Showing posts from December, 2011

Church ripping Llort mural from facade of cathedral

I can't believe it.  In a move that came in a surprise to most in El Salvador, the Catholic church in San Salvador is removing the famous tile mural of artist Fernando Llort from the facade of the Metropolitan Cathedral .   With little fanfare, the church is destroying an important national artistic treasure. The destruction of the mural has been condemned by the Salvadoran government and by the family of Fernando Llort .   The family of Llort says the artist is deeply saddened, and that he had not been advised in advance nor given the opportunity to retire his most important artistic work in dignity.  The mural, completed in 1997, was an homage to the 1992 Peace Accords which ended El Salvador's civil war. The Catholic church has stated that parishioners had been consulted and that they were in agreement with the decision.   Images of what will replace the Llort mural on the facade of the cathedral have not been released, but press reports indicate that it will b

Record number of murders - but why?

The close of 2011 in El Salvador is dominated by a single statistic.   There were more murders this year than in any other year since the signing of the 1992 peace accords.  According to police statistics, through Christmas Day there has been 4308 homicides in El Salvador , topping the prior post-war high of 4233 in 2009.   The murder tally in 2011 represented a 9.3% increase over the year before. It leaves El Salvador with one of the highest murder rates in the world, 65 per 100,000 inhabitants, perhaps surpassed only by its neighbor Honduras. Mike at Central America Politics blog has a detailed look at the murder rate over the past several years. As reported in El Faro , the National Police (PNC) are blaming part of the increase on the growing influence of drug-trafficking in the country, including the sale of drugs locally on the streets. The biggest dispute, however, about these statistics is the role of gangs. New Minister of Security David Munguía Payés asserts tha

On Christmas Eve

  With Christ, God has injected himself into history. With the birth of Christ, God’s reign is now inaugurated in human time. On this night, as every year for twenty centuries, we recall that God’s reign is now in this world and that Christ has inaugurated the fullness of time. His birth attests that God is now marching with us in history, that we do not go alone. Humans long for peace, for justice, for a reign of divine law, for something holy, for what is far from earth’s realities. We can have such a hope, not because we ourselves are able to construct the realm of happiness that God’s holy words proclaim, but because the builder of a reign of justice, of love, and of peace is already in the midst of us. Archbishop Oscar Romero Christmas Day, 1977 From quotations of Oscar Romero collected in The Violence of Love . My best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year for all the readers and friends of Tim's El Salvador Blog . May we all be part of making peace,

Polycarpio's Top 10 Oscar Romero Stories of 2011

Throughout the year, our friend and blogger Polycarpio writes about all things related to slain Archbishop Oscar Romero on the Super Martyrio blog . As in previous years, here is his recap of the: TOP TEN ROMERO STORIES OF 2011 These were the stories that kept Archbishop Romero in the headlines in 2011, thirty one years after his assassination. Even though there was no news on the canonization front, 2011 was a strong Romero year. 1. OBAMA VISITS ROMERO'S GRAVE The L.A. Times called Obama’s tribute to Romero, “ arguably ... the most dramatic gesture of his swing through Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. ” The clamor and clangor of a presidential visit (Obama’s motorcade was said to consist of over thirty cars) led to silence and solemnity as Obama, accompanied by Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, and Archbishop José Escobar, lit a candle in the Cathedral crypt. Activists fumed that Obama didn’t speak, but the symbolism said it all . 2. NEVER BEFORE SEEN ROMERO PHOTOS SE

US Peace Corps suspends sending volunteers to El Salvador

The US Peace Corps announced yesterday that it has suspended sending new volunteers to work in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala for safety and security reasons: The Peace Corps has cancelled its January 2012 volunteer training classes for El Salvador and Guatemala. Due to ongoing security concerns, the agency is enhancing operational support to currently serving volunteers in these countries. All currently serving volunteers in El Salvador and Guatemala are safe and accounted for. The Peace Corps will continue to closely monitor and assess the safety and security climate and enhance volunteer support in these countries. The Peace Corps operated in El Salvador between 1962 and 1979, and returned in 1993. Over 2,000 Americans have served in El Salvador since the program was established, working with communities on projects focused on community, economic, and youth development. There are 113 volunteers currently serving in El Salvador. Current volunteers are being recalled from

The kidney disease epidemic in El Salvador

There is a health crisis in El Salvador and other Central American countries which has been greatly under-reported.  Chronic kidney disease is killing thousands in the region, and the causes are not known. At a regional health conference in February 2011, El Salvador's Health Minister Dr. María Isabel Rodríguez spoke of an epidemic of chronic kidney disease afflicting the country, where kidney disease is now the leading cause of hospital deaths for men aged 20 to 60 and the third leading cause of death for women. One in four men living in coastal areas has the disease. Recent news reports from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, together with PRI have now highlighted this epidemic. From the report by the Center for Public Integrity titled Thousands of sugar cane workers die as wealthy nations stall on solutions : Each year from 2005 to 2009, kidney failure killed more than 2,800 men in Central America,

Salvadorans' views of their country and government

At the end of each year, the public opinion researchers at the University of Central America release their wide-ranging poll of Salvadorans' views on their country and their government.   You can read the entire poll results here .    Some of the highlights: With respect to the issue of crime, 65% of Salvadorans believe that crime is the biggest problem facing the country, while 30% believe the biggest problem is the economy.    76% believe crime increased in the past year.   22.5% of Salvadorans said they had been the direct victim of a crime in the past 12 months. Civil society organizations and bloggers may be concerned about the increasing use of armed troops on El Salvador's streets, but it remains politically popular.  Although they believe that crime worsened this year, 59% of Salvadorans say that the presence of troops in the streets is contributing to reduce crime some or a a lot. When asked in which institutions in society they place confidence, the Cathol

