Showing posts from January, 2019

Allies, no matter what

El Salvador's FMLN has always been a full fledged member of Latin America's socialist political movements.   Even if it has accomplished none of the goals of that movement in 10 years in power, the FMLN has always seen itself aligned with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia in the "Bolivarian Revolution." Two of those countries are now roundly condemned by the world community as pariah states for their abuse of human rights and maintenance of leaders in power by force and without legitimacy. The reports of Human Rights Watch on  Nicaragua and Venezuela detail some of the reasons why. Yet the FMLN has doubled down on its support of Venezuela, with the party and president Sanchez Ceren announcing their total support for the government of Nicolas Maduro. The FMLN also has kept its backing for Ortega in Nicaragua, despite his bloody crackdown on dissent there.  However, Hugo Martinez, the party's candidate for president, did attempt to distance himself

Close of presidential campaigns in El Salvador

All the presidential candidates had events this weekend to mark the close of their election campaigns.  Carlos Calleja, the candidate from ARENA, held a series of 15 rallies around the country in three days.   On Sunday the FMLN brought in the party faithful on buses from every corner of the country to a rally filling one of the major boulevards of San Salvador for blocks.   Nayib Bukele, the candidate for GANA/Nuevas Ideas, held a campaign rally Saturday night in front of the old National Palace.    The location was in the midst of one of Bukele's accomplishments as mayor of San Salvador -- the renovation of the historic center of San Salvador. The hatred of El Salvador's largest newspaper La Prensa Grafica for Bukele was on full display in its Monday edition.   The paper covered  the campaign closing events of ARENA and the FMLN with multiple page spreads.   The paper even covered the closing event of the tiny VAMOS party in San Miguel.   But there was no coverage at all in

Will anything stick to Bukele?

It has been an unusual few weeks heading towards the presidential election campaign in El Salvador. As mentioned previously , leader in the polls Nayib Bukele boycotted a debate sponsored by the association of Salvadoran broadcasters saying that he was going to have a major presentation on Facebook Live instead, emphasis on "live."   But we now know that the presentation was not live .   Instead, Bukele had rented an auditorium and recorded his presentation the day before.   Moreover, the owner of the auditorium claimed it had been rented by Bukele's campaign under false pretenses, because the owner had been told that the auditorium was being used for a private training event, not a major political spectacle. In his "live" presentation, Bukele presented his plan of government, now available at    But when people studied the more than 1000 pages in the plan, they found sections which had been plagiarized from other sources , including from

Homicides spike in January heading into elections

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime under the title  El Salvador Homicides Thrust MS13 Back Into Official Discourse . Written by Héctor Silva Ávalos El Salvador ended 2018 on a good note, according to official homicide statistics, but a recent uptick in homicides has thrust the MS13 back into the national conversation. Government officials in El Salvador announced that last year ended with a 15 percent reduction in homicides compared to 2017. The murder rate dropped from 60 per 100,000 citizens in 2017 to 51, much lower than in 2015 and 2016 when violence between gangs and security forces made it one of the most violent countries in Latin America. That said, a recent uptick in homicides, although not overly significant in terms of statistics, has again sounded the alarms on the capacity of the MS13 — and the country’s gangs in general — to challenge the state’s authority with bloodshed. With a presidential election set for February 3, concerns have surfa

Religion and presidential politics in El Salvador

El Salvador is a country with a population professing to hold religious faith, 80% of them Christian. In that context, political candidates face questions about their own faith, and their campaigns seek the support of religious groups.    That has certainly been the case in this presidential election. Nayib Bukele has probably been required to speak the most about religion, because his father was Imam to the country's small Islamic community.   Although his family's roots are in Palestine, his father actually converted to Islam in El Salvador.  Nayib's mother is Roman Catholic.  Bukele asserts that he is a believer in Jesus Christ, but does not belong to any specific religious denomination. Bukele has been the subject of a smear campaign seeking to label him as an adherent to Islam and anti-Christian.  Readers in the US will recognize similarities to the campaigns to label Barack Obama a Muslim.  Someone calling themselves "Christians United for El Salvador&quo

Campaign videos in El Salvador presidential election

How are the candidates for president of El Salvador presenting themselves in television advertising?   Here is a sample:

Remittances grew in 2018

Salvadorans living abroad set another record for sending remittances back to their home country in 2018.   According to El Salvador's Central Reserve Bank , total remittances were $5.47 billion in 2018, growing 8.4%  over 2017, or $425.7 million. That's really a pretty amazing figure when you stop to think about it.  Using an estimated population of 6.58 million living within El Salvador, yields an average remittance for every man, woman and child of  $ 831.  But those remittance figures are in jeopardy for 2019.   Not because I think deportations from the US will significantly rise --  deportations are likely to remain the same or actually decline since  US immigration courts are closed by the government shutdown.  Instead, the biggest threat to remittance levels is the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status as of September 2019 for almost 200,000 Salvadorans living in the US.   That cancellation is currently the subject of a court injunction staying the cancellati

The debate and the candidate who was not there

Sunday night in El Salvador there was a national televised debate among the candidates for president in El Salvador, sponsored by the Salvadoran association of broadcasters.    All the candidates were there except for the candidate who leads by a wide margin in all the public opinion polls.   Despite having earlier agreed to participate in the debate, Nayib Bukele instead went to his preferred medium, Facebook Live, for a two hour presentation of his plan of government.    This was the second scheduled debate in a row in which Bukele has refused to participate.   Bukele also refused to participate in a debate sponsored by the University of El Salvador.   His running mate, Felix Ulloa, failed to appear for a vice presidential debate a week earlier. With as much as a 20 point margin in the polls, Bukele probably figured he had nothing to gain by showing up at debates where he knew that all three other candidates would be aiming at bringing him down.   Bukele's stated reasons for no

Political money and transparency

In the last few years, El Salvador has made progress in transparency regarding political donations.  This progress resulted from rulings of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court requiring that political parties reveal their donors or face being disqualified for naming candidates in elections.   (This was one of the reasons the country's political parties detested the most recent group of magistrates in the Constitutional Chamber). The Finance Ministry of El Salvador finally published data in early 2018 with donor lists as filed with the government.  The champion for transparency in the government has been the Secretary of Participation, Transparency and Anti-corruption (SPTA), Marcos Rodríguez.   Under his direction, the SPTA took that data, analyzed it and made it accessible in a report of donors and their money flowing to Salvadoran political parties from 2006-2018. It is probably not a surprise that the conservative ARENA party, backed by E

Political ad spending in El Salvador

Political ad spending for the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador is being tracked by Citizen Action and its Center for Monitoring of Transparency and Democracy .   Citizen Action is a Salvadoran NGO focused on good government and transparency.       The Center for Monitoring is tracking all of the advertisements appearing in newspapers, on radio and TV, and on outdoor billboards.    According to reports from Citizen Action today , the total spending from October through December has been $19.2 million: Through December, the leader in overall ad spending has been Nayib Bukele and GANA with $7.1 million spent through November.  Following him is Carlos Calleja and ARENA with $6.6 million and then Hugo Martinez for the FMLN with $5.4 million. In calculating the totals for the FMLN, the monitors have chosen to include certain advertising by the government as advertising for the FMLN. Although these ads do not mention the FMLN candidate, Hugo Martinez by name, the

Llort mural briefly reappears on cathedral

Fernando Llort's famous mural on the facade of the San Salvador cathedral returned virtually at the end of this year in which the Salvadoran painter passed away .    Lovers of the mural arranged to have it projected on the plain white facade of the cathedral, still blank and featureless seven years after the archdiocese ripped the mural down . No satisfying explanation for the decision to remove the mural has ever been given.   Today the primary external adornment of the cathedral is gold colored lighting along the roof line and bell towers which can be seen at night. You can watch a Facebook video of the image-mapping of the mural to the cathedral facade here . Before After

Top 10 stories of 2018 from El Salvador

Here is my annual list of the top 10 stories from the prior year in El Salvador. FMLN suffers major defeat in legislative and municipal elections .   El Salvador conducted national elections on March 4, 2018.   When the results were counted, the left wing FMLN had suffered its worst electoral defeat since it became a political party with the conclusion of the civil war.   Although the FMLN holds the executive branch with president Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the party lost several seats in the National Assembly, falling below the 28 seats necessary to uphold a presidential veto or to block legislation requiring a super majority.   The FMLN’s defeat came from its supporters abandoning the party and sitting out the election.   Conservative parties led by ARENA ended up with a controlling majority in the National Assembly, along with the mayor's office in San Salvador and many other municipalities. Nayib Bukele shakes up the Salvadoran political scene .  Part of the FMLN's defeat