Showing posts from July, 2010

Dengue fever widespread

El Salvador is facing a widespead outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever. According to La Prensa Grafica the number of cases has increased 700% from the same time last year. The strains on the health system are described in this AFP new story : Hospitals in El Salvador have been overwhelmed by an unexpected rise in respiratory diseases including pneumonia and dengue fever, health authorities said Wednesday. "We've got our hospital network and neighborhood health clinics working at full capacity... with a huge increase these past few weeks in patients with respiratory ailments and possible dengue," Deputy Health Minister Eduardo Espinoza told reporters. The official said acute respiratory disease has shot up in 11 of the country's 14 departments, totaling some 1.3 million cases since the start of the year, including 26,546 cases of pneumonia and 6,584 cases of dengue fever. Espinoza said health authorities were investigating another 15,893 cases of suspected dengue

El Salvador and US immigration law

One a day when a US federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the effectiveness of portions of the Arizona immigration enforcement law, I thought it was worth highlighting a few news items concerning El Salvador and US immigration law. After Judge Bolton's decision, the El Salvador's Foreign Minister, Hugo Martinez, told the press that his government celebrated the decision, and that legality and respect for human rights had prevailed. The government of El Salvador and seven other Latin American countries had sought to join a lawsuit by Mexico, one of the parties challenging the enforcement of the Arizona immigration statute. The archbishop of San Salvador had this to say about the Arizona law: “We are all against the law. We sincerely hope the judge charged with the matter will opt for a repeal, because the law in question is not only anti-immigrant, it is totally anti-human rights” said Archbishop José Luis Escobar of San Salvador. The Archbishop said the Bil

Salvadoran bus tales

The bus, full size or micro, is the dominant mode of transport for the ordinary Salvadoran. Too often news about the buses is news of tragedy . But Linda writes in her blog about the parade of life which you see while riding the bus: It is a wedding day. An hour before the ceremony, the bride grabs my friend Greasy and me by the hands. We run down the hillside steps to the main road to catch a micro-bus. We are off to buy the wedding cake. 15 minutes later we are there in "Mister Pan" to negotiate for a good cake. Then, big white cake in hand, we wait at the stop and flag down the bus. The ride back to the community is a little worrisome as we bump-bump our way along in a crowded micro, thinking that we are going to be really late for the wedding. With 10 minutes to spare, we are back in the community, cake in once piece, just in time for the bride to dress and have a few alterations done before the ceremony. Read more here .

Progressive article on gold mining

The Progressive magazine has a good article titled Is Free Trade a Gold Mine? which provides an overview of the gold mining controversy in El Salvador. It describes over Pacific Rim's plans to mine gold in El Salvador and that company's lawsuit over the government's refusal to give it the necessary permit to start mining. As the article notes, there's a lot of money at stake: The company estimates that 1.4 million ounces of recoverable gold sit in the Cabañas area. With gold at about $1,200 per ounce, that means potential profits in the hundreds of millions. Under Salvadoran law, Pacific Rim would pay 2 percent in royalties for every ounce of gold mined, and a 25 percent tax on profits. Shrake said the mine would mean economic turnaround for a country he describes as “in shambles, coming apart at the seams.” It would, he said, create 600 direct jobs and about 3,000 indirect jobs, and become the biggest taxpayer in the country. Shrake said that by embracing mining, E

The national anthem of El Salvador

I recently came across an interesting blog post by the "Anthem Philatelist" describing the history of El Salvador's national anthem. Here's an excerpt: One of the longest national anthems in existence, the Salvadoran anthem is a typical example of a "Latin American epic anthem". It was adopted as the National Song on September 15, 1879 but did not have official recognition until December 11, 1953. The Official National Anthem was composed by an Italian composer Juan Aberle who arrived in the country at the end of the 18th Century as the Director of an Opera Company. The lyrics were written by General Juan José Cañas, an inspired poet and distinguished military that took arms with the National Army against filibusters, around the year 1856. It was composed by recommendation of President Dr. Rafael Zaldívar and was sung for the first time on September 15, 1879 at the prior National Palace by children and young students from government and private schools of

World Bank loans $230 million to El Salvador for social programs

Earlier this week, the World Bank and El Salvador signed a $230 million loan package. According to the World Bank statement about the loans, the money will support programs in three areas: The loan package has been designed to prop up key areas of El Salvador’s economic and social tissue as the economy shifts gears to resume growth and continues to spur opportunities for all its citizens. Specifically, the financing deal breaks down as follows: $100 million ‘Sustaining Social Gains for Economic Recovery Development Policy Loan’, to support the country’s recovery through sound economic and social policies that address the needs of Salvadorians, particularly the most vulnerable, by protecting its income and consumption, and ensuring its access to health services. $50 million ‘Income Support and Employability Project’ to provide temporary income support to the urban poor under the ‘Programa de Apoyo Temporal al Ingreso’ (PATI) which provides a monthly income transfer to targeted individu

El Salvador's vulnerability during the rainy season

The headlines today in Salvadoran newspapers advised of a yellow alert as heavy rains threatened coastal areas of the country. The rains erode hillsides, cause flooding, and bring landslides. Some of the poorest communities in the country are the most at risk. A prominent example of the vulnerability of El Salvador's housing stock is found in the neighborhood of Las Cañas in the municipality of Ilopango. Through the torrential rains from storms Ida in 2009 and Agatha in 2010, waters eroded a large and growing canyon, 25 meters deep in this urban neighborhood. Potable water service has been disrupted and 461 houses have been ordered evacuated for safety reasons, before the next landslide tumbles them into the trench. According to a report in El Mundo , this trench is growing four meters larger each day. Evacuated families have been given a grant of $430 for 4 months rent in some other location whicle the government tries to stabilize the situation. This cell phone vide

Examination of tattoos

News accounts about gang members in El Salvador often feature images of gang members with tattoos flowing all over their bodies. If you have ever wanted to learn more about the tattoo culture of the gangs, particularly the tattoos applied in prison you can read the post Prison Tattoos and the Photographers’ Intrigue at the Prison Photography blog .