Some great volunteers in service

I've been writing Tim's El Salvador Blog for more than 7 years now.   I've tried to make it a reliable English language source of information about some of what goes on in El Salvador, and from the feedback I have gotten many of my readers think I have at least party succeeded. From time to time, people ask me what they can do to support the blog. since it's free and (so far) I don't accept any advertising. The answer is nothing -- this is my contribution to raising the level of awareness about El Salvador for English-speakers around the world. But I do have a request.   If you like this blog, please consider a donation this Christmas to the Volunteer Missionary Movement , where I am a member of the Board of Directors.   Our volunteers are not missionaries in the sense of evangelizing converts, instead they are some terrific people who feel called by their faith to serve the poor in El Salvador and Central America.   They are people like Maggie and Olivi

Progressive tax reform in El Salvador

El Salvador's National Assembly Wednesday passed a progressive income tax system proposed by president Mauricio Funes.  The vote was 66 to 17 in favor of the bill, with all deputies in the National Assembly voting in favor of the bill other than members of the right wing ARENA party. Under the bill, a Salvadoran making $500 or less per month will pay no income tax.  Those between $500 and $6200 will pay 25%, which is the current rate.   Those who make more than $6200, will pay 30%.  In addition, income taxes on businesses were raised to make sure they were paying taxes into the system. Prior to these reforms, El Salvador had a particularly regressive tax system.  The chart below, based on a study by the InterAmerican Development Bank, shows that the tax burden on Salvadorans as a function of family income.   The lowest 10% pay the highest amount of their income in various taxes at 30%.   The next lowest 10% of the population pay 17%, while the wealthiest 10% of Salvadorans pa

Senate Republicans block confirmation of an excellent ambassador

I had an appointment today to meet with US Ambassador to El Salvador Mari Carmen Aponte.   She wasn't able to meet, however, because she had flown to Washington the night before for an impending Senate vote on her confirmation as ambassador.    Unfortunately for Ambassador Aponte, when she returns to El Salvador, it will be to start to pack her bags since Senate Republicans refused to let her nomination make its way through the Senate.  The Washington Post reported a short time ago: The Senate on Monday blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to El Salvador as Republicans opposed the selection over unfounded rumors that her boyfriend of years ago was a Cuban spy and new conservative outrage over a summertime op-ed on gay rights.  Mari Carmen Aponte, a Washington lawyer and Hispanic activist, has served as ambassador in San Salvador since September 2010 after Obama, in response to Republican opposition to her nomination, made her a recess appointee. But her te

Possible Republican filibuster of Aponte confirmation

Mari Carmen Aponte's recess appointment as US Ambassador to El Salvador expires at the end of the year unless her nomination is confirmed by the US Senate. There is a possible test vote today to see if Republicans have the votes to block the nomination with a filibuster. Roll Call has a good overview of the debate .

El Mozote -- 30th anniversary commemoration

Ninth in a series This weekend, people from throughout El Salvador and the world gathered in a remote location in northeastern El Salvador to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the El Mozote massacre.  It was a time to remember and a time for renewed commitment to the quest for justice for the victims.  This year, the commemoration commenced on Saturday, December 10, which is the 63rd anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .   Anniversaries bring infrastructure improvements to El Mozote. There was fresh asphalt pavement on the last few hundred yards into the village. A grader smoothed a hill side to make parking spaces for cars, just as the cars started to pull in. A raised stage had been raised close to the little church on the main plaza in El Mozote. The whole plaza was filled with hundreds of people. Vendors sold artisan items, T-shirts, and pupusas. As we arrived, a children's chorus was beginning to sing under the directio

El Mozote -- the victims

Eighth in a series Thirty years ago today. This list of the names of the victims was initially compiled by Tutela Legal, a church-run human rights group in El Salvador, and updated by Mark Danner, author of The Massacre at El Mozote, records the ages and professions of 767 people who were murdered by the U.S.-trained Atlacatl Battalion.  ( Source ). EL MOZOTE 1. DOMINGO CLAROS, 29, wood cutter 2. CRISTINO AMAYA CLAROS, 9, son of Domingo Claros 3. MARIA DOLORES AMAYA CLAROS, 5, daughter of Domingo Claros 4. MARTA LILIAN CLAROS, 3, daughter of Domingo Claros 5. MARIA ISABEL AMAYA CLAROS, 8 months, daughter of Domingo Claros 6. ISIDRA CLAROS, 60, aunt of Domingo Claros 7. BONIFACIA RODRIGUEZ OR ANASTACIA ARGUETA, 65 8. LEONISIA RODRIGUEZ OR DIONISIA RODRIGUEZ, 27, seamstress daughter of Bonifacia Rodriguez 9. VILMA RODRIGUEZ, 2, daughter of Dionisia Rodriguez and Manuel Alvarenda 10. MARTINA RODRIGUEZ, 35, daughter of Bonifacia Rodriguez and sister of Dionisia and V

El Mozote -- the rebirth of hope

Seventh in a series The name "El Mozote" will forever be linked with a massacre and some of the most unimaginable cruelty inflicted by one set of human beings on another.   But El Mozote is also the name of a community where people today live, dream, and struggle to support their families.   El Mozote was a deserted, ghost town at the end of the civil war, but some of its former residents who were not present on the day of the massacre have returned. Without ever forgetting the past, hope is being reborn.   In a town where so many children are buried, children now paint images of life and hope. If you travel to El Mozote, one of the things you will see is this mural on the side of the little church which faces the plaza. The mural was a project of visual artist Claudia Bernardi who uses art and murals as a tool to restore a sense of community in populations impacted by massacres or other human rights atrocities.  The "Wall of Hope" was developed in connect