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Showing posts from March, 2018

Hot water vents at bottom of Ilopango crater lake

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To the east of San Salvador lies the crater lake of Ilopango. This large lake fills the crater formed in the 5th century when Ilopango erupted in a cataclysmic event that wiped out Mayan populations and deposited deep ash over much of El Salvador.

A local scuba diving business, Pacific Paradise Divers, recently released this high definition video of what lies below the surface of the volcanic lake. The video reveals hot water vents and the aquatic life around them. The vents are a reminder of the volcanic origins of this beautiful lake.



More on the Ilopango crater From the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program: The scenic 8 x 11 km Ilopango caldera, filled by one of El Salvador's largest lakes, has a scalloped 150-500 m high rim. The caldera, which lies immediately east of the capital city of San Salvador, is strongly controlled by regional faults of the central Salvador graben. Four major dacitic-rhyolitic explosive eruptions during the late Pleistocene and Hol…

US government files needed to shed light on El Mozote

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In the trial of El Salvador's former military command for the massacre of the children and others at El Mozote, the military has so far asserted that it can find no documents or files related to that military operation.   It is, of course, ludicrous to believe that there were never any documents related to this multi-day operation conducted by an elite battalion of the Salvadoran armed forces.   However, it is not difficult to believe that the military command may have taken steps to destroy all the relevant documents many years ago.

With Salvadoran military records unavailable so far, human rights lawyers are hoping that records from the US military, CIA and State Department might provide additional sources of proof.   The human rights organization Cristosal, which is supporting the victims in their attempt to see justice in the current trial of military commanders, is pushing a campaign of contacts to US officials urging declassification and release of documents related to El Mo…

An extension for exceptional measures

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In coming weeks, legislators will be considering whether to extend the "extraordinary measures" currently in place to combat gang violence, and which human rights groups have decried for creating cruel, dehumanizing and deadly conditions in El Salvador's overcrowded prisons.
Today the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights issued a call for El Salvador's lawmakers to allow the exceptional measures to lapse:
In the penitentiary context, in addition to increase incarceration rates, these measures have resulted in serious violations of the human rights of thousands of persons deprived of their liberty, such as prolonged and indefinite isolation under inhumane conditions, suspension of visits, and forced transfers to separate detainees from their families. Likewise, the adoption of these measures represents serious violations to the due process of the inmates that have led to the arbitrary prolongation of detention. These violations include obst…

Salvadoran migration to the US in numbers

Good policy analysis requires good data.   With little commentary, here is a collection of the best data estimates I can assemble related to migration of individuals from El Salvador to the United States:
Estimated population living in El Salvador in 2017 -- 6,582,000
Source: El Salvador DIGESTYC
Estimated number of Salvadoran immigrants living in the US as of 2015 -- 1,420,000
Source: Pew Research Center
Estimated number of second generation Salvadorans in the US (at least one parent born in El Salvador) as of 2015 -- 935,000
Source: Migration Policy InstituteEstimated number of Salvadorans currently in US without legal documentation:  725,000
Source:  Pew Research CenterNumber of Salvadorans granted permanent residence in US (green cards) between October 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017:  18,800.
Source: Pew Research Center US Department of Homeland Security estimate of number of Salvadorans who held Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in January 2018 and will lose it September 19, 2019:  262,500
Sourc…

38th anniversary of Oscar Romero's martyrdom

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Today is the 38th anniversary of the martyrdom of archbishop Oscar Romero, slain by a sharpshooter's bullet while saying mass.  Thirty-eight years later, the Roman Catholic church will officially canonize Romero as a saint.   The sniper's bullet failed to silence the message of this prophet and martyr who was a "voice for the voiceless."

The anniversary of Romero's deaths falls this year at the beginning of Holy Week.  Forty years ago, in Holy Week, Romero preached these words in one of his sermons:

Christ would not be Redeemer  if he had not concerned himself with giving food  to the crowds that were hungry,  if he had not given light to the eyes of the blind,  if he had not felt sorrow for the forsaken crowds  that had no one to love them, no one to help them. Christianity cares about human development,  about the political and social aspects of life.  Redemption would not be complete  if it did not consider these aspects  of the Christ who chose in fact to be…

3D printed homes for El Salvador

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A very high tech solution may be coming to help ease some of El Salvador's shortage of decent housing for its poor families.   Inexpensive houses rapidly built using a 3D printer may be coming to El Salvador as soon as this year.

