Showing posts from April, 2006

Hot dogs replace beans in globalization's impact

Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, was recently in Boston. The Boston Globe carried some of his remarks about globalization and the markets which US companies believe are opened under CAFTA: One can start with a 2003 article by the US Department of Agriculture, titled ''El Salvador Offers a Balmy Climate for US Agricultural Exports.' Written as the United States pushed for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, it said, ''Some 20 percent of El Salvador's population regularly purchases US food items. . . . With more women joining the labor force and fewer domestic employees to assist in food preparation, the demand for convenience and fast foods is increasing. . . . ''Generally, people living in urban areas consume more bread and meats than tortillas and beans. Urban Salvadorans are very familiar with US-style food, and most US fast-food franchises have outlets in El Salvador. Food courts in shopping malls are popular and viewed

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- abortion and gay marriage

A variety of issues have been discussed in the Salvadoran blogosphere in past weeks. Much discussion went to Jack Hitt's article in the April 9, 2006 Sunday New York Times Magazine titled Pro-Life Nation . In the article, Hitt describes El Salvador's complete criminalization of abortion which includes the prosecution and imprisonment of women who have abortions, and there are no exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. The article produced a spirited debate in comments on Tim's El Salvador Blog where some celebrated the "pro-life" policy of the government and others condemned the idea that a government which was not addressing poverty and childhood diseases could be considered as pro-life. Meanwhile numerous liberal blogs commented on Pro-Life Nation by forecasting that it was the future of abortion law in the US if conservative groups had their way. Blog posts such as I have seen the future and it is El Salvador on the Carpetbagger Repo

Migration's impact on El Salvador

An article on the Migration Information Source web site takes at in depth look at the statistics concerning emigration from El Salvador and remittances sent home. One impact is globalization: In fact, it can be easily argued that migration is El Salvador's principal gateway to globalization. And this is due not only to the volume of remittances but also to a myriad of other economic activities that have increased because of migration. According to data from the US Federal Communications Commission, telephone calls between the United States and El Salvador rose 570 percent from 99.9 million minutes in 1992 to 669 million minutes in 2002 as families made use of increased access to land lines as well as cell phone expansion to keep in touch. Information from the US Bureau of Transport Statistics shows that air traffic between El Salvador and the United States increased exponentially from 123,846 passengers in 1990 to more than 1.3 million in 2004. The principal cities of destination

The economic cost of gangs

The Boston Globe recently ran another story about the scourge of Central America gangs. One new statistic is an estimate that gangs have depressed the economic output of Central America by as much as 25%: In recent years, the two major gangs have become far more vicious and sophisticated, forming alliances with organized crime in prison and shuttling operatives between the United States and their home countries. Their trademark beheadings, mutilations, and torture-killings of rival gangsters, informants, and other victims have made them a top priority of the FBI's criminal enterprise branch. In Central America, governments have experimented with get-tough laws, only to see crime worsen every year. Violence and extortion -- from petty ''taxes" levied on bus drivers and corner shopkeepers to tens of thousands of dollars demanded of a major soda company in El Salvador -- have scared off investors, shaving regional gross domestic product by some 25 percent, according to

Illegal children

In an article titled A Road Less Traveled , the Washington Post details the story of a Salvadoran youth, orphaned at an early age, who crossed illegally into the US and his struggle to obtain legal status in the US: Julio had crossed the border alone, yet another "unaccompanied juvenile" walking north carrying a plastic bag of clothes. He swam the Rio Grande in full view of a bridge and, minutes later, resting on a rock, got busted. The Border Patrol caught 7,000 kids like Julio last year, mostly teenage boys. Who knows how many more make it through undetected...( more )

The lame duck National Assembly of El Salvador

A "lame duck" legislative session refers to a meeting of the legislature after an election and before newly elected representatives take their seats. Usually it is a time of little substance. Tony Saca and ARENA have much different plans for the rest of the lame duck National Assembly. The new National Assembly commences on May 1, and in that Assembly the FMLN will have a greater presence and the ability to block votes such as authorization of borrowing which requires a super-majority, an ability the FMLN currently lacks. In the last three days of this National Assembly then, Saca seeks to get approval of the foreign borrowing he needs to fund his Red Solidaria program, to fund a program for improving the educational system and other projects. But Saca also wants to get many more laws approved including a law for protection of witnesses, law against terrorism, laws for electoral reforms, and authorization for government wiretaps of telephones. They plan to elect magistrat

