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Showing posts from December, 2013

El Salvador volcano update

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As of the afternoon on New Years' Eve, the Chaparrastique volcano continues to send up small clouds of smoke, but has not erupted again with the force of Sunday's explosion.   Currently MARN has a live camera feed aimed at the volcano which you can watch to see what it is doing at this very instant.   Check it out at this link.

Here is a picture of the crater from an overflight earlier today:


The Civil Protection authorities revised alert levels in the country earlier today.   The alert level in San Miguel Department remains at orange.   Usulutan has been lowered to yellow, and the rest of the country lowered to green.   Flights resumed into El Salvador's international airport.

Authorities are currently urging people who had been evacuated from the immediate vicinity of the volcano (within a 3km radius) not to leave shelters  yet and return home.   While the level of activity monitored in the volcano has dropped significantly, authorities have not yet ruled out the possibi…

Volcanic ash cloud from San Miguel volcano

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An enormous cloud of volcanic ash spread west from the Chaparrastique volcano near San Miguel after an eruption Sunday morning.   The explosion at one of El Salvador's most active volcanoes sent ash some 5 kilometers into the air.   By mid-afternoon, ash was starting to arrive in the greater San Salvador area.

At 5:15, MARN was reporting that the volcano was only emitting gases and not ash and the level of seismic activity within the volcano had declined.   Still, the population was warned to be on the alert for additional possible eruptions.

From Reuters:
Civil protection authorities said they would evacuate people from within three kilometers (1.9 miles) of the volcano and set up emergency shelters.  "The evacuations began almost right after the explosion," said civil protection official Armando Vividor. He said some 5,000 people lived around the volcano.  The volcano, which is about 140 kilometers (86 miles) to the east of the capital, spewed ash over a wide area an…

Chaparrastique Volcano in San Miguel erupts Sunday morning

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\The Chaparrastique Volcano, also known as the San Miguel volcano erupted around 10:30 on Sunday morning sending ash and a column of smoke into the air.  

Approximately 2000 people are being evacuated by authorities within a 3 km radius around the volcano.

According to El Salvador's director of Civil Protection,  Jorge Meléndez, the most affected areas are to the south and west of the volcano including the towns of San Jorge, El Tránsito, Chinameca, San Rafael de Oriente and Jucuapa.  The falling ash could extend to the municipalities of  Santiago de María, Santa Elena and Usulután.

As a result of the ash and smoke, the entire country was placed on yellow alert, and the area around San Miguel placed on orange alert by emergency authorities.  People in the area where ash is falling are being advised to take steps to avoid breathing it, but also to be constantly cleaning the ash off their roofs to avoid roof collapse.  No injuries had been reported as of this time.

The volcano is …

On Christmas Eve

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Photo of nativity scene taken December 2005
at the chapel at Divina Providencia in San Salvador.
God keeps on saving in history.
And so, in turning once again
to the episode of Christ’s birth at Bethlehem,
we come not to recall Christ’s birth twenty centuries ago,
but to live that birth here,
in the twentieth century, this year,
in our own Christmas here in El Salvador.
By the light of these Bible readings
we must continue all the history
that God has in his eternal mind,
even to the concrete events
of our abductions,
of our tortures,
of our own sad history.
That is where we are to find our God.
Words of Archbishop Oscar Romero
Christmas Eve, 1979, three months before he was assassinated in the chapel where the photo above was taken.

Where next for the gang truce?

As the year draws to a close, there are many perspectives on the gang truce process in El Salvador. El Faro recently had an article titled El Salvador Gang Truce: Signs of Life, which appeared in English on the InsightCrime site.   From that article:
The truce still has measurable vital signs, despite the explicit animosity between the mediator Raul Mijango and the security minister, Ricardo Perdomo, and the fact that the government has turned its back on it. According to the original mediators, the minister is trying to substitute them for Father Antonio Rodriguez and Pastor Mauricio Navas. Moreover, due to the restrictions imposed by Perdomo, the gangs have adapted their systems to speed up the decision making process.  These days, there is no lack of mourners of the truce, people who consider it dead, and not in a dramatic way, but rather, due to simple abandonment and neglect, extinguished by the force of no longer declaring it. But it breathes. The basic vital signs are still the…

PBS shines light on harsh Salvadoran anti-abortion law

PBS ran a news story this week describing El Salvador's severe anti-abortion law under which women suspected of having abortions can be prosecuted for aggravated homicide. PBS highlights the cases of several women who have been prosecuted, and sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison. You can watch the video or read a transcript at this link.

Coffee blight takes a bite out of El Salvador's economy

El Salvador is in the coffee harvest season, and the news is not good.    The coffee rust blight which afflicts coffee farms throughout the country has led to a dramatic drop in coffee exports.  According to published reports, El Salvador received  40% less coffee export income in October/November than in the same period one year ago, reflecting lower coffee prices and an 18% reduction in volume of exports.

