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Anniversary of the 1980 murder of US churchwomen

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December 2 marks the 41st anniversary of the cold-blooded rape and murder of 4 US churchwomen in El Salvador by a military death squad.  It was 1980, a year which saw the assassinations of archbishop Oscar Romero and many other lay and religious workers engaged in the struggle for a just society in the opening bloody years of El Salvador's civil war.  Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, and lay missioner Jean Donovan were slaughtered for their commitment to El Salvador's poorest citizens.  It is a crime which remains unjudged and unpunished in El Salvador. In subsequent years, many in the US came to know the story through the 1982 documentary Roses in December , which profiles Jean Donovan.   Journalist Gene Palumbo covered El Salvador during those bloody years and wrote a review of Roses in December .  As he described in a 2010 note in Commonweal on the 30th anniversary of the murder of the churchwomen: When I arrived here in El Salvador as a freelancer in early

Perceptions of democracy in El Salvador

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In recent weeks, two sets of researchers have released polling data about perceptions of democracy and government in El Salvador and the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean.  The results of those surveys show that Salvadorans strongly support a democracy that produced Nayib Bukele as their president, but also support encroachments on democratic values if initiated by the president. AmericasBarometer is a survey of populations in Latin American and the Caribbean carried out by LAPOP Lab, an international survey research center based at Vanderbilt University.  That poll showed that Salvadorans have some of the strongest support for democracy in the region, when asked about that concept in the abstract.  Salvadorans were asked: "Democracy may have problems, but it is better than any other form of government." To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement? 73% of those polled agreed, which was a significant increase from 59% in 2018 66% say they trust elections

Tying it together

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This post attempts to tie together the threads of many developments in the recent news from El Salvador. United States Charge d-affaires, Jean Manes, is leaving El Salvador with a  parting blast  at the Bukele government.  After Bukele's May 1 sacking of supreme court magistrates and the attorney general, the Biden administration sent Manes, who had previously been Ambassador to El Salvador from 2016 to 2019, to deal with the challenging relationship between the countries.  (As of today, Biden still has not named a new ambassador to El Salvador).  On a  morning interview show , Manes spoke of paid media attacks orchestrated by the government against the Embassy, herself, and Joe Biden.   Today the US Statement Department said that Bukele government had  rejected a path  towards a productive bilateral relationship.   Manes' criticism included the proposed Foreign Agents Law in El Salvador. The march towards approval of that measure, targeted at NGO and independent media critics

How to turn a misleading opinion poll into real news

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How do you maintain your image as the most popular president doing the coolest things in the world? For Nayib Bukele, that means having a public relations media machine which knows all the tricks in the book. Today I present a case study of one instance earlier this year, where public opinion polling of dubious quality was broadcast far and wide as "real news." On October 4, 2021, news pieces began circulating which announced that the Salvadoran diaspora in the US overwhelmingly supported the re-election of Nayib Bukele as president.  The poll was authored by the Center of Investigations Social and Economic Studies of Central America (CIESCA) and found that 99% of those polled favored a second term for Bukele and 96% agreed that Bitcoin would improve El Salvador's economy.  Soon the results had been shared broadly. The full document can be found here .         A poll which was dubious on its face. The CIESCA poll results, presented in a meeting room at the San Salvador

Jesuits murdered 32 years ago still inspire the UCA today

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Today, November 16, 2021, is the 32nd anniversary of the 1989 murder by Salvadoran troops of six Jesuit priests, a female co-worker and her daughter at the José Simeón Cañas University of Central America (UCA) during El Salvador's civil war.  This past year has passed without any developments for the ever more remote possibility that the intellectual authors of the massacre will face justice in a court in El Salvador.  As noted for last year's anniversary , the criminal chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling dismissing all charges against the senior military command alleged to have participated in the orders and cover-up of this crime. Nothing has happened to change that result, although the Jesuits at the UCA have charged two of the magistrates involved with malfeasance .   Update:  This morning, November 16, El Salvador's current Attorney General filed a legal pleading with the Constitutional Chamber to set aside the ruling of the criminal

Bukele unveils "foreign agents law" explicitly targeted at his critics

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The Bukele regime in El Salvador has taken another swipe at its critics this week as the Salvadoran president proposed in the Legislative Assembly a new " Foreign Agents Law ".   Critics say that law is intended to stifle the voices of organizations who point out the authoritarian drift of Bukele's administration and to cut off the ability of the international community to meaningfully support those organizations.    The law has two key components. One part requires the registration of persons and entities who are directly or indirectly funded, or at the direction of, foreign interests.  The second component is a 40% tax on foreign donations to such persons and entities.  Failure to register or to comply with any provision of the Foreign Agents Law can result in cancellation of the legal status of an organization and a fine of up to $10,000.   Excluded are activities characterized as humanitarian, health, religious, academic, scientific or fine arts, or related to foreign

ICYMI

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Here is a collection of recent English language news coverage of events in El Salvador. International Monetary Fund negotiations The Salvadoran government needs a $1.3 billion IMF loan to fund itself going forward.   The IMF has conditions it may place on such a loan. IMF meets Salvadoran delegation in Washington  (Reuters, Nov. 10) Decisive Loan for the Bitcoin Country (El Faro English, Nov. 5) El Salvador needs policy changes to advance IMF program - Fund spokesman (Reuters, Nov. 4) Bitcoin The fascination with Bitcoin in El Salvador continues. El Salvador President Nayib Bukele says he will use some of his country's bitcoin profits to build 20 schools  (Markets Insider, Nov. 3, 2021) El Salvador Pours Bitcoin Profits Into Health and Education Amid Ongoing Chivo Wallet Fraud Furor  (Pymnts.com, Nov. 5, 2021) Does Bitcoin provide the relief that El Salvador sorely needs?  (International Banker) Dismantling democracy is antithetical to Bitcoin  (El Faro English, Nov. 2, 2021) Hum