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Showing posts from June, 2018

One conviction not same as a cleaned-up PNC

This article first appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the title El Salvador Police Convictions Fall Short in Curbing Abuses
Written by Victoria Dittmar
By sentencing four police officers involved in extrajudicial executions, authorities in El Salvador may be sending a message about their willingness to address internationally scrutinized police violence, but the root causes of the problem continue unabated.

On June 22, El Salvador’s Attorney General announced that four members of the National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) were sentenced to 60 years in prison for aggravated homicide.

The convictions were for crimes that occurred on February 13, 2017, in the town of San Pedro Masahuat, in the department of La Paz. Two civilians died in what the police had described as a chase and confrontation with gang members. However, the court concluded that the confrontation never happened, and that the narrative was used to cover up extrajudicial killings.

The Attorney General…

Choosing a Supreme Court

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The next three weeks will see El Salvador's National Assembly make very important choices of magistrates for the country's highest court.

The Washington Office on Latin America explained what is at stake:
In July 2018, four out of the five magistrates who sit on the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s Supreme Court will have finished serving their five-year terms. The Constitutional Chamber is charged with ruling on matters related to constitutional law, including conflicts between the executive and legislative branches, and thus is a key institution for protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of Salvadorans. There is no doubt that the selection of the new magistrates by El Salvador’s Congress will have long-term ramifications for the country’s ongoing struggle to improve rule of law.  While the magistrates who make up the current Constitutional Chamber have generated controversy with some of their decisions, they are widely viewed as having defended due process and…

Salvadorans caught in family separation

A migration statistic you might not expect

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News coverage of family/child separation at the US border has dominated headlines in the US and El Salvador for the past two weeks.   In such coverage, the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America -- Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are usually lumped together as the home countries of the great majority of these migrants.    What you will not learn from that coverage is that migration from El Salvador has dropped significantly, while migration from both Honduras and Guatemala has increased significantly in the past year.   Migration as measured by detentions by US authorities at the border has decreased at a rate of almost 50% for Salvadorans from last year while border crossing by Guatemalans and Hondurans has increased 80% and 46% respectively:


These figures come form the US Customs and Border Patrol.    The statistics are compiled on the basis of a US government fiscal year (FY) which runs from October 1 to September 30.   Thus FY2017 covers the months October 1, 20…

Nayib Bukele makes alliance to assure place on 2019 presidential ballot

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El Salvador's most popular politician, Nayib Bukele, has found his path to be on the 2019 presidential ballot in El Salvador.   Bukele has announced that his (not yet officially recognized) political party Nuevas Ideas has made an alliance with the party Cambio Democrático (CD) -- Democratic Change.  That alliance will allow him to be on the presidential ballot endorsed by CD even if his opponents had blocked Nuevas Ideas from contending in the election.

Nuevas Ideas had a real obstacle in its path to getting Bukele on the ballot.   The electoral process established by the Law of Political Parties and administered by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal ("TSE") required that political parties establish a process for internal elections to choose a presidential nominee by April 6, 2018.   Nuevas Ideas could not meet this date because it has not yet been officially recognized as a political party.   Although Nuevas Ideas did establish a process, it did so before having the possi…

Slow wheels of Salvadoran justice

It has been almost two years since El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court overturned the 1993 amnesty law which had prevented prosecution of crimes committed during the country's civil war.  This week the Constitutional Chamber of the court has summoned branches of the Salvadoran government to report on how they have been pursuing justice for crimes against humanity committed during El Salvador's civil conflict.  This follows a similar hearing in July 2017, where the branches displayed little progress in working on transitional justice.

The attorney general's office (FGR) is responsible for investigating and putting cases together for crimes against humanity.   The FGR indicated to the court that that office is currently investigating 160 such cases from the conflict years.

Among those cases already open are the cases of the forced disappearance of the Serrano Cruz sisters and the massacres at El Mozote, Tecoluca, and El Calabozo.  The FGR indicated that it is in the pro…

World Refugee Day -- the internal refugees of El Salvador

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On June 20, World Refugee Day, El Salvador must deal with a reality of hundreds of thousands of internal refugees displaced by violence.   The following article was originally published by the human rights organization Cristosal.
The IDMC Releases 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement
Despite its relatively tiny size, El Salvador ranked tenth globally with 296,000 new displacements caused by conflict in 2017.

The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), a global leader in analyzing displacement data, has released the 2018 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID). El Salvador ranked tenth worldwide for new displacements caused by conflict, with 296,000. This number represents 65% of all new displacements caused by conflict in the Americas. This is an increase from the IDMC's 2016 estimate of new displacements caused by conflict in El Salvador, which was 222,000. "We saw an increase in our own data as well," says Rina Montti, Coordinator of Cristosal's M…

Good news for El Salvador -- US unemployment low

When the US economy is creating jobs, El Salvador benefits.    This was easily seen in the May monthly report of family remittances received in El Salvador.   Remittances are the dollars earned abroad by workers who send them back to families in their homeland.

Remittances for the first 5 months of the year grew 8.95% from the same period in 2017.    Salvadoran families have received some $2.23 billion in funds from abroad this year.