From a report on CNN:
El Salvador may be the first country to have a community of 3D-printed homes.  A nonprofit called New Story is raising $1 million to bring more than 100 3D-printed homes to the country over the next two years. The organization funds homes for families in need and people displaced by natural disasters.

"We want to bring this to the families who need it the most," CEO and cofounder Brett Hagler told CNN last week. . The 3D printed home prototype was recently unveiled in Austin, Texas:
The 3D printed home that ICON and New Story just unveiled in Austin is a proof-of-concept for sustainable home-building that will build safer, more affordable homes for more people at a faster rate than ever before – the Vulcan is capable of 3D…

No final results in Salvadoran legislative elections.

El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal ("TSE" for its initials in Spanish) is asking the country for patience as it tries to finalize election results for deputies in the National Assembly.   The TSE is indicating that final results may not be available until after the Holy Week vacations which start in two days.

The results to date of the "escrutinio final" or final vote count are available on the TSE's web site here.  All of the results for municipal elections throughout the country are finalized, but the legislative results still need final outcomes from the department of San Vicente where three seats are at stake.   In its press conference today, the TSE indicated that pending legal actions were preventing the conclusion of counting in San Vicente.

La Prensa Grafica reported that the country's attorney general has informed the TSE that he has custody of 157 ballots which were found discarded in one voting center in San Vicente.   These ballots cou…

Recommended reads

This week produced some good articles on El Salvador's gangs, politics and saint:


Sarah Esther Maslin writes Can religion solve El Salvador’s gang problem? -- a deep look at the current situation of gangs in El Salvador through the lens of young men who have left the gangs through conversion to evangelical Christianity.

Christine Wade writes El Salvador’s Elections Reveal Voters’ Frustration With Politics as Usual -- a good overview of politics in El Salvador following the March 4 elections.

Carlos Colorado writes Romero, Venue and Date -- an explanation of possible dates and locations for the canonization ceremony for Oscar Romero.







Seeking justice for 1982 murder of Dutch journalists

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In early 1982, El Salvador was a dangerous place for journalists covering the civil war between FMLN guerrillas and the country's armed forces.   Despite the danger, four Dutch journalists,Koos Koster, Jan Kuiper, Joop Willemse and Hans ter Laag, ventured out to the Department of Chalatenango to get an interview with guerrilla fighters.   The Salvadoran army ambushed their group and killed all the journalists.  The 36th anniversary of the killings is this week.

The ambush was one of the war crimes documented in the 1993 UN Truth Commission Report following the conclusion of El Salvador's civil war:
On the afternoon of 17 March 1982, four Dutch journalists accompanied by five or six members of FMLN, some of them armed, were ambushed by a patrol of the Atonal Battalion of the Salvadorian armed forces while on their way to territory under FMLN control. The incident occurred not far from the San Salvador-Chalatenango road, near the turn off to Santa Rita. The four journalists wer…

A rehabilitation model

El Salvador has many challenges, but there are also examples of what can be accomplished where there is the will and commitment.   One such example is League Outfitters, recently featured on the PBS NewsHour.   Here is the introduction:
At a garment factory that makes T-shirts bearing the logos of American universities, about a fifth of the workers at high-school dropouts. But if they want to keep their jobs, they'll need to do something about it. Special correspondent Fred De Sam Lazaro reports from El Salvador on the factory turned college pipeline that employs those normally left out of society, including ex-gang members. Watch the report or read the transcript here.

Armed forces again ordered to explain disappearances of youth

For a second time, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court of Justice has ruled that security forces must deliver up what they know about young men who disappeared at the hands of the military.   The case comes from the Salvadoran town of San Martin, where repressive military tactics were being used to combat gang violence.

The Defense Ministry, the Armed Forces and the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) must investigate the forced disappearance of two teenage boys according to the ruling last week by the Constitutional Chamber. 
William Ernesto Hernández and Bryan Alexander García, both 17, disappeared on July 30, 2014. According to their relatives, they went out to get a haircut at an establishment near the San Martin market and, at noon, they were intercepted and seized by a military patrol. The capture was witnessed by several market vendors. The soldiers beat the young men and tied their hands with the laces of their shoes. Later, they were put aboard…

Nayib Bukele is in full presidential campaign mode

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Discussions about politics in El Salvador in the week after the March 4 elections tended to turn to two main themes -- how could the FMLN lose so badly? and what about Nayib Bukele, the man not on any ballots and without a party on any of the ballots?

