Showing posts from September, 2014

Important new study on public security in El Salvador

This month the University of Central America Institute of Public Opinion released an important new study on crime and security in El Salvador over the past five years.   According to the study's authors: The main objective of this study was to contribute to the understanding and critical analysis of security policies and strategies adopted by the Government of Mauricio Funes, and to generate public policy recommendations for the new administration. \  This is a qualitative study based on interviews with experts on the issue of public security, including officials and former officials in the branch of security, scholars, prevention program operators, and a broad-based desk review of official documents, statistics and hemerographic information concerning the issue.  Among many other statistics and information, the report reveals that only 8.4 % of criminal prosecutions lead to a conviction, contributing greatly to the impunity with which criminal acts are committed in the cou

US approves $277 million Millennium Challenge pact with El Salvador

The Obama administration has finally decided to move forward with a second round of aid to El Salvador through the Millennium Challenge Corporation .   The funding has been held up for many months over US demands that El Salvador do more to prevent laundering of drug money.   Politico has a story describing the package and the role of various agencies in the US government in first delaying and now finally approving the deal: The Obama administration will soon sign off on a $277 million five-year package of economic assistance for El Salvador — a long-delayed deal that has taken on added importance given the flow of child migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America.  The Treasury Department confirmed that it will no longer hold up the aid because of its demands that El Salvador do more first to implement tougher anti-money laundering regulations. That decision follows on talks this past Tuesday and Wednesday in which a top Salvadoran delegation met separately in Washi

Gold mining arbitration to commence in Washington, D.C.

On El Salvador’s Independence Day, September 15, the country will face a major challenge to its actions in placing a moratorium on gold mining in the country.   Five years after it began, the international arbitration between Pacific Rim (now owned by OceanaGold) and the government of El Salvador starts its final hearing next week in Washington, D.C.  The legality of the mining moratorium and its impact on foreign gold mining companies will be judged by an arbitration panel of international legal experts.  The hearing will begin on Monday and last for six days through the following Saturday.      Here is a primer to help you understand the proceeding which will be unfolding this week:       Who are the parties? The official parties to the arbitration are the government of El Salvador and Pac Rim Cayman, LLC.   Pac Rim Cayman is ultimately owned and controlled by OceanaGold , an Australian gold mining company which purchased Pacific Rim Mining Corp. in 2013 .    

Coming of Age in El Salvador

Before he was a professor of social work, my friend Jim Winship did his coming of age in the US Peace Corps in El Salvador.  His work as a community organizer in the La Chacra neighborhood of San Salvador left an indelible mark on him.  More than 30 years later on a Fulbright fellowship, Jim Winship returned to El Salvador, where he began documenting the lives of young people in the country.   That passion has led to the publishing of his book, Coming of Age in El Salvador . The book is divided into two main sections.   After an introduction to the geography and history of El Salvador, Jim presents the life stories of several young Salvadorans and their experiences transitioning into adulthood.   In the second half of the book, he uses those stories to help illuminate discussions of family, education, migration, violence and economic realities.  These are the forces which young men and women must navigate as they make their way from childhood into lives as adult Salvadorans. At a

Former President Francisco Flores surrenders

Former president of El Salvador Francisco Flores has been a fugitive from justice since it was revealed earlier this year that he would be charged with corruption in connection with the use (or misuse) of millions of dollars from Taiwan.  Today, he suddenly appeared in El Salvador and presented himself in court to face the charges against him.   As a provisional measure, the judge handling the case ordered Flores to be held under house arrest while he is prosecuted for corruption. From Reuters : Dozens of people had gathered outside the courtroom to protest the former president's alleged corruption, calling for his imprisonment.  Prosecuting attorney Bertha de Leon told reporters the prosecution would appeal the judge's decision, arguing that Flores should be imprisoned after being on the run for months.  "For us, the judge's decision is not technically correct; for us, the judge has ignored what needed to be done; he has ignored the circumstances and the

Padre Toño pleads guilty

The Spanish priest known as Padre Toño was found guilty today of bringing contraband into prisons as part of a plea agreement with Salvadoran authorities.   The country's attorney general has been prosecuting the priest for alleged collaboration with the country's powerful street gangs. Fox News Latino :has the details of today's developments: A Spanish priest who pleaded guilty to aiding gang members in El Salvador was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison, but will not have to spend any time behind bars, a Salvadoran judicial spokesperson told Efe.  "As the sentence is less than three years, it was changed to substitute measures," the spokesman said.  The Rev. Antonio Rodriguez, a parish priest in Mejicanos, near San Salvador, was arrested July 29 on charges that he smuggled banned items to jailed gang members.  Attorney General Luis Martinez said last weekend that the priest had agreed to plead guilty and cooperate with authorities.   Under

Sánchez Cerén lacking popular support in early months of his presidency

El Salvador's second left wing president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, is not enjoying the same high approval ratings which his predecessor Mauricio Funes enjoyed.    According to a poll released today by La Prensa Grafica, the new president from the FMLN only has a 40% approval rating among those polled.   In contrast, Mauricio Funes enjoyed an 84% approval rating , the highest among all Latin American presidents, at the same point in his administration.

Economic statistics -- poverty and the middle class both shrinking in El Salvador

In recent weeks, there has been a release of data about the economic well-being of Salvadoran households from the UN and from the government of El Salvador.   The data shows several things: A slow but steady reduction in poverty Significant differences between urban and rural areas A growing vulnerable population who have escaped poverty, but have not achieved middle class status. A middle class which is actually shrinking  The first set of charts comes from El Salvador's annual national multi-purpose household survey . Average monthly household income has increased every year since 2010 to $660 in urban areas, but only $361 in rural areas . Poverty has declined to a level of 30% of households, with rates ranging from 26% in urban areas to 36% in rural areas . Extreme poverty, which increased in 2011, has declined in the past two years, falling to levels of 7.1% nationally, 5.7% in urban areas and 9.8% in rural areas. Average numbers of