Showing posts from March, 2011

Protesting the Empire as Obama visits

My post on US president Obama's visit to El Salvador on Tuesday pretty much reflected the coverage in Salvadoran and US mass media: Smiling schoolchildren waving US and Salvadoran flags. Two presidents elected on platforms of hope and change giving a press conference. A somber Obama visiting the tomb of Oscar Romero. A state dinner (where the pupusa was featured ). This portrayal of the visit earned me a complimentary email from a contact at the US Embassy. But not everyone was happy to see Barack Obama on Salvadoran soil. Protesters in the streets of San Salvador and in cyberspace raised their voices against a variety of aspects of US policy impacting this tiny country in Central America. The video below  from the SHARE Foundation shows some of the protests which were centered around the Plaza Salvador del Mundo. As the statue of the Divine Savior of the World looked on, a potpourri of civil society groups marched, demonstrated, and voiced their anger: A regula

Romero -- 31 years later

March 24 is the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Romero. The visit on Tuesday to Romero's tomb by the president of the most powerful nation on earth, shows the enduring power of the message and example set by Romero, the voice of the voiceless. To reflect on that message, a great way is to visit the Super Martyrio blog maintained by our blogging friend Polycarpio. The blog is dedicated to exploring Romero and his legacy and to "the inside track on the beatification cause of archbishop Romero of El Salvador." Polycarpio has just published a series of posts on the last 40 days of Romero's life, and seven sermons the archbishop preached during that time. From the introduction to the series: On Valentine’s Day 1980, Óscar Romero began a ‘Quaresima’ of Love, embarking on the last forty days of his life, an incredible period in which he crowned his pilgrimage upon the earth with martyrdom, following Jesus down the Lenten path on a route that inc

Obama visits El Salvador

Video of Obama's arrival. Shortly after noon today, March 22, US president Barack Obama arrived in El Salvador for a state visit.   Public offices and many schools were closed, as the country welcomed Obama.   Following an arrival ceremony at the airport where he was greeted by the foreign minister and the mayor of San Salvador, Obama was flown to the Salvadoran presidential residence for meetings with president Mauricio Funes.   Obama is accompanied on this trip by his wife Michelle and his daughters. Following their meetings, the two leaders gave a joint press conference.  The full text of the two presidents' press conference is  available here .  There was a discussion of various development support which the US will be providing El Salvador, as well as security and combating drug-trafficking. One of the important topics for El Salvador was US migration policy.  In statements in El Salvador,  Obama stated , “I thought that President Funes gave a very eloquent resp

Return to El Salvador available on Hulu

If you have access to the Hulu video streaming site, you can now watch the entire documentary Return to El Salvador .   I recommend the documentary strongly, and it's great to see Jamie Moffett 's film available in this way.  You can watch the documentary on the  Hulu site here.

Move those on TPS status to permanent residency

My friend Jose Artiga, executive director of the SHARE Foundation, asked me to share this open letter to the editor, timed to coincide with president Obama's visit to El Salvador. Dear Editor, This March, US President Barack Obama will visit Chile, Brazil and El Salvador as part of a major initiative to renew and strengthen ties between our countries. This visit to El Salvador coincides with the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Monsignor Oscar Romero, the archbishop who fought against great odds on behalf of the oppressed. President Obama’s visit to El Salvador is historic; marking the first time a U.S. President will meet with President Mauricio Funes of the FMLN in El Salvador after the twelve year Civil War and nearly two decades of right wing rule. This visit represents a new chapter in US-Salvadoran relations and raises hope and expectations for a constructive working partnership. According to the US Census, today, 1.7 million Salvadorans live in the United S

Justicia ¡Ya! -- Justice Now!

