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Showing posts from January, 2018

FMLN bosses pick a presidential candidate

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The leadership of the left wing FMLN has apparently chosen the former Minister of Public Works, Gerson Martínez, to be the party's candidate for the 2019 presidential elections in El Salvador.  The FMLN has held the presidency since 2009, but faces an uphill challenge in 2019 with an unpopular current president and the presidential ambitions of San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele and his new political party called Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas).

Gerson Martínez is a 63 year old former guerrilla.  His actual name is Manuel Orlando Quinteros Aguilar, but he has used the name Gerson Martínez since the time he was a student activist.  He was one of the persons involved in the founding of the FMLN guerrilla coalition in 1980 and played leadership roles in the FMLN guerrilla movement during the country's civil war.   After the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords, Martínez was elected to the National Assembly as an FMLN deputy in 1994 and was re-elected every three years until 2009 when he was …

A post-TPS decision reading list

The decision of the Trump administration to cancel Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador and the president's use of the term "shithole" to refer to El Salvador has prompted the appearance of many essays and articles in the past week and a half.

Some authors emphasized the human and economic cost of the TPS decision:

The El Salvador Tragedy, Linda Greenhouse, New York TimesThese Women Have Spent Years Cleaning Up After Senators Who Now Want To Deport Them, Dave Jamieson, Huffington PostTrump's latest immigration crackdown threatens the economy — both in the US and in El Salvador, Christopher Woody, Business Insider
Unsurprisingly, several articles focused on the level of violence in El Salvador.

Salvadorans forced to return home will face one of the most dangerous places on the planet, Robert Muggah and Isabel de Sola, Los Angeles TimesEx-gang members in El Salvador fear more crime if TPS ends, Patrick Oppmann and Natalie Gallón, CNNWhy Is El Salvador so dangerous?…

The limited good news from El Salvador

A recent article in Americas Quarterly is  titled "The Good News About El Salvador,"  and was written by researchers Robert Muggah and Katherine Aguirre.   Muggah is the co-founder of a Brazilian think tank named the  the Igarapé Institute which is hosting a conference on urban security and violence prevention in San Salvador next week. 

The researchers described the "good news" they found in El Salvador:
But today, 26 years since the signing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords, El Salvador has reason to be hopeful: After years of sustained investment in security and violence prevention, the country's murder rate is on its way down. The same is true of violence-plagued neighbors Honduras and Guatemala, where murder rates have fallen dramatically in recent years. This regional turnaround can offer lessons to policymakers from Brasília to Mexico City.   That’s not to say that all is well; violence in the so-called Northern Triangle is still tragically commonplace. …

Lost TPS? Go to Qatar

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One of the stranger developments in the story of increasing deportations of Salvadorans from the US are the efforts of El Salvador's government to find them a home in Qatar.  One year ago, a Qatar emissary was in El Salvador for the 25th anniversary of the Peace Accords, and the office of El Salvador's president reported that they discussed the possibility of greater investment by Qatar in El Salvador.  Exactly a year later,  the Salvadoran government reported that it was now discussing sending migrant workers to Qatar.
According to Reuters: El Salvador is discussing a deal with Qatar under which Salvadoran migrants facing the loss of their right to stay in the United States could live and work temporarily in the Middle Eastern country, the government of the Central American nation said on Tuesday....  Presidential communications chief Eugenio Chicas said El Salvador was in talks to see how Salvadorans could be employed in Qatar, a wealthy country of some 2.6 million people t…

26th anniversary of Peace Accords

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Tuesday, January 16, is the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Peace Accords which ended El Salvador's civil war.   To commemorate the date, here are some images from the Monument to Peace and Reconciliation in San Salvador which was unveiled last year.   For a full description of the Monument, visit Linda's El Salvador Blog.







With few local English speakers, call centers need deportees

Education First recently published the seventh edition of its world English Proficiency Index.    The Index ranks countries by the English language skills of their population.  In that index, El Salvador finished last among all the Latin American countries and finished 69th out of the 80 countries worldwide included in the Index.  El Salvador's English proficiency was classified as "very low."
Spending a great deal of time in El Salvador, this was not particularly surprising to me.   Although Salvadoran public schools purport to teach English, I have met very few high school students who have achieved much more than being able to ask my name and to count in English.   

This lack of locally produced English language skills explains why call centers, which are a major industry in El Salvador, are looking forward to growing numbers of deportations under the Trump administration, especially with the cancellation of TPS.  Reuters recently reported:
The [call center] industry…

The race for mayor of San Salvador

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The mayor's office of San Salvador is one of the most prominent political positions in El Salvador after the position of president.   It is a position which has gone back and forth between the major political parties over the past 25 years.    The current holder of the post, the popular Nayib Bukele, is not running for re-election after he was expelled from his former party, the FMLN.



The candidates proposed by the major political parties are:

Ernesto Muyshondt -- ARENAJackeline Rivera -- FMLN
Both candidates are currently deputies in the National Assembly.  Opinion polls released in November and December of 2017 gave a fairly substantial lead to Muyshondt, but there are still large groups of undecided voters.    It could be that voters are undecided because they do not know who the candidates for mayor are.   The recent UCA poll showed that more than 80% of those polled did not know the names of the two major party candidates.

The announced proposals of both Muyshondt and Rivera a…

Trump's words

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President Trump's use of the term "shithole" to describe El Salvador along with Haiti and African nations was immediately and widely reported in El Salvador. 

