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Showing posts from May, 2016

More than 100 Salvadorans per day apprehended crossing into US

Statistics from the US Customs and Border Patrol show a new surge of unaccompanied children from El Salvador as well as Guatemala and Honduras.   The biggest surge is from El Salvador, where 9617 minors have been apprehended in the seven months between October 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.    In contrast, for the 12 month period ending September 30, 2015,  9389 children were apprehended.   So with 5 months left in the US government's fiscal year, last year's total has already been exceeded.  In addition, there were 13,392 Salvadorans apprehended so far crossing the border in groups that included an adult and a child.    

It is no coincidence that the surge in migrants comes at the same time as the bloody surge in El Salvador's gang-fueled violence.

To provide a comparison, the 23 thousand Salvadorans captured compare to roughly 9000 from Mexico, despite Mexico's much larger population and proximity to the US.   That's almost 100 people per day picked up after fleein…

Cross-cultural encounters.

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I write this blog in English because my intended audience speaks that language.   While I am honored to have many Salvadoran readers, my intended audience are those English-speakers outside of El Salvador who have some connection to the country. through travel, or marriage, or a sister church, or a Habitat for Humanity project.   I try to be one source, hopefully trustworthy, of information about Salvadoran current events.
But a blog entry can't possibly convey the full reality.   That requires being there.    That requires encountering El Salvador in its people.  

Two bloggers who recently wrote about such encounters are Linda and Vida.   Linda writes Linda's El Salvador Blog and recently told the story of the The Woman in the Red Dress:


A couple of grandmothers from the community were with us under the tent.  They shared a little information with us about the Woman in the Red Dress.  She had walked all morning to get to the fair.  Many grandmothers in rural areas walk long d…

Collection of articles on gang violence in El Salvador

In the past week, the international English language press has been paying a lot of attention to the epidemic of gang-related violence in El Salvador.  Here's a sampling:
El Salvador Throws Out Gang Truce and Officials Who Put It in Place -- the New York Times reports on the actions of El Salvador's attorney general to prosecute government officials involved with the 2012-2014 gang truce and reports that prosecutors have their sights set on David Munguia Payes, former Minister of Public Security and current Minister of Defense.
The gangs that cost 16% of GDP  -- a report from the Economist which describes in detail how gang extortion imposes a tax on all segments of El Salvador's economy.

Deadly gang extortion rackets drive emigration from El Salvador - Reuters also looked at extortion and its role as a cause of migration.

In El Salvador, the Murder Capital of the World, gang violence becomes a way of life.   ABC News Nightline program looks at the phenomena of gang violence …

Recovering the historic center of San Salvador

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The city government of San Salvador under the direction of its mayor Nayib Bukele has been recovering the public spaces in the city's historic center, and doing so without violence, protests or force. In an area of more than 20 city blocks, the informal street vendors have removed their stalls to other locations, freeing up the streets and sidewalks around cultural and historic buildings and plazas.

In recent decades, the city's historic center near the National Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral, the National Theater and other important buildings has been the swarming center of the informal economy.   Thousands of informal vendors have set up make shift stalls where they hawk everything from mangoes to make-up, from pirated DVDs to piñatas.   The stalls are built on the sidewalks and into the streets, blocking access and obstructing the view of historic architecture.   Traffic congestion in the area is extreme at all hours of the day.

For years, San Salvador's mayors have…

Historic El Salvador in photos

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If you are on Twitter, make sure and follow HistoriadeElSalvador (@ESHistoria32) for a steady stream of historic photographic images from El Salvador like the one below.




El Salvador ranked high for citizen rights to information

El Salvador is now ranked fifth in the world with respect to the quality of its access to information laws. The rankings are produced by a program of  Access Info Europe (AIE) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).

The strength of El Salvador's ranking is a product of the country's Law of Access to Public Information adopted in 2011.

