Showing posts from December, 2017

Making "exceptional measures" the norm

Since March 2016, El Salvador has had in place a series of "exceptional measures" to combat gang violence in the country.   These steps include measures in the prisons such as harsh solitary confinement for gang chiefs, elimination of visits to inmates, blocking of cell phone signals around prisons, as well as longer pretrial detention, more use of the military, and greater freedom of security forces to use deadly force in pursuit of suspected gang members.   Some of these measures are authorized explicitly by the exceptional measures decree, and others are simply an ever harsher approach to crime fighting. This week the director of the National Civilian Police, Howard Cotto, indicated that he thought the measures should be made permanent because they were "showing results."   Primarily Cotto is pointing to a reduction in the level of homicides from 2016 to 2017 of more than 25%.   Yet at the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of police

Nannies of El Salvador

The investigative journalists at Revista Factum are reporting on anther way that gangs intimately control the lives of people who live in gang controlled neighborhoods.   Young women are being forced to raise the children of gang members who are in prison.   They are involuntary "nannies" raising children not their own, on pain of death if they do not obey. A shortened form of the RevistaFactum article was translated into English at InsightCrime .   Here is an excerpt:  Tony’s “nanny” is very young. She has to care for a child of the gang who is already behaving like he’s part of it. She never wanted to have him in her care, but now has to raise him as her own son while following the rules of others.  Marcela can’t speak freely. If she wants to move to a new house, she has to ask the gang for permission. If she wants to take Tony somewhere far away, she has to inform the “palabrero” or gang leader for the area. If Tony goes out to play with the gang members, she can

Family remittances strong in 2017 but face future threats

Remittances from abroad grew 10.1% in the first 11 months of 2017 according to El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank .  The funds which Salvadorans living abroad send back to family members in the country totaled more than $4.5 billion and represent a significant component of the overall economy in El Salvador.  More than 97% of the remittances are sent from the US.   The Central Reserve Bank attributes the solid growth in remittances to the strong US economy with low levels of unemployment. There is a dark cloud hanging over the remittance flows, however, in the form of the Trump administration immigration policies.   In a little more than a week, on January 8, 2018, almost 200,000 Salvadorans will learn whether they will be losing Temporary Protected Status which granted them protection from removal and also the right to work legally in the US.  Although I have not seen statistics on the amount of money sent back to El Salvador specifically by TPS holders, it is certainly a

An education model to follow

El Salvador's public education system falls woefully short of what the country and its children require.   But an innovative school in the rural department of Morazán is showing that a different model of education, focused on problem-solving, empowerment and health can produce dramatically better results. The Center for Integrated Development Amún Shéa in Perquín, Morazán, achieved a score of 7.88 in the 2017 national standardized test of learning and skills, PAES. This is the Salvadoran standardized test for high school students and this score was much higher than the national average.  2017 was the school's first year of participation. From the blog of the school's founder, Ron Brenneman: Amún Shéa is a program of Perkin Educational Opportunities Foundation, PEOF and was created with the aim of supporting the socioeconomic development of northern Morazán through human capacity building, and has adopted a methodology of Problem Based Learning (PBL) through devel

2017 -- the year of El Mozote

For the first time in 2017 we began to see blows in a Salvadoran court against the impunity which has so far protected those who ordered one of the largest massacres of children and other civilians in the western hemisphere.   The massacre of the hundreds of children and others at El Mozote took place in December 1981, and 36 years later, the witnesses and the relatives of the victims are testifying in open court. We are still a long way from justice.   The armed forces still have not opened their archives, and there are fears that the military has long since expunged any record of the command and planning of this scorched earth military operation.   But the momentum is building none the less, and the trial will continue in 2018. The Salvadoran human rights organization Cristosal has a very good overview of the 2017 developments of the El Mozote child massacre case here .  Earlier this month, the government of El Salvador released a documentary about the events at El Mozote title

New reports look at El Salvador's challenges

Two new reports available in English provide extensive looks at the challenges facing El Salvador at the end of 2017. The International Crisis Group released its report titled El Salvador’s Politics of Perpetual Violence .  The paper looks at the domestic security problems in El Salvador and the government's ineffective policies at dealing with the violence. The Center for Latin American & Latino Studies at American University issued a working paper titled Extending Temporary Status for El Salvador: Country Conditions and U.S. Legal Requirements .   The paper is provided in the context of the US government decision on TPS for El Salvador which needs to be made at the beginning of January 2018. One common theme in both papers -- a call for the US to extend TPS for Salvadorans in order to avoid the possibility of exacerbating an already challenging environment for the country. 

The moderate Salvadoran voter

Recent polling by La Prensa Grafica reveals a growing disaffection with the country's two major political parties and a majority of Salvadorans whose political preferences fall between the left and the right. When asked about their political ideology and whether they identified with the right or left, almost 58% of those polled said "neither", the center, or refused to answer.  This rejection of ideological labels is seen as well in the declining numbers of affiliation with the political parties.    This chart shows the percentage of respondents who stated they affiliated with a particular political party at different points in time: As this chart from the LPG polling shows, "neutral" has grown steadily to around 55%, while neither of the two major political parties, ARENA and the FMLN, can claim more than 25% of the electorate.     It is the FMLN which has seen its fortunes drop most dramatically.  From the start of Sanchez Ceren's presidency in

The massacre of children and others at El Mozote

Thirty-six years ago, from December 10-12, 1981, the armed forces of El Salvador massacred hundreds of children in the town of El Mozote and surrounding communities.    Last week El Salvador's government divulged the results of the first official register of the victims who died in that massacre.   Of 978 victims executed, 553 or 57% were under 18 years of age and 477 were 12 and under . Twelve infants died in their mothers wombs.  Henceforth, at El Salvador Perspectives, we will refer to this atrocity as the "Massacre of Children and Others at El Mozote." Garden next to church in El Mozote where hundreds of child victims lie buried. As it covers the trial, the online periodical El Faro has offered us another view into the lives of the victims.    A photogallery at the site shows ordinary objects of life in the village.   The objects were recovered during the course of exhumations locating the bodies of the army's massacre.   Like the artifacts from Pom

An education system in ruins

At the end of November, the online periodical El Faro published on its website a wide-ranging investigation titled X-Ray of an Educational System in Ruins.    With data, video, interviews and analysis, El Faro presents a comprehensive look at an educational system which is largely failing to provide the education needed by the country's children. Although annual spending to provide school uniforms, shoes, school supplies and a meager daily meal have helped boost attendance levels in the schools since 2009, the government has made little progress in actually investing in what is taught in those schools.  Yearly testing by the government of high school students shows the lack of academic progress year over year. 84% of school students in the country attend one of the 5136 public schools in El Salvador. Each year the government gives a test to all high school students finishing their final year (the "PAES").   This year's scores were released on November 15, and

Week in review

Here are some of the news stories coming out of El Salvador this week. Edgar López Bertran  died this week.    Popularly known as "Brother Toby," he was the founder of one of El Salvador's largest evangelical mega-churches, the Baptist Biblical Tabernacle Friends of Israel.   The reins of the church now fall to his son, Toby, Jr. Testimony resumed in El Mozote massacre trial.   Additional witnesses are taking the stand in the trial of El Salvador's military command for its role in the 1981 massacre in El Mozote and surrounding communities. Former Salvadoran Colonel Inocente Orlando Montano was finally extradited by the US to Spain, where he has already been brought in front of a judge in connection with his role in the 1989 Jesuit murders case.   With one of the defendants finally physically present in Spain, the case can now proceed. Meanwhile in El Salvador, Jesuits from the UCA went to court to ask that those who gave the orders for the Jesuit massacre be