Showing posts from July, 2012

2014 presidential candidates considered

The  Universidad Tecnológica in San Salvador recently released  poll results  regarding possible presidential candidates for the 2014 election.   Respondents were asked whether they thought various politicians would make successful candidates for their parties. Approximately three fourths of those interviewed felt that Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren would not be a successful candidate for the FMLN.   By contrast,  71% of the poll respondents thought that ARENA should nominate Norman Quijano, the popular mayor of San Salvador. There was a split of opinion over a possible new presidential run by ex-president Tony Saca on a GANA ticket.   54% indicated Saca would have a successful candidacy and 41.2% expressed a negative view.   When asking about the 2014 election itself, pollsters only asked people which party they would vote for and did not ask for candidate preferences or which candidates would win in a head-to-head race.   32.6% favored ARENA, 20.7% favored the FMLN, and 4.

No compromise yet - meetings continue

A third day of meetings between the leader's of El Salvador's political parties and president Mauricio Funes ended at 10:30 Friday night  without reaching any agreement .   The parties will pick up again on Saturday afternoon. Somewhat troubling were remarks of president Funes indicating that the political leaders were also talking about the elections of magistrates to the Supreme Court in 2009.    Only the magistrate elections of 2006 and 2012 have been ruled invalid by the Constitutional Chamber.    But the FMLN and other factions in the National Assembly have pushed an investigation alleging there were irregularities in the composition of the list of lawyers from whom the 2006 magistrates were chosen.  This is an investigation aimed squarely at Belarmino Jaime, the leader of the Constitutional Chamber, and the thorn in the side of the political party leaderships.

Violence against women at epidemic levels

Femicide -- the murder of women -- is a tragedy of epidemic proportions in El Salvador.    El Salvador has the highest murder rate of women in the world (at least before the recent gang truce).   The causes are many, including the gangs and drug trafficking.   A recent article from InsightCrime titled  How the Drug Trade Fuels Femicide in Central America  describes the rampany violence in El Salvador and elsewhere in Central America: Since the "Northern Triangle" of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala emerged as the main corridor for US-bound drugs, it has become one of the deadliest places in the world to be a woman, and the killings show little sign of abating.   In the first six months of this year seventeen clandestine graves were discovered in El Salvador, containing 48 bodies, 70 percent of whom were females, according to the Attorney General's Office (FGR). All were aged under 25, and 90 percent are thought to have had links to criminal gangs, reported La Pre

Text of Funes and political parties' statement of 7/24

The text of last night's accord regarding negotiations to resolve the constitutional crisis can be found here . The audio of Funes' remarks is here . Funes announces accord on process of dialogue over a resolution of constitutional impasse.

Funes and politicians discuss constitutional crisis

I t was a scene you don't often see in El Salvador.   All the top leaders of the country's political parties coming together in one room.  From the ex-president from ARENA Alfredo Cristiani to Medardo Gonzalez, of the FMLN,  President Mauricio Funes had summoned them all to the Presidential House today  to attempt to resolve El Salvador's constitutional crisis.  (See a gallery of Funes shaking hands with all the various party leaders here ). The parties met all throughout the day behind closed doors.   At a little before 8 p.m. El Salvador time, the press was gathered to hear statements read by Funes and by Sigfrido Reyes, the president of the National Assembly.   The parties have not yet reached agreement according to Funes, but had committed themselves to a process tied to the rulings of El Salvador's Supreme Court.   The parties had also agreed that no one would disclose the content of the talks until there was final agreement.   The talks will continue next Th

Supreme Court social media favors Constitutional Chamber

El Salvador continues to have two groups of judges claiming to be the legitimate Supreme Court.    At the moment, the Facebook page and Twitter feed of the Supreme Court appear to be under the control of persons who side with the Constitutional Chamber against the National Assembly and the incoming president of the court, Ovidio Bonilla. You can get to the Facebook page and the Twitter feed at this link .