Last week El Salvador's National Assembly finally established a fund for combating the coffee blight known as "la roya" and the ministry of agriculture declared an agricultural emergency.  

Annually coffee accounts for tens of thousands of jobs in El Salvador.    With job losses in the coffee growing areas, rural poverty will increase and there will be migration into the cities or out of the country.

Interested in more general information about the coffee industry in El Salvador?  The PROCAFE Foundation has made this English language overview of El Salvador's cof…

San Salvador from the air

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Photo Mauro Arias, El Faro

The online periodical El Faro today published a collection of 48 photos of San Salvador and surrounding municipalities taken from the air.   It is a fascinating view from the historic center of the city to brand new subdivisions, from luxury homes on the slopes of the San Salvador volcano to marginalized communities built on the banks of the Acelhuate River.  Check it out.


The upcoming presidential election in El Salvador

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There are seven weeks left until El Salvador's 2014 presidential elections on February 2.   Although the campaign has been going on since 2012, there is still much to be determined and much could change.

The three leading candidates are Norman Quijano, the current mayor of San Salvador and candidate of the right wing ARENA party,  Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the current vice president and candidate of the left wing FMLN, and Tony Saca, former president of El Salvador from the ARENA party but now running on a coalition ticket of right wing parties called "Unidad."  Although there are a few other minor candidates, none of them has a chance of winning or much impact on what happens.

My friends at the SHARE Foundation have published short biographies of each candidate on the SHARE blog.  Read about Norman QuijanoTony Saca, and Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

The most recent polls have started to show some consistent strength for Sánchez Cerén.   If you average the results of the last…

Funes won't end honors to human rights violators

Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes has backed off from his orders to the military two years ago to stop honoring officers who had committed atrocities during the civil war.   It was at El Mozote, the site of the massacre of a thousand men, women and children by the army, where Funes ordered the armed forces to cease honoring those who had violated human rights during the war.  

As I wrote last month, Colonel Domingo Monterrosa and Major José Azmitia who commanded the massacre at  El Mozote, continue to be celebrated as war heroes by the Salvadoran armed forces with commemorations of their exploits and with military units named for them.   But today, on the 32nd anniversary of that massacre, Funes told a journalist that "I never promised to remove the names from the regiments."   Funes now says he only asked for a review of the issue by the military, and he will study the results of that review.

 Apparently the president of El Salvador lacks the political will to confront th…

Corruption charges against former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores

Francisco Flores was president of El Salvador from 1999-2004, one of the string of presidents from the conservative ARENA party.   Current president Mauricio Funes, from the left-wing FMLN, has said that Flores is being investigated for the alleged disappearance of $10 million during his presidency.   It is a case that has lots of political overtones during this passionate presidential election period.
From the Associated Press:

El Salvador's president has asked the attorney general to investigate a $10 million donation that Taiwan made 10 years ago to the Salvadoran government during the administration of then-President Francisco Flores.  President Mauricio Funes told reporters on Tuesday the complaint is based on suspicious operations detected by the U.S. Treasury Department, information received by prosecutors in September. He said he had a copy of the information but would not say how he received it.  The attorney general's office, which is independent, confirmed the inve…

Supreme Court will not rule on Saca's candidacy

Last week I described how the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court had agreed to hear a legal challenge to the aspirations of Tony Saca to be elected president for a second time.   Over the weekend came the news that the the justices have chosen to let the voters decide and that they will not rule on the case involving Saca.  According to a report in La Pagina, the interim president of the Supreme Court informed the Supreme Electoral Tribunal that the Court would not hear cases filed against Norman Quijano and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and would only rule on the case involving Tony Saca after the elections.

That seems to be a prudent decision.   With Saca trailing in recent polls, the Court may be able to avoid ruling all together and avoid provoking another constitutional conflict.

Threats to historic memory in El Salvador

There have been several recent good articles about the threats to historic memory and the continuation of impunity for human rights violations which the attack on Pro-Busqueda and the closing of Tutela Legal represent.   Those articles include:

Case Records of Children ‘Disappeared’ Into Adoption Destroyed in El Salvador Attack by Karen Smith Rotabi  and Carmen MonicoBurning History in San Salvador by Sarah MaslinMemory and Repression in El Salvador by Alexandra McAnarneyEl Salvador: War Crime Archives In Suspense by Tomás Andréu In this year of presidential elections in El Salvador, McAnarney reminds us why these issues matter so much: Yet, upon a closer look, none of the presidential candidates' hands are clean. FMLN candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren was responsible for commanding thousands of assassinations between 1986 and 1990. ARENA candidate Norman Quijano has never been directly implicated in any human rights violations, however, his party was responsible for the most egregi…