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Nayib Bukele's war on quality investigative journalism

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In the past decade, investigative journalists have uncovered important information for the Salvadoran people about the misdeeds of those in power.  Their reports disclosed the role of the government of El Salvador in negotiating a 2012 gang truce under president Mauricio Funes, revealed payoffs from both ARENA and the FMLN to the gangs for election support in the 2014 presidential election, reported on corruption in the office of the attorney general, uncovered the existence of extra-judicial execution squads within the security forces under president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, and more.     That valuable work at sites like El FaroRevista FactumGato Encerrado and FocosTV has continued under the current administration of president Nayib Bukele.  Journalists at traditional newspapers including El Diario de Hoy and La Prensa Gráfica have also been shedding light on dealings of government officials.   For instance, RevistaFactum revealed instances of nepotism in the hiring of government …

El Salvador's military blocks access to archives, again

Today El Salvador's military refused to comply with a judge's order that it permit experts in records archives to inspect the historic files of the armed forces. The judicial order came in the war crimes trial for the massacre by Salvadoran armed forces of close to a thousand children, women, the elderly and others at El Mozote and surrounding communities in 1981. That trial is proceeding in a courtroom in San Francisco Gotera in Morazan Department under the direction of Judge Jorge Guzmán.

Judge Guzmán had previously appointed several experts at the request of counsel for the victims to review the military archives from the war years. The appointment of experts follows years of stonewalling by the Salvadoran military, which has claimed that it cannot locate records, that the records don't exist, or the records were destroyed long ago.

Before the experts could start their work, the armed forces command tried again at the end of August to block the inspection of its archives …

COVID-19 status report for El Salvador

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I haven't written a post about the progression of COVID-19 in El Salvador in several weeks.  That was the product of COVID fatigue, of numbness to the continuing battles between political players in El Salvador (and elsewhere in the world for that matter), and because it was hard to know with any certainty which way things were headed.It still is not any easier to know the future course of this pandemic in El Salvador and elsewhere in the Americas, but here is an update of where it stands today.The official Salvadoran government statistics for new COVID cases portray a dramatic drop off in the disease since peaking at 449 new cases in a day on August 9.   Over the next three weeks, the official daily new case totals showed a decline of more then 80%, such that cases in the first two weeks of September have been running between 80 and 100 per day.
The government's tally of persons in moderate, grave or critical condition, which is a measure of hospital demand, dropped from 4701 …

Spanish court rules in Jesuit massacre case.

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The court in Spain which heard the case of the 1989 Jesuit massacre, issued its ruling today, more than 30 years after Salvadoran troops killed six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter.  The court has been trying ex-Salvadoran vice minister of security Inocente Orlando Montano for his involvement as part of the military high command in giving the orders and subsequently covering up the massacre.  The judges of the court unanimously found Montano guilty of being one of the persons who directed the massacre.   He was sentenced to 26 years in prison for each of the 5 Jesuit priests who were Spaniards.As Almudena Bernabéu, the Spanish human rights lawyer who helped build the case against Montano and get him extradited from the US, was quoted in The Guardian saying: “It’s not just a crime that happened 30 years ago, it’s about what impunity really means.”    
Montano was the only defendant in Spain because the Supreme Judicial Court of El Salvador has continuously protected the …

How El Salvador deals with gangs

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the title 3 Dirty Secrets Revealed by the El Salvador Gang ‘Negotiations’
By Steven Dudley

The El Faro media group reported that the El Salvador government is “negotiating” with street gangs to keep homicide levels low, which may come as a surprise to most except other politicians, who also negotiate with gangs.

The report – which was published on September 3 and is based on jailhouse intelligence reports, prison logbooks and interviews – says the administration of President Nayib Bukele has been engaged in talks with the gangs inside prisons since at least October 2019.

Specifically, the logbooks note 12 visits by Osiris Luna, El Salvador’s director of prisons, to two prisons where he met with gang leaders, mostly from the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS13) but also from the Barrio 18 Sureños. On three occasions, he was accompanied by Carlos Marroquín, the head of the government’s Social Fabric Reconstruction Unit (Unidad de Re…

Bukele team has been negotiating with gangs in prison reports El Faro

On September 3, the online periodical El Faro published an investigation revealing how the government of Nayib Bukele has been negotiating with leaders of MS-13 within the country's prisons.   The article, written by journalists Carlos Martínez, Óscar Martínez, Sergio Arauz and Efren Lemus  is titled Bukele's government has been negotiating with the MS-13 for a year to reduce homicides and electoral support and relies on hundreds of pages of leaked internal documents from the Salvadoran prison system.The title of the article tells you most of what you need to know.   Starting in 2019 after Bukele took office and continuing to the present, representatives from Bukele's administration, headed by the director of prisons, Osiris Luna, have reportedly been negotiating with gang leaders.An English translation of the report is being produced, but the El Faro English newsletter summarized some of the investigation:Through months of negotiations, Bukele’s administration got the inf…

Schooling in times of COVID

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Since the middle of March, schools at all levels in El Salvador have not had in-person classroom learning in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in the country.  This will continue for months more as the Ministry of Education has announced that public schools will not have resume in person during this calendar year.  In a country where internet access is not universal, and where most people access any online content only over cell phones, the switch to virtual learning has been a challenge.   A recent article from FocosTV reported that only 1 in 10 Salvadoran households have an internet-connected computer according to government statistics, but 9 of 10 have a cellphone which they now use for access to schooling.Faced with this reality, most public school interaction between teachers and students occurs through WhatsApp, the widely used smartphone app.  25,000 teachers across El Salvador are using the chat application in order to communicate lessons and interact with their stu…