Showing posts from August, 2013

Impunity for creators of a yellow book

Al-Jazeera English has a good article  looking at the 1993 Amnesty Law which has prevented the prosecution of war criminals from the Salvadoran civil war.   The article talks about a "Yellow Book" illustrating the involvement of the Salvadoran armed forces in death squad activity: The new drive for justice has been fueled by the discovery of a military document called the Libro Amarillo, the 'Yellow Book' - a 254-page book produced by the Intelligence Department of the Estado Mayor Conjunto, El Salvador's military high command during the civil war. It is the first list of human targets assembled by the military high command during the war to ever be publicly revealed.  Since it was discovered in 2010, researchers have been carefully confirming the Yellow Book's authenticity and visiting the families of those in it, so the book is only now being revealed.  Assembled between 1978 and 1987, the book contains photographs of nearly 2,000 civilians that it id

Prison for colonel implicated in Jesuit massacre and other rights violations

It is a sentence for violating US immigration laws, not for committing human rights abuses in El Salvador, but there is no doubt that this is the first prison term for a high ranking Salvadoran military officer related to human rights abuses during El Salvador's civil war. Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano was sentenced today for immigration violations in the US, and will face potential extradition to Spain to face trial for the murder of the Jesuits in 1989.   From the AP :  Human rights advocates called it a step toward justice Tuesday when a federal judge in Boston sentenced a Salvadoran ex-colonel to prison on separate charges as Spain attempts to prosecute him for war crimes during his country's civil conflict.  Inocente Orlando Montano will serve 21 months in a federal prison for immigration crimes, followed by a year of supervised release if U.S. government officials don't extradite him to Spain before then to stand trial for his alleged role in priest slayings

More presidential polls

I have updated my tracking chart of public opinion polls asking Salvadorans about their choices in the 2014 presidential election with recently released polls from Inmore Research , ARENA and Data Research . My rolling average of the last four polls released currently stands at: Sanchez Ceren -- 32.7% Norman Quijano -- 31.9% Tony Saca -- 20.7% As the tracking chart shows, poll results are varying quite a bit.  The variation is caused mostly by differences in who is doing the polling and how they do it, rather than changing preferences of the voters over time. As the dean of Salvadoran bloggers, Ernesto Rivas recently posted : So many discrepancies can only lead one to a conclusion. All surveys are false and that is regrettable, because they rob citizens of an important tool to decide how to vote and, what is worse, are deceiving them, to accomplish some goal. UPDATE -- UTEC-CIOPS published a new poll this morning which I have added to the tracking chart.

Salvadoran soccer players suspected of fixing matches

Twenty-two players from El Salvador's national football (soccer) team have been suspended for suspicion of involvement with fixing international matches.   From an AP report : El Salvador authorities raided the homes of 11 players on Thursday after the country's football federation suspended 22 players in an investigation into alleged match-fixing in games by the national team, including against the United States and Mexico.  Public prosecutors said the raids took place in six cities. Federal prosecutor Luis Martinez told Radio Nacional de El Salvador that computers, electronic tablet devices and cellphones were among the items seized during the raids. He said authorities will also try to gain access to the bank accounts of those involved, both locally and abroad.... El Salvador games under scrutiny include: a 5-0 Gold Cup loss to Mexico on July 5, 2011; a 2-1 loss to the United States on Feb. 24, 2010; a 4-1 loss to Paraguay on Feb. 6, 2012; and a 1-0 loss to D.C. United

Still looking for a law to protect El Salvador's water resources

Today activists took to the streets of El Salvador yet again to demand that the National Assembly approve a proposed national water law designed to protect El Salvador's endangered water resources.  Want to know how long this struggle has been going on?   Check out my 20+  prior posts labeled with the tag "water."    One of the central organizations is the Foro del Agua, with a website at this link .

