Showing posts from April, 2012

Some travel safety tips

As a blogger writing in English about El Salvador,  I often get questions about the safety of traveling in and about El Salvador.    My usual advice is that travelers should rely heavily on Salvadorans they know and trust who can counsel them on when, where and how to go places in the country. I may also point people to some practical advice written by a "gringa in El Salvador" at El Salvador from the Inside titled  Colorful Safety Guidelines for visiting El Salvador (or moving here) .   Here's her tip about shoe choice: Tennis Shoes / Sneakers Men : leave expensive Adidas, Nike, and Air Jordan (or latest $150 craze) where they belong: at home in your closet, thousands of miles away from El Salvador. Buy a cheapo pair, and replace them with a standard brand that non-ostentatious people wear here after you arrive. It’s ok to look ‘cool’ at home, but here looking cool means “come steal my wallet.” Or the very sneakers you are wearing. People do wear converse styl

Jobs for gang members

The reduction in gang violence in El Salvador from the gang truce is the best story from El Salvador this year, but this reduction in killings will be short-lived if there is not increased opportunity, hope and social inclusion.   Hannah Stone in The Christian Science Monitor described some steps the government is taking to increase jobs for former job members: Last week, El Salvador’s government announced a new scheme that it says will give tens of thousands of former gang members the opportunity to rejoin the labor market after they leave prison (link in Spanish). Vice Security Minister Douglas Moreno said that participants would receive job training and opportunities with companies participating in the project. The so-called “labor parks” would also be for "at risk" youth, who live in areas with high gang presence. The pilot scheme, the minister said, would have some 500 participants, but would eventually benefit between 50,000 and 70,000 people across the country. 

Secret Service partied in El Salvador

A Seattle TV station is reporting that US Secret Service agents drank and partied in a Salvadoran strip club prior to president Obama's visit to El Salvador last year.   The Secret Service is currently enmeshed in a scandal over similar activities in Colombia prior to a presidential visit there. From the KIRO-TV report :  The strip club’s owner confirmed a large number of U.S. secret service agents (and some military escorts) “descended on his club” that week prior to President Obama’s visit. He claims agents were there at least three nights in a row. "No surprise to me." The owner told Halsne his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents. The owner says his reputation for "security" and "privacy" makes him a popular strip club owner with "those who want to be discreet." 

Government to begin wiretaps

El Salvador's government will start wiretapping and telecommunications intercept operations from a new center beginning in May announced the country's attorney general Romeo Barahona .   The Center for Telecommunications Interception (CIT) was funded with a $5 million grant from the US.   The National Assembly had given the government the power to eavesdrop on phone calls in a law passed in February 2010.   The ability to tap phone calls is described as a tool for combating organized crime. The website InSight Crime describes the US push for these actions in El Salvador and other Central American countries: The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will help train Salvadoran officials, including police and magistrates, in wiretapping operations, stated El Salvador's Attorney General Romeo Barahona. The funds provided by the US will come through the Central America Regional Security Initiative ( CARSI ).  The US has been pushing "intelligence-led policing&q

Cathedral occupation ended

Two weeks ago I wrote about the "occupation" of San Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral which had closed the church for months including Holy Week.  That protest finally ended with the return of control to church authorities on April 16.  Angela Smith relates the story : In central San Salvador this morning, members of three organizations representing veterans of the historic FMLN guerrilla forces and labor rights leaders handed over the Metropolitan Cathedral after three months of occupation, in exchange for assurances that sincere dialogue addressing the groups’ demands with the Salvadoran government will begin immediately. Their struggle will continue at the negotiation table, mediated by a permanent commission promised this morning by the director general of human rights for the Salvadoran government, Oscar Luna, who will serve as a mediator along with representatives of civic and faith-based organizations. Although the beautiful Fernando Llort mosaic which used to

