Showing posts from November, 2010

The Central Reserve Bank and Burger King

In yesterday's post about migration statistics, I mentioned El Salvador's dependence on remittances from Salvadorans abroad. El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank keeps track of the that money flow. Its latest statistics on remittance flows show that remittances are up slightly (2.1%) from the same time period last year. Through October of this year, Salvadorans living abroad have sent in $2.926 billion, while in 2009 they had transmitted $2.865 billion.    That's an average of almost $300 million per month -- or $50 per month for every man, woman and child in El Salvador. And El Salvador's commercial interests are structured to capture that remittance flow as much as they can.   I learned about one example of this last week when I was in San Salvador.   A friend pointed out the very large indoor playgrounds which accompany every fast food franchise in the city.   Pizza Huts, Burger Kings, KFCs, Pollo Campero and more all have these big play areas, much larger than

Deportations continue unabated

So far in 2010, the US has deported some 17,352 migrants back to El Salvador according to statistics cited in El Mundo .   Of  these, 6,866 had criminal records.   In addition, some 10,000 Salvadorans were returned to the country from Mexico when they were detained on their way to the US.   These statistics are down very slightly from 2009. Other figures in LPG estimate that there are some 530,000 Salvadorans in the US illegally, in contrast to the 320,000 Salvadorans who are legal residents of the US with green cards.   An additional 240,00 have temporary protected status (TPS).    Remittances from Salvadorans living outside of the country constitute more than 1/6th of the country's economy. These figures make Salvadorans very interested in the prospects of immigration reform in the US --- prospects which seem pretty dim after the conservative tilt in the November elections for Congress.

New law targets violence against women

On Thursday, November 25, El Salvador's National Assembly unanimously passed the Law for A Life Free From Violence for Women. For the first time, the law creates a separate crime of femicide for the murder of a woman on account of her gender. The law also imposes stiffer penalties on a wide variety of crimes of sexual assault and abuse of women. In her blog, Laura Hershberger cites the statistics which made this law so necessary: In the past ten years in El Salvador, violence against women has increased by 197%, making it the number one place for femicides in the world, with 129.46 assassinations per one million women. According to the Second National Report of the Situation of Violence Against Women in El Salvador , put out by the Salvadoran Institute for the Development of Women (ISDEMU), between January 1st and November 5, 2010, the ISDEMU saw 6,320 cases of violence against women. Among those including: domestic violence, child abuse, sexual harrassment and abuse, la


On this day of giving thanks, you may want to read two tales which Linda recently put on Linda's El Salvador Blog ,  Tortillas for Thanksgiving and   A Banquet Parable . Happy Thanksgiving!.

Law to prohibit metallic mining gets support

Lourdes Palacios (FMLN) and Juan Carlos Mendoza (GANA) announce their support of a mining ban. A law to prohibit metallic mining in El Salvador got important support today, as a deputy in the Salvadoran National Assembly from the GANA party announced GANA's support of the measure. Dozens of representatives of civil society organizations had gathered for a forum titled "Why is it important to approvae a law that prohibits metallic mining in El Salvador?"  A panel presentation included two legislators from the Assembly's Commission on the Environment and Climate Change. The position of Lourdes Palacios, deputy from the FMLN, was already known to the assembled group. The FMLN supports a mining ban. But audience members clapped loudly when Juan Carlos Mendoza of GANA announced that his legislative faction would also support a prohibition of mining for gold and other metals. GANA has 14 deputies in the National Assembly and their support along with the 35 FMLN d

Armando Paz

Prevention is a key to reducing the level of violence in El Salvador, and various programs are working with youth to help promote a non-violent future. Walking around San Salvador I was struck by the number of signs with this message. "Hay algo que quieras cambiar?" -- "Is there something you want to change" and directing the reader to the website . "Armando Paz" or "Fortifying Peace" is a venture of the Organization of American States, USAID, MTV, and Trust for the Americas, among other organizations. With extensive use of social media, the program represents an attempt to involve youth to solve the problems facing their generation. The program aims to build a culture of peace, opening spaces to share the messages and opinions of the youth, which are describing positive initiatives to change the situation of the country. The program has proceeded from collecting project ideas from youth through its website to now conductin

Being inspired

Among the many reasons I connect with El Salvador and write this blog are the inspirational people and stories I come to know. They include both Salvadorans and people from other countries who walk in solidarity with them. A couple of new books offer stories of inspiration which may influence you. One book is the self-published Inspiring, Hopeful Voices of El Salvador . This book was compiled by Pastor Donald Seiple and Caroline Schaefer of St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church as a labor of love. They write about the book: This is a collection of nineteen true stories representing El Salvador's remarkable people and those who choose to walk in solidarity with them. It is not a history book, but rather a collection of intimate stories told by its people or by those deeply involved and dedicated to their struggles. These personal accounts grow from interviews with a cross section of Salvadoran people encountered by the Reverend Donald J. Seiple, Pastor Emeritus of St. St

US Embassy on Facebook

The US Embassy is now on Facebook. Since September of this year, the embassy of the United States in El Salvador has had its own Facebook page .   The embassy's use of this social media tool coincides with the arrival of new ambassador Mari del Carmen Aponte .  The embassy's page already has more than 2300 fans and has a regular feed of news from the embassy and many photos.

Meet up in El Salvador

I'll be in San Salvador all next week. If any readers of the blog want to meet up with me, I'll be at La Ventana Cafe on Friday, November 26, starting at 4:30 pm. La Ventana is located at 83 av.Norte # 510 con 9a calle Poniente. Frente a Plaza Palestina. Colonia Escalón. . I'd love to meet you.

