Showing posts from November, 2004


As the coffee harvest progresses in El Salvador, I have been reading articles about the coffee economy. The harvest which begins in October is about 25% complete, and 50% of the beans will be harvested by the end of December. Forecasts call for a coffee harvest equal in size to last year's harvest. The price of arabica coffee, grown in Central America, on world markets is up more than 20% from last year. That price rise is good news for El Salvador, but the country still feels deeply the effects of the coffee crisis. The coffee crisis of the past 5 years saw coffee prices plummet to their lowest levels in the past century. Fueled by a worldwide glut of robusta coffee grown in Vietnam and Brazil, coffee farmers across the world from Latin America to Africa and beyond saw a dramatic reduction in their income. In El Salvador, Guatemala and elsewhere, thousands of rural families were forced to leave rural areas and migrated to the cities, or became illegal immigrants making their wa

The Journey of Dr. Ramogoza

NPR broadcast this interview over the weekend with Dr. Juan Ramogoza. In 1980 Dr. Ramogoza was tortured by government forces because he provided medical care to poor campesinos during the civil war. In 2002, he successfully sued two Salvadoran generals in a Miami federal court for damages arising out of his torture. Now in 2004, the Salvadoran government invites him to return to receive recognition as a "Distinguished Salvadoran Humanist."

Murder in El Salvador

Salvadoran papers report today that the director of the Police (PNC) and the Attorney General's office have a dispute over the murder statistics in the country. The Attorney General's office reports that murders in the country have been averaging 10 per day, while the PNC maintains that the average is only 7 per day. La Prensa Grafica reports that there were 2,621 murders in 2003 and already 2,744 in 2004. Regardless of which set of statistics are used, the numbers reflect the ongoing problems with violent crime in El Salvador. 2,621 murders in 2003 translates to a murder rate of 39.7 per 100,000 population, which compares to an overall US murder rate of 6.1 per 100,000 in 2000, but is comparable to US cities such as Washington D.C. and Detroit which both had murder rates above 40 per 100,000 in 2002. The driving factor in the El Salvador murder rate is gang violence and the proliferation of fire arms. The PNC reports 674 murders in inter-gang disputes so far thi

A Thanksgiving Story

Several US papers ran this AP News story about a group of Americans from the group Soles for Souls who shared a Thanksgiving dinner with Salvadorans living at the La Espiga dump south of San Salvador.

More on Soto murder investigation

The Boston Globe runs a lengthy story about the Soto murder today. It cites a US State Department source stating that the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Douglas Barclay, is pushing the Salvadoran government for an investigation. Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey will will travel to El Salvador next week with a group of Teamsters and labor activists.

CAFTA and the New York Times.

The New York Times expressed its support for CAFTA in an Editorial today. Not much analysis. There is no attempt, for example, to consider what the NAFTA impact on the population of Mexico might teach us about free trade agreements. The Times editorial seems to think it is significant that penalties imposed on El Salvador for not enforcing labor laws would go back to El Salvador to fix the offense. Maybe. But my earlier posts about the Gilberto Soto murder are a reminder of how far El Salvador may need to go in the area of protection of the rights of workers.


The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is opposed by many persons and organizations concerned about its potential impact on the farmers, the poor, labor rights and the environment in El Salvador and the rest of Central America. With the Bush re-election, the battle over CAFTA will move into the US Congress. One place to get educated and get involved is the Stop CAFTA web site.

Anniversary of El Salvador Jesuits' Slaying

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the slaying of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and daughter in the bloody civil war in El Salvador. As this article in Pacific News Service points out, those deaths have still largely gone unpunished. But calls for accountability and the end of impunity continue.

Gilberto Soto

In my last post, I indicated that there had been no coverage of the murder of union activist Gilberto Soto in the Salvadoran press. I was wrong. Although the murder was not covered right away, there has been coverage now in La Prensa Grafica , Diario CoLatino , El Diario de Hoy and in Diario El Mundo. Predictably, the coverage varies with the political inclinations of the paper from CoLatino featuring the political theory for the assassination and Diario de Hoy spotlighting a government assertion that there was no political motivation.

Soto murder

I haven't seen many articles about this murder in the US Press. And I saw no articles in the Salvadoran press. Gilbert Soto was an American labor organizer who was murdered while visiting his mother in Usulutan when he was murdered. Because Soto was in El Salvador in connection with organizing Salvadoran container drivers, there are suspicions that the muder was politically motivated. The New York Times has a story.

FRONTLINE -- El Salvador

This may be the best, single article I have seen on 2004 El Salvador. FRONTLINE/WORLD . Election 2004 - El Salvador PBS . It does a good job of putting together many different strands of what is going on now, from remittances to gangs.


Here's an interesting story about the people living around the Guazapa Volcano. Christian Century: Planting peace in El Salvador: the Reconciliation Forest The Volcano is a prominent view from Los Heroes de la Fe, sister church of St. John's Lutheran church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

El Salvador

This page from the Washington Office on Latin America presents a good analysis on post-war El Salvador .