Showing posts from April, 2018

Bukele ends time as mayor; launches new political party

Today is the last day of Nayib Bukele's time as mayor of El Salvador's capital city.  The mayor came into office as a candidate of the FMLN, was kicked out of his party, and remains the most popular politician in El Salvador.     He finished his time in office in full campaign mode to run for president in 2019.   Bukele focused his administration as mayor on renovation of the historic center of San Salvador.  Unlike prior mayors, he was able to accomplish this without a single riot of the informal vendors who clog the downtown streets.   He delivered on public services like trash collection and fixing potholes (although my car still finds plenty of holes in the streets).  Everything had his trademark shade of blue, from the new garbage trucks to the municipal signs.  Bukele's time in office earned him glowing reviews in the international press, with articles in  TIME magazine ,  Virginia Quarterly Review ,  Forbes , and  The Economist .   Over the weekend, Bu

News from El Salvador

A series of headlines from El Salvador this week. No changes to El Salvador's total ban on abortion .   The possibility of changes to El Salvador's total ban on abortion faded as the current National Assembly closed without taking up a reform bill .   The new legislature will be more conservative and unlikely to make changes. Nayib Bukele supporters sign petitions to form party .    Very large crowds of supporters of San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele turned out to sign petitions to register his movement "Nuevas Ideas" as an official political party in the country.  Bukele hopes to run for president in 2019. Husband of slain journalist arrested .   Authorities arrested the husband of slain journalist Karla Turcios this week.   The focus turned from this being a case of an attack on journalism to a case of femicide and domestic violence. Caravan of asylum seekers reaches US border .    A caravan of hundreds of asylum seekers reached the US border near San Diego

Bulldozers v cultural heritage

A real estate developer in El Salvador has spent almost nine months bulldozing and erecting houses on top of an important archaeological site in the department of Sonsonate.   The builder ignored multiple orders by government authorities to stop its work, and the construction ceased only two weeks ago when a court order was finally being enforced . The archaeological site is called Tacuscalco, in the municipality of Nahuilingo in southwestern El Salvador.  Tacuscalco was the location of a pre-Colombian population of the Maya, Nahuat and Pipil people.  There is evidence of inhabitants at the site for more than 2500 years, giving the site significance for understanding the history of the original peoples of the region.  The site features in the history of the Spanish conquest of El Salvador, and is mentioned in the letters of conquistador Pedro Alvarado as the place where he met the Pipil in a bloody battle.  His defeat of the Pipil there resulted in the conquering of the indigenous p

State Department 2017 Human Rights Report for El Salvador

The US State Department released its annual human rights reports for the countries of the world this week.   The 2017 report for El Salvador can be found here . The Executive Summary of the report summarizes once again the significant challenges the country faces with respect to human rights: The most significant human rights issues included alleged unlawful killings of suspected gang members and others by security forces; forced disappearances by military personnel, which the government prosecuted; torture by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of government respect for judicial impartiality and independence; widespread government corruption; gang-member violence against women and girls as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals; and children engaged in the worst forms of child labor.  Impunity persisted despite government steps to dismiss and prosecute some officials in the security fo

News from El Salvador

Some headlines from El Salvador this week: Judge orders reopening of Jesuit massacre case .    A judge has ruled that a criminal case in an El Salvador court should proceed to determine criminal responsibility for those who ordered the 1989 killing of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter.   The country's attorney general must now file new charges in a case which will involve former president Alfredo Cristiani and the military high command from 1989. "Dollarization" won't be reversed .    The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court rejected a petition to overthrow the country's 2001 conversion of its national currency from the colón to the US dollar.  The abandonment of El Salvador's own currency seventeen years ago continues to be unpopular among much of the population. Martinez v. Martinez in FMLN internal elections .  Hugo Martinez, El Salvador's foreign minister, has announced that he will compete against Ger

Murder of journalist raises alarm in El Salvador.

