the 2014 presidential elections.

Salvadorans living in the US and elsewhere who have obtained an identity document (DUI) will be able to cast a vote by mail.   Salvadoran authorities are projecting that 200,000 votes will be cast this way in 2014 and that it will cost approximately $21 million to implement.

At this point, I think it is too early to project what impact this exterior vote will have on the outcome of the 2014 presidential election.

State Department Issue El Salvador travel warning

The US State Department issued a new travel warning regarding travel to El Salvador this week.   The warning deals with the general level of crime and violence in many areas of the country. 

Here are the points in the travel warning:
Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.U.S. citizens do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. However, 22 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador since January 2010.A majority of serious crimes are never solved; only five of the 22 murders committed against U.S. citizens since January 2010 have resulted in convictions.Transnational criminal organizations conduct narcotics, arms trafficking, and other unlawful activities throughout the country and use violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out other criminal activity.Extortion is a particularly serious and common crim…

Community radio in El Salvador

A couple of articles appeared on the Internet this week about community radio in El Salvador.  From IPS there is an article about Radio Mangle which has just started broadcasting in the Bajo Lempa region along the Salvadoran coast:
After years of challenges, Radio Mangle finally began broadcasting this week to over 200 communities in the area known as Bajo Lempa, in the municipality of Jiquilisco, in the south of the province of Usulután.  “This is a historic moment, the result of years of hard work and social pressure,” radio presenter Mario Martínez, coordinator of the Mangle Association, which developed the project, told IPS. As of Jan. 14, the radio station is broadcasting on 106.1 FM from the community of Ciudad Romero, in the El Zamorán district of Jiquilisco. The IPS article describes the constant battles which the community radio movement has had in El Salvador, where commercial radio stations have usually managed to dominate radio frequency auctions and prevented community ra…

First four "cities free of violence"

A second phase of the gang truce in El Salvador  got official endorsement on Friday.  At a press conference, mayors of four cities announced their participation in this process, which will ultimately consist of 18 cities where the gangs will lower their levels of activity and programs working at re-inserting gang members into society and other prevention efforts will be introduced.

From ElFaro.net:
Mayors from the FMLN and ARNEA joined together in the initiative "Cities From From Violence,"  known popularly as "sanctuary cities."    Santa Tecla, Ilopango, Sonsonate and Quezaltepeque announced their participation in the process, while the gangs announced that soon there would be a second turn over of weapons, collected, according to the OAS (Organization of American States) in the 18 localities that are part of the project of municipal peace-making. As El Faro notes, this announcement is important for a few other reasons.  

First, the endorsement of the mayors repre…

Sánchez Cerén would seek repeal of amnesty law

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the FMLN's candidate for president of El Salvador in 2014 is stating that he will seek repeal of the 1993 amnesty law which has, so far, protected war criminals from the country's bloody civil war.   Sánchez Cerén is the current vice president, and an ex-guerrilla commander from the time of the civil war.   In remarks published in the online periodical ContraPunto, the left wing candidate stated that, if elected, he would act to repeal the law which has prevented the prosecution  of those who committed crimes and atrocities during the 70's and 80's.

The vice president stated:
"I think the population should assume it is necessary to repeal the amnesty law for there to be justice.  ... It is necessary because our population is divided. The wounds are open and doing this act of justice in order to end impunity would give new boost to democracy." This position of Sánchez Cerén represents yet another flip-flop on this issue by the FMLN.   …

Human rights and gold mining

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Oscar Luna, El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudsman (PDDH), is warning that a gold mine in Guatemala, close to the border with El Salvador, threatens violations of human rights to water, health, and the environment.   Luna issued a report on October 10, urging president Mauricio Funes to use the executive branch of the government to protect the country's natural and hydrologic resources from the impact of the mine.

The mine in question is the Cerro Blanco mine, being developed by the Canadian gold mining company Gold Corp.   The mine is located in southeastern Guatemala near Lake Guija.



The lake's waters flow into the Lempa River, El Salvador's most important river, which supplies  people throughout the country.