$25M loan for tourism development

The InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB) announced this week a loan to El Salvador to use for tourism development along the country's Pacific coast.   From the IADB press release :   El Salvador’s Ministry of Tourism will receive a $25 million loan by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to finance the development of tourism attractions in the La Libertad and Usulután coastal regions.   Tourism is a young but dynamic sector in El Salvador, as the number of hotels and restaurants grew by 30 percent over the past seven years, and the number of international tourist arrivals climbed to 1.25 million in 2012. Domestic tourism accounts for over 4 million trips a year.   However, most of the country’s beaches and other coastal attractions lack the infrastructure required to increase the number of overnight visitors or to treat wastewater generated by such activities. The national development plan has made tourism a priority to improve job opportunities.  Coupled with other

Pursuing justice 30 years later

One of El Salvador's top military leaders during the Salvadoran civil war faces sentencing for immigration violations in the US, and potential extradition to Spain to face trial for the murder of the Jesuits in 1989. The BBC has a lengthy article on the charges facing former Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano: The commander of one of El Salvador's notorious death squads, active during the 1980-92 civil war, could soon become the first top-ranking Salvadoran officer to face trial for murder. But if so, he will be tried in Spain, not his own country, where an amnesty protects even those guilty of atrocities against civilians. Inocente Orlando Montano was quietly working in a sweet factory in Massachusetts in May 2011, when he and 19 others were indicted by a Spanish court for their alleged role in the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests, along with their housekeeper and her teenage daughter. Five of the priests - outspoken critics of El Salvador's military regime - were

1946 El Salvador

The Human Studies Film Archive at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. has recently posted several clips of film footage from cities in El Salvador dating back to 1946.  The clips are from Thayer Soule's travelogue, "The Road to Panama", archived in the Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution. For more information, view the complete catalog record: . For information on Thayer Soule see SIRIS blog post: . Here is what is available (all clips are silent): Santa Tecla video . Ilobasco video San Vicente video San Salvador video

Ongoing criticism of P3 law

A new article written by Lily Moodey at the Council of Hemispheric Affairs, looks at the continuing opposition to the Public Private Partnership Law (3P) by labor, environmental and civil society groups.   The law was passed in May with strong support of the US, and is intended to allow El Salvador to contract with private corporations to perform various governmental functions. The article, titled  P3 Legislation in El Salvador: An Aggressive Reassertion of Neoliberal Economics? begins: Over the past several weeks, El Salvador has begun to restructure its port and electricity services as the first consequence of the newly enacted Ley de Asocio Público-Privados (Public-Private Partnership Law; P3), which took effect in El Salvador on June 16 after legislative approval on May 23. A history of unsuccessful privatization measures in El Salvador indicates that this economic policy will threaten many Salvadorans while doing little to promote genuinely productive economic activity in th

Gang members talk about truce

The Center for Democracy in the Americas has published a video of interviews with gang leaders in El Salvador's prisons talking about the gang truce.   According to CDA : During a recent research trip, CDA was given the opportunity to meet with the leaders of five gangs, who were brought together from separate penal institutions to Mariona Prison. Later that day, we traveled to Cojutepeque Prison, where we met with other leaders and were permitted to tour the extremely overcrowded, run-down facility. Everyone we spoke with expressed a strong commitment to the peace process.  We heard the same messages over and over from men who know they could spend the rest of their lives in prison: “We want a better life for our kids and families,” and “the truce is working.”  As “Eddie Boy” told us, “We want to do this forever and we want to change the country forever.” The video below presents some of the interviews we conducted.  The interviews were filmed in May 2013.   Watch them here