2014 presidential hopefuls

The next presidential election in El Salvador will not be until 2014, but as soon as last month's municipal and legislative elections ended, people began talking about possible candidates to replace Mauricio Funes.   Here are some of the leading contenders. Norman Quijano .   The mayor of San Salvador from the ARENA party won a second term by a landslide.   As mayor of the country's largest city, he has already shown the ability to gather significant support and is probably viewed as someone able to get things done. Ana Vilma de Escobar .   She was the vice president of El Salvador from ARENA during the administration of Tony Saca.   She sought that party's nomination in 2009 and is likely to do so again in 2014.   In the recent legislative elections, she campaigned vigorously to be elected as an ARENA deputy and had more votes than any other candidate for the National Assembly.  Tony Saca .   President of El Salvador from 2004-2009, Ton

A day without murders

This story from Reuters speaks for itself: No one was murdered in El Salvador on Saturday, officials said, in what was the first homicide-free day in nearly three years for the Central American country plagued by violent drug gangs.  "After years when the number of murders reached alarming levels of up to 18 per day, we saw not one homicide in the country," President Mauricio Funes said in a statement released on Sunday.  The murder-free day was the first recorded since leftist Funes took office in June 2009. At the beginning of Funes' term, the country had an average of 12 murders a day, but that tally climbed closer to 18 per day in early 2012.  Rival gangs operating in El Salvador called a truce last month and bloodshed between the country's two most powerful gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and gang Mara 18, has abated.

No Easter worship in Metropolitan cathedral yesterday

Last week El Salvador's Metropolitan Cathedral was not filled with the faithful Catholics worshiping at Holy Week services.   In fact, religious activities have not occurred in the Cathedral for almost three months.   The cathedral has been occupied by demonstrators since January 10, seeking progress on a variety of demands of related to compensation of civil war veterans.     After celebrating Easter at a different church yesterday, archbishop José Luís Escobar, called the ongoing occupation of the Metropolitan Cathedral a " sacrilege ."  Angela Smith was part of a delegation who met with the occupiers, and described their concerns in this blog entry : The occupation is a nonviolent attempt to prompt negotiations with government officials whom organizers say have turned a blind eye to calls for resolution, their demands as outlined in a public notice in early March and expanded upon in our meeting today are the following: execution of pensions for the families

Oscar Romero on Good Friday

Good Friday is an appropriate day to remember once again the example of slain archbishop Oscar Romero.    The crucifixion of Jesus Christ which is celebrated today is echoed in the martyrdom of Romero as a prophet, preaching a gospel which was good news to the poor and an indictment of those persons and institutions who would harm and oppress them. In March, a new documentary about Oscar Romero was released on DVD.  The film,  Monseñor: The Last Journey of Óscar Romero , compiles extensive audio and video recordings of Romero together with interviews of from those whose lives were changed by Archbishop Romero, including church activists, human rights lawyers, former guerrilla fighters and politicians.  You can order a copy from First Run Features at this link .  Highly recommended. Our friend Polycarpio has posted a lengthy overview on his blog of the lack of progress of the canonization of Romero as a saint of the Roman Catholic church.  Although Oscar Romero is widely belove

Convert TPS to Permanent Residence now

I want to throw the support of this blog behind what seems to me a quite sensible idea -- to convert the status of the thousands of Salvadorans in the US on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to permanent residence (a "green card").       There are approximately 215,000 Salvadorans in the US on TPS.    TPS was originally granted to suspend deportations to El Salvador on humanitarian grounds after the 2001 earthquakes.   TPS has been extended every 18 months thereafter.   Since TPS only applies to Salvadorans in the US as of February 12, 2001, each person on TPS has lawfully lived in the US for more than 11 years. A coalition of groups of Salvadoran-Americans, migration rights groups, and faith-based organizations have come together to push for this change.   The website for this coalition explains why we should advocate for this sensible change in US immigration policy: After having legally lived and worked here for over a decade, having paid fees to the government to