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Showing posts from September, 2013

Work stoppage in public hospitals

Healthcare workers in the public health network went on strike last week.   The public health network provides medical care for the poor -- that is, for everyone not enrolled in the social security system by virtue of having a job in the formal economy.   So far the Ministry of Health indicates that more than 33,000 medical consultations and surgeries have been cancelled in local health clinics and hospitals around the country.

The workers have gone out on strike over pay issues and the failure to include an acceptable pay scale in the national budget for 2014.   President Mauricio Funes is sympathetic to the complaints about the pay scale, but indicates that he will not give in to healthcare workers who threaten the health of Salvadorans by going out on strike.   Funes has said that the country's weak finances make it very difficult to find money in the budget for this sector.


Coffee blight imperils 50,000 families

According to a report in La Prensa Grafica, the World Food Program is forecasting that as many as 50,000 Salvadoran families face hunger in coming months because of the impact of coffee leaf rust, known as "roya" in Spanish.  

The disease which attacks the foliage on coffee trees has affected as much as 74% of the coffee growing areas of the country.  Coffee farm owners are expected to hire 30% fewer workers for the harvest, and they will harvest fewer coffee beans.   The total harvest is expected to be down as much as 50-60%.   The Salvadoran coffee industry is also being hurt by a significant fall in the world price for coffee.  For those Salvadoran families for whom working in the coffee fincas is a significant part of annual income, the impact of roya and lower prices will be less food on the table and hunger in the home.

The news in pictures

There is currently an exhibition of some of the best photo journalism from Central America being exhibited in San Salvador.   You can see it online at this gallery from ElFaro.   If a picture is worth a 1000 words, this set fills a full length book.   [captions only in Spanish].  

Hat tip to Katy.


Checking in on Oscar Romero

It's been too long since I have pointed to any of the blog posts written by our friend, the blogger Polycarpio, who writes about all things Oscar Romero, and now calls his great blog "Super Martyrio -- the Martyrdom Files."  With the commencement of Francis' papacy, there is a much greater sense that coming very soon will be the formal beatification of the slain archbishop as a saint of the Roman Catholic church.  

Polycarpio's most recent two blog posts are  5 points about Oscar Romero & Liberation Theology, and “Romero will be beatified soon”.   The posts provide insights into Romero's theology and why Vatican watchers expect the beatification process to move quickly under Francis, the first Latinamerican pope.

Prior to those posts, Polycarpio "live blogged" on the day of prayer and fasting for Syria declared by Pope Francis, and channeling Oscar Romero into the meaning of that day.

Be sure and check out these posts and the many others at the…

News round-up

Here is a round-up of a variety of this week's news stories from El Salvador.

1.   Millennium Challenge funds awarded.  The US government approved a second round of direct aid to El Salvador through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) program.  In its press release announcing the approval, the MCC stated:
Washington, D.C.—At its quarterly meeting today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Board of Directors approved a five-year, $277 million compact with El Salvador to improve its competitiveness and productivity in international markets, and was briefed on MCC’s latest efforts in open data and transparency.  “I am very pleased that the Board of Directors took this step in approving the compact with El Salvador,” MCC Chief Executive Officer Daniel W. Yohannes said today. “This compact represents a tremendous opportunity to help reduce poverty in El Salvador by spurring investment and increasing economic growth.”  A thorough analysis concluded that low productivity in int…

Mining stories while we wait

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We give them jobs and they give us gold!
There is an ongoing conflict between interests which want to develop gold mines in El Salvador and a grass roots environmental movement sworn to stop any mining.   So far the anti-mining movement is winning, having persuaded the government to continue an ad hoc ban on all new permitting for mining.   That ban led the Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim to bring an international arbitration under the DR-CAFTA trade agreement and El Salvador's investor law.   The DR-CAFTA claim has been dismissed, but the arbitration continues under the investor law.     Meanwhile the anti-mining movement continues to push to have a mining ban actually incorporated into law.  

This history is well known to readers of this blog, and the conflict has been going on for many years.   If you want to read in depth, just choose the "mining" topic from the right side column on the blog.

As we continue to wait for either a decision in the Pacific Rim ar…

Los Farolitos

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Last Saturday, September 7, saw the celebration of "los Farolitos" or "little lanterns" in the city of Ahuachapan in western El Salvador.  The annual festival is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and draws visitors from all over.

You can see a collection of more images here.







Some positive environment stories

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A couple of positive environmental stories involving actions by El Salvador's government:

The National Assembly voted to ban 53 agricultural pesticides which have been shown to damage health.   The legislation was passed with the votes of all parties except the right-wing ARENA legislators.
The government announced that it is developing a plan for the recovery of the Acelhuate River which flows through San Salvador.   The river is highly polluted with heavy metals and with untreated sewage from the city.   The river is also prone to damaging floods in the rainy season as it overflows the concrete banks which channel its course.   Recovery of the health of this river and mitigating its risks is going to take a very long time.
Acelhuate River

Salvadorans in the USA

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La Prensa Grafica recently shared some charts showing where Salvadorans live outside of the El Salvador.   88% of the 2.9 million Salvadorans living outside of the country live in the US.   The chart below shows their population centers in the US.   The largest number of Salvadorans live in California with one million Salvadorans in just the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco.    60% or 1.25 million of the Salvadorans living in the US are US citizens.


Here's a chart showing the other countries where Salvadorans live



El Salvador's Supreme Court -- prudence and discretion needed

There is currently an unseemly dispute going on between two divisions of El Salvador's Supreme Court.   It is a dispute which undermines respect for the Court as an institution and for principles of judicial independence and the rule of law.

The Constitutional Chamber of the Court has agreed to hear a petition challenging the election of the chief of the Supreme Court, Salomón Padilla, who was elected when last year's constitutional crisis was resolved.  The Constitutional Chamber has been the activist part of the court, and has been a particular thorn in the side of the political parties by requiring that elections allow voters to vote for individuals rather than parties, by requiring that independent candidates be permitted, by finding that the minister of public security cannot be an ex-general and more.

Meanwhile the Administrative Litigation Chamber ("Sala de lo Contencioso-Administrativo") has agreed to rule on a petition challenging the manner in which the jus…

Photos tell ongoing story of Salvadoran prisons

There have been many stories on this blog about the horrendous overcrowding and deplorable conditions in El Salvador's prisons.    (Just choose the "prisons" tag in the column at the right to see those posts).   But sometimes a set of pictures can make the point more forcefully.   This is the case for a set of photos taken by photographer Giles Clark which appeared in the August issue of Vice magazine.  The photos show the conditions of prisoners housed in "cages" behind an unidentified police station.   Many had been there for more than a year.  

The photo essay was quickly picked up by many other online sites, showing the power of the images.  There are more of Giles Clark's photos of the prison conditions here.

The images are jarring, and yet not that much different from many which have been shown before.   If anything, the images document the fact that little is improving in El Salvador's jails.