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Showing posts from May, 2019

The FMLN legacy

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Today is the final day of ten years of the left-wing FMLN in the presidency of El Salvador.   And so we take a look back at the legacy of the governments of the party formed by former guerrilla forces turned politicians after the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords.
Unfortunately for the FMLN, the two presidents elected under the party’s banner end up dragging down its legacy.  Mauricio Funes enjoyed high popularity ratings and swept the party into the presidency for the first time in 2009.  Yet now Funes sits in exile in Nicaragua, with orders for his capture on corruption charges outstanding, and with investigative journalists detailing how he lived a luxury lifestyle fueled by public dollars in a secret account of the presidency.  Salvador Sánchez Cerén has not had charges of corruption leveled against him, but that might be the most positive thing one can say about his presidency.  As a leader, he has inspired no one and been largely absent from any issue of importance in the country…

The US advisor at El Mozote

In a 2007 comment on my blog, Gregory Walker, who was in the US Special Forces in El Salvador, asserted that a US Special Forces advisor was in El Mozote on the day the military action commenced which would result in the massacre hundreds of children and other civilians:

For example, there was a senior Special Forces advisor at El Mozote the day/night of the massacre (and only one). He attempted multiple times to dissuade Colonel Domingo Monterosa to spare the victims. When Monterosa ignored him, the advisor departed by foot and made his way, alone, back to San Salvador. There he made a full report to embassy officials of what the unit and Monterosa were doing in El Mozote.Walker is a former Army Special Forces staff sergeant, who was stationed in El Salvador during the civil war (but after El Mozote massacre) and who led a veterans' campaign to gain official recognition from the US Congress that military forces who died or were wounded in El Salvador were casualties of combat acti…

National reconciliation law stalls

The proposal for a law of national reconciliation in El Salvador, which is opposed by human rights organizations representing the victims and many others, has stalled for now in El Salvador's National Assembly.

On Monday, the Political Commission of the legislature held a full day of hearing from a variety of groups representing victims, churches, the military and academia.   Having been widely criticized for spending months drafting the law without any input from victims, the Political Commission could now be seen as staging a one day spectacle to show it had gathered input from all sectors before proceeding to a vote.   Given the number of groups scheduled, presentations were limited to 20 minutes which opponents to the proposal described as insufficient.

Going into Tuesday, the question was whether the FMLN would continue to have its 23 vote block support the bill.  The FMLN held a press conference on Tuesday indicating that it was committed to a methodology of getting addition…

Featured Salvadoran journalism

I want to highlight two articles this week in El Salvador's two most prominent online sources of investigative journalism, El Faro and Revista Factum

In Las pruebas de cómo Mauricio Funes derrochó dinero público, (The evidence of how Mauricio Funes squandered public money),  the El Faro team shares the results of its review of thousands of receipts and accounting records showing how former president Mauricio Funes and his family lived a luxurious lifestyle after coming into office, with trips to DisneyWorld on private jets, purchase of luxury goods, and more. 

RevistaFactum published Mara Salvatrucha: “Confiamos en Dios y en Nayib Bukele”   (Mara Salvatrucha: "We trust in God and in Nayib Bukele")  in which Bryan Avelar interviews a top leader of the gang Mara Salvatrucha, regarding the views of top gang leadership in El Salvador.   The interview covers a wide range of topics including their views of the incoming president. 


Disorderly transition of power

From the outside looking in, the transition of power from the current FMLN government to the new government of Nayib Bukele and Nuevas Ideas is not going smoothly.  Following his election, Bukele has continued his rhetoric accusing the current government of incompetence and corruption.
For example, yesterday as video showed heavy rains flooding a hospital in San Miguel, Bukele tweeted "Dejaron nuestro país en ruinas...Qué Dios los perdone."  (They left our country in ruins...May God forgive them).

The outgoing administration has been accused of last minutes raises and promotion for government employees.   A new union was suddenly approved for workers within the presidency.  The government is blamed for shortages of medicines throughout the healthcare system.

Today, the outgoing government delivered what it said were more than 100,000 folios covering 14 ministries and more than 80 government institutions.   The delivery was made in a pile of cardboard file boxes (although a d…

National Reconciliation (or Amnesty or Impunity) Law stalls

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The push to approve a National Reconciliation Law in El Salvador's legislature before June 1 stalled on Thursday during the course of a full session of the National Assembly.

On Thursday, the chorus of voices against the proposed bill had become ever stronger as international human rights groups, foreign governments, and international bodies added their opposition to the opposition of Salvadoran human rights organizations supporting the victims.   The list of opponents included the European Union, EU member states Spain and the Netherlands, the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the list went on.