A mining update

Our friends at the Voices from El Salvador blog have a post about the fact that 73 applications for metallic mining permits are pending before the country's environment ministry (MARN). Apparently any action on these permit applications will wait until MARN receives the result of a consulting project by the TAU Group. This study, costing $200 million, is being funded by the Spanish government and is intended to provide improvements for El Salvador's process of receiving, evaluating, and granting such mining permits. The existence of so many pending permits has to raise a fear for the Salvadoran government of more international arbitration claims if permits are denied. The government is currently defending itself against multi-million claims brought by the Commerce Group and Pacific Rim before the World Bank. In that context, I think the Tau Group study is a good idea by the Salvadoran government. The weakness the government has in the pending arbitrations is the app

The pupusa and Martha Stewart

Sunday, November 14, was El Salvador's National Day of the Pupusa. By legislative decree, the second Sunday of November celebrates the country's national food dish. Even Martha Stewart has paid tribute to the pupusa. In this episode from her show in 2009, Martha Stewart learns how to make pupusas and offers a recipe for pupusas with cheese.

Film illustrates plight of migrants crossing Mexico

A story today in the Latin American Herald Tribune describes a recent rescue of 103 migrants held by human traffickers in Mexico: MEXICO CITY – Mexican marines rescued 103 Central Americans and five Mexicans being held at a banana plantation apparently operated by people traffickers, and arrested eight suspects, federal prosecutors said. Three newborns and a pregnant 12-year-old girl were among those rescued by the marines, the Attorney General’s Office said. The rescue operation was staged at the La Herradura banana plantation in Tapachula, a city in Chiapas state, which is on the border with Guatemala, the AG’s office said. This rescue follows the discovery of 72 Central American migrants who had been massacred in Tamaulipas , Mexico in August. Now Amnesty International is promoting a new film about the plight of Central American immigrants who fall victim to rape, kidnapping and worse.   From the  announcement about the film : The Invisibles , a new film in four parts docum

New campaign against Commerce Group gold mine

A coalition of solidarity, environmental, religious, educational and civil society group have commenced a campaign against the Commerce Group San Sebastian gold mine in El Salvador. The campaign coincides with the initial hearing in the international arbitration suit which Commerce Group commenced against the government of El Salvador. The press release issued by the coalition states: A coalition of Milwaukee and national organizations called on Commerce Group, a Milwaukee-based mining corporation to drop its controversial $100 million legal case against the government of El Salvador. 58 organizations from across the country signed a statement demanding that the case not only be dropped, but that there be cleanup of environmental damages caused by the mine and compensation to victims of mine pollution. In 2006 the Salvadoran government revoked the company’s mining permits, following evidence that its operations were dumping highly toxic poisons into local water. In retaliatio

Telling our stories

People can better reach an understanding across cultures when they hear each other's stories. In an essay titled simply From Civil War to Peace , Cecilia Alvarado tells of her journey from growing up amidst a civil war in El Salvador to raising a family in California: Growing up in the middle of a civil war is not easy and it is only made harder when your family does not have a lot of money. El Salvador, much like the rest of Central America at the time, was in conflict. The war raged within our borders for 12 years between 1980 and 1992. It caused instability, fear and disruption of services. Seventy-five thousand people lost their lives in the war. In a small country, that means you were almost certain to know people that had died as a result of the fighting. We were fortunate there was not a lot of fighting near our town but soldiers from both sides would pass through looking for food and water. Dad spent much of his free time on the porch waiting for them to pass through so

The cesspool of Salvadoran prisons

One of El Salvador's most intractable problems is the state of its prison system.   The high crime rate has filled the prisons to three times their capacity.  Conditions are deplorable.   Gangs control large areas inside the prisons and direct their criminal networks outside the prison walls. An IPS story titled Salvadoran Prisons – Hubs of Organised Crime highlights the problem of the prisons as control centers for crime: Decades of government neglect, a corruption-racked penitentiary system and a growing wave of violent crime have combined to move El Salvador's prisons even further away from their stated purpose of rehabilitation while strengthening their role as veritable schools of crime. According to government figures, around 80 percent of all cases of extortion in El Salvador are coordinated from jail by cell-phone, thanks to a well-oiled network of suppliers of phones, chips and chargers, inmates and their families, and prison guards. In one such case, in March

Salvadoran anti-mining activists kidnapped

Members of a Salvadoran environmental organization travelling to meet with the Guatemalan government to protest a gold mine were kidnapped and robbed by men wearing Guatemalan police uniforms. They are members of the Center of Investigations into Investment and Commerce ( CEICOM ) and were travelling with journalists from Salvadoran TV Channel 10. They had been driving to Guatemala City to discuss the risks to bodies of water shared by Guatemala and El Salvador if a proposed gold mine is developed. After their cameras and computers were taken from them, the activists and journalists were left on an abandoned farm. The proposed mine is the Cerro Blanco mine in the department of Jutiapa, near the municipality of Asuncion Mita . The Cerro Blanco project is being developed by the Canadian mining company GoldCorp . GoldCorp. mining activities in Guatemala and elsewhere in Latin America have been the subject of numerous protests by environmental and civil society organizations.

La Calabiuza

El Salvador does not have Halloween, but there is La Calabiuza. On the evening of November 1, the residents of the Salvadoran town of Tonacatapeque, northeast of San Salvador, celebrate the Día de la Calabiuza with a parade and street festival. During the celebration, the costumed revelers recall the mythological characters of El Salvador and their dead relatives. The night ended with music and a dance in the central square. To see some images from this year's celebration, you can watch this video from La Prensa: or this video from The following day, November 2, is the "Día de los fieles difuntos" -- the Day of the Faithful Souls or the Day of the Dead. Families go to visit the graves of their loved ones with flowers and picnicking. You can see a photo gallery of images from this celebration in and around the cemetery in Tonacatapeque at this link .