Posts

Social media and information warfare

Image
Anyone who spends much time on Salvadoran social media knows that those who publish information which might show the government of Bukele in a poor light, can expect to be met by a swarm of online attacks.   It happens to me from time to time (oh well, he shrugs), but the especially virulent attacks are reserved for local Salvadoran journalists and human rights activists. A new special report by Sara Kinosian at Reuters titled  Trolls, propaganda and fear stoke Bukele's media machine in El Salvador  shares revelations from interviews with social media specialists employed by the Bukele government. They were hired to swamp social media platforms with praise for the president and attacks on his critics:  These workers were cogs in what has become a powerful communications operation that has allowed Bukele to influence what Salvadorans read, watch and hear about their government like no previous leader of this small nation of 6.5 million people in the internet age. Key to this effort

The unsolved kidney disease mystery killing Salvadoran laborers

Image
This article was originally published on  Undark  under the title In El Salvador and Beyond, an Unsolved Kidney Disease Mystery . November 16, 2022 by Fletcher Reveley J osé Lopez didn’t want to die, but the alternative — having a scalpel plunged through his abdominal wall to install a soft, silicone dialysis catheter — filled him with terror. For weeks in the fall of 2021, the then-34-year-old agricultural worker from Tierra Blanca, El Salvador, had refused the surgery, holding out instead for a miracle from God. Regional lore held that such acts of grace were possible: There was the man from Las Salinas whose invocations had restored his ailing kidneys; the boy from La Noria who was recovering swiftly after devoting himself to the gospel. Through his mounting illness, Lopez clung to the rumors and prayed for a similar deliverance. But he was running out of time. The fluid buildup in his abdomen had grown so severe he felt like he was choking. He couldn’t stand, eat, or sleep. His

18 years later - here's what's in the news

Image
I started writing El Salvador Perspectives (then just called Tim's El Salvador Blog) 18 years ago today.   This small country continues to produce a wealth of topics to write about.   Here's a sampling of what is going on this week. The government has  extended for an 8th time  the State of Exception with its suspension of constitutional due process guarantees.   According to the PNC, more than 57,000 people have been arrested during the course of this war on gangs since March 27. The Salvadoran government has warned persons near the Chaparrastique volcano to be on alert as the volcano is currently experiencing ongoing small explosions of gas and ash from the crater area. Bitcoin enthusiasts arrived in El Salvador for the Adopting BTC conference at a time when the crypto market is in turmoil, and the price of Bitcoin as sunk below $17,000 USD.   Bukele announced on Twitter that the country will start buying 1 BTC per day.   At current prices, Bukele's Bitcoin purchases o

33rd anniversary of 1989 Jesuit massacre

Image
UCA 33rd anniversary poster November 16, 2022 is the 33rd anniversary of the 1989 massacre of 6 Jesuit priests and one of their co-workers and her daughter at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador.   I have been writing about this case and the search for justice for the past 18 years and you can review those articles on El Salvador Perspectives using the Jesuit murders tag .   The anniversary has been commemorated at the UCA with a traditional candlelight vigil, symposia, and cultural events. This week a judge granted early release to ex-colonel Guillermo Alfredo Benavides, one of only two military figures convicted in the flawed 1992 trial in the Jesuit murders case.   Benavides was released in 1993 when an amnesty law was passed, and then re-arrested in 2016 when that amnesty was ruled unconstitutional.   Having now served a third of his 30 year sentence, and being 77 years old, he qualified for early release.   The Jesuits of the UCA have been petitioning for th

Tucker Carlson LOVES Bukele; others not so sure

Image
Despite the small size of El Salvador, president Nayib Bukele manages to be a regular subject of international press attention.  Perhaps most prominently, Bukele appeared November 1 on the streaming program of right-wing US television host Tucker Carlson. During their hour long English language conversation, Carlson praised Bukele for his wisdom while Bukele offered up his opinions on global macroeconomics, adoption of Bitcoin, and how the international media and economic press is "Fake news" and propaganda.  Bukele then had Spanish subtitles added to the show and made it available on his official Twitter feed for Salvadorans.  (Here is the full  Bukele interview with Tucker Carlson ). A look at the recent international economic press shows why Bukele has no fondness for it: El Salvador’s $300 Million Bitcoin ‘Revolution’ Is Failing Miserably  (Bloomberg, Nov. 4, 2022) -- "President Nayib Bukele tied his country’s fortunes to the digital token, but there isn’t much sign

The State of Exception is El Salvador's new normal

Image
What purported to be an emergency measure at the end of March 2022, has become the dominant rule of criminal justice in El Salvador as the government declares that its "war against gangs" must continue.  On October 14, the Legislative Assembly  voted  to extend the State of Exception with its suspension of constitutional guarantees for an eighth month. In a story titled  Prison deaths mount in El Salvador's crackdown , on October 24, 2022, the AP described the results to date of the State of Exception:  The arrests of more than 55,000 people have swamped an already overwhelmed criminal justice system. Defendants have virtually no hope of getting individual attention from judges who hold hearings for as many as 300 defendants at a time; overworked public defenders juggle stacks of cases.  Defendants arrested on the thinnest of suspicions are dying in prison before any authority looks closely at their cases. At least 80 people arrested under the state of exception have su

Arrests made in Dutch journalists case

Image
Forty years have passed since their crimes were committed.   But in the past week, former military figures from El Salvador's civil war have been arrested for their roles in the cold-blooded killing of four Dutch journalists covering that war.   In early 1982, El Salvador was a dangerous place for journalists covering the civil war between FMLN guerrillas and the country's armed forces.   Despite the danger, Dutch journalists, Koos Koster, Jan Kuiper, Joop Willemse and Hans ter Laag, ventured out to the Department of Chalatenango to get an interview with guerrilla fighters.   The Salvadoran army ambushed their group and killed all the journalists.  The ambush was one of the war crimes documented in the 1993 UN Truth Commission Report following the conclusion of El Salvador's civil war: On the afternoon of 17 March 1982, four Dutch journalists accompanied by five or six members of FMLN, some of them armed, were ambushed by a patrol of the Atonal Battalion of the Salvadorian