Showing posts from July, 2014

Migration statistics for El Salvador

William Pleitez, chief economist of the UN Development Program in El Salvador recently presented these statistics : During the past three decades, the country has lost a fourth of its population.    In the 1970s, 290,000 Salvadorans emigrated. In the 1980s, 540,000 Salvadorans emigrated. In the 1990s, 630,000 Salvadorans emigrated. Since 2000, migration rates are 60,000 per year. 60% of those who left were young adults between the ages of 16 and 30 30% of graduates from Salvadoran universities have emigrated.

Arrest of a prominent priest and other public security news

Yesterday, the headline on the respected website InsightCrime read " New El Salvador Government Yet to Take Action as Homicides Rocket ."  The post concluded: The new government is now faced with a conundrum: do they allow the broken initiative [the gang truce] to linger on, or officially announce it's over? So far, their answer has been muddled, although the signs are not positive for truce supporters. In June, the president claimed the country would "not make a truce with organized crime," but Security Minister Benito Lara more recently told El Faro the government would not stand in the way of any gang negotiations.   While Sanchez Ceren has announced the existence of a new security strategy, he is now nearly two months into his term without detailing any concrete actions to be taken. With the murder rate now reaching pre-truce levels, it is critical the government develop a plan for the post-truce era quickly or it may be drawn into a reactive security p

Social inclusion

Americas Quarterly released its 2014 Social Inclusion Index today.   The index looks at a variety of variables in Latin American countries.   AQ provides this description of the index and its purpose:  As we've done since we first launched this index, we define social inclusion in a broad but specific way. We look at the economics of a country and its potential to improve social mobility (GDP growth and poverty rates). We also examine the range of rights (civil, political, women's, and LGBT), policies (social investment), conditions (access to adequate housing, secondary school enrollment, access to a formal job, financial inclusion), and public attitudes and behavior. We believe this comprehensive approach provides the best measure of a citizen's ability to participate meaningfully in the political system and in the broader national community—and thus to realize his or her potential.  El Salvador and its neighbors in Central America filled 4 of the bottom 5 slots in th

Courts report improvements in processing cases

El Salvador's judicial system faces multiple challenges, from overcrowded dockets, to corruption, to unqualified judges and failure to adhere to norms of procedure.   According to El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court, at least some of those problems are being addressed.   The views of the Supreme Judicial Court were  reported in Infosurhoy : Judicial delay arises because of “some judges’ apathy in resolving some cases and, occasionally, because organized crime has infiltrated the courts,” said CSJ Chief Justice Florentín Meléndez.  “Some courts have been infiltrated by corruption, and there are judges who work for the criminals,” Meléndez said in an event in February.  Authorities are investigating these judges, as well as working to eliminate the bottlenecks in the court system, he added.  “We have courts that are overwhelmed with hundreds of cases, while others have dozens of files,” Meléndez said. “This uneven distribution in the judicial branch is being dealt with

Central American presidents meet with Obama as thousands of Central American children are released to parents in the US

Presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala meet with President Obama The leaders of Central America's Northern Triangle came to Washington, D.C. this week to talk about the crisis of unaccompanied minors flooding the southern borders of the US.   Their appearance kept the issue front and center in US media coverage.   In years of blogging about El Salvador, never has there been a period of so much coverage in mainstream US media about the problems of the region. The AP reported  about the meeting of Obama with the Central American leaders: Obama, who met Friday with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, said the U.S. has compassion for the migrant children, but those who do not have a proper claim to remain in the United States will be turned back. At the same time, the regional leaders said the president offered them assurances that the rights of those children would be observed.  "It is my hope that Speaker Boehner and House Republicans wi

The Children Who Can't Leave

For context around the story of unaccompanied minors seeking entry to the US, watch this 20 minute video titled Los niños que no han podido irse / The children who have not been able to leave .   It offers a view of the lives of children in El Salvador, living in poverty, where gangs control their neighborhoods.  (In Spanish with English subtitles.   