According to opinion polls, Bukele is easily the most popular politician in the country and trounces other potential presidential candidates in the 2019 elections.    After being expelled from the FMLN and removed as its candidate for mayor of San Salvador, Bukele announced his presidential ambitions.  He also led a campaign encouraging voters in the March 4 legislative and mayoral elections to nullify their vote or simply "stay home and watch television."

On March 5, the day following the elections, Bukele went onto Facebook live video to promote "the moment of opening our movement."   In the video he describes the prior day's election results as the "politics of the past" and presented himself as the …

The next election in El Salvador

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The next election in El Salvador involves magistrates for the country's Supreme Court of Justice.  Saturday, March 10, lawyers across the country will go and cast their votes for candidates for the high court.   The elections are organized by the Federation of Attorney Associations of El Salvador (FEDAES). A video urges the lawyers to elect honest and competent judges:



Thirty thousand lawyers will be able to cast ballots for 22 candidates.  Bios of the candidates are available here. This election will reduce to 15, the number of potential candidates for the Supreme Judicial Court.   In addition to those 15 candidates, 15 more candidates are chosen by the National Council of the Judiciary.   This total list of 30 candidates represents the body from which El Salvador's legislative National Assembly should pick new magistrates to the court.

The National Assembly will ultimately elect five new magistrates this July, by a two thirds super-majority vote.   The five new magistrates …

El Salvador elections overview

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There are many aspects of El Salvador's elections last Sunday worth pondering.   Some of those aspects are noted below, reflecting comments from a team of election observers I led, as well as analysis of news reports and official announcements.

The Results

As noted in my previous post, the FMLN suffered a major defeat last Sunday as voters fled from the party.   Preliminary results show the party falling from 31 seats in the National Assembly to just 22, while conservative ARENA may have as many as 40 seats in the 84 seat legislature:


Note:  the results from the most recent election are preliminary, and there may be movements of a deputy or two.
These results mean that the FMLN by itself cannot block any legislative action requiring a 2/3 (56 vote) super majority such as the appointment of Supreme Judicial Court magistrates, the Attorney General, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, or international borrowing.   Nor can the FMLN sustain a veto by president Sanchez Ceren of legislation wh…

Canonization of Oscar Romero announced

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El Salvador received the news it has been waiting for -- the Roman Catholic church will soon canonize slain archbishop Oscar Romero.   Expert in all things Romero related, Carlos Colorado, was one of the first to break the news: Blessed Oscar A. Romero will be canonized this year—probably on October 21 in a group canonization ceremony that will include Pope Paul VI amid a synod of bishops in the Vatican—but Father Rutilio Grande, Servant of God, will probably not be ready for the altars until next year. This is the analysis of Super Martirio after reviewing the most up-to-date information on the status of both causes.   The Vatican Secretary of State confirmed on Tuesday that Paul VI will be canonized in October. On the one hand, the information augurs a triumphant result in the case of Archbishop Romero, the martyred bishop whose cause is now on the verge of being formalized, having concluded the entire course of the process (see chart below). At this time, Romero has reached the sa…

FMLN goes down to defeat in El Salvador

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El Salvador conducted elections for its National Assembly and all mayor's offices on Sunday.   With El Salvador's overly complex system for electing the legislature, only about 60% of the vote has been counted as of Monday morning.   But the results seem clear that voters dealt the FMLN  a major defeat.  The primary beneficiary of the voters' rejection of the left wing party was the conservative ARENA party.
At this point on Monday morning, it is too early to tell how many deputies ARENA won in the National Assembly and who they will be.   It seems unlikely that they will have a majority, but they will pick up seats beyond their current 35 seats in the 84 members National Assembly.   
For mayor, ARENA appears to have won the largest prize of San Salvador.   Ernesto Muyshondt is leading Jackeline Rivera by more than 2-1 with 70% of the vote counted.  ARENA also appears to have won or be leading in the elections in most other major cities in the country.  The exception is S…