There's a chink in the culture of impunity in El Salvador this week. More than a decade too late, there are finally convictions in the rape and murder of little Katya Miranda. She is the 9 year old girl, killed in 1999 by her grandfather and workers at the family's beachfront property. The grandfather, Carlos Miranda, was politically well-connected with sons who were high officials in the police and army. His first trial ended in an acquittal, which most viewed as a symbol that those with power could still get away with anything in El Salvador. A campaign led by the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America, and taken up by Salvadoran bloggers and civil society organizations, demanded justice, and finally in 2009 Miranda and seven others were arrested . Our friends at the Voices from El Salvador blog summarize this week's convictions: Twelve years after nine-year old Katya Miranda was kidnapped, raped and murdered, a Salvadoran court finally

Loss of a Comando

One of the greatest organizations in El Salvador is the Comandos de Salvamento and their brave emergency medical service volunteers. Earlier this week, the Comandos mourned the death of one of their leaders, Eduardo Rivera Mayén. From the Comandos website : Dozens of EMS volunteers from Comandos de Salvamento were accompanied by members of the Red and Green Cross, the National Fire Dept, family members, friends, delegates from political parties and representatives from Civil Protection to say their last goodbyes to friend and colleague Eduardo Rivera Mayén. Commonly called, "Mayen" by close friends was the main Comandos de Salvamento spokesman for the Salvadoran press. During mass disasters, civil war firefights, street protests, mass casualty incidents, or violent crime, Mayen was always there, calm and professional under extreme circumstances to offer concrete information to Salvadoran journalists and comforting words to families of those affected. Mayen was transport

Obama's upcoming visit to El Salvador

There's nothing like a US presidential visit to spur news stories in the English language press about El Salvador. President Obama will visit El Salvador on March 22-23, and White House confirmed those plans Tuesday despite ongoing foreign and domestic crises. A number of publications have recently explored US-El Salvador relations. In an article titled Testing Salvadoran Democracy , Carlos Rosales addresses the question "Why is Obama going to El Salvador" by describing the current political scene in the country. He attributes the visit, in part, to the political successes of Mauricio Funes: "Aside from obvious bilateral issues including public security and immigration, Obama’s decision could be a tip of the hat to El Salvador’s moderate leftist president." The Brookings Institution web site features an article titled Prospects for President Obama's Meeting with President Funes of El Salvador . The article describes Obama's itinerary in the count

Commerce Group arbitration dismissed

The arbitration claim filed by Milwaukee, Wisconsin based Commerce Group was dismissed yesterday by the international arbitration tribunal hearing the case. The Commerce Group had filed suit under the DR-CAFTA trade agreement's investor protection provisions, asserting that El Salvador's decision to revoke its permission to mine in the country was improper. The decision by the tribunal is a narrow and technical one. The arbitrators ruled that the Commerce Group had failed to comply with the "waiver" requirement under DR-CAFTA which requires that a party cease any other legal proceedings over the dispute and proceed only before the arbitration panel. Because the Commerce Group was still proceeding in the Salvadoran court system to challenge the permit process, the waiver requirement was not met. A copy of the decision can be downloaded here . Because this is a narrow procedural decision, it sheds no light on the prospects for the similar arbitration brought

Starting to look towards 2012 elections

A good source of information about what's going on in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America is the Central American Politics blog of Mike Allison of the University of Scranton.  Mike recently described opinion polling about preferences for the 2012 elections of legislators and mayors: The survey indicates that 31% intend to vote FMLN and 27% for ARENA in the upcoming congressional elections. Only 5% intend to vote for a third political party (Obviously not a good sign for GANA). Support for the FMLN declined from 34% in November while ARENA's support increase by 1%.  In 2009, the FMLN won 35 seats with 43% of the nationwide vote while ARENA won 32 seats with 39% of the vote. In terms of their preference for mayor, 30% intend to FMLN and 27% for ARENA. The PCN, PDC, and GANA captured a combined 9% while another 34% remain undecided. You can go to the original polling results from the Mitofsky polling firm at this link . The results are not that much dissimilar to

Gangs and those in relationship with them

Two stories were in the press this week about the impact of the maras, Salvadoran gangs, on the lives of those in relationshp with them .   One story involved the murder of French documentary filmmaker Chistian Poveda .   A Salvadoran court convicted 10 gang members from Mara 18 and one policeman for complicity in Poveda's murder.  Poveda produced the documentary La Vida Loca which sympathetically, but unflinchingly, looked at the lives of gang members in one neighborhood of Soyapango, outside of San Salvador.   Despite his relationship built up over many months with the gang clique, Poveda could not avoid being another victim of El Salvador's gang violence. Another story about relationships with a gang tells the story of what happens to the families in a gang-controlled neighborhood when police arrest all the men in the community: After putting her four children to bed, a mother retreats to her bedroom and lies down. She silently weeps and caresses the cold spot next

