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Showing posts from March, 2016

Gangs and government agree -- gangs control homicide level in El Salvador

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As El Salvador's government moves forward with new measures trying to control gang violence in the country, the powerful gangs which control many neighborhoods released videos declaring a temporary halt to killings.

From the Associated Press:
In the video broadcast by local media Saturday, a masked man claimed to make the offer on behalf of the Mara Salvatrucha gang and two factions of the Barrio 18 gang.  The video said killings were ordered stopped as of Saturday, to show the government it didn't have to implement get-tough policies. The government has been considering a kind of limited state of emergency in some areas, and is planning to release some non-gang inmates to free up prison space and liberate police to fight the gangs.  "We have ordered all of our people ... to halt all types of homicides nationwide," said the man who appears in the video, "to demonstrate to the public, the government and international agencies in our country that there is no need…

If Romero had lived

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Today, March 24, is the 36th anniversary of the assassination and martyrdom of Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero.   He was slain by a marksman's bullet as he said mass in the chapel at the Divina Providencia cancer hospital in San Salvador.   Today he is officially called "Blessed" after his beatification by the Roman Catholic church on May 23, 2015.

To mark the anniversary, our friend Carlos Colorado has a blog post titled Blessed Romero's Unfinished Eucharist.  Carlos looks at what Romero was planning for the days and weeks following March 24:
In February 1980, Romero attended a spiritual retreat during which he examined his life and he resolved to take various steps to either address perceived failings, or to continue on the path that he had assessed to be the right path upon reflection. Romero devised a plan of action that included the following near term plans:
Romero intended to write a fifth pastoral letter on the subject of evangelization. It would…

Zika control efforts

El Salvador is in the midst of a concentrated national campaign to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries the Zika virus as well as dengue and chikungunya.   The campaign runs throughout the months of March and April and involves actions at the department, municipality, colonia and individual house level to destroy and control the breeding grounds of the mosquitoes.   Already the country has seen a reduction from 12% to 8% of homes where mosquito larvae were identified.
Part of the control of the mosquitoes can be the introduction of small fish which eat the larvae.   A story from Fox Latino News describes how a US charity, Operation Blessing, is successfully distributing thousands of these fish in El Salvador and elsewhere:
"It is a very insidious little insect," Bill Horan, president of Operation Blessing, told Fox News Latino. "They are domesticated. They don't live in a swamp, in the woods, in a river or in a lake. They live in and around the homes – …

Images from the start of Holy Week

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On this Monday of Semana Santa in El Salvador, enjoy photo galleries of processions of the faithful in the streets of the country over the weekend.  On Saturday, there was the annual march to commemorate the martyrdom of Oscar Romero, as documented in a photo gallery from El Blog.   The website of ContraPunto shares colorful photos from Palm Sunday celebrations.     LaPrensaGrafica also has a photo gallery.   EDH shares photos as school students reenact the events of Holy Week.


Holy Week commences in El Salvador

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Embed from Getty Images

Semana Santa / Holy Week begins in El Salvador this weekend.   It is a time of both religious devotion in the historically Roman Catholic country, as well as family vacation time.
In the days before Holy Week each year, the government's security and rescue forces assure the public that they are fully prepared to provide security during the week of festivities, vacation and tourism.


But of course this year, everyone is mindful of the elevated levels of violence occurring in the gang-controlled zones of the country.  The Catholic Herald describes how Salvadoran churches face the possibility of violence during Holy Week observances: Police in some Salvadoran cities have already begun patrolling in an effort to prevent violence during Holy Week processions.  Some Church officials say the Church has been caught in the crossfire of gang violence in a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.  “Gang members do not care if they attack someone who i…

Hypocrisy, El Salvador style

El Salvador's right-wing ARENA party is calling for the resignation of current Minister of Defense David Munguia Payes.   They want him to resign for having allegedly approved the awarding of benefits to gang members in connection with the 2012 truce when he was Minister of Public Security.  A quick trip to the ARENA website shows dozens of other press releases attacking the FMLN government of Mauricio Funes for its role in the 2012 truce process with the gangs.

Yet the hypocrisy of this position was exposed Saturday with the publication of a video.

El Faro has made public a video showing ARENA party officials meeting with representatives of all three gang factions in El Salvador in 2014 before the presidential election.   One participant was Salvador Ruano, the ARENA mayor of Ilopango, and the other was an ARENA deputy in the National Assembly, Ernesto Muyshondt, who was also a spokesman for the party's presidential candidate Norman Quijano.   On the recording, the ARENA offi…

El Salvador's government ponders extraordinary measures to combat crime

El Salvador's top government leaders have been meeting to consider implementing "extraordinary measures" including the possible declaration of a "state of exception" to combat gang violence.  A declaration of a state of exception could involve the suspension of certain constitutional protections, the imposition of curfews, and the ability to detain persons without cause for extended periods of time.

InsightCrime reported:
On March 8, El Salvador's Supreme Court, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and lawmakers considered a plan to implement a state of exception in the country's most violent municipalities, reported La Página. The proposed state of exception would likely affect at least ten municipalities, including the capital city of San Salvador.

If implemented, the state of exception would provide authorities with broad powers to suppress public meetings, restrict freedom of movement, and monitor mail, e-mail, telephone, and social media communicatio…

How to deal with authors of murders and massacres

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The bloody surge in gang-related violence which made El Salvador the world's murder capital has continued through the first two months of 2016.   During the first two months, 1399 homicides took place, more than double the same period in 2015, and a rate of almost one murder every hour of every day.  In addition, ten police officers have been killed so far in 2016, continuing a death toll which saw 61 officers killed in 2015.   The truce among gangs and the government, which dramatically lowered homicide rates in 2012-13, has long since disappeared.
Public opinion polls in El Salvador always found that that so-called tregua, or truce, involving the country's warring criminal gangs was not approved by the population.   They disapproved despite the fact, that the homicide rate dropped more than 50% almost immediately,    In comparison to the start of 2016, there were just 381 homicides in January-February 2013 at the height of the truce -- more than 1000 fewer deaths than this …

El Salvador's economy -- not as bad as you might think

With all the bad news about El Salvador related to gang violence and corruption investigations, you might expect that its economy would be in a tail spin.   In fact, the economy is not that bad -- not great, but also not in decline.

According to El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank (BCR), El Salvador's economy grew at a rate of 2.5% for 2015, the highest rate in 7 years.  The bank also reported that real wages grew at a rate of 7.2% last year.  Direct private investment in the Salvadoran economy grew $600 million to $1.23 billion, and foreign direct investment grew as well, a vote of confidence in the economy.  The inflation rate for the year was just 1%.

According to BCR figures, in 2015, El Salvador's exports grew by 4%, and its trade deficit fell by 5.9%.   El Salvador was one of only two economies in Latin America and the Caribbean to record such export growth.

Remittances from Salvadorans abroad, primarily in the US, continue to be a major economic force in the country.…