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Showing posts from October, 2019

TPS holders from El Salvador protected until January 2021

Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") has allowed 195,000 Salvadorans, who lacked legal immigration status in the United States in February 2001, to remain in the US for more than 18 years.   The program required formal extensions by the US government every 18 months, and every Salvadoran government in that time period celebrated each extension as a sign of its good working relationship with the US.

When Donald Trump came into office, his administration soon announced that the program would not be continued, a decision which was promptly challenged in the courts by the ACLU and others.   The government of Bukele , in connection with negotiating other migration-related documents which the Trump team wanted, has now procured a promise that Salvadoran TPS beneficiaries would have some extra grace period to remain in the country after the conclusion of any lawsuits if the courts allowed Trump to terminate TPS.           

Not surprisingly, Bukele announced this new promise with a t…

El Mozote -- the long slow slog towards justice

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It has been almost 38 years since the December 1981 massacre of almost 1000 civilians including children, the elderly and others at El Mozote and surrounding communities in northeastern El Salvador.   Justice for this war crime has not yet arrived.

This month saw the third anniversary of the reopening of a criminal case to prosecute those responsible for the atrocity.   A judge restarted that case after a 1993 law which granted amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes was nullified by the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court.

In the years since, the proceeding has advanced in small steps.  Family members and witnesses have testified to those horrific days, and experts have testified to what the bones and remains of children and women and the elderly revealed.

Earlier this year, the judge overseeing the case added additional criminal charges against the accused military officers, joining kidnapping, torture and forced displacement to the list of crimes.  He …

Revista Factum under attack

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Revista Factum ("RF") is a digital periodical featuring investigative journalism and covering culture and other topics.  The periodical was founded in 2014, and over the years has included many important stories including the existence of death squads operating within the PNC, interviews with MS-13 leaders,  and organized crime and corruption within the attorney general's office. One of the journalist co-founders of RF is Héctor Silva Ávalos. He is the son of the late Héctor Silva, a prominent respected politician of the left who was mayor of San Salvador from 1997 to 2003.

The reporting of RF brought it into conflict with Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele as its journalists reported on Bukele and his associates.  In the time before Bukele assumed the presidency, RF was asking how Bukele planned to finance all his campaign promises, how Bukele was using advisors who formerly worked for imprisoned ex-president Tony Saca, and when Bukele would share information about h…

The politicians and the gangs

This week in El Salvador, more than 400 members of MS-13 are defendants in a criminal trial.  The gang members were captured in country-wide raids called "Operation Cuscatlán" which targeted the gang's finances and money-making activities.

From the AP:
El Salvador on Tuesday began a mass trial of over 400 alleged gang members, including 17 purported leaders of the feared transnational crime group Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.  Sixteen suspects were in court while the rest watched via video conference from prisons. Nearly 100 defense lawyers are on the case, which could last until November given the volume of witnesses and evidence. One of the witnesses in the Operation Cuscatlán trial is a high ranking MS leader who reached a deal with prosecutors for his testimony.   Using the pseudonym Noé, this witness testified not only about the criminal activities of his gang, but also about the deals politicians made with the gangs.

Noé  testified that MS-13 leadership met with AREN…

Donut Wars

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Each September, the restaurant chain Mr. Donut in El Salvador has a month long 2-for-1 promotion on its donuts.   The annual sale has become a major event, with long lines of customers at every Mr. Donut location waiting to carry out boxes filled with the frosted donuts.

This donut sale even attracted attention in  the US press.  A 2014 article in the New Yorker described September at Mr. Donut:
Every fall in El Salvador, at the height of the wet season, a fast-food chain called Mister Donut offers a two-for-one deal that lasts a whole month. From morning to night, long lines form outside the more than thirty locations in the country. Residents of the capital, San Salvador, brave its public-transit system—a fleet of decaying American school buses and overcrowded vans—clutching flat boxes of doughnuts, then leap off at their destinations, hunched protectively over their cargo. For 2019 Mr. Donut adopted a "Donut Wars" theme for the September promotion -- or as the advertisem…

Bukele: President Trump is very nice and cool

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Nayib Bukele traveled to New York City at the end of September to speak at the United Nations General Assembly where he also met with US president Donald Trump.   The trip reflected the priorities of the millennial president of El Salvador, but received a mixed reception in the country.

Bukele's speech was an exercise in brand-building.   He took to the dais at the UN General Assembly in his trademark suit with open collar shirt and red pocket handkerchief.  The young millennial, social-media-savvy president opened his speech by taking a selfie of himself, and then telling the General Assembly that his selfie on twitter (hashtag #UNselfie) would be seen by many more persons world-wide than would be the speeches of other world leaders in New York last week.   He referred to the UN as stuck in old ways of doing things when the internet and social media had transformed how the world operates.

Reuters described the social media aspects of Bukele's speech:
“Believe me, many more pe…