Showing posts from June, 2017

Why optimism is difficult

In the more than 14 years I have been writing this blog, the government approaches to gang-instigated crime and violence have always been characterized by hard-line repressive tactics which fall under the heading of "mano dura" or "hard fist."    There was only one period of difference, the so-called gang truce between 2012-2014 when a set of government actions and gang tactical decisions dramatically cut the murder rate in the country, but did not diminish the influence and control of the gangs. Óscar Martínez, the gifted crime reporter for El Faro, has written about the government's approach to crime and violence since the end of the civil war in a piece in NACLA Report on the Americas titled  How Not to Assemble a Country .  Martinez describes what happened as the gang truce crumbled in 2014: However, 2014 was also an election year. And here we can identify another component of this manual on how not to assemble a country: the people of El Salvador, come

Businesses fight against impact of raising minimum wage

As noted previously in El Salvador Perspectives, the government of El Salvador recently passed a significant increase to the minimum wage in both the manufacturing sector and in agriculture.    But  the business sector is not content to simply pass along the wages.   Danielle Mackey, writing in Equal Times , describes the backlash from factory owners:  Since the beginning of this year, the salaries of maquila workers have increased by nearly 40 per cent, from US$211 to US$295 per month, while coffee and cotton workers have seen their wages more than double, from US$98 to US$200 per month. In addition, other rural agriculture workers have seen their pay rise to US$224 per month, while employees of commerce, service and industries now receive a minimum of US$300 per month.  Nevertheless, the wage increase has provoked a strong backlash from what has been described as El Salvador’s “rabidly anti-union private sector”, with business lobbies issuing legal challenges, factories firing

Battle over water legislation

Three months ago, I wrote about a growing water crisis in El Salvador where there has been a decline of 27% in the availability of clean water in the country over the past decade: Why has this happened, when there is a six month rainy season each year?   The problem is that the surface waters in rivers and lakes are contaminated with pollution in much of the watershed that covers El Salvador.   There is the beginning of an effort to clean up the surface waters, but it will be a long time before that effort starts to show results.  The cost of treating contaminated surface water to make it drinkable is quite high.   As a result, much of the potable water used in the country must come from wells which tap the country's underground aquifers.   The country's aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished.   The rain water which falls on the surface is not making its way into the aquifers, but instead is running off into rivers and out into the ocean.   W

US Congress wants investigation of FMLN leader

José Luis Merino Fourteen members of the US Congress, including Republicans and Democrats, have signed a letter asking the US Treasury Department to open an investigation into the finances of top FMLN party official José Luis Merino: Today, we are writing to request that you use your authority under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to investigate the US-linked banking activities of Salvadoran citizen, José Luis Merino, known also by his nom de guerre Ramiro Vásquez,  Mr. Merino is a senior member of El Salvador's governing party [whose] reported long-standing associations with transnational organized criminal networks are the subject of US criminal investigations for cocaine trafficking and money laundering, Multiple open source reports indicate that financial structures controlled by Mr. Merino, currently the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, have acquired hundreds of millions of dollars in unexplained wealth while helping the FARC guerrillas in Colombia,

Week in review

Catch up on what has been going on in El Salvador with these English language articles from the past week: From InsightCrime: US Reverses Course in CentAm with Heavy-Handed 'Drug War' Approach  "In a meeting held with the presidents of the Northern Triangle countries of Central America last week in Miami, the administration of US President Donald Trump reiterated that henceforth the focus of bilateral relations will be prioritizing heavy-handed approaches to the so-called "drug war" and illegal migration to the United States stemming from the region, with little significance being given to the allocation of development funds...."    El Salvador Strikes against Death Squads Led by Army, Police   "Police and army officials were among those arrested in El Salvador's biggest opperation against anti-gang death squads in recent memory, as the authorities finally move against the deadly militias that have flourished under their noses...." Bar

The refugees of El Salvador

June 20 has been declared by the United Nations as World Refugee Day . Un Secretary General António Guterres spoke of the need to protect the millions of refugees the world over: Don't stop the refugees; stop the wars that produce them. #WithRefugees — António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 20, 2017 El Salvador is one of the countries at the center of the global refugee crisis with hundreds of thousands of its citizens internally displaced or forced to flee the country for other locations of safety, primarily the US. I have written often here about the crisis of those forced to move by gang violence and persecution in the country, and of the tens of thousands seeking refuge in the US. On this World Refugee Day, citizens of countries throughout the world must look for ways to advocate for the refugee and for safe places for children to grow and develop free of war and violence.

Centenary of last great eruption of El Boquerón

San Salvador volcano -- El Boquerón June 7 was the 100 year anniversary of the last great eruption of the San Salvador volcano , also known as "El Boquerón."  The eruption occurred on June 7, 1917 at 8:11 p.m.    It was preceded by two killer earthquakes at 6:55 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. which killed approximately 1050 people and left only 200 of the 9000 houses in the city intact. The 1917 eruption was a flank eruption of the volcano along one fissure. During this eruption, the crater lake inside the Boqueron evaporated and a cinder cone appeared within the crater, christened 'Boqueroncito'.   Lava would continue to flow for five months after the initial eruption. El Diario de Hoy has a collection of historic images of the 1917 eruption at this link .   There is a special exhibition regarding the eruption going on now at the Guzman national anthropology museum (MUNA). Boqueroncito

Salvadorans give their president a failing grade

The Public Opinion Institute at the University of Central America (IUDOP) released a public opinion poll Tuesday concerning Salvadorans' views of their government and the political parties.    The results for president Salvador Sánchez Cerén of the FMLN were not good.    His job approval rating on a scale of 1-10 has fallen to 4.79, the lowest of the past five presidents at the same point in their terms in office.  The results show a Salvadoran public who are very unhappy with the current administration: 61% say Sánchez Cerén is governing poorly. 68% have seen no positive changes since he assumed office. 59% cannot name any achievements during his administration. 57% believe the country is worse off than when Sánchez Cerén started as president. 70% believe the economy has worsened. 62% believe crime has increased. 66% believe that the exceptional measures have done little or nothing to reduce gang-related crime. 68% believe the president is manipulated by others.

El Salvador's climate risk

The decision of US president Donald Trump to pull his country out of the Paris Climate Agreement has the potential to stymy global efforts to prevent additional increases in global average temperatures and associated climate changes. El Salvador and other countries in Central America are particularly at risk from the impact of these climate changes.  El Salvador ranks number 15 out of 180 countries on the  2017 Global Climate Risk Index  which is based on the country's exposure to extreme weather events during the twenty year period between 1996 and 2015.   The index takes into account both deaths and injuries as well as property and economic losses.   Image from 2009 flooding from Tropical Storm Ida Using a different measure, El Salvador ranked number 11 out of 171 countries on the  2016 World Risk Index .   That index ranks both a country's exposure to natural disasters as well as the capacity to respond to such disasters. El Salvador is a signatory to the Paris ag

Three years under Salvador Sánchez Cerén

On June 1, 2017, president Salvador Sánchez Cerén completed his third year in office.  El Salvador's progress under his administration has been mixed at best.   Here is an overview. One achievement of the current administration was a significant increase in the minimum wage in the formal sector.   Although the minimum wage still does not cover a minimal cost of living and agricultural workers lag well behind manufacturing jobs, the increase was significant. The government continues to expand the successful Ciudad Mujer program which focuses on providing social services to women in an integrated fashion at several locations around the country. Economic growth in the country remains positive but low.   The government reported its most recent annual economic growth rate at 2.4%, below a regional average of 2.8% and below the rate needed to see much improvement in the lives of working Salvadorans. The government's finances are a mess.   There is a stalemate in the Nat