Revista Factum under attack

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

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

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…

New agreement gives US plenty, Salvadoran migrants nothing

El Salvador's Foreign Minister, Alexandra Hill, was in Washington, D.C. yesterday to sign an agreement with the US Department of Homeland Security.  In the agreement Hill signed, El Salvador pledges to work with the US to become a country where refugees from third countries can seek asylum.  Reuters reported on the joint press conference announcing the agreement:
“The core of this is recognizing El Salvador’s development of their own asylum system and committing to help them build that capacity,” Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters in Washington after signing documents with El Salvador’s minister of foreign affairs, Alexandra Hill.  “Individuals crossing through El Salvador should be able to seek protections” in the Central American country even if they were intending to apply for asylum in the United States, he added.  Neither official said when the arrangement would take effect or provide details on how it would be administered. It wa…

Salvadorans to be guest workers on US farms

Officials in El Salvador hope to make visas for farmworkers available for temporary stints in the United States in the near future.  El Salvador's Minister of Labor Rolando Castro says he will travel soon to the US to discuss details of the program.

There was immediate interest when the program was first announced, the AP reported:
Hundreds of Salvadorans who had waited in line for U.S. work visas have started heading back to their hometowns after learning the program wasn’t ready yet.  The lines started forming in front of the Labor Ministry last week after the government announced it was negotiating a temporary farm work visa program with the United States.  Other countries like Mexico have long had access to such H-2A visas.  But by Monday, officials at El Salvador’s Labor Ministry acknowledged they could only take people’s names for a later date when the program is finally implemented. RevistaFactum shared profiles of some of those hoping to obtain one of the visas. As many a…

The deportation pipeline back to El Salvador

[Data nerd warning.   This post will be full of numbers and statistics regarding Salvadorans deported from Mexico and the US].

This first chart, using data from El Salvador's migration agency, shows the dramatic increase in Salvadoran migrants deported from Mexico earlier this year as Mexico increased troops and patrols in response to Tramp's demands.

But it is also interesting to compare monthly average deportation rates from Mexico to El Salvador in earlier years, because the high rates from this summer are in the same range as seen in 2015-16:

Monthly average deportees from Mexico to El Salvador: 2017 -- 924 2016 -- 2596 2015 -- 2411  2018 -- 925
Deportations from the United States to El Salvador, however, have occurred in a more consistent range. Deportations in 2019 have generally been 10-20% higher than the same period in 2018.

But deportations from the US to El Salvador under Trump still lag behind deportations under Obama:
Monthly average of Salvadoras deported from US: 2018…