Showing posts from May, 2008

Millennium Challenge account projects provide basis for propaganda

The online newspaper El Faro has reported that there is a split in the executive board which oversees the projects funded by dollars from the US Millennium Challenge Account. The division arises from the concern of certain members of the council that president Tony Saca is using announcement of various projects of the Millennium fund for propaganda purposes. These dissenting members are the representatives of the NGOs and the private sector who sit on the board. The governmental members who are on the board continue to support Saca. Two comments: 1. No one should be surprised. 2. The Salvadoran people have seen such self-promotion by the current government often enough that they recognize it for what it is.

North Face and the sweatshop in El Salvador

The National Labor Committee describes its mission as helping "defend the human rights of workers in the global economy. The NLC investigates and exposes human and labor rights abuses committed by U.S. companies producing goods in the developing world. [The NLC] undertakes public education, research and popular campaigns that empower U.S. citizens to support the efforts of workers to learn and defend their rights." As part of that mission, the NLC recently published on its website a denunciation of the treatment of workers at a maquila garment factory in El Salvador owned by Youngone S.A. , where expensive jackets under the North Face brand are sewn. Youngone is a South Korean company listed on the Korea stock exchange which operates garment factories in Bangladesh, El Salvador and elsewhere. Here is the report summary: Women in El Salvador sewing $165 jackets for North Face and $54 shirts for Eddie Bauer cannot afford milk and other basic necessities for their children

FMLN leads in latest poll

The most recent public opinion poll from the Institute for Public Opinion at the University of Central America shows the FMLN leading voters' preferences for president, legislators and mayors in the elections which are still 7 to 9 months away. The lead is greatest in the presidential race where the FMLN ticket headed by Mauricio Funes leads Rodrigo Avila, the ARENA candidate, by 42.1% to 26.1%: The opinion poll shows that voters are ready for a change. When asked whether ARENA should continue governing the country, 62.7% answered "no.": The IUDOP report describes the survey results on a wide variety of other topics showing the view of El Salvador's citizens on the economy, security, the government, and their own sense of well-being. The predominant message of the poll is that Salvadorans believe that their lot in life is getting worse and the government is doing nothing to help them.

Using certifications to protect ecosystems

Students from the School of Business at UC Berkely are in El Salvador to learn and provide assistance working with SalvaNatura , a Salvadoran NGO whose mission is to conserve and protect the ecosystems in El Salvador's (few) protected natural areas. Their blog describes how they will be working in the area of "sustainable certifications": In addition, we have come to understand how sustainable certifications such as Rainforest Alliance complement SalvaNATURA’s other services, which include managing national parks, conducting environmental research, and providing environmental education programs. For our client, the challenges are immense. The organization is dedicated to the preservation of the environment and natural areas of El Salvador, a country with 98% deforestation. Yet the opportunities are immense as well, especially given the growing demand for certified products like coffee from consumers, farmers, as well as international companies such as Kraft , McDonal

A computer in Ecuador stirs up Salvadoran presidential campaign

A computer file purportedly discovered on a laptop computer at a guerrilla camp in Ecuador, has bloggers in El Salvador wondering what impact it will have and what impact it should have on the upcoming elections in their country scheduled for March 2009. The laptop computer was taken in the Colombian army's raid on the camp of FARC guerrillas in Ecuador . In that raid the number two man of the FARC, Raul Reyes, was killed, and his computer seized. The furor in El Salvador started when the Spanish newspaper El Pais disclosed [es] that one document on the computer referred to a Salvadoran making an introduction in 2007 from the FARC to Australian arms dealers. The Salvadoran named was Luis Merino, a senior official of the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and member of the Central American parliament. The conservative press in El Salvador played up the story with prominent pictures showing Merino beside the FMLN's presidential candidate Mauricio Fu

March against hunger

As soaring food prices lead to hunger, the UN World Food Program sponsored a march against hunger and malnutrition in the streets of San Salvador on Sunday. Participants of the march included leaders of social organizations, diplomats, professors, students and workers, said reports . Carlos Scaramella, a WFP representative in El Salvador, said the march was designed "to create a movement of global solidarity for the fight against hunger and malnutrition." "It's very important to join this movement due to the threat ... of rising food prices in the world," he said. La Prensa Grafica has a photogallery of the march at this link . Remember -- the problem of food and hunger in the world is not that there is not enough food to feed everyone. The problem is distribution and the ability to pay for that food. For continuing coverage of the global food crisis, go to the special coverage at Global Voices .

