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Showing posts from February, 2013

Salvadoran war crimes once again in a US court room

Once again a US court room is the scene of testimony about human rights abuses during El Salvador's civil war.   This time the setting is a deportation proceeding as the US seeks to deport former Salvadoran defense minister General Jose Guillermo García.
The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) offers this description of General Garcia: General Jose Guillermo García (b. 1933) graduated in 1962 from The School of the Americas. He later became the Minister of Defense in El Salvador from 1979 to 1983. García was in charge of the military forces responsible for the infamous El Mozote and Sumpul River massacres where over 1367 civilians were killed.  He was also the Minister of Defense when the revered Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated and blocked any attempts at an investigation. In 1989, he retired to Florida after receiving political asylum in the United States. The CJA successfully sued Garcia on behalf of victims of torture and kidnapping in the case Romagoza Arce v.…

Tony Saca makes candidacy official

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Former Salvadoran president Tony Saca today officially launched his campaign to be re-elected as president in the 2014 elections.   Saying that El Salvador does not have the luxury to have a new president who will learn on the job, the conservative politician seeks to return to the country's top job.

He will stand as the presidential candidate for a "unity movement  of three small right wing parties:  GANA, PDC and PCN.    In announcing his candidacy, Saca stated  that if he Salvadorans make him the president again, he planned to "govern with the Bible and the Constitution as guides" and to use his experience to bring solutions to the problems plaguing Salvadorans.

After he finished his 5 year term as president in 2009, Saca was expelled from ARENA as a traitor, when he was seen to be behind the departure of several legislators to form the GANA party.  

Although there's a year to go, Tony Saca joins Salvador Sanchez Ceren  for the FMLN and Norman Quijano for A…

Mastodon fossils in Apopa

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Fossilized bones from a mastodon have been identified at a paleontological site in the municipality of Apopa. An article in Hispanically Speaking News  quotes one of the scientists:

At least 12 fossil fragments, including some from a mastodon, have been discovered at a new paleontological site in El Salvador.   “We dug down to the fossil-bearing strata…we have now reached some materials of great importance to paleontology,” the head of the expedition, paleontologist Daniel Aguilar, told Efe....  “There is one deposit with the remains of a horse, and farther down the bones of a mastodon are to be seen,” he said, but added that it is “too soon to specify all the taxonomic information about the animals” found at the site, since they must still be brought up for analysis.
Apopa is located about 7 1/2 miles northeast of San Salvador.  According to an article in La Prensa Grafica, the city hopes to attract visitors with a viewing platform into the dig and a museum to showcase the finds.


The strategy of child abductions in El Salvador's civil war

The Associated Press ran a lengthy story this week about the abduction of children by Salvadoran armed forces during El Salvador's civil war.  It's not a new story for readers of this blog, but it brings attention in the US to one of the uglier chapters of El Salvador's civil war.  The AP story focused on the case of Gregoria Contreras, a young girld kidnapped by solders in 1982 as part of a counter-insurgency operation.
One of Gregoria Contreras' first childhood memories was the moment she last saw her parents.
Fighting between government troops and guerrillas had broken out around the 4-year-old girl's family home in the countryside of this Central American country. The soldiers took advantage of the confusion and seized Contreras and her two siblings, who were under the age of 2.

"We all fled the house and suddenly it all ended because they captured us and our parents disappeared," said Contreras, now 35 and living in neighboring Guatemala.

Contreras…

The Mayans and their balsam log rafts

A fascinating blog which I go back to time and again is The Indigenous History of El Salvador by Tim Lohrentz.   His most recent post, titled Thor Heyerdahl and the Production of Balsam Rafts in El Salvador,  looks at how the Mayans found that the balsam trees growing in the mountains of El Salvador provided great logs for ocean going rafts.  

Here is an excerpt:

What is most noticeable about the balsam is the sap. They most likely tried to light it to use as an incense or charcoal, as well as to rub onto canoes and rafts.
At some point the Maya were able to get a balsam log into standing water - not so easy from the steep [Balsam mountain range in El Salvador]. They noticed four things about the balsam that make it the best tree in the Americas for ocean-going rafts and perhaps the best in the world:The size of the logs both in terms of width and length - the trees grow 40 meters tall;The straightness of the trunk;The resin-laden wood which makes it extremely resistant to water, inclu…

Attempt to scale back government transparency blocked

A wave of protest from civil society and advocates for transparency has prompted president Mauricio Funes to veto a recent legislative attempt to scale back transparency laws.   The law in question is the Law of Access to Public Information (LAIP).   As the Voices from El Salvador blog reports, the National Assembly acted a week ago to weaken that law. The Legislative Assembly passed the LAIP in 2011 with 55 votes after civil society organizations, led by Grupo Promotor de LAIP, advocated for years for greater transparency and the right to access public information. The LAIP covers most aspects of information management by government agencies – classification of information, release of information, and promoting a culture of transparency. The LAIP also creates an administrative infrastructure to facilitate citizen access to public information.  Friday’s reforms weaken the LAIP in many ways, according to Grupo Promotor. The Institute charged with implementing the LAIP no longer has th…

Updates on security stories in El Salvador

A round up of some recent news related to the gang truce and efforts to reduce crime and violence in El Salvador.