Some erroneous views of the constitutional crisis

There had been little attention to El Salvador's constitutional crisis in the English language press before this week.   If you wanted to know what was happening, you didn't have many sources other than this blog.  There was an editorial by Mary O'Grady in the Wall Street Journal, and on Sunday, July 15,  the Washington Post wrote a very similar  editorial about El Salvador's constitutional crisis -- and they simply got it wrong.   The Post editorial stated: [I]f the FMLN succeeds in subordinating the court it will move to consolidate control over other institutions, including those governing elections. That was the model followed by Mr. Chavez, Mr. Ortega and the leaders of Ecuador and Bolivia. The Post  and O'Grady suggest that this is a struggle between the Latin American left as personified by Hugo Chavez and by Salvadoran Vice Presdient Salvador Sanchez Ceren and the forces of democracy and the rule of law.  But Salvadoran electoral democracy is not at r

The rains coming down and the waves coming up

An article titled  El Salvador: ‘How long until the waves reach us?   from Global Post reminds us of the vulnerability of El Salvador to the effects of global climate change: This tiny Central American nation will lose between 10 percent and 28 percent of its coastal territory in the next 100 years, according to El Salvador’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN). Those two scenarios are based on whether sea level rises by 5.1 inches or 43.3 inches, two extremes predicted by some current climate change models. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that sea level rise has already begun . It’s caused by both the thermal expansion of the oceans and flows of melt-water from the Arctic and other ice masses.... The left-wing government of President Mauricio Funes is actively seeking international funds to help El Salvador, one of the poorest nations in the Americas, cope with climate change. “The government, of course, wants money,” says Ricar

Conversing with the President

El Salvador's president Mauricio Funes  has started a weekly radio call in program to let citizens call and talk to their president.   Called "Conversando Con El Presidente," the program airs live at 11:00 El Salvador time each Saturday morning on National Radio of El Salvador (96.5FM).   The program can also be heard streamed live, or in a recorded archive at . Last Saturday was the first of these programs.   The questions and the president's comments touched on the major themes of the news including among other topics, crime and the gang truce, a pending increase in electricity prices, and the impasse at the Supreme Court.  

Locksmiths open doors to Supreme Court

It took a locksmith to get him through the doors, but Ovidio Bonilla, purported to take up the presidency of El Salvador's Supreme Court today.   He was accompanied by Sigfrido Reyes, the president of the National Assembly from the FMLN.   It was the National Assembly's vote in April 2012 which placed Bonilla in this position.   The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court has declared that April vote invalid. Today El Salvador has two competing Supreme Courts .   One with Bonilla and the magistrates from the 2006 and 2012 elections declared invalid by the Constitutional Chamber.   The other with former president Belarmino Jaime and magistrates and substitutes elected in 2009.   That court is led by Florentín Meléndez, who was named interim president after the expiration of Jaime's term this weekend.

Another week of constitutional crisis

The stand-off between El Salvador's National Assembly and the Constitutional Chamber continues.   The dispute spilled over into the streets, and foreign diplomats urged the parties to look for a way to solve this impasse. Protesters for and against the court marched through the streets of San Salvador on Thursday.   When the opposing sides met, there were small skirmishes leaving some 14 people hurt.   At least one report said that ARENA had bused in supporters to march in support of the court, but I had seen numerous messages on Twitter and Facebook among civil society groups calling for people to dress in white and march in support of the Court.  There is a video news report on the demonstrations from La Prensa Grafica at this link , and a gallery of photos here . Not helping the situation in the country was José Luis Merino who gave a radio interview on Wednesday asserting that the Constitutional Chamber was out to get the FMLN.   Merino, a hard-line leftist and part o

OAS Secretary General and the Maras

I have been searching for a word to describe today's visit by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS),  José Miguel Insulza, to La Esperanza prison in El Salvador.   "Remarkable," "strange", "positive", "bizarre"?      To have the senior official of the OAS sitting down with the leaders of criminal gangs who have killed hundreds or thousands of Salvadorans is not something you see every day.   Here is the description from an OAS press release : The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today visited La Esperanza Prison, located on the outskirts of San Salvador, to support the decision of two groups of prisoners to begin a peace process to put an end to the confrontations between gangs, one of the most difficult security dilemmas faced by the government of El Salvador.   Insulza said the agreement between the gang organizations constitutes “an opening to a space

The crisis deepens -- Constitutional Chamber invalidates election of attorney general

The stakes grew higher today in El Salvador's constiutional battle of powers. The Constitutional Chamber of the country's Supreme Court ruled that the election of the new Attorney General by the National Assembly was unconstitutional. Like the Chamber's earlier ruling on Supreme Court magistrates elected in 2006 and 2012, this ruling declared that the National Assembly in power between 2009 and 2012 had violated the constitution by voting twice to elect an attorney general. Once again, the Chamber has squarely challenged the power of the political parties. The election of an attorney general is typically the process of serious political dealmaking. By limiting when such deals can be made, the court is again putting constitutional constraints on how the parties can act. There had been some hope last week that discussions could take place to resolve the constitutional crisis. The National Assembly met to discuss possible resolutions, and ideas were being floated s

