Showing posts from April, 2013

El Salvador's abortion law threatens life

El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world.   El Salvador outlaws abortion for any reason.   There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.   Moreover, El Salvador arrests and imprisons women who have abortions, sometime charging them with murder and sending them to prison for thirty years. The human consequences of that law are in abundantly clear today in a single case.   The Huffington Post has this article on a case highlighted by Amnesty International: A critically ill young woman in El Salvador may have to decide between jail and a life-saving abortion, according to a new report from Amnesty International.  The 22-year-old woman, identified only as Beatriz, is four-and-a-half months pregnant but could die if she doesn't get an abortion , per the report.  Beatriz has been diagnosed with several illnesses, including lupus and kidney disease, Amnesty wrote, and her baby is missing a large part of its brain and

Oscar Romero's beatification on track with Pope Francis

Several people sent me the news today that Pope Francis is looking positively on Oscar Romero's beatification by the Roman Catholic church.   From our friend Polycarpio at the Super Martyrio blog : Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia , the cleric in charge of Óscar Romero’s sainthood cause, has announced that Pope Francis informed him during an audience on Saturday, April 20, that he was authorizing Archbishop Romero’s beatification process to advance. Paglia made the announcement at the end of a homily honoring the Italian bishop Antonio Bello, known as “Don Tonino,” who died in 1993. “This very day,” Paglia told the audience at the Cathedral of Molfetta (on Italy's Adriatic coast), “day of the death of Don Tonino, the beatification cause of Msgr. Romero has been unblocked.” In addition to being the postulator or principal clergyman in charge of Archbishop Romero’s canonization, Paglia is the President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, a major Vatican agency reporting to th

US 2012 Human Rights Report on El Salvador

On Friday, April 19, the US State Department released its annual collection of human rights reports concerning countries around the world, including its 2012 report for El Salvador .  The Executive Summary of the report states: The principal human rights problems were widespread corruption, particularly in the judicial system; weaknesses in the judiciary and the security forces that led to a high level of impunity; violence, including domestic violence, and discrimination against women; and abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children.  Other human rights problems included isolated unlawful killings and cruel treatment by security forces; lengthy pretrial detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions;some restrictions on freedom of speech and press; trafficking in persons; and discrimination against persons with disabilities and persons with HIV/AIDS. There were also widespread discrimination and some violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgende

Funes appeals for aid

Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes traveled to Washington last week for meetings where he sought to obtain more aid and investment for the Central American country. InfoSur Hoy  reported some of Funes' remarks to international finance bodies: Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes on April 18 told the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that his country’s gang truce provides an opportune time for development.  “This is an opportunity we can’t miss,” Funes said, referring to the March 2012 truce that has reduced daily homicides from 15 to four.  Funes said gang leaders haven’t accumulated the wealth and power of drug lords, which presents a chance to “offer an economic opportunity to drive that the criminal world away.” Funes estimated there are 60,000 gang members in the Central American nation, but they don’t have structure as do cartels.  El Salvador has emerged as a transshipment point for the trafficking of narcotics north toward Mexico and the Uni

Historic Memory

This recently produced video from the Pro-Historic Memory Commission in El Salvador, a coalition of human rights groups, looks at the need for truth and justice in El Salvador more than twenty years after the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords which ended the country's bloody civil war. Currently, members of the Pro-Historic Memory Commission are touring the US to raise awareness and support for their cause. You can see a list of where they will be at this link .

Immigration ruling for deportation of ex-Salvadoran general made public

The New York Times has procured the public release of the decision by the federal immigration judge who ruled that former Salvadoran General Eugenio Vides Casanova can be deported from the US as a human rights violator.   As reported here , last year the judge issued the deportation order, but only now is the full text of the decision available. The NYT describes the decision: The immigration judge, James Grim, found that the general had “assisted or otherwise participated in” their killings for failing to supervise or investigate the soldiers who carried out the crime. He issued the deportation order that the general is appealing.  In clearing the way for his removal on human rights grounds, Judge Grim found that given the hundreds if not thousands of extrajudicial killings while General Vides Casanova commanded the national guard, it was “implausible” that he had been “unaware of his subordinates’ involvement in at least one of these killings.”  The general “knew or sho

A thousand words

A picture is worth a thousand words.   This is very true for the collection of photos from El Salvador presented by  Global Eyes Media .   These are not pictures for tourism purposes -- these are pictures to educate and illustrate issues facing modern day El Salvador.

Program for 20th anniversary of truth commission report

The Washington Office on Latin America, the University of Washington Center for Human Rights, the Due Process of Law Foundation, the Center for Justice and International Law, and the Latin American Studies Program at George Mason University are hosting an event titled Twenty Years after the Salvadoran Truth Commission:  Justice for Human Rights Abuses in El Salvador and Beyond.    An impressive list of speakers will discuss post-conflict justice and impunity in El Salvador and other countries in Latin America. The event is taking place this Wednesday, at 9:00 a.m., EST, in Washington, D.C.  You can get the details here .  If you can't attend in person, the event will be streamed live at .