El Salvador's Ministry of the Economy attributed the strong growth in remittances to the "dynamism" of the US labor market, where total unemployment has dropped to 3.8% and Hispanic unemployment has dropped to 4.9%.     Remittance levels are strongly correlated to employment levels in the US.

Future remittance levels do face certain threats, however.   The 195,000 Salvadorans with TPS protection will lose their work authorization in September 2019 and face a struggle to avoid deportation.   Other US efforts to remove migrants will also impac…

A Salvadoran reality of gender-based violence ignored by Jeff Sessions

Women, bringing their children, are fleeing gender-based violence in El Salvador and seeking asylum in the United States.   Yet, in the case of a woman from El Salvador, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is re-writing asylum law to eliminate the possibility of protection for these women.

From the American Immigration Council:
In the latest attack on asylum seekers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions single-handedly overturned years of immigration precedent to find that many victims of violence will not qualify for asylum. His strongly-worded opinion strikes an especially devastating blow to Central American asylum seekers, the vast majority of whom seek protection in the United States after fleeing gang violence, domestic violence, or both. Sessions certified to himself a 2016 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in Matter of A-B-, a case involving a woman from El Salvador who was granted asylum based on severe domestic violence she experienced. In his decision, he targets a…

Mauricio Funes and the garbage bags full of cash

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This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the title El Salvador Ex-President Funes’ Trash Bags Full of Money

Written by Héctor Silva Ávalos - JUNE 13, 2018

El Salvador has not sparked as much attention as its neighbors when it comes to corruption scandals, but a litany of accusations against former President Mauricio Funes and his relatives along with millions of dollars transferred in trash bags might change that.

The scheme was relatively straight forward. A member of the corruption network allegedly headed by former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes during his 2009 to 2014 term would arrive at a state bank, fill up big black trash bags with thousands of dollars in cash and then drive them to the presidential residence.

The money was allegedly for Funes, his family and other members of his inner circle who used it to pay for travel, properties, luxury goods and services such as plastic surgery, according to El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office.

The tra…

The battle over water legislation in El Salvador

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The month of June has seen a surge in the conflict over the water crisis in El Salvador and what steps are necessary to solve it. This dispute has persisted without resolution for many years in El Salvador, but recent changes in power in El Salvador may be giving business interests an opportunity to enact their favored legislation.

Four days after the June 1 start of a new National Assembly dominated by parties of the right, the Assembly's Commission on the Environment and Climate Change announced that it would proceed with discussions of the “Ley Integral de Agua"  (Comprehensive Water Law).  The Commission made no mention of a proposed "General Water Law" which has been advocated for years by environmental groups, the Catholic church and the University of Central America.  After the conservative coalition of parties achieved a super majority in the March 4, 2018 elections, the prospect that they could pass the "Ley Integral" is now very real.  The Ley In…

Ex-president Mauricio Funes faces $351 million corruption charge

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El Salvador elected him in 2009 with great hope and public acclaim -- Mauricio Funes was the first president of El Salvador from the left wing FMLN.   This weekend, however, El Salvador's attorney general is seeking an arrest warrant for Funes arising out of a corruption case involving the diversion of $351 million from Salvadoran government accounts.  Funes is in exile in Nicaragua where he has been since 2016.

From Reuters:
El Salvador’s attorney general ordered the arrest on Friday of former president for alleged embezzlement and money laundering, in addition to allegedly covering up various illicit acts during his government.  Funes, who has been in exile in Nicaragua since September 2016, is accused of using public funds to pay for trips, home remodeling and hospital bills, among other expenses.  The attorney general also sought the arrest of 29 other people, including relatives of Funes and former officials in his administration. The online periodical El Faro has a detailed…

Restoring El Salvador's coffee industry

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In recent years, El Salvador's coffee production was hit hard by a fungus known as "roya" which decreased the coffee harvest by as much as 60% in the country.   This blow to the coffee sector cost tens of thousands of jobs in the small country.

This chart using data at the International Coffee Organization shows the steep drop off in Salvadoran coffee production starting in 2012:



Now Reuters reports on how many farmers are turning to higher quality beans, which require more intensive care but also fetch a higher price in world markets:
Farmers in the Central American country have turned to specialty coffee trees - identified by fanciful names such as bourbon, geisha and pacas - in hopes of reviving a local industry devastated by crop disease just a few years ago.  The trees produce some of the world’s highest quality coffee, beans with distinctive tastes prized by consumers in the United States and elsewhere who are willing to pay up for top-drawer coffee. Specialty cof…

Truth of war atrocities lies in military and government archives

Three recent news articles remind us that part of the road towards justice in El Salvador runs through military and government archives in El Salvador and in the United States.   
Elizabeth Malkin's recent  article in the New York Times offers another story of the search for justice by survivors of the massacre of children and others at El Mozote and surrounding communities.  As she notes, some questions might only be answered in those military and government archives:   “The survivors say they don’t even know who to forgive,” she said, adding a refrain she hears from the witnesses: “‘What were we doing that they wanted to inflict so much harm on us?’”  The explanation could lie in the military archives, but the army has told the court that records of the operation do not exist. What may help uncover the military secrets are records kept far from El Salvador.
American support means that “the U.S. archives are chock-full of information about the El Mozote massacre,” said Kate Doyle…