The disappearance and killing of a journalist who worked for one of the La Prensa Grafica publications has raised many concerns in El Salvador. From AFP :  A Salvadoran journalist reported missing on Sunday, April 15, has been found dead on the side of a road, according to media reports.  Media reports said the body of Karla Turcios, 33, was found on a highway on the outskirts of Santa Rosa Guachipilin, 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of San Salvador.  "Journalist Karla Turcios was murdered," the newspaper La Prensa Grafica – a sister title of El Economista magazine, where the mother-of-one worked – tweeted.  A source from the Salvadoran public prosecutor's office told the Agence France-Presse the body of an apparently strangled woman was found on a highway in the Santa Rosa Guachipilin area – but there were no identifying documents available and the body was transferred for forensic analysis.  La Prensa Grafica said Turcios' husband identified her body by

Salvadoran bishops plead case of migrants

Roman Catholic bishops from El Salvador were in Washington, D.C. last week to plead the case for relief for more than 200,000 Salvadorans who face deportation to the country with the Trump administration's termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and DACA.   Traveling to the US capital were Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez, the archbishop of San Salvador Jose Luis Escobar Alas and other Salvadoran bishops in meetings coordinated by Catholic Relief Services and the US Conference of Bishops.    Although it is not at all clear that there are sufficient receptive ears in Washington right now, the words of the bishops do provide an eloquent testimony regarding the reality facing many Salvadorans both in the country and those facing deportation. From an article on their visit in Crux : When a house is on fire, you don’t lock the doors to the outside to help save the people trapped inside, but that’s what U.S. policy is doing when it brings to an end two immigration programs

TSE tells presidential candidates to stop campaigning and is ignored

Within a week after the March 4 elections in El Salvador, the digital billboards in San Salvador had changed their ads.   Carlos Calleja and Javier Simán were spreading the message of their respective candidacies to be the nominee of ARENA for president in the 2019 elections.   In the days which followed, their messages would appear on billboards throughout the country in the run up to the internal ARENA elections  on April 22 in which ARENA party members will choose their candidate. Also on the campaign trail, Nayib Bukele held a major campaign rally in Chalatenango on March 10, where he urged supporters to register to sign papers for the formation of his new political party, and laid out what his plans were for the northern part of the country.  Only candidates from the FMLN have been quiet in public, as the left wing party licks its wounds after its recent electoral defeat and tries to decide on the best path forward into the presidential elections. But apparently the Supreme

Jesuit murders legal update

Legal proceedings to assess the criminal responsibility of the intellectual authors of the 1989 assassinations of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador, have gotten a tentative start. In November 2017, the Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America (IDHUCA) petitioned a Salvadoran court to reopen the case and investigation into the Jesuit case.  The petition was made possible by the 2016 nullification of an amnesty law which had protected the defendants from possible prosecution in El Salvador.   The case seeks to hold responsible senior military commanders for ordering the massacre. The judge in the reopened case had originally scheduled a hearing for April 10 in which the first witness was to be Alfredo Cristiani, El Salvador's president at the time of the Jesuit murders.   Last week, however, the judge postponed that hearing , indicating that he will first consider arguments from the defendants as to why the case sh

Facing reality as a deportee

Al Jazeera published a new documentary titled El Salvador: Deportees Welcome featuring an 18 year old English-speaking Salvadoran, deported back to El Salvador after spending most of his life in the US.   The video is quite true to the current experience of current deportees, who may be able to land good call center jobs if they don't have felony records, but who really long to go back to the US.  It's a future faced by tens of thousands of Salvadorans currently in the US.

Murder of Salvadoran priest unresolved

One week ago, on Holy Thursday during El Salvador's observance of Holy Week, Roman Catholic priest Father Walter Osmir Vásquez Jiménez was murdered by unknown assailants in the municipality of Lolotique in the department of San Miguel.   It is a murder which has shocked the country and still remains unsolved. The crime occurred in the afternoon around 3:00. As the 36 year old priest was being driven towards a community where he would celebrate mass, his car was stopped by armed assailants.   Father Walter and the three other persons in the car were ordered out of the car.   The priest was separated from the rest and murdered in cold blood. Father Walter grew up in Lolotique, the community where he was serving as a priest.   He is remembered as a progressive priest, a follower of Oscar Romero, who identified with the poverty and problems of his people.  Given the prevalence of gang violence in the country, gangs are suspected of this killing.   Both MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs