Top stories of 2007 from El Salvador

Here's my roundup of the top El Salvador stories of 2007:

Murder of Salvadoran deputies in Guatemala
. On February 19, three Salvadoran deputies to the Central American parliament were murdered with their driver in Guatemala. High ranking Guatemalan police officers were arrested, but then murdered in an attack within a high security prison. The alleged mastermind, linked to organized crime and drug-trafficking, was finally arrested in January 2008, but many questions are still unanswered as we start 2008.

Mauricio Funes named the FMLN's candidate for president. Almost 18 months before the 2009 presidential election, the FMLN selected popular television personality Mauricio Funes as its candidate to replace Tony Saca. The move showed a pragmatism of the FMLN leadership who chose electability over hardline orthodoxy.

Inflation affects everyone. The pocketbook of the typical Salvadoran family was hard hit by inflation this year. Corn and bean prices were as much as doubled. The price of gasoline surged with world oil prices and a tax to subsidize bus owners.

Arrests of Suchitoto 13. Protests against the water policy of Tony Saca's government led to arrests. The government used its anti-terrorist law to imprison the protesters, many of whom were nowhere close to the clashes with police. The office of the human rights ombudsman accused the police of mishandling the protests and torturing those arrested. Although those arrested have now been released awaiting trial, they still face possible prison terms on the "terrorism" charges.

Death squads found to operate within PNC. In multiple incidents, members of the National Police have been found engaging in murder-for-hire and extra-judicial extermination groups. It is a symptom of El Salvador's crime-plagued society that cold-blooded killers are being found within the ranks of the public security forces.

Impunity. A study commissioned by the UN highlighted one of El Salvador's biggest weaknesses -- the freedom from punishment enjoyed by virtually all criminals. The study, vigorously disputed by the government, found that 96% of murders went unpunished.

Environmental protests. Environmental activism had an actual victory this year as the Record battery factory was shut down over concerns about lead poisoning the surrounding communities. Hoping for a similar victory, local communities protested the siting of a new landfill in the community of Cutumay Camones, but were met with a heavy-handed local police response. The Catholic bishops issued a statement opposing gold mining.

US relations still defined by immigration. It was a year where a record number of Salvadorans were deported from the US. Remittances set another record. Salvadorans were allowed to stay another year in the US on Temporary Protected Status.

Important voices for human rights die. Rufina Amaya and María Julia Hernández both passed away during 2007. Amaya was the sole living survivor of the massacre at EL Mozote and her testimony preserved the memory of the victims. María Julia Hernández was the director of Tutela Legal, the human rights office of the Catholic archbishop for many years and a tireless advocate for human rights.

Polarization infects political life. The polarization between right and left in El Salvador is grave, and president Tony Saca contributes to the problem as he calls on the ARENA party faithful to be "nationalist soldiers" combating the political left in upcoming election campaigns. Church leaders in the country called for government leaders to work for the common good, not partisan ends.


El-Visitador said…
«Environmental activism had an actual victory this year»

Was it a victory?

They killed the organization that used to recycle 70% of about one million vehicle's batteries.

Do you know where the other 30% of batteries used to end up? Two places:

(a) Salvadorean barrancos (open air dumps) and creeks

(b) Tiny, illegal, familiy owned lead-battery workshops such as this one that poisoned a whole family. Of course there is no propaganda benefits to be gained to be had by agitating against the little workshops, so activists only attack the one company which actually had procedures, filters, and hazmat equipment.

Some "victory." This is an unmitigated disaster. 100% of used batteries will now go to the barrancos, creeks, and workshops.
Anonymous said…
"Was it a victory?"

Yes, they accomplished the aim they had set out to accomplish.

Was it a victory for those (like the writer) who take a different view of enviromental priorities? No, but that's what makes it "a victory" for those who obtained it.
Anonymous said…
Rufina Amaya was not the "sole lone survivor" of el Mozote-just the most prominent in the media and human rights circles. Another one was Wilson Barrera Guevara, was 8 at the timne, joined the ERP afterwards, then the PNC in 1992 after peace accords signed.

I agree with the other stories being important-the Areneros in Guate-the most prominent being Roberto D'Aubuissons' son burned alive in a car (see dad here -'Aubuisson) (he was head of mano blanco too with CIA input)

IMHO it was a arena sponsored cleanup team that got through the jail and sliced throats of the alledged accused of this incident.
no one in their right mind could kill the son and get away with it.

It is also My opinion that the far right took out Maruricio Funes son in France not to long ago via channels, and that if he is not too careful the same could happen to him.
Bosque said…
So what do you think of Mexico's announcement that it will install chips into peoples coming in from Guatemala and Belize?
Carlos X. said…

Nice job. I borrowed a page from your book and came up with my own special interest list click here.

Jorge Ávalos said…
Good list.
Jorge Ávalos said…
I have a couple of lengthy comments to respond to other comments made here.

First, in the massacre at El Mozote, Rufina Amaya was the only survivor and witness of the events if you are only talking about the specific massacre in that town, in which nearly 700 people were killed. However when people speak about this event they are really talking about a series of massacres which were carried out as part of one military campaign during a few days in december 1980, and which resulted in the killing of about 1200 people, according to the final tally of human remains that has been scientifically identified with DNA. The massacres, which begun in La Joya continued on to Arambala and El Mozote. So, yes, Wilson Barrera also survived, and many more. Between 1992 and 1993 I collected the testimonies of at least a dozen survivors. There is Andrea who lost her mind and for many years guerrillas thought she was a hungry ghost or a "lion" (wild cat) because she used to steal food from them. There is also a woman who for six years lived in caves (there are many in the area) with her three kids, whose main source of nutrients was the milk from her mother's breast (yes, she breastfed them for the full six years). Some of them actually thought that the world had ended. They had never left the area before, had never seen helicopters before until that day when the soldiers descended and lived in isolation in those mountains.

Second, with regards to the apparently insensitive comments by El Visitador on the Record, I'm sorry but I have to say that he is right in that the situation is now worst. He's right on some of the things that he says. The government has yet to prove many of the allegations of extensive lead poisoning, specially when every single scientific study shows that the some lead contamination was already there before the factory was set up in 1996. By the way, the factory was not closed by the Ministry of Health because of the alleged lead poisoning, but because the factory didn't have a health permit. Now, the factory didn't have the permit that they had requested years before because the Government failed to provide it in a timely fashion, as is commonly the case. The Ministry of Health was supposed to review the application, test the site and give or deny a permit based on their findings. But they just never got around to do it. Imagine what would happen in the US if a factory requested an inspection from the EPA and they never showed up to do it... What would you do? What would you think of the Government if that would happen?
Bosque said…
The death Squads. Is there not some US LEO program to help train El Sal's police force in progress? How is that working out? Or do you see no progress?