El Salvador under Tsunami alert

Following the massive earthquake off the coast of Japan today, El Salvador is under a tsunami alert .    The alert covers virtually all countries around the Pacific basin.  Any wave is expected to impact El Salvador around 4:00 pm local time. Update -- live streaming video from La Libertad available here and shows the waves at the coast.  (Nothing out of the ordinary at 4:00 when I watched.   Surfers in the water).   8:00pm -- no reports that tsunami waves had any impact on El Salvador. As a country prone to earthquakes and with a low-lying coastline, El Salvador is vulnerable to tsunamis.  I looked at the website of El Salvador's National Earth Studies Service (SNET), and it indicates that the last "micro-tsunami" to be measured in El Salvador was January 13, 2001 and originated from an earthquake off the coast of Australia.   That date, however, is best remembered as the date of the   first of the two large 2001 earthquakes which claimed many lives and destroyed

New archaeological finds in El Salvador

An article at describes new archaeological finds in El Salvador . These discoveries were made by French archeologists: One of the most remarkable findings was in Morazan, where they found a site with Maya motifs, when it had been previously believed that the Maya civilisation hadn’t extended beyond the Lempa River. In the same site, they found the remains of a fortress which probably predated the arrival of the Spanish, and had only been briefly mentioned in documents in the 1940s. At La Union, they found a rock carving of a snake which had great similarities with the Jaguar Disc at the Maya site of Cara Sucia in Ahuachapan (El Salvador), found at the end of the 20th century. This illustrates the movement and possible commercial routes followed by the pre-hispanic peoples, and may indicate that the Lempa River wasn’t a static border and may have shifted through the times. The investigators were also particularly interested in pottery found as this will help them dat

Salvadoran women migrants

The impact of migration is a regular subject for those seeking to understand El Salvador. You can listen to a radio story titled A New Life: Salvadoran Women in D.C. about women from El Salvador who have migrated to the US, and how their experiences compare with their prior lives at home. The radio journalism is part of a project by Kate Sheehy called Alma y Lucha: Soul and Struggle in Women Migrating from El Salvador and seeking funding through

Grassroots anti-mining movement goes to court

The grassroots environmental coalition in El Salvador, the Mesa Nacional Frente a la Minería Metálica (Mesa), has filed a friend of the court brief in the international arbitration filed by the Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim against El Salvador.   The Mesa is represented by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).  The brief makes three central points: [We] will endeavor to use this submission to make sure that the Tribunal understands that:  (A) the grassroots, peaceful opposition to Pac Rim‟s proposed mine—and the government‟s response to it—were and are entirely legitimate and should be celebrated as a new dawn for representative democracy in El Salvador, not saddled with a hundred-million-dollar price tag; (B) the environmental concerns underlying that opposition were, and are, well-founded, but were not adequately addressed in Pac Rim‟s Environmental Impact Assessment (the “El Dorado EIA”); and (C) Pac Rim‟s involvement in Salvadoran and regional politics

Articles highlight environmental challenges in El Salvador

Journalist Dahr Jamail has been writing a series of articles on environmental issues in El Salvador for Al Jazeera and IPS. In today's article he writes about the impact of climate change on El Salvador: San Salvador - "We have a very clear position," El Salvador’s Minister of Environment, Herman Chavez, told Al Jazeera at his office in San Salvador, the capital. "The President of El Salvador, last year on July 20th, in an extraordinary meeting of presidents that was convened here in San Salvador, launched the intervention process. We put Climate Change as the number one issue for the region."... In January, new figures provided by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that Earth’s global average surface temperature for 2010 tied 2005 for the hottest year on record. The two agencies' figures also showed that 2010 was the wettest year ever recorded.... "Climate change for us is not a hypothesis,” Minister Chavez