The public position of the United States was:
The U.S. believes that any national reconciliation law in El Salvador should include a transparent & inclusive process necessary to ensure accountability & protect the rights of victims to seek justice. Transparency, accountability, & justice are all vital for true reconciliatio…

Can reforms improve the image of Salvadoran democracy?

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The citizens of El Salvador do not think highly of their country's democracy.   In fact, a majority feel there would be no difference under a regime which was not democratic.

These are the results of the most recent polling by Latino Barometro which regularly polls the citizens of Latin American countries on their views of government and the economy.   Salvadorans trail all the rest of Latin America in their lack of support for democracy as a form of government.

Only 28% of Salvadorans said that democracy was preferable to all other types of government:


El Salvador had the highest percentage of people who felt a democratic or a non-democratic regime would not make a difference:

After Venezuela and Nicaragua, El Salvador had the next highest percentage of people who said their country was not a democracy:

Ant not surprisingly, El Salvador had a very low number of people indicating they were satisfied with democracy:

These statistics on dissatisfaction with democracy were on everyon…

Victims organize, but will it be enough?

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A possible "law of national reconciliation", which would eliminate the possibility of jail time for war criminals and make it more difficult to prosecute crimes against humanity, continues to progress through El Salvador's National Assembly.

Human rights organizations and groups representing the victims of abuses committed during El Salvador's civil war have come together under the umbrellas of the Roundtable against Impunity in El Salvador (Mesa contra la Impunidad en El Salvador) and the Coordinating Group for the Law of Holistic Reparation for Victims of the Armed Conflict (Grupo Gestor para la Ley de Reparación Integral de Víctimas del Conflicto Armado).

After protesting that the legislators have never taken input from the victims in the three years since the 1993 amnesty law was overturned, the National Assembly finally granted a hearing to victims' rights groups this morning.   (The hearing had been delayed from yesterday to today to allow the groups time …

El Salvador corruption watch

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Corruption was on voters' minds in El Salvador when they rejected the traditional political parties  in El Salvador and elected Nayib Bukele president, whose campaign included the slogan "there's enough money when nobody steals."  Voters responded favorably to Bukele's calls to throw out thieves in government despite the fact that Bukele chose to run on the ticket of the GANA party, one of whose founders was Tony Saca, the former president who is now in prison for corruption, a party led by Guillermo Gallegos who also has a cloud of corruption allegations hanging over him.

There is much work to be done to reduce endemic corruption in El Salvador.  Here are some of the more recent developments (mostly setbacks) in El Salvador's battle with corrupt officials.

Supreme Judicial Court lets off dozens of possibly corrupt officials

El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court decided to close without action 79 cases of potential corruption by public officials, including …

Femicide suicide

"Femicide suicide" is a crime specially recognized only in the laws of El Salvador.   It means a suicide by a woman escaping violence directed at her.  It is a horrible result of the gender violence which is endemic in El Salvador.

The full dimensions of this crisis are driven home powerfully in a multi-media reporting project titled simply In El Salvador, Violence is Driving Girls to Kill Themselves. The report was produced by Univision News in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting with production and reporting by Almudena Toral, Patricia Clarembaux and Julia Gavarrete.

Please go to the site and learn.   This is powerful journalism about a serious crisis.

Impunity watch

The possibility of justice for the victims of crimes against humanity during El Salvador's civil war, such as the massacre of children and others at El Mozote, is under attack this week.

In El Salvador's National Assembly, the Ad Hoc Commission, which was set up to decide what to do after the 1993 amnesty law was struck down, concluded its work.   The Commission handed over its work to the National Assembly, and legislative leaders announced that they would work to draft and pass legislation before June 1 so that outgoing president Salvador Sanchez Ceren can sign it.

A copy of the commission's proposal has now become public.  The draft legislation does several things: 

In the first five months after passage, the Attorney General's office must come up with a list of crimes against humanity to be prosecuted with input from victims groups and civil society.   Once that list is finalized, no other crimes can be included.
Any crimes being prosecuted must be prosecuted in the…

Mauricio Funes in Nicaragua

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Ten years ago on June 1, 2009, Mauricio Funes took office as president of El Salvador to great hope and expectations.  He came into office as the first president elected from the left wing FMLN after decades of rule by conservative right wing parties.

How things have changed.   Funes now sits in exile in Nicaragua.   He is wanted in El Salvador for alleged diversion of as much as $300 million from secret accounts of the executive branch.  He is also wanted for leaking a confidential law enforcement memo related to the corruption of one of his predecessors, Francisco Flores. 

