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Showing posts from September, 2019

New agreement gives US plenty, Salvadoran migrants nothing

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El Salvador's Foreign Minister, Alexandra Hill, was in Washington, D.C. yesterday to sign an agreement with the US Department of Homeland Security.  In the agreement Hill signed, El Salvador pledges to work with the US to become a country where refugees from third countries can seek asylum.  Reuters reported on the joint press conference announcing the agreement:
“The core of this is recognizing El Salvador’s development of their own asylum system and committing to help them build that capacity,” Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters in Washington after signing documents with El Salvador’s minister of foreign affairs, Alexandra Hill.  “Individuals crossing through El Salvador should be able to seek protections” in the Central American country even if they were intending to apply for asylum in the United States, he added.  Neither official said when the arrangement would take effect or provide details on how it would be administered. It wa…

Salvadorans to be guest workers on US farms

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Officials in El Salvador hope to make visas for farmworkers available for temporary stints in the United States in the near future.  El Salvador's Minister of Labor Rolando Castro says he will travel soon to the US to discuss details of the program.

There was immediate interest when the program was first announced, the AP reported:
Hundreds of Salvadorans who had waited in line for U.S. work visas have started heading back to their hometowns after learning the program wasn’t ready yet.  The lines started forming in front of the Labor Ministry last week after the government announced it was negotiating a temporary farm work visa program with the United States.  Other countries like Mexico have long had access to such H-2A visas.  But by Monday, officials at El Salvador’s Labor Ministry acknowledged they could only take people’s names for a later date when the program is finally implemented. RevistaFactum shared profiles of some of those hoping to obtain one of the visas. As many a…

The deportation pipeline back to El Salvador

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[Data nerd warning.   This post will be full of numbers and statistics regarding Salvadorans deported from Mexico and the US].

This first chart, using data from El Salvador's migration agency, shows the dramatic increase in Salvadoran migrants deported from Mexico earlier this year as Mexico increased troops and patrols in response to Tramp's demands.


But it is also interesting to compare monthly average deportation rates from Mexico to El Salvador in earlier years, because the high rates from this summer are in the same range as seen in 2015-16:

Monthly average deportees from Mexico to El Salvador: 2017 -- 924 2016 -- 2596 2015 -- 2411  2018 -- 925
Deportations from the United States to El Salvador, however, have occurred in a more consistent range. Deportations in 2019 have generally been 10-20% higher than the same period in 2018.

But deportations from the US to El Salvador under Trump still lag behind deportations under Obama:
Monthly average of Salvadoras deported from US: 2018…

Celebrating independence with military might

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Sunday, September 15, was Independence Day in El Salvador.   In cities and towns across the country, bands marched, school children recited the meaning of national symbols, flags waved, folk dancers in colorful dresses performed, and baton twirlers twirled.

Here are some photos from the celebration in the town of Tonacatepeque.






In the capital city of San Salvador, there was a grand military parade, presided over by Nayib Bukele. 






This final photo of troops carrying out a mock "anti-terrorist" operation was the subject of many critics on social media who objected to a display of tactics frequently abused by the military, and at a time when many are protesting the growing militarization of public security in the country.  The scene also hearkened back to images of government repression during conflict years of the 70s and 80s. 

Military displays on Independence Day are nothing new in El Salvador.  Troops with armored vehicles, automatic weapons and helicopter flyovers were par…

Views of CICIES and Bukele's first 100 days

Trump's border wall in El Salvador

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Although Donald Trump faces political challenges in building a physical wall across the southern US border, he is having more success in extending a southern frontier first to the southern border of Mexico and now into Central America.  BuzzFeed describes how this is happening:
In recent months, the Trump administration has begun arm-twisting governments in Latin America into doing its own border work, much like the EU has done with Libya to deal with its immigrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Using a carrot-and-stick approach, the US has threatened the Mexican and Guatemalan governments with sanctions, while also offering Guatemala the promise of work visas for its citizens — and has at least partially succeeded in having them deter immigration through their territories....  These may be the tip of a growing iceberg, with deterrence policies likely to expand ever southward. Last week, acting US Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan traveled to Panama to di…

US Supreme Court allows Trump to slam door on asylum seekers

Salvadorans fleeing violence and persecution because of their political beliefs, their religion, their sexual orientation, their opposition to gangs, their gender, or any other reason will be precluded from seeking asylum in the US under a ruling Wednesday from the US Supreme Court.   At least while lower court litigation is still pending, the court ruled that the Trump administration may enforce a rule (known by its critics as "Asylum Ban 2.0") that denies asylum to anyone who crossed the southern US border after July 16, 2019 unless they first applied for and were denied asylum in Mexico (or another country like Guatemala). 

