Showing posts from July, 2018

The US, China and El Salvador

Recently the US Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, created headlines when she asserted that China could be seeking to establish a military presence in El Salvador.   As reported in a Mint Press News story titled  US Accuses China of Seeking to Build a “Military Base” in El Salvador Commercial Port : Earlier this month, Manes alleged that China’s investments and business ties in the Caribbean and Central America, which remain modest, had become a concern for the U.S. Department of State owing to the potential that they could mask a creeping “militarization of the region.”  Manes said:  They [the Chinese] are trying to find weak spots in the region, where they can make these kinds of arrangements … we are concerned that it is not only investment in a port, but then they want to do something with their military and they want to expand Chinese influence in the region. It is a strategic matter and we all need to keep our eyes open to what is happening.” Ambassador Manes seems to

The orange and blue

Nayib Bukele will apparently be the presidential nominee of the GANA party in El Salvador.   Bukele won the internal GANA elections on Sunday after his opponent, Will Salgado, dropped out of the race. Bukele posted on social media that he was hospitalized Sunday morning, but was doing well.  He did not make public appearances during the day, and little information has been shared. At this point, the attempts by El Salvador's leading political parties, ARENA and the FMLN, appear to have failed to keep Bukele off of the 2019 ballot.   I expect the opponents of Bukele will turn next to pushing pending criminal investigations.   Those investigations include:  (1) a public integrity investigation against him which found more than $800,000 in income which he did not declare during his earlier stint as mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlan; (2)  a judicial case against Bukele for defamation by Eugenio Chicas , the president's communications secretary, whom Bukele accused of having se

Bukele goes to GANA after TSE cancels CD

The 2019 presidential election outlook changed again today as El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)  announced that it would de-register the party Cambio Democratico (CD) so that CD cannot place a candidate on the presidential ballot for 2019.   The decision relies on a provision in Salvadoran law which requires parties to be decertified if they did not earn 50,000 votes in national legislative elections.  Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador and the country's most popular politician, had made an alliance with CD to be its candidate, since his own party, Nuevas Ideas, has not been registered by the TSE in time to participate. Moments after the TSE's decision was announced, there was another major development.  Stories began appearing that  Bukele has been allowed to enroll as a candidate in the internal primary elections of the GANA party which will take place on Sunday.   Yet leading figures in the party, Guillermo Gallegos and Will Salgado, denied on

Drought impacting eastern El Salvador

A drought is currently affecting much of eastern El Salvador.   The map below produced by the environment ministry shows the number of consecutive days without rain in different areas of the country.  The drought could have a major impact on the production of corn, one of the staples of the country.   Farmers will try to recover in a second planting between now and the end of the rainy season in November.  The eastern part of the country has often suffered from drought in recent years.

Who is running for president of El Salvador?

With a little more than six months to go before El Salvador's 2019 presidential elections, the field of candidates is becoming fairly well-defined.   Here are the candidates with possible vice presidential nominees as well: Carlos Calleja is the nominee of ARENA.  Calleja is probably best known for his family's ownership of the Super Selectos chain of supermarkets in the country.  His running mate will be Carmen Aída Lazo, an economist with a masters in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  Reportedly her presence on the ticket was a condition for the other right wing parties , PCN and PDC to give their support to Calleja. Carmen Aida Lazo recently wrote Beyond Polarization in 21st-century El Salvador Carlos Calleja What Is Different? in Revista, the Harvard Review of Latin America.   Her article is a very useful overview of the left-right split in El Salvador and why little seemed to change when the government changed hands. Hugo

Legislators miss deadline to fill El Salvador's Supreme Court

July 15 marked the end of the term for 5 members of El Salvador's Supreme Court and their back-ups (suplentes).   This includes four of the five members of the most important body on the court, the Constitutional Chamber. Despite the end of the term, El Salvador's National Assembly has so far failed to elect their replacements. The National Assembly is choosing from a list of 30 candidates provided by the national bar associations and the national judicial council.   The parties have publicly listed their top candidates, and only a few candidates initially have sufficient support across more than one party to achieve the 56 vote super-majority needed to be elected by the 84 member legislature.  The following chart prepared by the independent Social Initiative for Democracy ("ISD" for its initials in Spanish) provides a score card for those who are playing along: A recent La Prensa Grafica article makes the basic point with the title  Los candidatos a magis