Economics and the mining struggle in El Salvador

There were a few victories claimed by the anti-mining movement in El Salvador in the past few weeks.  Those victories are more about economics than about the environmental impact of gold mining.  Yesterday came the news that the international arbitration tribunal had dismissed the proceeding brought by the Commerce Group for lack of payment of funds.   The case was actually won by El Salvador back in March 2011.   The Commerce Group tried to appeal the decision and get it annulled, but it could not come up with the $150,000 which the arbitration tribunal insisted be paid for Commerce Group to proceed. The economics lesson is this -- the Commerce Group's appeal was never a threat.  I always had to chuckle at my friends in the environmental movement who have kept portraying this case as a threat to the resumption of mining in the country.   If the case had any chance to succeed, the Commerce Group would have found a way to raise the necessary $150,000.   After all, this is s

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Politics threaten the gang truce

One of the major threats to turning the process called the "tregua" or the truce among the gangs in El Salvador into a durable reduction in crime and violence, is election politics in El Salvador.   A recent article at InsightCrime titled  Can El Salvador Gang Truce Survive Presidential Campaign?  illustrates this: Ilopango , a municipality on the eastern edge of San Salvador, was the first of what are now about a dozen peace zones. Since the truce, the number of homicides in the area has been slashed in half from 110 in 2011 to 61 in 2012.   With killings down, the local government has focused on soft-power measures. Ilopango created a chicken farm and bakery as alternative forms of employment for gang members, and it is building soccer fields and education centers in hardscrabble neighborhoods. With its recent successes, Ilopango would seem the poster child for the gang truce, but during a recent press conference Ilopango's mayor railed against both the president an

David Morales elected as new Human Rights Ombudsman

Salvadoran human rights lawyer David Morales has been elected by the National Assembly to be the new Human Rights Ombudsman   ("PDDH" for its initials in Spanish) in the country.   Morales replaces the outgoing Oscar Luna.    Morales has a long history of working in the field of human rights in El Salvador, having worked at Tutela Legal, FESPAD, the office of hte PDDH and most recently within the Funes administration. The PDDH has no real power in the country except to shine light on violations of human rights, conduct investigations and issue reports.   Despite that lack of power, an effective PDDH can alter the debate on such topics within the country.

Presidential candidates on the 'net

El Salvador's presidential candidates have all taken to the Internet and social media to spread the message of their presidential campaigns.   Here are links to their online presence: Salvador Sánchez Cerén Website , Facebook , Twitter , YouTube , Blog Norman Quijano Website , Facebook , Twitter , YouTube Tony Saca Website , Facebook , Twitter , YouTube To give you a feel for their campaigns, here are some campaign videos on YouTube: Tony Saca Salvador Sanchez Ceren Norman Quijano

Veterans block highways, demand pensions

Veterans of El Salvador's civil war, both from the FMLN and from the armed forces, blocked the Pan American highway and other highways throughout the country today demanding that the government increase their monthly pensions to $700.    The demonstration on the Pan American highway was broken up by police in riot gear, as captured on this video from El Diario de Hoy: The government has responded that it does not have any money in the budget to increase pensions.

A small step to reduce prison overcrowding

One scandal in El Salvador is the horrendous overcrowding of its prisons.  Not only are the conditions inhumane, but the overcrowding increases violence within the prisons and makes any chance of rehabilitation remote.  There are more than 26,000 inmates in 19 prisons designed to hold a total of 8000 prisoners. From an article at InfoSurHoy : “Overcrowding has reached critical levels,” Hernández said. “If we take into account the design of these buildings, many of these prisons do not allow for effective control of the prison population. As a result, we have stressful spaces where daily life is a struggle. Stress levels in penitentiaries are very high.”  Silvia de Bonilla, a criminal attorney and candidate for Public Attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, is concerned by what she’s seen during her visits to prisons and the National Civil Police’s (PNC) holding cells.  “In the prisons and holding cells, the environment is harmful to inmates,” she said. “I’ve seen up to 40 me

CDA's El Salvador Update

Worth reading and re-reading each and every month is the El Salvador Update from the Center for Democracy in the Americas.   The update for July has much information about the security situation and the gang truce, as well as sections on politics and the judiciary. Included in this month's update is this handy chart for keeping track of who is and is not in support of the gang truce: