Showing posts from October, 2014

An apology for an offense against truth

I have called him before the "dean of Salvadoran bloggers."   For more than eight years, Ernesto Rivas Gallont has posted multiple times per day on his blog, Conversations with Neto Rivas .   He offers insights and perspectives on news and politics in El Salvador, often rooted in his own acquaintance with the players involved. But before he was a blogger, one of the roles Ernesto Rivas filled was the ambassador to the United States from El Salvador during much of El Salvador's civil war.   After his arrival in Washington in March 1981, he often was called upon to act as an apologist for the actions of the country's army, actions which often included massacres and atrocities.   On orders of his superiors back in El Salvador, then ambassador Rivas denied his government's involvement in the massacre which occurred in December 1981 at El Mozote.   We now know that Salvadoran army troops from the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion killed more than 900 defenseless men,

The ongoing story of child migration from Central America

The press continues to cover the story of children coming across the southwestern US border without documents, although the ebola scare and ISIS have pushed the story from the front pages. The newest statistics on the flow of children are out.  US Customs and Border Protection reports that in the year ended September 30, 2014 there were detentions of 68,541 children aged 17 and under who crossed the border unaccompanied by a parent or relative.    This compared to 38,759 the year before. There were a total of  16,404 unaccompanied children from El Salvador in the year ended September 30, almost a 12 fold increase from the number of children detained in 2011.   In addition to the unaccompanied children detained, there were more than 14,000 "family units" of adults with children from El Salvador detained at the southwest US border this year.  Combining just the unaccompanied children with the family units would average out to approximately 124 Salvadorans per day being de

El Salvador Gangs and Security Forces Up the Ante in Post-Truce Battle -- InsightCrime

This article was originally published on October 22 on the website of InsightCrime Written by Steven Dudley Since the dissolution of the gang truce, assassinations of police and military personnel and clashes between gangs and security forces have changed the security equation in El Salvador , closing any small window left to revive the short-lived and highly criticized ceasefire. As of October 17, the violence had left 31 policemen and various military personnel dead in 2014, including six police in October alone. The victims range from low- to high-ranking members of the security forces and are spread across a wide geographic area. This gives the impression that they were not pre-selected or targeted, but rather were killed when the opportunity presented itself, or following security force disputes with local gang factions. Clashes between security forces and gangs are also on the rise, officials in the police and army told InSight Crime. The police have reported 130 clashes wit

A history of destructive quakes

The 7.3 magnitude earthquake which shook El Salvador last week and left one person dead and caused some minor damage was a reminder of El Salvador's history of large, killer earthquakes.   This week the country's Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN) delivered a set of historic documents and photographs to the country's national archives for safekeeping.   Some of the photos were released online which you can view here . You can see scenes from the 1951 earthquake in this newsreel footage from the time:

A painful year of mosquito-borne disease in El Salvador

Each year in El Salvador, the rainy season brings the problem of mosquito-borne illnesses.   This year, in addition to dengue fever, mosquitoes have brought the Chikungunya virus for the first time.   This diseases which originated in Africa arrived for the first time in the Americas in 2013. El Salvador's health ministry is reporting that the number of cases of  Chikungunya has finally stabilized after increasing steadily since May of this year.   The country has reported some 59,000 suspected cases of the mosquito-borne disease since the virus first appeared in El Salvador in 2014.  Symptoms of the disease include a high fever and severe joint pain which can become chronic. The 59,000 cases exceeds this year's total cases of dengue fever which currently stand at 46,830 suspected cases.     Both diseases are transmitted by the same breeds of mosquitoes, the aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus, There is no vaccine or treatment for chikungunya.    Prevention is accompli

1992 Peace Accords -- now in government hands

The 1992 Peace Accords brought an end to twelve long bloody years of civil war in El Salvador.   Yet the original signed document had not been in the possession of the government.   Former president Alfredo Cristiani has been keeping the original signed document at his house for the past 20 years.   Today he returned the historic document to the government.   And in the picture above we see Cristiani, the former ARENA president who governed during the last years of the war, delivering the Peace Accords to current president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the former commander in the FMLN guerrilla army.   Both Cristiani and Sanchez Ceren were among the original signers of the accords in 1992.

