Showing posts from October, 2013

El Salvador's total abortion ban with no exceptions

The BBC has a new article on its website titled El Salvador: Where women may be jailed for miscarrying .  The article highlights the tragic consequences and discriminatory application of El Salvador's absolute ban on abortion with no exceptions: El Salvador is one of five countries with a total ban on abortion, along with Nicaragua, Chile, Honduras and Dominican Republic. Since 1998, the law has allowed no exceptions - even if a woman is raped, her life is at risk or the foetus is severely deformed.  More than 200 women were reported to the police between 2000 and 2011, of whom 129 were prosecuted and 49 convicted - 26 for murder (with sentences of 12 to 35 years) and 23 for abortion, according to research by Citizens' Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion. Seven more have been convicted since 2012.  The study underlines that these women are overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated - and they are usually denounced by public hospital staff. Not a single cri

The turtles of Jiquilisco Bay

The National Geographic website has a new article up titled Protecting El Salvador’s Largest Wetland From the Bottom Up .   The article describes the important ecosystem of El Salvador's Jiquilisco Bay along the Pacific coast and the endangered sea turtles which live there: Jiquilisco Bay is idyllic in many ways. This bay, which includes mangroves, seagrass beds, and several islands is not only a place of great natural beauty; it’s a working landscape, providing sustenance and income for thousands of local residents. Industries that reap from the bay and its forests include fishing, transportation, firewood collection, and tourism. Managing the natural resources and ensuring that there is enough for everyone is a complicated job- too big for any single government agency or community organization.  During a recent week-long tour I led for SEE Turtles to explore El Salvador’s culture and nature, our group saw first hand how community development and wildlife groups are helping m

Constitutional Chamber challenges National Assembly again

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court today challenged the power of the National Assembly yet again.   The Constitutional Chamber today  ruled that the president of the Supreme Court, Salomón Padilla, was improperly elected to the Court because of his party ties to the FMLN.  Padilla has never denied having those ties. Initial reaction to the decision followed partisan lines in the country.   Representatives of the FMLN and GANA decried the decision as exceeding the power of the Court.   Representatives of ARENA and the PCN applauded the decision as supporting judicial independence. There was no immediate reaction from Salomón Padilla.   Nor did President Funes or the candidates for his job make a comment today.   The possibility exists that we might have a repeat of last year when members of the Supreme Court refused to acknowledge a Constitutional Chamber ruling that they had been improperly elected.

Millions to head to polls in 2014

El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced today the finalization of the election rolls for the 2014 presidential elections.   Next year almost 5 million Salvadorans will be eligible to vote.   Included in this group are almost 144,000 Salvadorans living outside of the country who will be able to vote from the exterior for the first time.   The "official" campaign season recognized by Salvadoran law commenced on October 1, but the candidates have been in full campaign mode for months now.   Running for the election from the left wing FMLN is the current vice president and former guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren.   From the right wing ARENA party is the current mayor of San Salvador, Norman Quijano.   From a coalition of right wing parties coming under the name UNIDAD, is former Salvadoran president Tony Saca.

Closing of Tutela Legal fuels protests

The abrupt closure on September 30 of Tutela Legal, the human rights legal aid clinic of the Catholic archdiocese of San Salvador, continues to reverberate among the human rights community. The office of the archbishop offered varying explanations for the closure as the week progressed. On the day of the closure , the explanation given was that Tutela Legal no longer had a reason to be. In a press release issued later in the week, the archdiocese stated that the closure of the offices had been done after an investigation and for the purpose of assuring a better way to safeguard, accompany and defend the rights of victims. Finally, in a press conference on Friday, Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas stated that the office of Tutela Legal had been closed because of various "irregularities" which had been discovered in its activities. The prelate declined to provide more specifics or identify any particular employees of Tutela Legal who had been involded. Human rights

The complicated relationship of Funes and the gang truce

Oscar Martinez of the Salvadoran online periodical El Faro has an opinion piece in the New York Times today titled  Making a Deal With Murderers .  His essay opens: The president of El Salvador has helped save more than 2,000 lives in the past two years. Now if only he would admit it. Martinez argues that the failure of president Mauricio Funes to admit publicly that his government negotiated with the gangs to produce the truce, has lead to the truce beginning to unravel in recent months.   He concludes: PRESIDENT FUNES, who has less than a year left in his term, seems adamant about ending his presidency without letting the admission slip from his lips that his government designed this truce strategy, which has already saved more than 2,000 lives. It is not hard to understand why he lacks the valor to say that he gave the order to negotiate with murderers, blackmailers and rapists whose tattooed faces are stained with the letters and numbers of their gangs. All you have to do is

El Salvador's consumer culture

The Christian Science Monitor has a good article today looking at El Salvador's slow growth economy titled   Supersize me: Golden arches crowd El Salvador's economy .  It's a consumption driven economy, purchasing imports with remittances sent from abroad:  “El Salvador is becoming a giant supermarket… international products keep increasing, and it’s due to a structural problem with the economy,” [Roberto Rubio, director of FUNDE] says. El Salvador’s trade deficit – the amount by which products brought into the country exceed exports – is one of the highest in the region relative to the size of its economy.  “We take in a lot, consume a lot. Our trade deficit is almost 20 percent of our GDP,” Rubio says, blaming a lack of adequate economic and fiscal policies “that stimulate investment.”  Instead of choosing an investment path and creating incentives in sectors like alternative energy or technology, “what’s growing in this country? Commercial centers, car sales, cell

Historic human rights office closed

Tutela Legal, the heroic legal and human rights office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador was abruptly closed by the archbishop on September 30 with no advance warning to its employees or anyone else. Tutela Legal was founded by slain archbishop Oscar Romero in the late 1970s to document the death squad murders and other human rights abuses in the country.  As described here , its work was incredibly important during those years: Tutela Legal was organized during 1978 as part of the efforts by the archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, and his successor, Arturo Rivera y Damas, to create commissions and organizations to defend human rights. Hernandez said that in the late 1970s and 1980s, human rights activists in El Salvador knew they needed to have strong, scientific evidence as the basis to denounce abuses. At the time, gathering this kind of information was particularly dangerous because many people who worked for these groups, reported violations, or tried to take legal a