Remaining issues from Soccer War resolved

Last week El Salvador and Honduras finalized an agreement defining the border between the countries. The border agreement marked the final resolution of the 1969 "Soccer War" between the two countries. Between July 14 and July 20, 1969, the two countries fought a bloody battle which killed as many as 5000 and displaced tens of thousands. The war is called the Soccer War because it began after a bitterly contested series of three World Cup soccer qualifying matches between the two neighboring countries. El Salvador initiated hostilities when its army moved into Honduras. After more than four days of fighting, a cease fire was called under pressure from the US and the Organization of American States. Still, a peace agreement was not signed until 1980, and it took a 1992 decision by the International Court of Justice to settle the boundary issues. Last week's agreement resolved the final controversy over the exact placement of the border. You can learn more about the

On vacation from blogging

Back in 10 days or so. Happy Easter.

Observances of the faithful

La Prensa Grafica has carried many photo galleries this week showing the many religious processions and celebrations which are part of Semana Santa (Holy Week) in El Salvador. Here are some: Pal m Sunday and video -- procession of palm branches marking Jesus' entrance into Jerusalemm. La Lavada -- Procession to wash the clothes for the image of Christ -- a ceremony performed in the river El Trapiche for more than 300 years. Los Taquines -- red suited devils roam the streets with whips to strike penitent sinners. Children of Izalco -- Processions through the streets of the town with the image of Christ on his way to Calvary

Salvadoran immigrants march for immigration reform

The Washington, D.C. area is home to thousands of Salvadorans, with both legal and illegal immigration status. As 100,000 or more protesters marched in Washington yesterday to rally for immigration reform, many from El Salvador were among them. The Washington Post carries the story today of two Salvadoran immigrants, one legal and one not, who joined the rally: Jose Martinez, an immigrant from El Salvador who was about to walk a mile to yesterday's rally on the Mall, wore a new T-shirt with an American flag on it that he bought from Sears. He wore a new red cap with an American eagle on it and was empty-handed only because the dollar store he likes to shop at was sold out of American flags.... ( more )

Sights to see in El Salvador

During this week of vacations in El Salvador, I'd like to hear from readers of the blog about their recommended sights to see in El Salvador. Click on "comments" below to add your favorite sights -- famous or hidden away, majestic or quirky. I'd particularly like to hear from you who live in El Salvador about sights the occasional visitor is likely to miss. UPDATE David Mejia has a new website in English celebrating treasured places and things of El Salvador called SV Days .

Abortion in El Salvador

The cover story of the New York Times Sunday Magazine this week is titled Pro-Life Nation and looks at the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador: There are other countries in the world that, like El Salvador, completely ban abortion, including Malta, Chile and Colombia. El Salvador, however, has not only a total ban on abortion but also an active law-enforcement apparatus -- the police, investigators, medical spies, forensic vagina inspectors and a special division of the prosecutor's office responsible for Crimes Against Minors and Women, a unit charged with capturing, trying and incarcerating an unusual kind of criminal. That unusual kind of criminal is the woman who has an abortion. The article includes interviews with women who have had illegal abortions, the doctors who report them to authorities, the investigators who gather evidence of the crime, and the magistrates who decide to prosecute and sometimes send those women to prison. The article also provides some hist

Holy Week and vacations

All El Salvador is on vacation for Semana Santa (Holy Week) from now until Easter. La Prensa Grafica has special coverage here . Included is a gallery of images of last week's Way of the Cross procession from the church of San Esteban.

From 14 families to 8 business groups

Students of Salvadoran history will recognize the reference to the "14 Families," the oligarchy which controlled most of the land and wealth in El Salvador during the 19th and 20th centuries. A recent article by Juan Jose Dalton in Raices describes the evolution of economic power in El Salvador in the past two decades. Citing a study by economist Alfonso Goitia, Dalton makes the case that wealth today is not controlled by 14 families, but by 8 financial conglomerates. Here is my translation of the introduction to the article: In the last 35 years, the men of economic power in El Salvador have transformed themselves: landowning agricultural exporters converted into powerful financiers. The riches of El Salvador have been reconcentrated in a few hands, an event without precedent in the history of this country or the Central American region. From the 14 oligarchic families of the past century, now capital is distributed among 8 powerful business groups. Before the comme