According to the RTI Rankings site:
This is an extremely well-written law with a robust scope, clearly enumerated procedures, and thorough promotional measures. Its chief weaknesses are the fact that the exceptions aren't harm tested and that the law does not override various other secrecy acts. Although El Salvador may have a good law, that may not mean that access to information is a right thoroughly enjoyed by Salvadorans as the RTI site notes:
It important to note that the RTI Rating is limited to measuring the legal framework, and does not measure quality of implementation...even relatively strong laws cannot ensure openness if the…

A sanctuary of music in San Salvador

A program to involve youth in symphonic music offers hope away from the dangerous streets of El Salvador's capital city.   Reuters offers the story of the  Don Bosco Youth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus:
The sweet sounds of classical music float across a sunny courtyard as a group of teenagers pluck the strings of violins and cellos.  But beyond the high gates enclosing the courtyard of the Don Bosco Industrial Polygon Centre, home to El Salvador's first and only youth orchestra, the sounds most likely to be heard are of gunshots.  The center on the eastern side of the capital San Salvador is surrounded by gang-infested areas where daily turf wars have made the small Central American nation among the world's most deadliest.  On the road leading to the center stands a teenage girl with red hair, a sign she is a gang member, a mobile phone glued to her ear, checking every person and car that enters.  But inside the building, there are no such controls. The orchestra has becom…

Which is worse?

Politicians in El Salvador need to be more aware that every cell phone is a potential video and audio recorder.   In March, a video surfaced of gang leaders meeting with ARENA politicians to talk about how the gangs could support ARENA in the 2014 presidential election.  This week another recording has been disclosed in which an FMLN government minister meets with the gangs around the same time talking about how the gangs could assist the leftist party get a victory for Salvador Sanchez Ceren in 2014.
Meanwhile, new attorney general Douglas Meléndez is arresting and prosecuting for "illicit associations" some who worked in the government and took steps which facilitated the 2012 gang truce. 
So I ask you -- which is worse -- going to the criminal organizations responsible for killings and extortion of thousands of Salvadoran citizens and asking for their votes -- or going to the criminal organizations and providing improved prison conditions if the level of killings in the c…

Chaos and the water crisis

The good folks at Voices on the Border have recently published a blog post looking at El Salvador's current potable water crisis and some of its root causes:
The bigger issue for the water crisis is that no one entity is responsible for managing water resources and ensuring they are used in a sustainable manner.  In the absence of water management, chaos reigns. The National Association of Aqueducts and Sewage (ANDA) provides water to 40% of the population. Another 40% of the population depends on no fewer than 2,366 local water boards (that’s 2,366 water boards in just 262 municipalities). The rest rely on private for-profit companies, wells, and other sources. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture is supposed to regulate irrigation; while the Ministry of the Environment protects recharge zones, rivers and lakes; and the Ministry of Health makes sure water is clean. This patchwork system fails because government agencies do not fulfill their roles and no single entity is respo…

Two histories of violence

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For too many years, the words "violence" and El Salvador have been inextricably linked.    Two recent publications offer different, but complementary, looks at violence in this Central American country.   Neither one offers a solution, but both help provide a deeper understanding that might someday help lead towards solutions.
A few weeks,ago this blog described the pastoral letter of  Roman Catholic archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas titled I See Violence and Strife in the City.   In his letter, San Salvador's archbishop explains why it is necessary to examine the historical roots of the current paroxysm of violence in El Salvador:  The magnitude of the effects of the current violence compels us all to seek immediate solutions, most of which cause us to forget that violence in El Salvador  is  a  problem  that  is  rooted  in  a  past  that,  has  either  been  ignored  or concealed,  or  reported  in  a  one-sided  fashion,  corresponding  to  the  interests  of those r…

Homicides drop and government arrests enablers of 2012 gang truce

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The homicide rate in El Salvador dropped more than 40% from March to April this year, and yesterday the government issued orders to arrest more than 20 people involved with the 2012 "tregua" or gang truce which produced a similar homicide reduction of more than 50%.  The confluence of these two events is emblematic of the confusing state of public security policy in El Salvador.

Murders dropped from more than 600 per month in the first three months of the year to 352 in April.   The causes are disputed according to Insight Crime:
El Salvador's government has claimed credit for a dramatic drop in homicides last month, but the country's powerful criminal gangs say they are behind the decrease in violence.   April saw 352 people murdered in El Salvador at an average of approximately 11 homicides per day, according to police statistics. Overall, this represents a 42 percent drop from the total number of homicides registered in March, reported La Prensa Grafica.  As shown…