Migration stats from the Northern Triangle

The most recent statistics regarding persons crossing the southwestern US border have been released. For the concerns of the Trump administration, the most important statistic is that border apprehensions have dropped very significantly.  From the dramatic surge during the spring and summer of 2019, monthly apprehensions are back in the historic "normal" level:

The reasons for this are many and varied, but I would assert that the two primary factors are (1) a much tougher immigrant enforcement strategy by Mexico stopping many from reaching the US border, and (2) the harsh cruelty of US border policies including metering of asylum seekers at ports of entry, the Remain in Mexico policy, and increased detention of all other border crossers.   I don't think migration rates are going down because conditions are suddenly getting better for desperate peoples around the globe.

For migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America, it is possible to do a deeper dive into th…

The witnesses of El Mozote

Thirty eight years ago today Salvadoran military troops moved on the area of El Mozote and surrounding hamlets in the department of Morazan in northeast El Salvador.  Over the next few days, with savage brutality, they would slaughter almost 1000 civilians, including more than 400 children under the age of 12, the worst massacre in the history of Latin America. 

For many years in the English language press, only one witness to the massacre was referred to by name, Rufina Amaya.   She was often described as the sole survivor, although there were others, but she told the story to the world for decades, including how she heard the screams of her children being murdered.  Rufina passed away in 2007.

Today, a major human rights trial proceeds on a slow and steady pace in a courtroom in northeastern El Salvador. The trial has now brought us the testimony of other witnesses, primarily from the other hamlets surrounding El Mozote, who testify either to the killing, to the events leading up t…

Raising troops and prices for the coffee harvest

The coffee harvest is underway on the volcanic mountain slopes of El Salvador.  And for the coffee sector in El Salvador, there was some good news as world coffee prices have rebounded recently.  Coffee prices have jumped some 25% in recent weeks as smaller world supplies are forecast because of poor harvests in Honduras and elsewhere.

The price increase represents a little bit of good news for the coffee industry in El Salvador which has been struggling in recent years.   Coffee exports from the country have declined by half over the past 10 years.

Another factor challenging coffee farmers is extortion by the country's street gangs. Coffee farmers must pay protection payments to the gangs, or employ armed security to protect the harvest. It is a battle between coffee farmers and gangsters which can turn deadly.

This year, the government rolled out a public security plan for the coffee harvest.  The government plans to send 3300 police agents and soldiers out into the countryside …

Of foreign trips and transparency

Nayib Bukele traveled to Asia in the past week for state visits to Japan and China.  Under the FMLN, El Salvador dumped diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2018 and established them with mainland China.  Bukele said he'd review diplomatic ties when he became president, and on April 1, blasted China for extending an invitation to outgoing officials of the FMLN to visit Beijing.

The visit to China would seem to go outside of Bukele's typical path of hewing to the desires of the US.   The US strongly criticized El Salvador when it broke off relations with Taiwan last year.   But Bukele is looking for investment partners wherever he can find them, and China remains interested in Central America.   In China, leaders of the countries announced that China will participate in infrastructure developments including a stadium and water treatment plant.    It is not clear if this is the same or different money from the $150 million China pledged to the FMLN government of Salvador Sanchez …

Some war records of Salvadoran military found in archives

After a judge hearing the El Mozote massacre case ordered the president of El Salvador and the country's military to provide records concerning military operations, some records may have been located in the General Archive of El Salvador.   While the military continues to claim it does not have a single document throughout all of its branches, some records of "historical significance" may have been saved in other archives.

On October 24, Judge Jorge Alberto Guzmán, who is presiding over the El Mozote trial issued his order to the president and defense minister to turn over records.  Now, according to a report in El Faro, the 42 divisions of the Salvadoran military have all responded that they have no records from the time of the El Mozote massacre.  However, the president's office stated that it has located records which could be "of interest" in the General Archive of the Nation.   The General Archive falls under the Ministry of Culture.

According to the E…

El Salvador's economic challenges

The economic challenges El Salvador faces today are significant.  According to El Salvador's most recent national household survey (EHPM), only 43.2% of the working age population has full time employment and another 13.4% have part time employment.  The rest of the working age Salvadorans work in the informal economy as street vendors, day laborers, food sellers, etc.   Only 35% of the working age population has coverage in the social security system of medical insurance and pensions.

Wages are low.  The average earnings in El Salvador according to the EHPM are $327 per month.  The average worker in El Salvador has finished only 8.5 years of school, a figure which has only improved one grade level in the past 10 years.  Thousands of Salvadorans continue to attempt to migrate to the US every month.

26.3% of Salvadoran households are in a condition of poverty and 5.7% live in extreme poverty.

Economic growth which might improve the situation has been steadily slowing since the firs…

Take care on El Salvador's ocean beaches

I know that many people who read this blog do so because they travel to El Salvador on church mission trips -- perhaps to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, to run a medical clinic, or to drill a well. I am often asked about how to stay safe in El Salvador. One thing I uniformly answer is that more people die on mission trips to El Salvador drowning in the ocean than for any other cause. Mission trips often conclude with a relaxing day enjoying El Salvador's wonderful beaches. But too often, those trips have ended with tragedy: A 54 year old man from Bloomington, Illinois on a trip to build houses in June 2008.A Baptist worker from Missouri in April 2007A mother from Huntington, West Virginia in July 2005A Seventh Day Adventist pastor from New Jersey in February 2002.A Canadian working with SalvAide in 1988.A Peace Corps Volunteer, January 1969. I am aware of others as well. Each year dozens of Salvadorans die by drowning in the ocean, including a 22 year old young man who dr…