Showing posts from November, 2011

War on crime declared

On Monday, former general and new Minister of Justice and Security David Munguía Payés gave an interview where he declared a "war on crime" and announced that his goal was to restore tranquility to the population and to produce a 30% decrease in crime within one year. The new minister made the point that such a dramatic reduction would require the participation of all elements of government and society. Mike Allison, who writes the Central America Politics blog, has a nice opinion piece on Al Jazeera about the changeover for the Minister of Public Security in El Salvador. He writes: Funes said "David Munguía is a man I have the utmost faith in, a retired soldier who deserves recognition from civil society for his performance in the armed forces during the two-and-a-half years he has been working under my mandate." Funes does not appear to be someone who cares what the FMLN, civil society, the Catholic Church, and international solidarity activists say ab

Seismic swarm in La Unión

In eastern El Salvador, the municipality of El Carmen in La Unión department has been experiencing a swarm of hundreds of small earthquakes in the past few days.  Since Wednesday afternoon there have been 978 micro-quakes, 27 of which were strong enough to be felt by persons living in the area.   The SNET reports that the quake swarm is related to movement along the earthquake faults in the region and is not related to volcanic activity.  Dozens of homes are reported to have been damaged including cracks in their walls, but there are no reports of injuries.   Residents have been urged to stay alert, and many are sleeping outdoors.

US - El Salvador partnership

El Salvador and the United States signed the Partnership for Growth development agreement on November 3.  The Partnership for Growth is a foreign policy initiative of the Obama administration which aims at poverty reduction through economic development.   The action items in the countries' agreement followed the completion of a " constraints analysis " which identified reducing crime and insecurity and increasing productivity of the tradables goods and services sector as priorities for unlocking economic growth.   The partnership has a five year plan, and you can read the Joint Country Action Plan at this link . If everything in this plan can be accomplished, it would be a good step forward for El Salvador where economic growth is lagging all of Latin America and crime takes a toll on all Salvadoran families. There is also a good post about the Partnership for Growth from our friends on Voices on the Border at this link . But US foreign policy is viewed with suspici

Commerce Group lawsuit update

The Commerce Group is one of two gold mining companies which  sued the government of El Salvador under CAFTA.   The international arbitration claim brought by the Commerce Group was dismissed earlier this year for failure to comply with procedural requirements of CAFTA .   The Commerce Group has appealed in what is called an "annulment procedure."  Last week, the Commerce Group announced to the arbitration tribunal that it could not make a $150,000 advance payment of costs which the tribunal had requested.   The appeal could be suspended for that reason. The Commerce Group is a barely publicly traded company located in Waukesha, Wisconsin and controlled by the Machulak family.   On Monday, John Machulak who is a lawyer and has been representing the company in the lawsuit gave a rare interview about the company's position to radio station WUWM, Milwaukee public radio.   You can listen to that interview at  this link . Update: The group US-El Salvador Sister Citie

Retired general becomes new security minister

Retired general David Munguía Payés, the former Minister of Defense, was named by president Mauricio Funes to be the new Minister of Justice and Public Security. This appointment of a military man who had been a commander in the armed forces during El Salvador's civil war has been condemned by the FMLN and by human rights groups. It has generally been supported by the right wing parties in the country. The appointment of a man who, as recently as May, was the senior commander of the armed forces, is viewed by many as a violation of the spirit, if not the terms, of the 1992 Peace Accords which took the armed forces out of internal policing roles.

Positive intervention, not militarization, works

El Salvador is in the middle of a debate over the direction of its anti-crime policy.   The resignation of Manuel Medgar as Minister of Security twelve days ago has prompted rumors that Mauricio Funes may appoint a former military chief to head the country's police and civilian security forces.  This might suggest a further militarization of public security, which already sees thousands of troops patrolling El Salvador's most dangerous neighborhoods.  Despite the soldiers and the hard line policies of successive administrations, there has been no reduction in crime. An article from IPS describes a different approach, in a public/private partnership at the Instituto Técnico Obrero Empresarial Don Bosco (ITOE), a technical school that provides primary, secondary and vocational education to 450 youngsters from the violent slums on the outskirts of the capital of El Salvador.  Here's an excerpt: Of the current student body of 450, 150 are youngsters classified by the a

Jesuits case forces Salvadorans to confront concepts of justice

November 16 is the 22nd anniversary of the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter by members of the Salvadoran armed forces in a massacre ordered by the Salvadoran high command.   As readers of this blog know, the failure by the Salvadoran government over that time to bring to justice the high level commanders who ordered the killing, pushed human rights groups including the Center for Justice Accountability ("CJA") to go to court in Spain  to prosecute the case . This video from CNN provides background on the Spanish proceedings. This past year, developments in the Spanish case, have forced Salvadorans to confront impunity directly. They will see whether their country's institutions can, will, or should ever deal with impunity and assessing responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during El Salvador's brutal civil war. The Spanish court has forced El Salvador's government to take a position when the court issued i

Ambassador Aponte nomination hearings in Senate

Mari Carmen Aponte is the US Ambasador to El Salvador.   She was originally nominated by president Obama to fulfill that role in December 2009, but after the Senate failed to act on her nomination, Obama granted her a recess appointment .   She assumed the post in September 2010.  Obama then renominated her in February 2011.   There was a hearing on Ambassador Aponte's new nomination before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 8, 2011.  You can read her written testimony  here . In a rare show of support, three ex-presidents of El Salvador from ARENA, Franciso Flores, Alfredo Cristiani, and Armando Calderón Sol, all  traveled to Washington  to back her nomination. Cristiani  told El Diario de Hoy  that he supported Aponte because of her ability to work with all factions within El Salvador, the work she had done in the short time of her holding the position, and her ability with Latina heritage to understand aspects of the country's culture. Another ex

Minister of Security resigns

There was an important resignation from El Salvador's government last week, as Manuel Melgar left his post as Minister of Security. Our friends at Voices from El Salvador have an excellent overview of the resignation which you can read here .

