The Santa Marta 5

El Salvador's government has locked up 5 community organizers and environmental activists from the rural community of Santa Marta, alleging their participation in a decades old crime during El Salvador's civil war.   But the circumstances surrounding the case suggest to many that the real motivation for their detention is to weaken resistance to metallic mining in the country and make possible the lifting of a mining prohibition. The actions of the country's Attorney General, Rodolfo Delgado, illustrate how the State of Exception with its suspension of judicial guarantees of due process is being used, not just to fight gangs, but to intimidate human rights defenders, including environmental activists. His actions show that the hard won victory to ban extractive metallic mining in the country may be under threat.  Nina Lakhani in the  Guardian  reported the arrests of the five community leaders:  Five prominent environmental defenders who played a crucial role in securing a

Studies dig into the state of Salvadoran democracy under Bukele

International experts and journalists continue to report on the deterioration of democratic institutions under the Bukele regime in El Salvador.  Here are some of the most recent in-depth looks at the current situation. The Global Initiative against Transnational Crime released a policy brief titled  Punitive Governance in Central America: An Antidote to Criminal Governance? . The brief looks at the State of Exception and Bukele's war on gangs in El Salvador and similar measures in Honduras: El Salvador’s crackdown on gangs amounts to punitive governance and has come at the expense of the basic rights of citizens. It can be understood as a government’s response to criminal governance through militarization, suspension of human rights and due process, and it has caught the attention of countries throughout Latin America. Its populist appeal makes the state of emergency easy to implement and to communicate to the public. Military and police personnel are portrayed by state media as b

Who will compete against Bukele in 2024?

El Salvador is a little more than eight months away from presidential elections.   Its enormously popular president Nayib Bukele is running for reelection in 2024 despite  multiple provisions  in the country's constitution that prohibit the immediate reelection of a president to a second term.  Up to now, one major question has been, would any party put up a candidate to compete against Bukele?  It appears today that a broad coalition of civil society groups are pushing a unity ticket to compete, and seek to make alliance with opposition political parties.     El Faro published on Tuesday an article by journalist Gabriel Labrador titled  Partidos opositores y sociedad civil a punto de concretar candidatura presidencial única.   ( Opposition parties and civil society about to finalize a single presidential candidacy ).  A shorter English version was published today under the title  Civil Society Leads Push for Unified Opposition Candidate in El Salvador . Labrador writes:  After mo

12 die in stampede at Salvadoran soccer match

A tragic incident occurred Saturday night during a quarterfinal football (soccer) match between Alianza and FAS, where a group of desperate Alianza fans knocked down a gate in their attempt to enter the stadium, resulting in injuries and fatalities.  The calamity took place at the Cuscatlán stadium in San Salvador.  By Sunday morning, the official death toll sat at 12 , with more than 80 sent to local hospitals.  Sunday afternoon authorities announced that most of the injured had been released from the hospital. Lamentable. Reportan estampida en el Estadio Cuscatlán de El Salvador Informa @CNNEE que ha aumentado a 12 el número de muertos — Luis Omar Tapia (@LuisOmarTapia) May 21, 2023 Witnesses blamed both stadium authorities and the police for the tragedy. It was alleged that an entrance gate was closed, which led fans still outside to knock it down in desperation. The ensuing stampede left some trampled to death and others suffocated in the c

Impact of State of Exception on Religious Freedom in El Salvador

The US State Department issued its 2022 country report on International Religious Freedom for El Salvador last week.   The annual reports are issued for countries around the world and describe the ability of residents in a country to freely practice their religious faith.   This year's report notes the varied impacts of the State of Exception on churches throughout El Salvador, particularly on those church leaders who worked in gang-controlled communities or sought to rehabilitate and extract persons from the gangs. The State Department report mentions some positive impacts of the State of Exception on religious freedom. In the second half of 2022, persons in formerly gang controlled communities felt freer to travel to religious services and activities, including those that involved crossing gang boundaries.  Extortion of religious bodies by gangs has declined with the breakup of gangs by security forces. However, the report also notes that the Salvadoran government has been hosti

A Cardinal echoes Oscar Romero in denouncing abuses of State of Exception

In the 1970's in El Salvador, the government engaged in widespread violations of human rights, with arbitrary detentions, torture and disappearances.  Then archbishop, now Saint, Oscar Romero, denounced such atrocities from the pulpit of San Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral in his weekly sermons. That courage to speak out against the repressive government would result in slander and vilification of Romero by the ruling oligarchic regime, and would ultimately lead to his assassination. On the 43rd anniversary of Romero's martyrdom this past March 24, another bishop of the Roman Catholic church in El Salvador took to that pulpit to point to abuse of human rights and innocent persons imprisoned.  Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez preached on the abuses of the State of Exception and the timidity of the local church, so far, in responding. Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez addressing “state of exception” here, which has resulted in arbitrary detentions without right to legal counsel

In case you missed it

April has brought much to read in English about El Salvador, especially in the area of US relations in the context of the ongoing suspension of constitutional rights in El Salvador and in the area of government finances and the economy.    The State of Exception and US Relations  After making a visit to El Salvador and meeting with Bukele, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida wrote an editorial in Compact Magazine proclaiming: Bukele is a democratically elected leader who has enacted reforms with the collaboration of legislators and the people who elected him. I would be the first to condemn any tyrannical move from Bukele, but I also think it’s absurd to criticize him for giving Salvadoran people their freedom back.... This isn’t a call to make a celebrity out of Nayib Bukele or to ignore the fragility of his nation’s democratic institutions. It’s simply a call to inject some common sense into our treatment of friendly nations. President Biden seems to think he can lecture and s