Activists seek release of women charged with murder on suspicions of abortion

Since 1998, El Salvador has had an absolute ban on all abortions without exceptions, and has prosecuted women suspected of having abortions.   At least 628 women have been imprisoned since the law was passed.  It is a system which disproportionately impacts impoverished and poorly educated women . In February 2014, the US-based  Center for Reproductive Rights  and the Salvadoran  Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto Terapéutico, Ético y Eugenésico  produced a detailed report titled  Marginalized, Persecuted, and Imprisoned: The Effects of El Salvador’s Total Criminalization of Abortion .   The study looked at the criminal prosecutions of women for abortion in El Salvador including individual case studies and the facts surrounding 129 separate prosecutions. The data indicates that a majority of the 129 women were impoverished. They were women who had, throughout their lives, been excluded from educational opportunities, access to basic health care services, and

Twenty-first Century Socialism and Salvador Sánchez Cerén

Marta Harnecker is an intellectual of the Latin American socialist movement in Latin America.   An interview Harnecker gave regarding the new presidency of Salvador Sánchez Cerén in El Salvador was recently translated to English and published on the website of Links Internal Journal of Socialist Renewal under the title El Salvador, a new progressive hope in Latin America .   Among other topics, she discusses where she sees El Salvador within the context of other countries in the region: The political project of the FMLN ties in with the South American experiences of Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. What is your opinion regarding the peculiarity of El Salvador?   I see differences. You cannot compare Venezuela, a big country with enormous oil wealth – this is the revolutionary process that has been able to count on more resources than any other in the world – with El Salvador, a very small country, without much natural wealth, in a geographical situation that c

Economists judge El Salvador's economy

Fitch Ratings, an agency which issues ratings to the investment community regarding the quality of bonds issued by national governments, recently published its current rating of "BB-" for El Salvador.   Fitch reviewed El Salvador's economy in support of its rating: El Salvador's ratings are supported by its macroeconomic stability underpinned by dollarization, its adequately capitalized financial system, and solid repayment record. The government has a strong track record in implementing tax reforms despite the low economic growth environment. A dialogue between the new FMLN government and main private-sector organizations has the potential to define a national strategy for sustainable development and social inclusion. This comes after five years of confrontation during the previous administration. However, it is too early to predict that such dialogue could result in improved investment and growth prospects over the forecast period. Risks for a break-down in th

LGBT in El Salvador's prisons

Rev. V. Gene Robinson, a retired Episcopal Bishop from New Hampshire, recently visited LGBT prisoners held in a Salvadoran prison.  He wrote about it in an essay on the Daily Beast website titled Out and Proud in El Salvador's Gangland :   It is the transgender prisoners that touch my heart the most. Amazingly, many of them are quite stylishly dressed and wearing makeup, which is surprising, given the conditions in which they are detained, and even more surprising considering the environment in which they are currently living out their lives. Consider, just for a moment, what it takes to be in the body of man and to wear high heels, make up and earrings in a place like this which is the epitome of machismo. It takes an enormous amount of courage for any person, born into the body of one gender but feeling on the inside like the opposite gender, to live her life authentically. To do so in a Salvadoran prison defies comprehension and inspires respect for their grit and determinati

Chaparrastique volcano watch

The Chaparrastique volcano near San Miguel, El Salvador continues to show significant levels of internal seismic activity.   Authorities are on a high level of preparedness should actions be needed. The activity since yesterday has been at the highest levels seen.   The chart below shows activity during July -- the average, normal level is 50, and current levels are above 1100. This graphic shows the location of micro-quakes on the northern slopes of the volcano: The environment ministry continues to have a live camera feed focused on the volcano:

Price of beans doubles and absence of rain causes more concerns

In April of ths year, the price of a pound of beans in El Salvador was 50 cents;  last week the price had risen to levels between $1.10 and $1.35 in markets around the country according to La Prensa.Grafica .   The price rise is blamed on a shortage of beans.   Linked to the shortage is a lack of rain in some parts of the country, a weather problem blamed on the El Niño climate phenomenon. (Meanwhile the ARENA party is alleging that any scarcity of beans is being caused by the FMLN government sending beans to Venezuela to pay for oil received from the socialist government there). Farmers are concerned about periods during this rainy season when no rain has fallen for extended period of time in various parts of the country.   The most recent dry spell began on July 4. The government has denounced hoarding of bean stockpiles by speculators and announced plans to buy beans on international markets to reduce shortages. The government will spend $4.6 million to send additional

