Showing posts from February, 2018

Political money in El Salvador

El Salvador's Secretary of Participation, Transparency and Anti-corruption (SPTA), Marcos Rodríguez, has published for the first time a report of donors and their money flowing to Salvadoran political parties from 2006-2017.  It is probably not a surprise that the conservative ARENA party, backed by El Salvador's wealthy and businesses, received the bulk of political donations.   ARENA disclosed $44.5 million in donations between 2006 and 2017 compared to only $13 million for the FMLN: The bulk of ARENA's political money came from donations by businesses and other legal entities ("personas jurídicas") such as foundations  In contrast, the bulk of the money flowing to the left wing FMLN came from donations by individual donors ("personas naturales"): The report discloses that the single largest donor to ARENA or any political party was a non-profit entity named the "Centro de Estudios Políticos 'Dr. José Antonio Rodríguez Porth.'&q

Trial continues for massacre of El Mozote's children

The trial of Salvadoran military commanders for their roles in the massacre of children and others in El Mozote and neighboring communities is continuing to proceed.   The trial, which is being overseen by judge Jorge Guzmán in the town of San Francisco Gotera has had some additional developments. For the first time, the office of El Salvador's attorney general has taken an active role in the trial.   State prosecutors put on the stand additional victim witnesses to testify about the massacre.   Their testimony adds to the list of people, primarily from outlying communities, who were witnesses to some part of the Salvadoran army's actions during the massacre. It is fair to say that we know, in fairly graphic detail, what happened at El Mozote in December 1981.   What we do not know is why it happened and who was involved in giving the orders.   For this it is likely that the trial will need documents from military archives or the testimony of former officers in the armed

Human rights and electoral politics

During the past several months, the government of El Salvador has received significant and ongoing criticism for its human rights practices in matters of public security as it wages war against the country's street gangs.     That criticism included denunciations by human rights groups before the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights.    The criticism also included stern warnings from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.   Most recently, the criticisms came from the UN Special Rapporteur for Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Agnes Callamard, who visited the country at the end of January: “No matter how complex the context, how tough the call on public resources, the Government’s response to this endemic violence should not further embed it. The cure cannot be just as bad as the complaint. Yet, unfortunately, I found a pattern of behavior amongst security personnel pointing to excessive use of force and extrajudicial executions. This is further f

Electoral process concerns in El Salvador

The Social Initiative for Democracy ("ISD" for its initials in Spanish) is a civic organization in El Salvador focusing on transparent government, electoral democracy and elimination of corruption.    On Wednesday, February 14, ISD issued its first monitoring report for the upcoming March 4, 2018 elections. With respect to recruiting citizens to staff the voting centers by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal ("TSE"), ISD found: A failure to informer the citizenry over the process of selection of members of the voting tables (JRVs). A failure to promote an awareness campaign over the civic responsibility to be part of a JRV. Errors in the selection system which included illiterate citizens, the disabled, elderly and sick. The lack of information and awareness has generated a lot of confusion and rejection of the measure to choose JRV members, combined with disinformation which various actors are putting out on social media. For training new members of

Life in MS-13 territory

A recent article titled  El Salvador: life in Mara Salvatrucha’s territory , by Sofia Martinez, an analyst with International Crisis Group offers one outsider's perceptions of life in a Salvadoran neighborhood controlled by MS-13.  She writes: We take a detour from the main road to get to the community we are to visit. Through our van’s unpolarized windows we soon see it. The atmosphere is amazingly calm. It is about four o'clock in the afternoon, and a caravan of uniformed schoolboys is making its way home along the edge of the road under the cool shade provided by the extremely thick trees.  Our van bumps to the end of the unpaved road and the silhouettes of a group of young people come into view. Some of them are wearing caps and have no t-shirts on, while some stand and others sit at what appears to be an improvised roadblock.  We slow down, lower the windows, and one of the community leaders who is with us extends his arm to greet the MS-13 soldiers, one of the lowes

Polling before March 4 elections

Pollsters at Universidad Francisco Gavidia released the results of recent public opinion polling concerning the upcoming elections in El Salvador for deputies in the National Assembly and for mayors.  The results suggest that a population cynical about politicians will not show up to vote in great numbers, and those that vote will elect a greater percentage of officials from right wing parties. For deputies, those polled responded: Not going to vote at all:  33.2% Declined to answer: 21.7% Will cast a null vote:  5.3%    ARENA:  17.4% FMLN: 11.9% GANA: 4.3% PCN:  2.9% There was an interesting result in the race for mayor of San Salvador.    The race is a virtual tie with three weeks to go, with 16.0% expressing a preference for Ernesto Muyshondt of ARENA and 15.5% expressing a preference for Jackeline Rivera of the FMLN.   Again, the majority of those interviewed are either not going to vote or have no preference.  The current mayor of San Salvador, Nayib Bukele, cont

Trump and MS-13

US president Donald Trump spent a considerable amount of time on Tuesday talking about the Central American gang MS-13.  Trump uses the gang as the reason ICE needs additional resources and enforcement authority and as a reason to limit the entrance of asylum seekers including women and children from Central America. Donald Trump doesn't really know much about MS-13.  But the investigators at InsightCrime and RevistaFactum do.  So it's important to read their recent article  Why Trump is Wrong to Blame Migration for MS13 Expansion, Violence at the InsightCrime website. Make no mistake about it. MS-13 gang members are dangerous. They kill and dismember and threaten innocent people who live in the neighborhoods they control.  They do this in the US, but their violence is much more a plague on communities in El Salvador. Thousands of migrants are not MS-13 members, but are fleeing to avoid becoming their next victims. The InsightCime article points out that these issues