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Showing posts from November, 2018

Black Friday

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Call me crazy, but I am completely annoyed by the arrival of "Black Friday" in El Salvador.   Starting a few years ago and exploding this year, Black Friday (or Black November or Black weekend) is all over the retail shopping space in El Salvador.
After all, this shopping day originated in the US as the day after Thanksgiving, a holiday which does not exist in El Salvador.   Only the English word "black" is used to describe the sales.  In El Salvador Black Friday is purely a copycat marketing event of an equally annoying US marketing event.  
There is a Wikipedia article on Black Friday which offers more information than anyone would care to know about this marketing event.   According to Wikipedia, Black Friday has increasingly been adopted by retailers across the world since 2010, with the shopping date recognized from Romania and Latvia to New Zealand.  Just an example of the growing homogenization of global consumer culture.  





Justice system developments

El Salvador finally has a functioning Supreme Judicial Court once again.  At the end of last week, the parties in the National Assembly reached agreement and elected four new magistrates to the court's Constitutional Chamber and one new magistrate to the Civil Chamber.  Apparently the breakthrough occurred when the FMLN and GANA stopped insisting on Sonia Cortez' appointment to the Constitutional Chamber and instead she will be a back-up magistrate ("magistrado suplente").  This ends a four month delay after the date the court was supposed to be filled.

El Salvador will wait to see what kind of court the new Constitutional Chamber will be. The preceding court was an independent voice with decisions rewriting how legislators are elected and challenging impunity.     The outgoing magistrates overturned the postwar amnesty law and often blocked initiatives of the current FMLN government.


Now attention turns to selection of the country's next attorney general ("…

Leaving the gang and finding God

On  this blog I have written several times about the complicated relationship between evangelical churches and El Salvador's gangs, including the fact that religious conversion is one of the only ways that gangs may permit a pandillero to leave active participation in the gang. (My posts included God and the GangsLeaving gang life for church, and  Gang member conversions).  Important insights into the role of religion in the gangs was provided by the 2017 report The New Face of Street Gangs in Central America, led by José Miguel Cruz, Ph.D of Florida International University. 

Two new articles in The New Republic and The Intercept offer additional insights into the complicated intersection of evangelical Christianity and the life of a gang member.

In her article in The New Republic titled Can Megachurches Save El Salvador?, Molly O'Toole takes a broad look at gangs in El Salvador and whether churches have, or can have, a role in addressing the gang problem.  Her article appr…

A victim of sexual violence imprisoned for attempted murder

A young woman in El Salvador sits in a prison cell after being repeatedly raped by her elderly step father and giving birth to his baby.   It is an emblematic case of El Salvador's war on poor women when it comes to reproductive health.

Nina Lakahani writing in The Guardian describes the case:
In a case that highlights the rigidity of the country’s abortion laws, Imelda Cortez, 20, from an impoverished rural family in San Miguel, has been in custody since April 2017 after giving birth to a baby girl fathered by her abusive elderly stepfather.  Cortez was rushed to hospital after her mother discovered her in severe pain and bleeding heavily. The emergency room doctor suspected an abortion and called the police. Officers found the baby healthy and alive.  Cortez had been abused by her 70-year-old stepfather since she was 12 years old and said she had no idea she was pregnant. The baby survived, but Cortez was charged with attempted murder, denied bail and sent to jail after a week i…

Another anniversary of the massacre of the Jesuits

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Each November 16, we pause to remember a crime against humanity which remains, like so many others, in impunity and unjudged.  Today is the 29th anniversary of the massacre by Salvadoran troops in cold blood of six Jesuit priests, a female employee and her daughter. 

A few steps were taken along the path towards justice since the last anniversary.

The Spanish human rights trial is proceeding after ex-Colonel Inocente Montano was extradited from the United States to Spain at the end of 2017.   (Salvadoran courts have refused to extradite any of the other military defendants to Spain).   Montano has been defending his innocence by asserting that he was outside of the chain of command over the assassinations in 1989.

A criminal case in El Salvador has been re-opened to try the intellectual authors of the Jesuit massacre.   Progress in that case has been very slow.

On this 29th anniversary, watch this video reflection on the 1989 martyrdom of the Jesuits by Father José María Tojeira, Jes…

El Salvador's water stress

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Heather Gies has written a really excellent overview of El Salvador's water crisis in National Geographic titled Once lush, El Salvador is dangerously close to running dry  Her opening paragraphs make clear why a comprehensive approach to water resources is so desperately needed:
In rural villages across El Salvador... more than 600,000 people have no access to drinking water, and hundreds of thousands more experience limited or intermittent access. Although Central America is rich in water resources, El Salvador’s small land area relative to its population size puts its thinning annual water supply per capita dangerously close to falling short of demand. Decades of failure to adequately regulate water use in the country have also opened the door to overexploitation and pollution, while fragmented water management has left services lacking.
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The result is a multilayered crisis of water scarcity, contamination, and unequal access that affects a quarter of the country’s population…

How to define Nayib Bukele

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An article last week on the website of America's Quarterly asked Will El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele Be the Next Social Media President?.   If you are wondering what a "social media president" would mean for El Salvador, join the crowd.   As the AQ article points out, Nayib Bukele is all about branding:
“Bukele is a social media strategist,” said Ivón Rivera, a communications professor at the Universidad Centroamericana whose research focuses on social media and fake news. “He has positioned himself as a brand, his political speech is outright marketing, and he presents himself as someone ‘cool’, to appeal to young people.”  Journalists have expressed worry about this approach, since Bukele avoids press conferences and interviews. The candidate instead goes straight to his followers via Facebook live, eliminating opportunities to be questioned.  Despite his history with the FMLN, analysts insist on describing Bukele as an “outsider” because he doesn’t fit into the tradition…

The China embrace

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Salvadoran president Salvador Sanchez Ceren recently returned from a trip to China.   The trip was his first since El Salvador broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognized the People's Republic of China.   According to Reuters, Sanchez Ceren returned to El Salvador bearing gifts :
China will give El Salvador $150 million to spur development of social and technological projects, the Salvadoran president said on Wednesday, the latest sign of deepening ties between the countries that has alarmed the United States....

“This historic meeting between the governments of the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of El Salvador has produced excellent results,” Ceren said. “This confirms that the establishment of diplomatic relations with China is my government’s most important decision in foreign policy.”

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the two countries had agreed to a series of cooperation projects, including in infrastructure and ed…

Disturbances in Santa Tecla leave one dead and many wounded

It has happened before.   It will happen again.   When a local city government attempts to relocate the places where informal vendors hawk their wares in the crowded streets of a city, conflict develops.   This time the location was the city of Santa Tecla, a middle class suburb to the west of San Salvador.   When the ARENA led city government of Roberto D'Aubuisson, Jr. announced that it wanted to relocate informal vendors from one street in the center of Santa Tecla, violent protests ensued. 

It was not immediately clear who was to blame for the violence.  At the end of the day, more than 50 people had been wounded and one killed, as protesters threw rocks and security forces responded with force including bullets.   This report from LaPagina offers photos from the disturbances as well as links to video on Twitter where you can hear gunshots and see people running away. 

#AlertaSV
Disturbios en centro de Santa Tecla.

Gracias a @SivarOswalditopic.twitter.com/RqzW0fexUe— Alértux E…

El Salvador still lacks a constitutional court

Almost 4 months have passed since El Salvador was supposed to have filled vacant seats in the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court.   After the term of 4 of the 5 magistrates in the chamber ended at the end of June, the National Assembly had the role to elect their replacements.   The legislators have thus far been unable to do so.

According to this article in El Faro, the remaining obstacle is a final magistrate to be appointed.   The political parties FMLN and GANA insist that this magistrate be Sonia Cortez de Madriz who is currently the Procuradora General of El Salvador.   She heads an agency of Salvadoran government responsible for representation before the state of children, families, criminal defendants, persons with mental disabilities and others.  If she is not on the slate of the four magistrates named to the Constitutional Chamber, FMLN and GANA say they will not give their votes and the slate will not achieve the necessary 56 votes for electi…

Deeper than headlines

I believe strongly that empathy only comes from knowing other people's stories.   Many readers of this blog live outside of Central America and do not have many opportunities to learn first hand about why someone might think trying to cross the border into Trump's America is better than what they are living at home.

That's why long form journalism is so important which looks deeply at personal stories and root causes.   I want to recommend a few pieces I came across this week.

Alice Driver wrote The Road to Asylum which was published on Longreads.com in June of 2018.   Driver accompanies a trans woman from El Salvador who leaves the country to seek asylum in the US.   She opens a window for us into the lives of terrible discrimination and violence suffered by the trans community in El Salvador.

Jennifer Avila wrote Crossing the Border is Only the Beginning, at ContraCorriente, telling the challenging stories of Honduran migrants, both in the current caravan and in the asyl…

Traditions to start November

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The beginning of November in El Salvador is filled with tradition.

Every November 1 is the Calabiuza celebration in the town of Tonacatapeque, northeast of San Salvador.  The celebration includes a parade through the town of characters from Salvadoran folklore, especially those tales of the dangers of the night.   From Linda's El  Salvador blog:
The legends of Tonacatepeque ... come to life as they do every year for the November 1st Fiesta de la Calabiuza. (Calabiuza is a word which is like the Spanish word calabaza which means "pumpkin" - but in the local vernacular means "skull.") Characters from imagination and legend wandered the cobbled streets and posed for photos....As the evening light grew dim, the characters gathered around their hand-drawn carts - some with metal bases, some constructed of wood and bamboo, most with big wooden wheels. Adorned with skulls, coffins, large paper-maché characters, and carved calabiuza skulls, the carts were designed a…