Hackers attack Salvadoran government web sites

The hacking group "Anonymous" has purportedly launched attacks on the web sites of several governmental offices in El Salvador, including the offices of the president. From a press report by AFP : Hactivist group Anonymous has taken down a number of El Salvador's government web sites in its latest round of attacks.  The attacks are part of Operation Justice El Salvador, which was planned over the last two weeks. A number of official web sites were targeted, including several government ministries and the web site of the president, which was taken offline after receiving 30 million hits on Saturday. Other web sites that were hit included those of the legislative assembly, the national civil police and the ministries of justice and labour. Anonymous "tried to attack our website to publicize the private information of internal and external users," the ministry of the economy said, according to French news agency AFP. Like previous attacks by the group, the

The hard work of recovery from Deluge of 2011 remains

The United Nations is trying to get donor nations to fund relief efforts in El Salvador and Nicaragua.   As part of that effort, the UN issued a  news release  yesterday emphasizing that significant support to the victims of the floods will be needed for months to come: November 5, 2011 -- The humanitarian emergency caused by last month's devastating floods in Central America is only just beginning, a top United Nations relief official said today, warning that the situation could get worse for the estimated 1.2 million people affected without urgent international support. “The people affected by this crisis have lost everything, and their difficulties are only just beginning,” Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said as she wrapped up a four-day visit to Nicaragua and El Salvador, two countries badly hit by the disaster. “Hundreds of thousands of people face a struggle for survival over the next six months. We must act now. We cannot let the peo

Impunity continues for the crimes of the 1980s

A leading voice for human rights in El Salvador, the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America ( IDHUCA ), is publicly denouncing the failure of the government of El Salvador to provide justice in many of the highest profile cases from El Salvador's civil war.   In 1999 and 2000, the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued decisions which declared that the government of El Salvador had the obligation under international human rights law to provide for credible judicial investigations of the murders of Oscar Romero and the six Jesuits and their housekeeper .  You can read a history of both of those cases before the IACHR  here .   The IACHR held a   working session  on October 27 to determine El Salvador's compliance with those earlier rulings.  The IDHUCA, along with the Center for Justice and International Law, voiced their frustrations with the Salvadoran government's noncompliance with the commission's recommendations.   The hum

Bicentennial of the first shout of independence

Today is the 200 th anniversary of the Primero Grito de Independencia -- the first shout of independence.  In 1811, rebellions started in San Salvador against Spanish rule in Central America.  From  Wikipedia : On November 5, the revolt began in San Salvador. According to tradition, the rebels waited for a signal from the bell tower of the Church of La Merced, but this did not occur on the scheduled time. The rebels later assembled on the town square outside the church where Manuel José Arce proclaimed in front of the public: "There is no King, nor Intendant, nor Captain General. We only must obey our alcaldes," meaning that since Ferdinand VII had been deposed, all other officials appointed by him no longer legitimately held power. A tumult in the square grew to the point that the intendant, Antonio Gutierrez y Ulloa, asked that the gathered name somebody to formally receive their demands. Manuel José Arce himself was chosen and selected as the leader by the crowd. Despi

Images of the week -- ghouls and the departed

On the calendar of the Roman Catholic church, November begins with the holy days of All Saints and All Souls.   In El Salvador, it's time for a spooky parade and to remember one's departed relatives. The website My Tonaca has a  set of images  from this year's November 1 celebration of the  Calabiuza  in Tonacatapeque, with many pictures from the night's parade of people in costume with legendary folk images.   El Diario de Hoy has a video of the parade here . La Prensa Grafica has a photo gallery from November 2, the Day of the Faithful Departed, in which Salvadoran families visit, decorate, and commemorate at the graves of departed family members.

Archbishop speaks out on climate change

The archbishop of San Salvador, Mgr Jose Luis Escobar Alas spoke strongly about the dangers posed by global climate change reports Independent Catholic News : The Archbishop of San Salvador, Mgr Jose Luis Escobar Alas, has said that climate change is the most serious problem confronting humanity at the present time. He said urgent steps are needed to reduce to reduce global warming, but the causes are so directly linked to economic interests, he thinks will be very difficult to deal with the problem - not only in El Salvador but throughout the world. Mgr Escobar said El Salvador should do its part, however, it is the industrialized countries that are causing the most harm. The Archbishop welcomed a request made by President Mauricio Funes, calling for countries that most affect the climate to accept responsibility and act to prevent future catastrophes. The statements by the President were made during the summit that took place in the Central American country after a tropical