El Salvador's government issued a statement lamenting the expressions and demanding respect for the "noble and valiant" Salvadoran people and reminding the White House that Salvadorans had helped rebuild the Pentagon after 9-11 and had helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

US Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes needed to tweet last night:
Estados Unidos valora la amistad y la relación con el pueblo Salvadoreño. He tenido el privilegio de viajar alrededor de este hermoso país y conocer a miles de Salvadoreños. Es un honor vivir y trabajar aquí. Seguiremos 100% comprometidos. — Jean Manes (@USAmbSV) January 12, 2018 The United State values the friendship and the relationship with the Salvadoran people.  I have had the privilege to travel around this beautiful country and to meet thousa…

Salvadorans pessimistic about the country

Every year at this time, the Institute for Public Opinion at the University of Central America releases poll results concerning Salvadorans evaluations of the state of their country and intentions to vote if it is a voting year.    This year's poll results show a population which is unhappy with the current situation and does not see a government which is improving matters.    The results do not bode well for the governing FMLN in upcoming elections.

Here are some of the polling results.

62.4% believe crime has increased compared to the prior year.54.6% believe that poverty increased in 2017.59.9% are not interested or only slightly interested in voting in national elections on March 4.Only 22.7% have any confidence in the upcoming electoral process.77.2% believe government security policies are having little or no effect on crime67.1% believe President Salvador Sánchez Cerén is governing badly, a number which has steadily increased during his administration.
In the upcoming electi…

More on termination of TPS for El Salvador

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Here is some additional information about the decision by the Trump administration today to cancel Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador.

The full text of the announcement by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen is here.  Beyond the fact that TPS is terminated by her decision, there are a few other important points in the announcement.   First, the statement throws the ball back into Congress' lap:
Only Congress can legislate a permanent solution addressing the lack of an enduring lawful immigration status of those currently protected by TPS who have lived and worked in the United States for many years. The 18-month delayed termination will allow Congress time to craft a potential legislative solution. In many ways, the Trump administration's action directly parallels the steps it took with DACA.    Trump and DHS cancelled both programs, but with an effective date many months away.   The administration then said "Congress can fix any problem if it need…

Salvadoran TPS recipients lose fight

The US Department of Homeland Security will announce later today that it is cancelling the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) of approximately 195,000 Salvadorans living in the US.

According to the Washington Post: The administration will notify the Salvadorans they have until Sept. 9, 2019 to leave the United States or find a new way to obtain legal residency, according to a copy of the announcement prepared by the Department of Homeland Security that will be published Monday morning.  The Salvadorans were granted what is known as Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, after a series of earthquakes devastated the country in 2001.  DHS is preparing to announce that Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has decided the conditions in El Salvador have improved significantly since then, ending the original justification for the Salvadorans’ deportation protection, these people said. TPS is a humanitarian provision in US immigration law, which temporarily suspends deportations of persons to their home cou…

The challenges of running an election

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There are less than two months until El Salvador's next national elections which will elect deputies to the National Assembly and mayors in every town and city.  It's not going to be easy.

Perhaps the biggest challenge El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal ("TSE") has right now is to find the more than 94,000 citizens needed to run the vote reception tables across the country.    In previous elections, this was the responsibility of the political parties and the persons at the voting tables could be affiliated with the parties.   The parties recruited, trained and made sure that people showed up   Fairness was ensured by the fact that each of the parties was represented by one of the officials at the tables. 

However, since the last election the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the officials at the voting tables must be non-partisan and unaffiliated with the parties.  Now the TSE must enroll 94,000 nonpartisan officials and tra…

Major corruption case advances

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El Salvador's attorney general had a victory in a major corruption case to commence 2018.    The private secretary of former president Tony Saca, Élmer Charlaix, was found civilly liable on Thursday for "illicit enrichment" in the amount of almost 18 million dollars.   During his time handling money for Saca, Charlaix is accused of managing the transfer of hundreds of millions from accounts of the Salvadoran presidency to private accounts of the former president and his associates. 

Charlaix and his wife must now repay $18 million under the same law of illicit enrichment under which Saca's successor Mauricio Funes and his son were recently required to return $419,145 to the Salvadoran treasury.   Public officials can be held liable when they cannot explain an increase in wealth which occurred during their time in office.  The misappropriation of funds by Charlaix, Saca and their associates, however, clearly dwarfs the sum for which Funes was accused.

US Ambassador to…

The top El Salvador stories of 2017

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My annual summary of the top ten stories from the preceding year in El Salvador:

The trial for the massacre of children and others at El Mozote.    For 36 years, they have been waiting for the possibility of justice.  In 2017, witnesses began to testify in a Salvadoran court room about the events of December 1981, where almost 1000 civilians, the majority children, were slaughtered by the Salvadoran armed forces in the town of El Mozote and surrounding hamlets.   But for the coming year, the question remains -- will a Salvadoran court be willing to impose criminal liability on those in high command?

Nayib Bukele and the FMLN split.    Nayib Bukele is both the current mayor of San Salvador and El Salvador's most popular politician.   Yet in October, the FMLN kicked him out of the party for for violating party rules and ethics ostensibly connected to his treatment of a female FMLN attorney in a meeting.  It was a schism which had been brewing for months between the party and the indep…