Opposition in El Salvador to the Cerro Blanco mine has been led by the environmental organization CEICOM.   In 2010, David Pereira of CEICOM asserted:
"Toxic waste water from the mine will be discharged into the Ostúa river in Guatemala, and will flow into t…

El Salvador's geo-thermal energy development

The Worldwatch Institute has published an article touting El Salvador's leadership in expanding the use of geothermal energy to generate electricity:
El Salvador, known as the “land of volcanoes,” is the largest producer of geothermal electricity in the region with 204 MW of production. With approximately 24 percent of its total electricity production coming from geothermal resources, El Salvador is a world leader in the development of geothermal power. Moreover, the country received a US$2 million grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in May to establish a geothermal training center for Latin America and the Caribbean. As part of this initiative, the international training center will offer technical courses in geothermal energy development at la Universidad de El Salvador.  Despite a destructive, decade-long civil war during the 1980s and two devastating earthquakes in 2001, El Salvador has managed to develop a successful geothermal energy sector. The country’s ex…

Top ten religious stories of 2012

Here's the last of our "top stories of 2012" posts.   This list is also brought to us by our friend Polycarpio of the Super Martyrio blog, covering all things Romero-related.
TOP TEN RELIGIOUS STORIES OF 2012
A special report for Tim's El Salvador Blog

Despite an undeniable waning trend since the latter part of the twentieth century, which tracks similar trends throughout the west, religion remains a potent force in El Salvador and the strength of the church(es) was on full display in 2012, and is evident in the top religious stories out of El Salvador for the year.

1. The Gang Truce

Even if you ignore that the Roman Catholic Church was at the center of the mediations and that other Churches have provided support for the process, it is difficult to overlook the spiritual or at least moral dimensions of this story. It starts with a great moral wrong, a morass in the heart of Salvadoran society, it is followed by an apparent redemption or conversion, and leaves the countr…

Fire destroys historic San Salvador church

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Guest post by Polycarpio

San Salvador has lost a historic treasure to a voracious and dramatic fire on Monday, January 7, 2013. The Church of San Esteban (St. Stephen’s), built 1880-1890 with building materials imported from Belgium, had been ravaged by numerous earthquakes and fallen into disrepair, due in large part to the lack of resources in its impoverished neighborhood in San Salvador, near the National Civil Police barracks known as “The Castle.” The Catholic temple had been boarded up since sustaining extensive damage in the 2001 earthquake.

For a moment, it looked as though the historic gem might get a second lease on life when a Spanish architectural firm proposed a dramatic restoration of the church. The project even won an architecture prize in Spain in 2008, and the City of Santiago de Compostela, provided funds to San Salvador to restore the Plaza outside the Church. But the restoration of the church buildings never took place.

The Church is known to capital dwellers…

Top 10 stories of 2012

My round-up of the top 10 stories from El Salvador during 2012.

The Gang truce.   In March, the news emerged that the top leaders of El Salvador's rival gangs had agreed from prison to a truce.  The truce was mediated by Catholic bishop Fabio Colindres and Raúl Mijango.  Nine months later, that truce is still holding.

It is clear that there has been a very definite reduction in the level of homicides.  The year closed with official statistics showing a dramatic 40% reduction in homicides from 2011.  The government and various sectors of society have started to push initiatives for prevention of gang violence.   There is talk of a second phase involving ten or more "sanctuary cities."  

But after years of daily violence, many remain deeply suspicious of the truce.  


Military leadership of civilian police.  In January, president Mauricio Funes replaced the civilian head of the National Police (PNC) with retiring general Francisco Ramón Salinas Rivera. This came just a few mo…

Third day of transport stoppage

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The buses and micro-buses which provide transportation to thousands of Salvadorans every day have been largely off the streets since Wednesday.   The owners of the buses are protesting the government's cutting of the fuel subsidy paid to the buses while at the same time refusing to permit the buses to raise the fares they charge riders.    As a result, Salvadorans have had to find other ways to work including walking, or riding in the back of pick-up trucks, and other vans and trucks which have been pressed into service.

In the past, the government's fuel subsidies were $373 for each authorized microbus and $750 for each bus; however with the cutback, the new subsidies are $200 and $400.   To make up for the cutbacks, bus owners wanted to raise their fares in the urban areas from 20 cents to 30 cents per passenger, but were issued fines by the government when they tried to collect those fares starting on Wednesday.   As a result, the bus owners pulled their units off the stre…

Salvadoran band marches in Rose Parade

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Banda El Salvador marched in the 2013 Rose Parade on New Years Day.  You watch this video as they pass by.   The Salvadoran band had appeared once before in the Rose Parade in 2008.

The band's performance in the parade is a great story.   From Southern California Public Radio:


The 147 high school age musicians in Banda El Salvador traveled four days by bus from their Central American homes to take part in today’s Rose Parade.  It’s been a learning experience for them and for the Southland residents helping them out during their stay.  There are more Salvadoran immigrants in Southern California than anywhere else in the United States. Hundreds of them filled Duarte High School’s football stadium on Sunday for two concerts by Banda El Salvador.  The campus has become the band’s home, literally. Money for flights and hotels didn’t materialize. So 147 teens are sleeping and showering in the high school gym and taking their meals in a large, very drafty vinyl tent. At 8:30 on Monday m…