Showing posts from May, 2018

US funding elite units implicated in executions

CNN video An exclusive report from CNN this week highlights US involvement in funding elite Salvadoran anti-gang units.   Those units have reputed links to extra-judicial killings of suspected gang members.  The concerns over one unit were so grave that the unit was disbanded earlier this year, but the US-funded replacement unit contains members from the disgraced unit according to CNN. The CNN report opens: The United States has quietly funded and equipped elite paramilitary police officers in El Salvador who are accused of illegally executing gang members, CNN has learned.  Successive US administrations have pumped tens of millions of dollars into Salvadoran law enforcement and military to shore up the government’s “Mano Dura” or Firm Hand program, first launched in 2003 but redoubled in 2014 to tackle the country’s rampant gang problem.  Yet the country’s police will be broadly accused next month of “a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extrajudici

FMLN chooses Hugo Martinez as presidential candidate

This weekend the FMLN chose Hugo Martinez to be its presidential candidate in 2019 to try to extend the party's hold on El Salvador's executive branch another 5 years.   Hugo Martinez beat out Gerson Martinez in internal party elections held on Sunday.  Hugo Martinez was most recently El Salvador's foreign minister in the current FMLN government.  He was frequently in the Salvadoran news over the past year as the lead official for El Salvador's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to get the US to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some 195,000 Salvadorans. As of today, the popular wisdom is that the FMLN nominee has little chance of winning next February 3 in light of his party's defeat at the polls this year and recent opinion polling results.  Perhaps the only question is whether Martinez will lose in the first round of a three way race against ARENA and Nuevas Ideas, or will lose to Carlos Calleja of ARENA in the only round of a two way race.  (It wil

Polling looks at 2019 presidential election in El Salvador

The recently released poll from the UCA included a section of results concerning Salvadorans'  preferences heading towards the 2019 presidential elections: As previously noted , the polls don't look good for the FMLN next year.   But this poll provided the first good news for the conservative ARENA party.  Although on the question of "who is the best candidate" ARENA's nominee Carlos Calleja trails Nayib Bukele 50% to 20%,  when voters are asked which party they will vote for, Bukele's Nuevas Ideas leads ARENA by only 8.5%.  For those who may not be familiar with presidential elections in El Salvador, the ballot does not contain the names of candidates, but only the logos of the various political parties.  Voters mark the ballot with an X over the party of their choice for president.  But there is a long time to go, and Bukele's party is not yet even officially recognized or entitled to be on the ballot.

The failing grades for the FMLN government

This weekend party members of the FMLN in El Salvador will vote in internal elections to choose a candidate for president in 2019.   Their possible choices are Hugo Martinez, the foreign minister, or Gerson Martinez, the minister of public works.   As the party makes its choice, the FMLN may want to reflect on the results of a recent poll by the UCA regarding Salvadorans' perceptions of the current president from the FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén. Has the government of the FMLN fulfilled its campaign promises? 71.5% -- No.  How does Sánchez Cerén govern the country? 67.5% -- Badly  What is the principal achievement of Sánchez Cerén? 56.7% -- None  How has level of crime changed? 70.9% -- It has increased.  How has economy changed? 69.3% -- It has gotten worse. Obviously these very negative perceptions of the current FMLN administration parallel the FMLN's major defeat in the national elections of last March.   The poll would also indicate that whichever candidate is

FMLN government sticks with Venezuela's Maduro

The left wing FMLN government of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén sent its congratulations to president Nicolas Maduro for his reelection Sunday in elections seen by most of the world community as a sham.  A statement from the Salvadoran president's office called the elections in Venezuela a fundamental step in the advance of democracy in the South American nation. In doing so, El Salvador stood apart from most of its Latin American neighbors.   From al Jazeera : Condemning Maduro's re-election, the Lima Group (a group of 14 Latin American countries) plus Canada said the members' diplomats in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, would return to their respective countries for consultations.   Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) did not acknowledge the results and in a video posted on his Twitter account, he said: "Yesterday was an infamous day for the democracy of the Americas ... we do not recognise him as the legitimate p

Romero canonization - October 14 in Rome

The Vatican announced yesterday that the ceremony in the Roman Catholic church to canonize slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero as a saint will take place on October 14 in Rome.   Romero will be canonized in a ceremony which will include five other saints of the church. The ceremony for Romero's beatification in 2015 drew hundreds of thousands to the streets of San Salvador.  The choice of Rome as the location for his canonization had been pointed to for several months, but Salvadorans were still holding out hope for a ceremony in Romero's home country.  From Catholic Herald Online :  The Salvadoran bishops’ conference and many Salvadorans had hoped Pope Francis would preside over the canonization in San Salvador, particularly because of the difficulty and expense of traveling to Rome. Others, however, argued that holding the ceremony at the Vatican makes it clear that Blessed Romero is a saint for the entire Church, not just for the Church in El Salvador.