The soaring price of basic foodstuffs in El Salvador

The crisis in world food prices is having a real impact on El Salvador's poor, especially those poor families in rural areas. The rise in prices of basic food stuffs was recently documented in a report issued by the Center for Defense of the Consumer . That report found: Among Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, El Salvador had the highest price for corn, a price which has gone up 39% in the past year. In Guatemala and Nicaragua, the price of corn actually decreased over that time period. Although El Salvador had a record harvest of beans in the last season, the price of beans went up 60% in the past 12 months. The price of rice went up 66% in the past 12 months. El Salvador had the highest price among those 4 countries. The cost of a basic family's market basket of goods has gone up 21% in rural areas and 14% in urban areas during that time. The result is hunger. An article by Raul Guttierez on the IPS news service expands on the problem: World Food Programm

The FARC and the FMLN

On March 1 of this year, Colombian armed forces raided a camp of the rebel FARC guerilla group in Ecuador. The computers captured in that raid have produced information having ramifications in El Salvador. As The Economist reports : They represent only one side of a story, and most of their claims have yet to be independently corroborated. But Interpol has now concluded that the huge cache of e-mails and other documents recovered from the computers of Raúl Reyes, a senior leader of the FARC guerrillas killed in a Colombian bombing raid on his camp in Ecuador on March 1st, are authentic and undoctored. The documents throw new light on the inner workings of the FARC. According to the Spanish newspaper, El Pais , which claims to have been provided with access to some of the electronic documents, there is evidence in the documents of a link between the FARC rebels and at least one senior FMLN official in El Salvador. Luis Merino is a top leader of the former guerrilla force FMLN and i

Lamentations of Rufina Amaya

Rufina Amaya was the sole living witness to the massacre of a thousand civilians at El Mozote during El Salvador's civil war. She died last year. Now a Salvadoran composer, Carlos Colón-Quintana, has composed a choral piece in her memory titled The Lamentations of Rufina Amaya . From his blog : This is my latest composition: a work for chorus, children's choir, and chamber orchestra. This is a lament for all the victims of the civil war in El Salvador, specially those who died in the Massacre of El Mozote. At the blog he has made selections from his work available in video and audio format.

Seeking asylum from gangs

On a fairly regular basis I receive e-mails from lawyers who are representing Salvadorans facing deportation from the US. The lawyers are often looking for information to support an asylum claim for person who fear gang-related persecution if they return to El Salvador. US law grants asylum to persons in the US who establish they have been persecuted or fear they will be persecuted on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. A resource to which I will now direct those lawyers is the Gang Asylum Guide put out by the Washington Office on Latin America. The Guide presents an overview of the gang problem in El Salvador and other Central American countries and provides resources for making the argument that a former gang-member, or a person who fled gang recruitment, or other persons should be entitled to asylum in the US. I've written previously about the Medrano family who fled El Salvador after gangs threatened

Investing in El Salvador

Last year I wrote about the announcement of Cutuco Energy's plans to build a large natural gas electric power plant in El Salvador and the jobs that plant would bring to El Salvador. Those plans are still moving forward. A recent article describes the man behind the project and his thoughts about making such a major investment in El Salvador: When Bill Perkins, 39, took his first trip to El Salvador, he was not expecting much. "This is a country that, not long ago, was being ravaged by civil war," he says. "I was bracing for a lot of rubble and bullet holes." What he found, however, were well-paved roads, hotels packed with foreign investors and a populace with "a lot of fancy degrees". That reconnaissance mission three years ago has led to one of the biggest private investments in dollar terms in Central America since the Panama Canal: an $800m, 525-megawatt, gas-fired power plant that aims to bring El Salvador and its near neighbours cheaper, cl

San Salvador's earthquake vulnerability

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in China this week, Forbes reported on a study of earthquake vulnerability by GeoHazards International , an NGO working towards earthquake safety around the globe. Of the 20 cities worldwide ranked as most vulnerable to earthquakes, San Salvador was ranked number 7: The country's 220-square-mile capital city, home to 2.2 million people, has been the site of numerous earthquakes throughout its history, most recently in 2001. A 6.0 quake would kill an estimated 11,500. GeoHazards also released a study in 2001 after the earthquakes which hit El Salvador pointing out that many measures to reduce the damage and fatalities those quakes caused are both feasible and relatively low cost. This week US military personnel participated in disaster preparedness exercises in El Salvador simulating response to a devastating earthquake.

Upside Down World interview with Funes

Upside Down World , an online magazine "covering activism and politics in Latin America" from a progressive point of view, has published a lengthy interview with Mauricio Funes, the FMLN's candidate for president of El Salvador. The interview is well-worth reading. The first question asks Funes to place his campaign within the leftward shift of politics seen in Latin America in recent years. Funes answer: We are often asked, ‘Well, what type of left do you represent?’, and I have said: “We represent the left of hope. We are a sensible left, a reasonable left, a left that is betting on change, a stable change. We are looking for a type of society that builds functioning institutions in El Salvador, a democracy that functions, a viable nation. Given the current international context, we do not aspire to build socialism in El Salvador. What we hope to build is a more dynamic and competitive economy, placing ourselves in the international playing field in a highly g

Uncovering the "disappeared"

