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Showing posts from October, 2017

The Protestant Reformation and El Salvador

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Today, October 31, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation when a German monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door in Germany.

Today in El Salvador, protestants are continuing to make inroads on the dominance of the Roman Catholic church in the country.  According to polling statistics published by La Prensa Grafica today, 45% of Salvadorans consider themselves Roman Catholic, 35% consider themselves protestant, 2% some other religion, and 17% profess no religion.    This is a decline of 10 percentage points for the catholic faithful in the country since 2004.

The Roman Catholic church is the only one officially recognized by the Constitution of El Salvador.  Perhaps because of the growing numbers of protestants, there is now a proposal in the National Assembly to modify the constitution to recognize other denominations.

Today close to the Salvadoran Lutheran University on the south side of San Salvador, a new plaza to the protestant …

Renovation of Plaza Gerardo Barrios

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Over the weekend, the municipal government of San Salvador unveiled renovations to Plaza Gerardo Barrios in the historic center of the city.  The renovation features lighting, new pavement, fountains and other upgrades. The plaza is bordered by the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace and is named for a 19th century general and president of El Salvador.
The nighttime events were intended to portray a message of reclaiming important public spaces.  Images of families strolling and taking selfies after dark in a zone often associated with gang-sponsored crime poured out of the Twitter feed of the city government.
The plaza is a location of great historic significance.   Demonstrations in the 70s and 80s were often violently repressed by government troops.   The funerals of martyrs Rutilio Grande, Oscar Romero and others took place on the steps of the cathedral facing the plaza.  And troops stationed on top of the National Palace opened fire into the plaza killing and injuring…

Temporary Protected Status -- will US really expel 300,000 law-abiding residents?

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Currently advocates for a just immigration system are lobbying Congress and the Trump administration to preserve Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti as well as other countries.   The largest group of TPS holders (195,000) are from El Salvador.
A recent report from the Center for American Progress emphasized the economic and family ties which these immigrants have with their communities in the US:
They have lived in the United States for an average of 19 years and are employed at high rates, ranging from 69.2 to 83.5 percent. The contributions made by TPS holders, moreover, will only continue to grow in the future, as they are collectively raising families that include nearly 275,000 U.S.-born children.... TPS holders are long-term, integrated members of communities across the United States. On average, recipients from Honduras have lived in the United States for 22 years, recipients from El Salvador an average of 21 years, and rec…

The FMLN's new candidate for mayor of San Salvador

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El Salvador's left wing party, the FMLN, has chosen Jackeline Rivera to be its candidate for mayor in the March 2018 elections.   The party needed to choose a new candidate after expelling from the party, Nayib Bukele, the current mayor.

Rivera is currently a deputy in the National Assembly for the department of  Cuscatlán.

Rivera shared details of her biography earlier this year in an interview at 102Nueve.com.   Rivera was born in the municipality of Cinquera, where her father was an early guerrilla leader.   She was a child soldier, joining one of the five member groups of the FMLN, the Fuerzas Populares de Liberación (FPL) in 1979 when she was only 8 years old.  At age 16 she was a radio operator for the FMLN operating in the mountains.

A photo of Rivera which appeared on the interview with 102Nueve:


After the war, Rivera studied law and became a lawyer.   Eventually she reached her current position in the National Assembly.

Rivera will be stepping into the candidacy made vac…

The voices of the victims of El Mozote

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In a small courtroom in the town of San Francisco Gotera, largely unnoticed by the world, a major human rights trial is taking place.    The trial seeks to establish the responsibility of high ranking officers of the Salvadoran military for the 1981 massacre at El Mozote.   In El Mozote and the surrounding small communities, as many as one thousand civilians -- children, the elderly, women and men -- were brutally killed by the Salvadoran military between December 9 and 11, 1981.  It is a crime the judge has already declared a "crime against humanity."

It is possible to follow along with the testimony in English translations.   So far, family members of those who died at El Mozote, and who witnessed some of those days of terror have been testifying.

Journalist Nelson Rauda Zablah has been covering the El Mozote trial for El Faro and live tweeting the testimony.   His summary of some of the first witnesses is published in an article titled The Day “The Offended” of El Mozote…

Tree Chicken for dinner

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Preparing live iguanas for dinner on a cooking competition show has generated controversy on social media in El Salvador.  From ReMezcla.com:
Viewers were scandalized when Top Chef El Salvador, their local version of the American reality series, prepared live iguanas during primetime television. The show’s four finalists were tasked with slicing the reptiles into original dishes for the judges. While iguanas are a traditional food in El Salvador, it was the graphic nature of the program and the fact that the reptiles are a protected and endangered species that sparked outrage...On top of the broadcast, Top Chef El Salvador took to social media to share photos of the contestants cutting off the tails and skinning the creatures. All of these images have now been deleted. You can watch some of this culinary exhibition here:

Top Chef pensó que cocinar especies amenazadas era algo que su público iba a disfrutar. pic.twitter.com/gx5TP6a6AF — AJ+ Español (@ajplusespanol) October 14, 2017

In …

Nayib Bukele announces run for president in 2019

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After being expelled from the FMLN, Nayib Bukele has decided to run for president of El Salvador in 2019.    In a 20 minute discourse on Facebook Live Sunday night, Bukele announced that he will not fight the expulsion in the courts, but will instead form a new political movement to achieve the presidency.    Bukele spent much of his time talking about his roots in the FMLN and his father's friendship with Schafik Handal.   But Bukele asserted that the FMLN is now controlled by a small leadership group which is corrupt and seeks only to protect its own narrow interests and corruption.   