A court ruling on forced displacement

In 2017 I wrote a post about forced internal displacement which starts with this true story: The message was slipped under the door of their tiny home during the night. Leave the community where they lived for years within 48 hours. The note did not spell out what would happen if the family did not leave. It wasn't necessary. Too many people had been killed in their community already. The family grabbed their belongings and left under cover of darkness. Another family to add to the total of those forcibly displaced by gang violence in El Salvador. It was a tale similar to the accounts of tens of thousands displaced from their homes within El Salvador.  This story did not have a happy ending.  Earlier this year, gangs murdered in gruesome fashion one of the boys in the family near the community where they had relocated.  If the gangs want to find you and kill you in El Salvador, they will.   That story is played out time and again in El Salvador.  Heather Gies,

Two final pronouncements of the Constitutional Chamber

Today El Salvador's National Assembly is choosing new magistrates for the country's Supreme Judicial Court.   Two final decisions by the outgoing magistrates from the Constitutional Chamber of the Court, show why the choice of these magistrates is so important. One decision has profound implications for the upcoming presidential election.  The Chamber issued a ruling which could lead to the de-registration of Cambio Democratico (CD) as a political party.   The Chamber declared that the Salvadoran election authorities must decide whether to cancel CD's status after it failed to obtain 50,000 votes in 2015 national legislative elections. If the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) now cancels CD's registration as a party it will block a possible route for former San Salvador mayor Nayib Bukele to get on the 2019 presidential ballot.  Bukele had formed an alliance with CD because of concerns that his own political party Nuevas Ideas may not have met the deadlines to be fo

One family's migration tales

NBC News is sharing a story of two student athlete brothers from El Salvador, who arrived in the US undocumented but went on to success in soccer and school.   Their story illustrates many aspects of the story of migration from El Salvador to the US.   Today these two brothers must live in El Salvador, deported by a Trump administration which did not care about their family ties in the US or the contributions the boys could make to their community.  NBC's report begins: In just five days, Diego and Lizandro Claros Saravia went from being promising soccer players with college aspirations to deportees sent to one of the most dangerous countries on earth.  On Aug. 2, 2017 — despite a campaign by their family, coaches and teammates in suburban Maryland, where they'd attended high school — the brothers were put on a plane back to El Salvador, saying goodbye to the place they had called home for nearly a decade.  “I felt very sad and devastated because I spent a long time f

Cases of 40 year old crimes by Salvadoran guerrillas revived by high court

As four prominent magistrates of El Salvador's Constitutional Chamber finish off their terms in office, they have directed that two dormant cases of murder by guerrilla fighters be reopened.    One of the case involves the abduction and murder in 1979 of South Africa's ambassador to El Salvador, Archibald Gardner Dunn.  From a 1979  UPI report of the kidnapping of the ambassador: SAN SALVADOR, Nov. 28 (UPI) — A group of armed men surrounded South Africa's Ambassador to El Salvador today as he left the embassy here, forced him into the back of a truck and drove off, witnesses said.  Embassy employees said there were 14 to 18 men in the group and that they were armed with submachine guns. The employees said the kidnapping occurred as Ambassador Archibald Gardner Dunn, 60 years old, walked out of the embassy with his chauffeur at about noon. From the BBC : Almost a year later, the left-wing rebel group Popular Liberation Forces said it had killed the diplomat.  P

Bukele -- the courts and the gangs

I have written before that Nayib Bukele has to overcome many obstacles between now and February 3, 2019 before Salvadorans can cast any votes for him for president.    He appeared to have overcome one of them in June when he announced an alliance with the small party Cambio Democratico (CD).  That alliance would allow him to be nominated as  a candidate of that party if, as appears likely, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal rules that his own party, Nuevas Ideas, was formed too late to nominate a candidate for the 2019 elections. Now, just days after Bukele announced his alliance with CD, the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court has apparently decided to take up a previously  dormant lawsuit  which threatens to cancel the existence of CD as a political party. The action claims CD should have lost its legal standing for failure to achieve 50,000 votes in the 2015 legislative elections.  The Constitutional Chamber is expected to render a decision  before Jul

God and the gangs

While this is not a new story, NPR did a nice job reporting yesterday on the complicated relationship between the gangs of El Salvador and evangelical churches in the country.   Gang members may identify themselves with the churches, and religious conversion can be one of the only ways to withdraw from life in the gangs. From the NPR report : During the service, a pastor talks about the gangs, known in El Salvador as pandillas. He tells the congregation that in prison, God leaves one naked and opens the doors for new beginnings. He says God is always faithful, even when others aren't. He prays for gang members to leave behind a life of violence and join the church.  "The God we preach is one of opportunity," another pastor, the Rev. Nelson Moz, who has led Eben-ezer for 21 years, says after the service. "Our message is that [the gang members] should understand there is a life outside of the gang. That they can make it, with the help of God."  It is this