7.3 Earthquake off coast of El Salvador, one dead

A strong earthquake struck off the shore of eastern El Salvador last night.   Reports this morning say that one person was killed after electricity lines fell on him.    Approximately 20 houses have been reported damaged and some areas are still without power this morning. From Reuters and The Guardian : A magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua late on Monday and was felt across Central America, killing at least one person.  There were no immediate reports of major damage. El Salvador’s emergency services said a dozen homes in the department of Usulutan had been slightly damaged but that coastal areas appeared calm and the country’s international airport was unaffected.  Wilfredo Salgado, mayor of the city of San Miguel in El Salvador, tweeted to say that a man was killed when an electricity post fell on him. “It felt really powerful, suddenly the whole house started to move,” said Xiomara Amaya, 30, who lives in Usulutan. More details from

Taiwan gave millions to Flores who gave it to ARENA

El Salvador's president from 1999-2004 was Francisco Flores.   During his presidency, two killer earthquakes hit El Salvador in early 2001 killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless.   As the country worked to re-build following those quakes, the government of Taiwan delivered $10 million to Flores, with the purported explanation that it was intended for the victims of the earthquakes.   Flores is now under arrest and being held in jail on corruption charges.   His arrest came after it became clear that the millions did not go to earthquake relief, but until now we did not know where the money had actually gone.  In a story reported on October 2, the journalists at El Faro revealed that most of the $10 million had been doled out in dozens of checks to support the presidential campaign of ARENA candidate Tony Saca: The money went into such efforts as Saca's "Casa por casa" -- "house by house" -- campaign effort, into ARENA rallies and events

Norman Quijano quits San Salvador mayor's race

Incumbent San Salvador mayor Norman Quijano has decided to withdraw from running for a third term.   Quijano, from the right wing ARENA party, was the party's presidential candidate earlier this year and lost in the second round of the presidential elections by a scant six thousand votes.  He has been the mayor of San Salvador since 2009. In the announcement of his decision on Wednesday, Quijano simply stated that everything had its own cycle and it was time to close this cycle of his life. ARENA party officials announced that Quijano would be one of the party's candidates in the 2015 elections for deputies in the National Assembly. Former president Mauricio Funes speculated that Quijano must have been forced out of the race by ARENA party "oligarchy", and that the oligarchs wanted someone who would protect their particular interests.    ARENA indicated it would name a new candidate for mayor of the country's largest city withing 10 days.  Ana Vi

Community policing in Santa Ana

An article from Fronteras describes a community policing initiative in Santa Ana which has been developed with help from the US: “It is all part of this philosophy of prevention,” said James Rose, the State Department’s regional gang adviser, who works out of the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador. “To achieve prevention you have to have a proactive attitude from the police.”  The State Department helped the Santa Ana police make a number of reforms, including implementing new data collection strategies, creating programs to keep kids out of crime and introducing community policing techniques.  “Knowing your community, knowing who is there, who is coming, who is going, who is involved in criminal activity,” Rose said. “What changes are going on. What the concerns are of the community. And by doing that [the police] are able to win the trust of the community and they are able to collect that useful data.”    The model is a contrast to the mano dura — or iron-fist policies — that Salv

El Salvador's Constitutional Chamber and the will of the voters

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court continues to issue rulings impacting the respective rights of voters and political parties in the country.  On October 1 the Constitutional Chamber ruled that deputies elected to the National Assembly under the banner of one party could not defect to form another party.  They can declare themselves independent, but they may not adopt another party affiliation. The ruling stemmed from a group of dissident ARENA deputies who had formed themselves into a new grouping "United for El Salvador."   The court found that these party defections violated voter's rights to choose deputies belonging to a political party and ideology.   If deputies could be elected under the banner of one party and then shortly afterwards defect to another, the will of the voters could be thwarted.  Deputies must not defect to another party until the next election when they are free to change alliances. At first blush this ruling migh

Pope Francis and El Salvador's bishops

There is an interesting article from Tim Johnson of McClatchey this weekend titled  Latin America feeling ‘Francis effect’   about Pope Francis and how his vision of where the Roman Catholic church needs to go may be received by the church hierarchy in El Salvador: In ways large and small, Pope Francis is having an impact on Roman Catholics in Latin America. He’s pushing ahead with sainthood for a controversial martyred prelate in El Salvador. He’s mending fences with proponents of a theology that the Vatican once shunned for its Marxist whiff. And he’s cautiously embraced new, livelier styles of worship that his predecessors had discouraged.  The changes have won Pope Francis grassroots support, even as they have rattled the church’s bishops, most of whom were installed during the tenures of his more conservative predecessors.  Nowhere is that conflict more evident than in this small Central American country, where a generation ago the church was at the center of what would bec

Passionate social worker, government go-between or gangster priest?

When Spanish priest Father Antonio Rodriguez (Padre Toño) pled guilty to influence peddling and bringing contraband into prisons one month ago today, it surprised many of his followers.  The plea, in return for a suspended sentence, was yet another strange turn in the so-called "truce" begun in 2012 with El Salvador's notorious gangs. The prosecution of Padre Toño was based on a set of intercepted telephone calls between the priest and imprisoned leaders of the Barrio 18 gang.   The online periodical El Faro obtained a set of those recording from a government source and published a set of some of the recordings .  In the accompanying article , El Faro discusses a number of the revelations in the recordings including discussions between the priest and gang leaders about getting them cell phones and reducing the level of cell phone signal blocking being used at the prison.  El Faro also reveals that the prosecutors had certain recordings of "intimate conversations&q