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A big lift up in El Salvador

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  There are many challenges to life in the numerous marginalized communities in and around San Salvador.  Poverty, gangs, gender-based violence, lack of safe spaces, and more, combine to afflict the physical, mental and emotional inhabitants of those areas.     One unique start-up program that seeks to address these issues in a holistic fashion is Pesas y Poder   (Weights and Power) -- a "powerlifting for empowerment" initiative, working through the disciplines of fitness and strength, and the safe space of a community gym.  The goals of Pesas y Poder are to promote gender equity, community empowerment, and healing from trauma through the practice of strength sports in El Salvador.  From the program's website : To serve this purpose, Pesas y Poder develops and delivers fitness and leadership curriculum to Salvadoran people of all genders and ages. We provide powerlifting instruction at a community gym for marginalized neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Salvador. These

Will new COVID-19 purchasing law cover up corruption?

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the headline  Pandemic Spending Immunity Deepens El Salvador Corruption Concerns . By Alex Papadovassilakis With a new law granting immunity to El Salvador officials accused of mismanaging coronavirus funds and the resignation of a prosecutor looking into pandemic-related spending, President Nayib Bukele and allies are wasting no time undermining a major corruption investigation aimed at his administration. The National Assembly has approved legislation that makes it impossible to scrutinize direct purchases related to the pandemic and shields officials from corruption allegations linked to acquiring COVID-19 supplies. The law, submitted to congress on Bukele’s instruction, was approved May 5, just days after congress voted to oust the country’s Attorney General, Raúl Melara, who in November 2020 had launched a criminal investigation into irregular purchases made by Bukele officials using emergency funds. Bukele’s

Coverage of fallout from May 1 removal of judges and attorney general

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A week ago, the legislative super-majority held by the president’s Nuevas Ideas party and its allies removed from office top magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber and the attorney general.  This post gathers some of the coverage of those events and the international reaction in the English language press. The events of last Saturday are broadly described as a consolidation of power by Nayib Bukele over the judicial branch resulting in the elimination of check and balances and breaching the separation of powers. Bukele's Legislative Assembly Ousts Supreme Court Magistrates and Attorney General (El Faro, May 2, 2021) A presidential power grab: El Salvador’s parliament sacks the country’s top judges (The Economist, May 6, 2021)   El Salvador's parliament removes checks and balances on President Bukele's powers (Eddie Galdamez in Global Voices, May 5, 2021) Many voices expressed concern that El Salvador was seeing an autocrat consolidate power. This Is How a Re

One million doses

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El Salvador hit a milestone today as it passed 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccine administered to the country's residents.   The Salvadoran government has been acquiring a variety of vaccines to administer to the population:   2 million doses purchased from Astra Zeneca, 2 million doses purchased from CoronaVac,  4.4 million doses purchased Pfizer/BionTech  150,000 doses of CoronaVac donated by China 181,000 doses through UN Covax program (Pfizer and AstaZeneca)  The healthcare ministry has been giving shots at a steady pace above 40,000 doses per day El Salvador's vaccination rate of 13.7 % of the population having received at least one dose compares to the worldwide rate of 7.2% according to Our World in Data .  Among countries in the Americas,  El Salvador ranks in the middle of the pack for percentage of population with at least one dose received.  It is worth noting, however, that second doses appear to be trailing first doses by a considerable amount, El Salvador do

The coup against separation of powers in El Salvador is already irreversible

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Two days after legislators in El Salvador abruptly removed from office all five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber and the country’s attorney general and replaced them with others, a mountain of criticism has grown inside and outside of El Salvador.  Despite those criticisms, president Nayib Bukele has no plans to reverse course, and there appears to be little reason to believe that those removed from their posts could ever be returned.  As of today, three of the five magistrates and Attorney General Raul Melara had all tendered letters of resignation .    The letters are all eerily similar – they each proclaim that the author has always fulfilled the obligations of their office and declare that the actions to terminate them were unconstitutional and improper.    Then the letters go on to say, "but for personal and family reasons I am tendering my irrevocable resignation." A collection of lower court judges throughout El Salvador’s judiciary issued a statement r

Checks and balances thrown out in El Salvador

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On their first day in the Legislative Assembly, the new majority in El Salvador's Legislative Assembly from the Nuevas Ideas party of president Nayib Bukele voted to fire all five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court, to immediately elect new magistrates from a pre-determined list without debate or discussion, and to remove the country's Attorney General Raul Melara.  In taking these steps, Nayib Bukele's party has sought to remove all possible checks and balances on the powers of the president. Normally, the first day of a new Legislative Assembly is a day of pomp and circumstance and photo-taking as new members of the Legislative Assembly are sworn in.  Last night, however, the new Assembly took actions which many in El Salvador are describing as an " autogolpe " or "self-coup" and as an attack on the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. In the new Assembly which commenced on May 1, deputies fro

Conclusion of historic week of testimony in El Mozote case

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Friday concluded an historic week of testimony in the El Mozote massacre case. The court heard from two expert witnesses regarding the responsibility of the military officer defendants.   While most of the prior testimony in this case has dealt with the horrific events of the days of December 1981 in the hamlet of El Mozote and surrounding communities, this testimony dealt with the command responsibility of the former military leaders now on trial and the broader context of the war against a civilian population being waged by the Salvadoran military. Importantly, this testimony also brought into sharp focus the important (and shameful) role of the US in motivating and covering up this massacre.   Conclusion of Karl testimony On her third day on the witness stand, Stanford professor Terry Karl faced questioning by the lawyers for all the parties. The morning session included questioning from the victims' representatives and the attorney general's office.  For the most part, thi