More positive signs from the truce

It's important to be realistic about the truce declared by El Salvador's gangs.   Violent crime and extortion continue to be a plague on many communities throughout the country.   Yet, you also have to see some signs for a little optimism in these three stories from this week. San Vicente becomes sixth "city free from violence."    In a public ceremony attended by more than a thousand people, including around a hundred gang members, the municipality of San Vicente was named the next "city free from violence."   Gang members signed a pact to leave violence behind in the municipality.   The designation of San Vicente and other cities is part of the second phase of the truce. Gang members pledge to clean up gang graffiti .  Leaders of five gangs in the country pledged to erase gang symbols from walls and buildings throughout the country  Top gang leaders from Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13); Barrio 18; Mirada Locos; Mao-Mao and Mara Máquina made the commitment

General Medicine Law to lower drug prices

Before this week, El Salvador had some of the highest prices for medicine in the world.   This was the result of a pharmaceutical market where there was no competition, and where drug distributors, such as the one owned by former president and ARENA party chief Alfredo Cristiani, kept prices artificially high.   An article from describes how the new General Medicine Law is changing this: Under the General Medicine Law, approved at the Legislative Assembly in February, prices for at least 6,200 medicines will be reduced by a minimum of 30%, and up to 60% for those most often prescribed, reports Prensa Latina.  El Salvador is currently considered one of the countries with the most expensive medication worldwide.  Low income groups and left wing political party Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front support the legislation, but domestic pharmaceutical groups claim the law is a violation of the right to economic freedom for drug companies. 

Is there a fix for El Salvador's economy?

El Salvador's economy is stuck in slow gear and not generating greater income or opportunities for the country's citizens.  A team from the International Monetary Fund recently visited El Salvador and issued this   statement : Following the 2008-09 crisis, the Salvadorian economy has grown at a slow pace reflecting low domestic investment and the impact of weather shocks. In 2012, real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an estimated 1½ percent, lagging behind the pace of the region, and inflation remained subdued. The external current account deficit widened to 5 percent of GDP due largely to lower export prices. Despite income tax revenue efforts, the overall fiscal deficit, on an accrual basis, stayed at the level of 2011 (4 percent of GDP), indicating that the fiscal stimulus used during the crisis has not been fully reversed yet. The net public debt reached 55 percent of GDP at end-2012, of which 10 percentage points have accumulated to cover past pension payments. The

More on Pac-Rim's $315 million claim

As I mentioned on Monday, Pacific Rim is now seeking $315 million in its international arbitration against the government of El Salvador.   I have now located and downloaded the legal brief filed by Pacific Rim which you can access at this link  or here .   It is a 343 page document called a "Memorial" in international arbitration which sets out in great detail the facts as Pacific Rim intends to present them as well as the legal arguments about the claim of violation of El Salvador's investment law. So who is going to decide this arbitration claim?   The panel of arbitrators consists of three lawyers with extensive experience in international commercial arbitration.   The panel members are:   President: V.V. Veeder  (British) Arbitrators: Brigitte Stern  (French) Guido Santiago Tawil  (Argentine) Click on their names to read their bios.

Book reviews

It's been awhile since I have reviewed any books on the blog. I have a couple to recommend for you. The first is the recently published Perquin Musings , subtitled, A gringo's journey in El Salvador.   Perquin Musings is the memoir of Ron Brenneman who came to Central America in the early 1980s as a volunteer in camps in Honduras where refugees from El Salvador's civil war were sheltered. Brenneman never went back.    He takes us from his work in the camps, to accompanying civilian refugees back into the country, to providing support to civilians and guerrillas during the war, to twenty years of post-war rebuilding. Throughout the memoir, Brenneman muses about his own motivations and larger meanings.   Take for example, this scene on the streets of San Salvador during the war: Zipping through the Colonia Roma while heading to the University of Central America (UCA), I came around the curve and found the Devil Himself lined up right between the headlights of my Toy

Pacific Rim seeking $315 million in suit against El Salvador

The Canadian gold mining company Pacific Rim issued a press release today announcing its intention to seek $315 million in its international arbitration against the government of El Salvador.    The arbitration is pending before the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, D.C. In a decision by the arbitration panel last year, the arbitrators dismissed claims under the CAFTA treaty, but are permitting the lawsuit to go forward under provisions of El Salvador's own internal investment laws. Up to this point, there has been no ruling on the central issue of the case -- did El Salvador violate any legal rights of Pacific Rim by not granting the Canadian firm the permission to move from exploration to actual production at the company's El Dorado mine in the department of Cabañas?    The ICSID has only ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the case and that the case cannot proceed under CAFTA, but only under El Salvador's