Coverage of why children are migrating in great numbers

The flow of unaccompanied children from Central America across the US southern border has produced a flood of news coverage.  Many in the US may be learning for the first time about the situations in El Salvador and the rest of the region which prompt children as well as adults to make the perilous journey north.  Because as many as 50,000 minors have recently been apprehended by US border authorities, the Obama administration faces a humanitarian and political crisis. A good overview of the issues is provided in this piece at 14 facts that help explain America's child-migrant crisis .    Also providing an overview was today's article from the Guardian titled ‘Flee or die’: violence drives Central America’s child migrants to US border , which looks at many facets of the crisis including interviews with children who fled the violence of Honduras. Much of the coverage focuses on telling stories of gang violence in El Salvador as one of the reasons why so many childr

Mosquito-borne disease in El Salvador

The rainy season in El Salvador always brings outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases in El Salvador, primarily dengue.   This year, El Salvador has also had cases of chikungunya fever, a tropical disease with origins in Africa: From an International Red Cross report : Chikungunya fever is an emergent disease transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by an alpha virus - the chikungunya virus - which is transmitted mainly by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes (the same species involved in dengue fever transmission)....  El Salvador is the first country in Central America with a chikungunya outbreak. Several cases of fever and particular clinical symptoms have appeared since early June 2014 in the municipality of Axutuxtepeque in the Department of San Salvador. Given the situation, the Ministry of Health determined that the clinical picture of patients corresponded to chikungunya virus.  According to Ministry of Health data to date, 1,300 suspected cases have been reported, di

Presidential residence turned art gallery

El Salvador's new president Salvador Sánchez Cerén has turned his official residence into an art gallery, and shared the experience of the art for the first time with victims of the country's civil war.   The BBC reported :  The new president of El Salvador has opened his official residence as an art gallery, welcoming what his office described as the socially excluded. The president's office said visitors would be able to see Salvadoran art and reflect on the country's reality.  President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a former left-wing rebel leader who took office a month ago, said the residence would be open every two weeks.  He said he would continue living at his private home during his term of office.  "The residence will become a space where we can share with those who have been excluded," said Mr Sanchez at the opening of the new gallery.  Among the first guests to his official residence were human rights activists and relatives of victims of the

US bows to pressure on El Salvador seed program

The US will apparently relent on a condition which was holding up the signing of the next round of Millennium Challenge compact funding for El Salvador.   The US had reportedly been insisting that El Salvador open up a seed purchase program to a Monsanto subsidiary, rather than keeping the program limited to purchases from local Salvadoran farmers and seed producers.  This round of funding from the US would be a five-year, $277 million compact, focused on projects in southern El Salvador along the Pacific coast. The  New York Times  reports the change in US position: MEXICO CITY — The United States and El Salvador said this week that they had settled their differences over compliance with the fine print of a trade agreement that threatened to hold up aid to the small Central American country, but the timing of the dispute has become an embarrassment for Washington.  The surge of Central American migrants to the United States over the last few months has been a stark reminder of

US Government response to child migration -- a "surge" of enforcement and deportations

#450882778 / The Obama administration has announced its response to the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America who are finding their way across the southern US border, and it is not a humanitarian one.   The Washington Post reported : The Obama administration, in a dramatic escalation of its border-control strategy, will seek more than $2 billion in emergency funds to help stem an influx of Central American women and children entering the country illegally, as well as new measures to more quickly deport those already here, the White House confirmed Saturday. President Obama intends to notify Congress of his request on Monday, and the administration will ask lawmakers to modify existing statutes to make it easier to return unaccompanied children to their home countries, an administration official said. The letter the President sent on Monday includes the following measures:  • providing the DHS Secretary additional au