Compromise reached in US Senate on immigration reform

Members of the US Senate have reached a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform. These developments have been very closely watched in El Salvador where hundreds of people per month leave to try and make their way into the US. As reported in the Washington Post : Under the agreement, the Senate would allow undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and citizenship if they could prove -- through work stubs, utility bills or other documents -- that they have been in the country for five years. To attain citizenship, those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty, back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain working for 11 years. Those who have been here a shorter time would have to return to one of 16 designated ports of entry, such as El Paso, Tex., and apply for a new form of temporary work visa for low-skilled and unskilled workers. An additional provision would disqualify illegal immigrants who have been in the country less than two yea

FMLN reducing internal democracy

According to a report in La Prensa Grafica, the FMLN leadership plans to do away with internal elections or primaries to choose its candidates for the next round of elections in 2009. The paper reports that the party wants to make itself more ideologically pure and may set up a system of classification of party members depending on their degree of militancy and adherence to the ideals of the party. If the FMLN follows through on these plans and rejects democracy within the party and insists on a rigid hard line orthodoxy for its candidates, it is likely to further marginalize itself in the coming years.

El Salvador's advocate for human rights

El Salvador's human rights ombudswoman, Dr. Beatrice Alamanni de Carrillo, is the subject of a lengthy profile in the Los Angeles Times titled A Diva Defends the Law . Here's an excerpt: With her abundant Cleopatra-esque eyeliner and exquisitely tailored suits, she might not be the first person who comes to mind when envisioning a steely defender of the rule of law in a country where the law often doesn't seem to matter. Alamanni is El Salvador's ombudswoman for human rights, a position created by the 1992 peace treaty that ended this nation's civil war. She runs a government ministry staffed largely by young, and underpaid, female lawyers. They are official government watchdogs, intended as a buffer to the arbitrary exercise of state power that helped lead to the war. "There are people who think that since I am a bourgeois lady, from a high social circle, I must be crazy to be mixed up with human rights," said the 62-year-old, who has been the target of

CAFTA's first month

On April 1, El Salvador completed its first month under CAFTA and the treaty took effect for Honduras and Nicaragua . This leaves Guatemala and the Dominican Republic still to pass revisions to their laws for compliance with the treaty, and Costa Rica which has not yet ratified the treaty. The Salvadoran government has made optimistic statements about the impact of CAFTA's first month. As reported in La Prensa , although there were some problems with US customs as authorities got used to the new regime, there are expressions of interest both in new investment in El Salvador and businesses looking to export to the US. Obviously one month is too early to start judging the impact of CAFTA. Some of the things to watch will be: Do subsidized US agricultural products increase in shipments to El Salvador? Are there offsetting increases of Salvadoran agricultural exports to the US? Does CAFTA impact the loss of textile jobs to China? Does foreign investment increase in El Salvador, and

McDonald's in El Salvador

In December a Salvadoran court entered a judgment awarding Roberto Bukele, a McDonald's franchisee in El Salvador, $24 million in damages from the company with the golden arches. The court found that McDonald's had wrongfully tried to terminate Bukele's contract. McDonald's has announced it will appeal. The Miami Herald has an article describing McDonald's decade long dispute with its first franchisee in El Salvador: Operating in El Salvador has never been the golden opportunity Bukele hoped for when in 1972, the University of Wisconsin graduate got the license to open the first McDonald's in Latin America. When civil war erupted at the end of the decade, Bukele's three restaurants in San Salvador made popular targets. One McDonald's was bombed in 1978; the next year, another was torched, killing two guards. Two years after the war ended in 1992, McDonald's signed a new agreement with Bukele, renewing his licenses until 2014 and offering a $1 mi

What Salvadoran bloggers are saying -- echoes of the past

The past two weeks have seen much discussion in the Salvadoran blogosphere about crimes committed during the civil war in El Salvador which continue to have considerable impact on the society. In particular, bloggers explored considerations of impunity and historical memory arising from the assassination of Oscar Romero and disappearances of children during the war. The 26th anniversary of the anniversary of the assassination of archbishop Oscar Romero was March 24th. Bloggers Hunnapuh , Jjmar , demander , Tim , and Rebeca all paid homage to the martyred "voice of the voiceless." Just as Romero's assassination in some ways marks the beginning of the civil war in El Salvador, Aldebarán notes that March 24th also marked the 30th anniversary of the military coup in Argentina that brought in 7 years of dirty war, in which tens of thousands disappeared or were tortured by government forces. This year's anniversary was marked by a surprise revelation -- one of the S