Happy Day of the Doctor

A note at highlights that today, July 14, is National Doctor's Day in El Salvador. Since 1978, the country has officially used this day to acknowledge the work of its doctors. I have met (and been cared for) by a number of Salvadoran doctors, and I salute their dedication and hard work. I would also like to commemorate the work of the many foreign doctors who dedicate time each year to come and donate services to the poor in the country. You can read one example of the work of a Salvadoran doctor in this profile titled " A New Doctor in El Salvador " from the newsletter for Doctors for Global Health.

When hunger is stronger than reason

The tragic deaths of two children in El Salvador are a vivid reminder of the plight of the poor and the hungry. To understand this story, you need to understand that the government has a program to provide seed corn to poor families in rural El Salvador. Treated to resist pests, the corn is not intended for human consumption. A story in the Latin American Herald Tribune tells what happened: SAN SALVADOR – Two children are dead and their parents and siblings remain hospitalized after the family ate tortillas made from seed corn that was treated with pesticide, officials at Salvadoran hospitals said Thursday. “It’s an entire family: papa, mama and five minors. Two of the five minors had already died” by the time medical assistance was available, the deputy director of Jose Molina Martinez General Hospital, Dr. Jose Roberto Gonzalez, told Efe. The fatalities, ages 10 and 12, died Wednesday after eating the tortillas made from government-issued seed corn, which is treated with the pe

Assessment of Funes' administration crime policy

There is a critical assessment of president Funes' public security policy on the NACLA website written by Sonja Wolf, a post-doctoral fellow at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico. Here is an excerpt: The soldiers’ presence has provided the population with an illusion of security but achieved no overall reduction in homicides and invited sporadic reports of abuses. Nevertheless, in May 2010 the army’s mandate was extended for another year. The government expects the army to curtail arms and drug trafficking in 62 previously unguarded border areas. An additional 1500 soldiers have been sent to the prisons to guard the perimeters and search personnel and visitors entering/exiting the facilities. El Salvador’s jails suffer from inhumane conditions, acute overcrowding, and deficient rehabilitation programs. Furthermore, pervasive corruption has facilitated the introduction of money, weapons, and cell phones, the latter routinely used to transmit orders to street-based gang me

New crime prevention tactics proposed

As El Salvador struggles to cope with high levels of criminal violence, conservative elements in the country are advancing new (but not necessarily better) ways to combat crime. The right wing parties in the National Assembly passed a law d to require Bible reading in all El Salvador's schools at the start of every day. The belief is the a daily dose of scripture will cure the moral ills in El Salvador producing crime. Church leaders, both Catholic and evangelical, has spoken out against the law and its unnecessary mixing of government into faith affairs. Although the Bible readings are to be non-denominational and without any further explanation or preaching, the religious leaders question who makes decisions such as what passages to read and what translation of the Bible to use. Despite these issues, president Funes said he would not veto the law. In a different get tough approach, ARENA proposed that hardened gang members should be incarcerated on an island in the Gulf

More developments in Jesuits case in Spain

A Spanish court has heard new testimony from a witness about the 1989 Jesuit murders. Spanish newspapers, citing sources close to the proceedings, revealed that the witness testified about participation at the highest levels of the Salvadoran military in the November 1989 murder of the six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America, their housekeeper and her daughter. The witness, whose name was not disclosed, is said to be a former military officer. His testimony reportedly indicated, as has generally been assumed, that the planning of the Jesuits murder happened at the highest levels of the Salvadoran military. The bombshell revelation was that the witness apparently testified that president Alfredo Cristiani had advance knowledge of the assassinations and approved them. Previously Cristiani had only been accused of participating in a cover-up of the crime. The witness also testified that following the massacre he took a satchel full of various belongings of the Je

New port at La Union opens

A story in the Latin American Herald Tribune reports on the opening of El Salvador's new port at La Union for cargo ships: SAN SALVADOR – President Mauricio Funes inaugurated the port of La Union on the Gulf of Fonseca, which El Salvador shares with Honduras and Nicaragua, with the aim of making the area a pole of development for the Central American country. Funes, accompanied by Victor Hugo Garnica, the representative of the president of Honduras, on Monday officially initiated operations at the port that was completed by the construction company in early 2009, thanks to a loan from Japan. The president said that the port cost some $200 million and that the way it will be administered in coming years has yet to be decided, though a concession for part of the operations might well be granted to a foreign company. Funes also urged business owners to invest in the area in order to create a port city that will be a “pole of development” for the nation. He promised that the port will

New arrests in mining activist murders

Our friends at the Voices from El Salvador Blog are citing reports today that 8 suspects have been arrested for six murders of environmentalists in Trinidad, Cabañas last year. The murders have been widely linked to the conflict over gold mining in that region and the efforts to block it. Details about the suspects' links to the victims or to gold mining were not immediately available.