Yesterday's post described the work of COMADRES, the organization of mothers of civilian victims of the civil war, dedicated to finding what happened to the "desaparecidos", those were were abducted by death squads or the armed forces and never heard from again. That work continues, as an article yesterday on the IPS news service describes: The local residents and forensic experts are digging in the spot where the remains of five men and one woman are thought to be buried in La Angostura, a rural village in the mountains near the town of Ciudad Barrios, 136 km east of San Salvador. The exhumation work takes place Apr. 24-28. The Madeleine Lagadec Human Rights Centre’s efforts to uncover the truth have led to around 600 exhumations of common graves since El Salvador began the transition to democracy in the wake of the 1980-1992 armed conflict, which left more than 75,000 civilian victims dead, as well as some 7,000 people "disappeared", according to official es

A Mother's Day tribute to COMADRES

For Mother's Day (a day late), I want to highlight the work of the organization COMADRES, the Committee of Mothers Mons. Romero. COMADRES grew up as an organization of the mothers of victims of political violence and disappearances in the turbulent 70s and 80s. The organization demanded justice for their family members throughout the civil war and beyond: Comadres was set up in 1977, when 'disappearances' were the order of the day in El Salvador. The group came into existence because relatives of 'disappeared' persons felt the need to share their grief with partners in misfortune and to unite forces with them. At the moment Comadres is working on 4,000 cases of 'disappearances', an emotionally arduous job for the relatives. On the one hand the women know that their 'disappeared' husbands and children probably have been killed, on the other hand, as long as the body hasn't been found there is always a spark of hope that makes them believe that o

Impacts on remittances from US to Latin America

A recent report released by the Inter-American Development Bank studies  the patterns of remittances sent back by Latin American immigrants in the US to families in their home countries: The current survey goes beyond simply tallying remittance totals and starts to probe the reasons behind the shift in remittance flows. The results suggest that two principal forces are affecting the lives of Latin American immigrants and the flow of money they send home. The first is the effect of the U.S. economic downturn on the sectors employing large numbers of Latin American immigrants. Impacting the incomes of workers directly, the downturn is clearly reducing the capacity of immigrants to support their families back home. The second, and perhaps more significant force, is the effect of the immigration climate which has been emerging over the past two years and is changing the dynamics of remittances to Latin America. In short, the report finds that the economic downturn in the US is impacting r

Immigration stories

A Washington, D.C. area television station, WJLA - ABC 7, has recently aired stories about Salvadoran families split between two countries by immigration. You can read those stories and watch the video reports here and here . Also worth reading is reporter Andrea McCarren's blog of their reporting trip to El Salvador which has short essays and photos on a number of aspects of life in El Salvador.

Political(?) Murders

There are recent updates in two murders and a new murder, which continue to raise the question: how do you know when a murder is politically motivated? It is a question I've asked before in this blog, especially when people are quick to assert a political motivation when few facts are known about a murder. The case of Salvador Sanchez -- Sanchez was the radio journalist who worked for progressive radio stations and was murdered near his home in September 2007, and some suggested a political motivation for the murder. This week police reported capturing a member of Mara Salvatrucha as the second suspect in the murder of the radio journalist, after arresting another gang member last October . The case of Wilber Funes -- Funes was the FMLN mayor in the town of Alegria. He was killed along the road in January of this year. At the time, some in the FMLN blamed the former ARENA mayor of Alegria. Authorities have now charged two current municipal officials from Alegria as th

Shopping and salvation

One feature in San Salvador are several very large shopping malls . They are popular gathering places, and also are a place for spiritual nourishment reports the Chicago Tribune : At the food court in the Galerias Escalon shopping mall, a young restaurant employee is getting out the word. She passes out fliers advertising the lunch specials at Los Cebollines, including the $4.50 Super Ranchero combo. A few feet away, others are getting out The Word. Each day, the San Jose Chapel offers a Catholic mass and even the sacrament of reconciliation. For a few moments, dozens of shoppers and mall employees exchange Armani and Adidas for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The unlikely pairing between faith and commerce makes perfect sense in El Salvador where they love their malls. Although poverty persists, the high-rise malls draw well-to-do residents who seek air conditioning and a taste of the U.S. in a secure environment.... The website for the Galerias shopping center includes a web page fo

Funes' campaign of moderation

The Chicago Tribune has a story today about the presidential campaign of Mauricio Funes in El Salvador. The article describes how Funes has campaigned as a more moderate politician than those of the FMLN's past: Funes wants to remake the FMLN into a pragmatic party that, if victorious, would join El Salvador with Guatemala and Nicaragua as former Cold War-era battlegrounds where voters are trying leftist leaders for the first time since their conflicts ended. Not that those ideological battles are over. With 10 months to go before the March vote, conservative critics have painted Funes as a Trojan horse, a moderate face for a party whose leaders still wear fatigues and whose supporters brandish pictures of Che Guevara and Soviet flags at campaign rallies. "The main challenge we face is convincing the public, especially the undecided, that my presence isn't just a formality, that I haven't merely arrived to apply varnish on the image of the FMLN," Funes said in