Al Jazeera has a video report describing the truce and Sonsonate beoming one of the violence free municipalities. InfoSurHoy.com also has an article on the maras signing a peace agreement in Sonsonate.   The site also has an article regarding Barrio 18 gang members now working in a bakery in Ilopango, a step towards reinsertion into society.  Voices form El Salvador blog has a report on a $20 million USAID project, to be combined with $22 million from the private sector to work on violence prevention initiatives to keep youth out of gangs in the first place.    Mike Allison at Central American Politics also has a post on the USAID effort.InsightCrime reports on the military's intention to remove soldiers from the four "peace cities" which have been announced so far.  


El Salvador's dangerous roads

A recent article from IPS titled Death Speeding Down El Salvador’s Roads details the high number of traffic fatalities in the Central American nation:

The combination of widespread disregard for traffic regulations and poor vehicle and road controls puts El Salvador among the countries of Latin America with the highest rates of traffic-related deaths....  “Traffic accidents are one of our leading emergencies; there are so many that we can barely cope,” rescue team paramedic Carlos Fuentes told IPS. El Salvador has an average of 24.5 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in a population of 6.2 million, ranking sixth on the list of countries in the region with the highest number of deaths in traffic accidents.   The list, prepared by the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) for the 2012 edition of its Health in the Americas report, is topped by the Dominican Republic, with 32.2 traffic-related deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.  Leading causes of car accidents include speeding,…

El Salvador from 60 years ago

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This short 10 minute documentary video about El Salvador from 1954 provides a glimpse into all the changes from then until now.


Opposing views on what the gang truce means for El Salvador

Americas Quarterly has produced an article with two diametrically opposed views of the gang truce in El Salvador.    David Brotherton, a sociologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice takes a very optimistic view and concludes:

The truce has effectively produced a new political and cultural moment. It is not business as usual. The gang bangers have rejected their stereotypical image and opted for peace. It is the perfect time for those with the power and resources at both the local and international levels to follow suit. The opposite view is expressed by Carlos Ponce, a columnist at El Diario de Hoy and crime consultant.   He sees the truce as simply part of the evolution of the gangs into more sophisticated and more dangerous criminal organizations:
El Salvador should learn from the experience of its northern neighbor, and be smarter about how much it invests in the current truce—and, by extension, how much it concedes to MS-13 and Barrio 18. Negotiations between the government…

Still debating dollarization

Our friends at Voices on the Border have a new blog post about El Salvador's dollarization, which is still controversial twelve years after the country abandoned its own currency for the US dollar.   The most recent discussions center around remarks by the president of El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank: Bank President Acevedo made his most recent statements (reported by Active Transparency) following the release of a government study on dollarization, which reached some rather negative conclusions. The report found that many key economic indicators, including exports and GDP fell, while inflation and interest rates rose. Dollarization has failed to shield the economy from downturns and instead made El Salvador more susceptible to instabilities in the U.S. economy, as witnessed during the 2009 recession. The Economista published an article yesterday reaching very much the same conclusions.  In his statements this month, Acevedo said dollarization was “badly designed, improvis…

New law slashes drug prices

An article titled Cheaper Medicine a New Year's Gift for Salvadorans from IPS describes how recent legislation in El Salvador is reducing the prices Salvadorans pay for needed prescription drugs:
In early January, the Dirección Nacional de Medicamentos (DNM, National Directorate of Medicines), newly created by the law, published maximum retail prices for 4,406 medicines that are on average 35 percent lower than before.  Within this list of named medicines, the drugs with the highest volumes of sales and the highest costs had their prices slashed by an average of 69 percent, good news for consumers who for decades have been paying high prices fixed by an under-regulated industry which has been accused by social organisations of committing marketing abuses.  For instance, the DNM list shows that a medicine for treating high cholesterol, previously sold at 68 dollars, will now cost 37 dollars, and another for diabetes, formerly 23 dollars, will cost 10.73 dollars. (These are chronic…