Ongoing epidemic of gender based violence

Violence directed at women and girls in El Salvador is an ongoing epidemic.  The levels of gender-based violence are rooted in structures and attitudes and the simple fact that men can get away with it.
The Guardian reported today on alarming statistics of sexual violence in the country:
Rates of sexual violence in El Salvador rose by a third last year, with the majority of cases involving teenage girls.  More than 60% of the 4,304 cases of sexual violence recorded in 2018 involved 12- to 17-year-olds, according to a report published this week by the Organisation of Salvadoran Women for Peace (Ormusa).  About 20% of the 560 cases of missing women last year were also among this age group.  In 2017, the number of sexual violence cases was 3,290. Overall the country has witnessed a 13% increase in number of instances of violence against women, from 5,781 in 2017 to 6,673 last year. And although femicides have declined (along with the general murder rate), the rates in El Salvador are st…

Twitter watch: @NayibBukele

President-elect Nayib Bukele was a social media candidate for office with legions of followers on Twitter and Facebook.   Now that he is preparing to take office, Bukele has continued to use Twitter as his primary method of communicating with the country.   You can always check out what he has to say @NayibBukele.   

After Donald Trump (perhaps the most infamous presidential Twitter user) announced on Twitter and elsewhere that he was cutting off more than $500 million in US aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, Bukele's response in a tweet was muted:
Sobre el anuncio del Presidente @realDonaldTrump de suspender la ayuda a El Salvador, esperamos que esta se reanude e incluso incremente al entrar el nuevo Gobierno.

Hasta ahora, todos nuestros proyectos han sido acompañados y hay mucho entusiasmo por el cambio en nuestro país. — Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) March 31, 2019Regarding the announcement of President @realDonaldTrump to suspend aid to El Salvador, we hope that it wi…

37 years after the killing of Dutch journalists

Thirty seven years ago this month, four Dutch journalists were ambushed by troops of the Salvadoran army and murdered.

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, four 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 armed forces while on their way to territory under FMLN control. The incident occurred not far from the San Salvador-Chalatena…

Can El Salvador's environment support megaprojects like Valle El Ángel?

Religious and water rights groups organized today to protest a mega-real estate project in the municipality of Apopa, just northeast of San Salvador at the base of the San Salvador volcano.   The proposed urbanization development of  8000 houses, shopping centers, churches and more threatens the available water resources in the region, according to the groups.

The development is called "Valle El Ángel" and is a project of real estate developer Urbánica.    Urbánica is a business of the wealthy Dueñas family in El Salvador.  Currently the land, along the Pan-American highway, is primarily used to grow sugar cane. 

Urbánica last year described the development as a mixed-use small city consisting of 840 acres where it would build 6500 houses with a contemplated investment of $500 million over 20 years.
The project was initially promoted with great fanfare in 2016 as the Dueñas family announced they had reached agreement with the water authority ANDA to allow them to drill 9 d…

The murder of St. Oscar Romero remains in impunity

March 24 is the 39th anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero by a death squad in El Salvador.   It was one of the opening events of a bloody civil war which would have tens of thousands of civilian victims.

Despite the notoriety of the murder of a man who would subsequently be declared a martyred saint of the Roman Catholic church, no prosecution of his killers has ever reached conclusion in the Salvadoran courts.

After an amnesty law was passed in 1993, no prosecution moved forward for 23 years until that law was declared void by the Constitutional Chamber in El Salvador.   Shortly thereafter the case against Romero's killers was reopened, but there has been little visible progress.  The Due Process of Law Foundation has a good summary this week of where such legal proceedings stand today:
The Attorney General’s office (under Douglas Meléndez, whose term ended in early January 2019) publicly supported the reopening of the Romero case. Nonetheless, Judge Chicas had to is…

International Water Day in the streets of San Salvador

On this International Water Day, a march proceeded in the streets of San Salvador demanding that the country protect its water resource and that water not be privatized or put under the direction of business interests.  The march headed towards the headquarters of the sugar cane trade association because the industrial sugar producers are one of the largest water exploiters in the country.

It was the second water march in three days.   On Wednesday, the University of El Salvador ("UES") led marchers  towards the National Assembly.   The UES was protesting a legislative proposal approved in committee which would give private interests representation on a governing water board. 

The UES march resulted in some protesters allegedly damaging property including automobiles and windows.   Two protesters were taken into custody.

That is where Nayib Bukele got into the act tweeting:
Exijo a la @PNC_SV la inmediata liberación de los estudiantes de la @UESoficial que están detenidos.

Water battles

The legislative battle over who will have a voice in regulating El Salvador's water resources has heated up this week and is perhaps headed towards a final showdown.

The task of drafting new water legislation in El Salvador is in the hands of the Environment Committee of the National Assembly.   On Monday, the Committee approved a provision which would create a governing body (the "ente rector") over water resources composed of seven members.  Those seven members consist of one each from:

Ministry of the Environment (MARN)Ministry of Agriculture (MAG)University of El SalvadorLocal water boardsMunicipal governmentsPrivate industrial usersPrivate agricultural users (sugar cane)
Those last two members from private business interests generate serious concerns and opposition from environmental groups.  The position of a broad alliance of water rights groups is that there should be no private interests holding a right to appoint specific members of the governing body.   They la…