Ordering the government to protect victims

On October 6, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court announced that it had ordered the government to provide measures of protection for a family subject to threats and attacks from one of El Salvador's criminal gangs.

An article on the website of the family's lawyers at Cristosal explains the ruling:
An extended family with about 30 members began to receive attacks from the Barrio 18 gang in April 2017. Various family members endured injuries, rape, murder, and displacement from their homes. They knocked on the doors of several state institutions, but didn’t receive help from any of them until last Friday. That’s when the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ordered that measures be taken to protect the family. The attorney representing the family explains that, rather than just procuring temporary protection measures, they seek to make this case a reference for the creation of long-term assistance programs for victims of displacement in El Salvad…

The FMLN expels Nayib Bukele

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The mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, uses the slogan "Nuevas Ideas"  -- New Ideas.   Today the traditional leadership of the FMLN showed that new ideas  don't have a place within the party, and expelled Bukele.  The Ethics Tribunal of the FMLN expelled Bukele from the left wing party for violating the principles and statutes of the party.

Ostensibly, the reason for the expulsion was a claim that Bukele had verbally abused a female FMLN lawyer during a meeting of the San Salvador municipal council.   Yet the writing had been on the wall for weeks.   Senior FMLN leaders like Medardo Gonzales had been publicly complaining about Bukele, and seemed to be looking for a pretext to justify separating the FMLN from the brash young mayor of the capital city.

Bukele has consistently polled as the most popular politician in the country, the favorite to win reelection as mayor in 2018, and the leader by a wide margin over any other possible candidate for president in 2019.  None…

How crime affects daily life

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The Latin American Public Opinion Project and Inter-American Dialogue have collaborated to produce a working paper titled Beneath the Violence: How Insecurity Shapes Daily Life and Emigration in Central America.

Using public opinion polling data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project, the study looks at how perceptions of crime and violence affect the routine of daily life for persons living in Central America, particularly the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Insecurity, crime, and state weakness are parts of everyday life in much of Central America. Most homicides and other crimes go unreported or unsolved and law enforcement, judicial, and correctional systems are overloaded, corrupt, and ineffective. Despite decades of effort on remedies, the underlying security situation remains largely the same, if not worse, in some countries. Facing dangerous and daunting contexts, individuals modify their behaviors in ways that have personal, economi…

Rainwater harvesting

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Universal, affordable access to potable water does not exist in El Salvador, particularly in rural areas. One partial solution to the problem is rainwater harvesting --- when the rains fall abundantly on El Salvador, there is plenty of fresh water, if it can be captured, stored and made accessible. 

A recent article from IPS News describes some rainwater harvesting projects in El Salvador:
Filling a jug with water to supply her household needs used to be an ordeal for Salvadoran villager Corina Canjura, because it meant walking several kilometers to the river, which took up a great deal of time, or else paying for water.  But an innovative project of rainwater harvesting has changed her life.  “Now we just pump, fill the tank and we have water ready to use,” said the 30-year-old woman from the village of Los Corvera, in the rural municipality of Tepetitán, in El Salvador’s central department of San Vicente.  In this village, 13 families benefit from a system that collects the rainwat…

Homicides in El Salvador surge in past two weeks

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There has been a dramatic surge in homicides in El Salvador in the past two weeks. 



Until September 20, homicide rates were running below 10 homicides a day in September, with some days tallying as few as 3 or 4 homicides.    Yet something appeared to change on September 21.   The number of daily murders across El Salvador jumped above 20, including a high of 40 on September 23.    The average in the 12 days since September 21 has been 26 daily murders.   (Note -- the daily totals for September 17 and 30 were not available in what Salvadoran police have published).
Authorities in El Salvador have advanced various explanations for this lethal increase.    One theory, advanced by Howard Cotto, director of the PNC, was that the rise in homicides was due to an internal struggle between factions of MS-13 in the country.    That theory, however, would seem to be undercut from statistics published by his own agency which labels only a small portion of the victims as "presumed gang memb…

Festival for good living (and that state senator who was invited)

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On many Saturdays throughout the year, president Salvador Sánchez Cerén takes his executive branch out to some community throughout the country.   The Festival para el Buen Vivir (Festival for Good Living) brings in one locations a multitude of government agencies.   The idea is that citizens from the local community will better be able to access government services in this one day when the services come to town.  There are free wellness checks and dental visits, cultural exhibits and lots of free handouts.

Gobernando con la Gente (Governing with the People), is the president's time to deliver a broadcast speech about all recent accomplishments of his administration.   He brings along other executive branch officials who also speak about how the government is fulfilling its promises to the country. There's also usually a delivery of notebook computers to some local schools, land titles to residents of some local community, and announcement of some building project in the commu…