Restaurants in El Salvador

Karla Boza recently wrote me to point out her new blog which reviews restaurants in El Salvador (and New York).   The blog is titled Dual Citizenship , and you can find it at . This is not what you might expect -- it's not a blog about pupuserias and places to get a "plato tipico."   Instead Karla's posts have included places where you can get a great pulled pork sandwich ( Esperanto ), cream puffs ( Beard Papa's ), or the stadium food at Estadio Cuscatlan . Check it out.  

552 fewer murders

The first half of 2012 closed with 552 fewer homicides than were committed in the first half of 2011 according to the PNC .    The total number of murders during the first six months was 1562.  Although recognizing the dramatic change created by the gang truce which began in March, the PNC announced that it continues to execute operations against suspected gang members, rounding up some 4200 suspects in June. No word of any increased efforts at prevention, programs for at-risk youth, programs for re-insertion of ex-gang members, or programs to develop a culture of peace in the country.

Telling women's stories

           Two projects by friends of this blog are currently raising funds on the IndieGoGo site in order to tell the histories of remarkable women in El Salvador. Mujeres de la Guerra, Historias de El Salvador is the work of Lyn McCracken and Tedde Simon, who are working to document in film and photos the stories of strong women who came of age during El Salvador's bloody civil war.  From their description of the project: Mujeres de la Guerra documents the lives, stories and work of twenty-eight women leaders in El Salvador. Through a documentary film, photography exhibits in both the US and El Salvador, and a photo essay book, we hope to provide these women with the opportunity to tell their inspiring stories and share their hope, wisdom and dedication with the world....   Before the war, these very young women saw the need to organize with their communities in defense of their rights. As the repression and violence worsened, some women helped their communities and

Stories of Radio Venceremos

One of the fascinating stories which came out of El Salvador's 12 year civil war is the story of Radio Venceremos, the rebel radio station of the FMLN guerillas.    I just finished reading  Broadcasting the Civil War in El Salvador: A Memoir of Guerrilla Radio , the memoir of Carlos Henriquez Consalvi.   Known by his nom de guerre, Santiago, Consalvi was one of the leaders of Radio Venceremos and one of its on-air voices reporting the news of the war from the guerrilla perspective.   Broadcasting the Civil War offers an intimate view of the operation of the guerrilla's radio operation.   From the initial set-up of the station, through numerous evacuations one step ahead of the army, Santiago's account  details daily life in the FMLN guerrilla camps in the eastern part of the country during the 1980's.   Working with Santiago, Mariposa was one of the female voices of the rebel's radio station.   She recently wrote a short history of Radio Venceremos on the H

US relations with El Salvador

On this 4th of July,  a few recent events highlight the warm relationship between the governments of El Salvador and the United States. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte returned to El Salvador after her long delayed confirmation by the US Sentate.   She was warmly greeted by the country on her return.   Ambassador Aponte was received by president Funes in his office shortly after she returned to El Salvador where they spoke about the development projects the US is supporting. On June 12, the Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in El Salvador, Carl Derrick , was awarded the rank of “Grand Officer” of the Order of José Matías Delgado by the Minister of Foreign Relations of El Salvador, Hugo Martínez. The order, which was presented to Mr. Derrick for his contributions to the development of El Salvador, represents the greatest honor awarded by the Salvadoran Government. Derrick oversaw USAID's work in the country. He also oversaw the local

Two groups of judges claim to be the Supreme Court

Today El Salvador has two groups of judges, each claiming to be El Salvador's Supreme Court.   On Sunday, the judges elected in 2006 and 2012, entered the Supreme Court offices to claim their positions.   They entered in a tense atmosphere with armed police surrounding the building.  Those judges, however, were acting in defiance of the rulings of the Constitutional Chamber which said their elections had been invalid.   At the same time, the president of the Supreme Court and president of the Constitutional Chamber, Jose Belarmino Jaime, has convened a court made up of justices elected in 2009 as well as substitute justices ("suplentes") to allow the Supreme Court to do its work until the National Assembly complies with the rulings requiring the legislators to conduct new elections of the judges from 2006 and 2012. As I mentioned in my last post , this is a dispute about who has the last word when there is a constitutional issue.   El Salvador's Constitution app