The serpent that always bites the feet of the shoeless

For the past four days, El Salvador has watched as families in a marginalized, informal community have been evicted from their dwellings to make room for a luxury commercial and residential development.    The families reside in Comunidad El Espino, on the western edge of San Salvador, and their story is an all too familiar one of the powerlessness of the poor against the plans of the rich and powerful, their lawyers and a compliant judicial system. Comunidad El Espino is located just south of Monseñor Romero Boulevard in the San Salvador suburb of Antiguo Cuscatlán.   The community is adjacent to the headquarters of El Salvador's Ministry of Foreign Relations and across from a luxury development. All of this land was originally part of a large coffee finca called "El Espino" on the southeastern slopes of the San Salvador volcano.  For decades, the land was owned by  the Dueñas family, one of El Salvador's so-called  "14 families."  The Dueñas fam

Tony Saca to be tried for money laundering

This article first appeared on the website of InsightCrime  . by Parker Asmann A former president in El Salvador is set to stand trial for allegedly embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the state to personal accounts, which could lead to him becoming the first former president of the Central American nation to face a criminal conviction and jail time on such charges. Elías Antonio Saca, who was president of El Salvador from 2004 to 2009, and six other members of his administration, will stand trial for allegedly embezzling $300 million from state coffers into personal accounts, La Prensa Gráfica reported . Saca and his associates were arrested in October 2016 on corruption charges and accused of embezzlement, illicit association and money laundering. According to Factum , Saca passed a law shortly after taking office in 2004 that approved the “internal regulation of the use of public funds.” This allowed him to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s

Renewable energy in El Salvador

Source: 2017 SIGET statistics report El Salvador's electricity is currently generated from a variety of sources, with the largest quantity of installed electrical generating capacity coming from fuel oil burning generators: Fossil fuels (primarily fuel oil) - 42% Hydro - 30% Biomass - 14% Geothermal - 11% Solar -- 3% To reduce dependence on fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gasses and must be imported from volatile international markets, El Salvador would need to increase the use of renewable energy sources.  El Salvador has numerous renewable energy sources as described in this August 2017 report from the US government: El Salvador contains vast water reserves and receives large amounts of sunlight. Therefore biomass, wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy opportunities exist in the country.  In order to facilitate the projects organizations such as: The Inter-American Development Bank, USAID and OPIC fund major energy projects with in the co

Challenges of tourism

View from El Pital, Chalatenango When most international headlines about your country feature gang violence or migrants leaving their homes, it is a challenge to be in the tourism business.   An article from ABC News titled  El Salvador tries to shed its reputation as a murder hotspot to attract tourists , explores the challenges: 'Don't skip El Salvador'   "People need to understand that the gangs have their own business and their own problems. They are concentrating on each other and they don't care about tourists," Mr Carrillo says.  "I tell people that in El Salvador, you don't have to be careful, you need to use common sense like everywhere else — there are streets all over the world that you shouldn't walk down, the same here.  "Through word of mouth, presenting at international tourism conventions and social media campaigns we are gradually changing the perception that El Salvador is a place you skip, especially because onc

Forced displacement -- a humanitarian crisis

The human rights organization Cristosal  has released its annual report on forced displacement in El Salvador which looks at the situations of families who were forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in some other part of the country.   The study is based on Cristosal's direct work providing humanitarian support and services to displaced families consisting of more than 700 people and what has been learned from those interactions. In a release announcing the report, Cristosal described some of its research: Major findings from the report, which combines data collected from the 701 individuals registered by Cristosal and the Quetzalcóatl Foundation in 2017, include: Displacement disproportionately affects children and young adults: the largest cohort of displaced victims was girls aged 0-17. Displacement disrupts school and work: 75.6% of the victims who were in school had to abandon their studies; over 70% of the victims who were working had to give up their jobs. Th

Coffin capital of El Salvador

There were 1254 homicides in El Salvador during the first four months of 2018, for an average of slightly more than 10 per day.  There is no silver lining to that story.    But for one town in El Salvador, the death toll produces a steady stream of business.   An article in Al Jazeera brings the story of Jucuapa, the coffin capital of El Salvador. An excerpt: Caskets now sit in the front windows of one-time bakeries and other shops, whose facades are still intact, but now have the distinct odour of a strong wood varnish.   The small town of about 18,000 people has been known for more than five years as the country's coffin-making capital....  In 2013, Jucuapa started to see a boom in the business. The small municipality has at least 18 registered coffin-making businesses, according to local media.  "I live only from this business, and up to now, it's enough for me and my family," William, a 50-year-old artisan who only gave his first name, told Al Jazeera.

Seismic swarm rattles El Salvador

A seismic swarm of small to medium sized earthquakes is currently rattling southeastern El Salvador. The quakes are centered along the southern edge of the border between the departments of San Miguel and La Union.  Between 6:00 PM Saturday and 8:00 AM Monday morning there have been 484 quakes , of which 75 were strong enough to be felt according to El Salvador's environment ministry (MARN) .   The strongest quake registered 5.6 on the Richter scale. From the Associated Press : A swarm of earthquakes shook southern El Salvador on Sunday, damaging nearly 200 homes and touching off small landslides, but there were no reports of serious injuries or deaths.  The U.S. Geological Survey said at least nine quakes of magnitude 4.3 or greater struck the region beginning in the morning, including three of magnitude 5.2 to 5.6.  Civil defense director Jorge Melendez said at a news conference that 11 homes were destroyed and considerable damage was done to 180 more. Most of the struct

New look for government in El Salvador

May 1 marked the changeover of local governments and deputies in El Salvador's legislature.   Following the left wing FMLN's defeats on March 4, this changeover is bigger than most. In the National Assembly, Norman Quijano of ARENA will be the new president of the legislative body.   Quijano was formerly the mayor of San Salvador and ran unsuccessfully for president of El Salvador in 2014.    Quijano had the highest number of voter preferences cast in his name in the March 4 elections, but it would probably be wrong to suggest that he is a popular politician outside of the ARENA party ranks. There was already a dust-up in the offices of the National Assembly when Norman Quijano complained that he arrived to find the offices of the president of the National Assembly void of furniture or computer equipment.   The outgoing president, Guillermo Gallegos of GANA, responded that nothing had been taken improperly.   Quijano stated that he planned to have the office checked for hi