Funes, along with his mistress and three children received political asylum in Nicaragua in September 2016.  From Nicaragua, Funes tweets non-stop about politics in El Salvador.   It had not been clear that anyone was really paying him any attention.   Here is his Twitter profile:


But apparently incoming president Nayib Bukele was paying attention.  When Funes criticized the credentials of Alexandra Hill, Bukele&…

El Salvador coffee woes

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Cultivation of coffee has played an important role in the history of  El Salvador.  It was a source of great wealth for the country's landed elites during much of the twentieth century and the country's leading export crop.   But today the industry is falling on increasingly hard times. 
A London-based coffee buyer, Mercanta, described the history of the Salvadoran coffee industry:
El Salvador is the smallest of the Central American nations, but don’t let its diminutive size fool you. It produces exceptional coffees to a consistently high standard. Mercanta regularly buys selected single varietals such as Orange/Pink Bourbon, Red Bourbon and Pacamara, and has strong, long-term relationships with many producers and mills in this small, coffee powerhouse.  The history of coffee in El Salvador is inextricably linked to the development of the nation, itself. Introduced in the late 1880’s, coffee quickly displaced indigo as the country’s chief export, and by the 1920s, coffee acco…

The armed forces of El Salvador

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May 7th in El Salvador was the Day of the Soldier, a national day for honoring the country's armed forces.   The day is marked with military spectacle and speeches from the president and military leaders.   The armed forces released a video for the day:





So it is appropriate to take a short look at the role the armed forces play in El Salvador today.
With a population of approximately 6.5 million people, and land area the size of the US state of Massachusetts, El Salvador has a military with approximately 20,400 members. The budget for the Ministry of Defense during 2018 was approximately $175 million.   The military has three branches -- army, navy and air force.

The Salvadoran air force currently has 50 personnel in a helicopter unit deployed with a United Nations mission in Mali.  El Salvador has had troops deployed as part of this African mission since 2015.   Between 2004 and 2008 under president Tony Saca, El Salvador had more than 300 troops on the ground in Iraq as part of…

New amnesty proposal may advance in El Salvador

El Salvador's National Assembly will take the next step towards the possible passage of a new amnesty law on Monday according to a tweet from the Assembly's twitter account.  An Ad Hoc Commission of the National Assembly had been reviewing the possible responses to the 2016 decree of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court which struck down a 1993 amnesty law.   That amnesty law had essentially blocked all attempts to prosecute war criminals in Salvadoran courts.  Since 2016, cases seeking to hold certain military commanders and others responsible for crimes against humanity have started forward in Salvadoran courts.

The FMLN member of the Ad Hoc Commission, Nidia Diaz, tweeted that the Ad Hoc Commission had finished its mandate and that it was sending to the Political Commission of the National Assembly the suggestions and proposals and information gathered regarding the grounds for the Constitutional Chamber's decision so that a potential n…

Nayib Bukele will start presidency with positive support

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Poll results  from the Institute of Public Opinion at the University of Central America show that Nayib Bukele will come into office on June 1 with solid support from the Salvadoran public.

In polling conducted at the end of March, 61.4% of those polled indicated that they have trust in Bukele.   An even greater percentage, 67.9%, believe that the country is going to improve under Bukele's administration.

The optimism the public shows for Bukele's administration is similar to the optimism shown for Mauricio Funes when he became the first president elected from the FMLN in 2009.

In contrast, the public is overwhelmingly disgusted with the country's political parties.  87% said they had little or no trust in political parties.   81% said the parties had little or no transparency.    80% are dissatisfied with how the parties function.

For the past week, Bukele has been announcing a new cabinet minister every other day.   So far he has only named women to his cabinet, giving t…

Child and teen pregnancy in El Salvador

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Last week El Salvador's Ministry of Health released a report on pregnancy in girls and teens in El Salvador.   It is a report that shows some progress on this serious issue, but there is still much to be accomplished.  The report titled More than 19,000 reasons for the protection of girls and adolescents is available here.

The report focuses on pregnancies during 2017 across El Salvador and compares them to a similar analysis performed in 2015.   The basic data is shown in this table:


As circled in the table, 781 girls 14 and under became pregnant in 2017, including 46 between the ages of 10 and 12.    This number is down from 1,437 in 2015, but is still much too high according to the Ministry of Health and any other compassionate observer.

As the report notes, any pregnancy of a girl that young is rape.   But the Salvadoran criminal justice system is inadequate when it comes to crimes of sexual violence.   In 2017, for the 781 pregnancies in girls 14 and under, there were only 63…