This rule now applies to thousands of Salvadorans who crossed the border in just the past several weeks since July 16.  It will also apply to Salvadorans who are currently waiting in lines at US border crossing points to request asylum the "right way", under a US practice of "metering" the number of asylum seekers who can enter.

Me…

Bukele blocked investigative journalists from announcement of CICIES

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At the August 6 press conference to announce the creation of the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (“CICIES” for its initials in Spanish), security guards prevented the entrance of journalists from two online periodicals, Revista Factum and El Faro. 

It struck many as no coincidence that just these two sets of journalists would be targeted by the Bukele administration.   Both periodicals have published articles asking uncomfortable questions about the Bukele administration and officials within it:

Bukele returns the budget of the OIE to the shadows (Revista Factum)The money is enough when the contracts are for the friends of Nayib.(Revista Factum)Bukele has already spent $2 million from the secret billfold of the presidency (El Faro)Alba Petroleum gave two loans to ministers in Bukele's government (El Faro)
After the event, Bukele tweeted a statement from his Secretary of Communications proclaiming that the journalists from Factum and El Faro have been banne…

#SurfCity El Salvador

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Salvadoran government officials launched an initiative named "Surf City" Friday in an event along the Pacific shore where El Salvador gets prime waves for surfers.  Throughout his candidacy and now as president, Nayib Bukele has been promoting a vision of surfing as an engine for tourism in the country.  As he nears the 100th day of his presidency, his government ministers rolled out this plan for tourism development along the coast. 
The Salvadoran government today designated 21 kilometers of the Pacific coastline as the "Surf City National Tourism Zone."  The zone stretches from Deininger Park in La Paz department to El Zonte Beach in La Libertad department.  The plan includes creating conditions for businesses to operate and grow, access to financing, technical assistance, and development of human resources.  The Ministry of Tourism promised  public and private efforts for tourism promotion, the attraction of investment, site management and sustainability.

The …

Anti-corruption commission launches today in El Salvador

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Today El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, announced the launch of the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador ("CICIES" for its initials in Spanish).  Bukele was accompanied by Luis Porto, a representative of the Organization of American States (OAS), in making the announcement.  They told the assembled dignitaries and reporters that El Salvador's Foreign Ministry would be signing a letter with the OAS regarding OAS backing for CICIES.   The OAS role will be in the form of technical assistance for the effort.

A summary of the mandate of CICIES was set out in a press release today from the OAS:
On September 6, 2019, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (GS/OAS) and the Government of the Republic of El Salvador set up the International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES), an entity that begins operations immediately and will expand investigation activities in accordance with the legislation of the Republic …

Development v environment -- where will new government position itself?

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Six months ago I described how a proposed high density residential project to be built just northeast of the San Salvador metropolitan area will be an early test of the priorities of the new government of president Nayib Bukele.  We may see the results of that test soon.

The development is called "Valle El Ángel," a project of real estate developer Urbánica.    The owners of Urbánica are the ultra-wealthy Dueñas family in El Salvador, and they plan a mega-real estate project in the municipality of Apopa, just northeast of San Salvador at the base of the San Salvador volcano. The proposed urbanization development of  8000 houses, shopping centers, churches and more would threaten the available water resources in the region, according to environmental and community groups.  Most of the land, located along the Pan-American highway, is currently used to grow sugar cane.

Opponents to Valle El Ángel argue that this mega-project will cause the over-exploitation of already stressed …

Developments in US-El Salvador relations

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Last week the acting secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, visited El Salvador.  During his visit, the countries entered into a nonbinding letter of intent regarding areas of future cooperation to reduce the flow of migrants from El Salvador to the US.   Here is the text of that agreement:
RECOGNIZING that coordination and collaboration between the Governments of the United States and El Salvador have increased to new, unprecedented levels, and the Participants seek, within this context of intensified cooperation, to explore bilateral initiatives for the benefits of each country.  ACKNOWLEDGING the respective roles each Participant plays in mitigating migration flows from and through Central America. The Participants INTEND to work collaboratively and cooperatively, in accordance with their respective national laws and regulations, on the following goals to be pursued without delay:  1. Support to Border Security and Law Enforcement: Enhance cooperation…

Least bloody month of 21st century

El Salvador closed the month of August with a total of only 131 homicides, or an average of only 4.2 per day.   According to Roberto Valencia at El Faro, this makes August 2019 the month with the lowest number of homicides in the 21st century.    The previous low number was 143 homicides in April 2013 at the height of the gang truce or "tregua".   August builds on the good news from July when there were only 154 homicides, the third lowest month this century.

If the level of homicides in August were to continue for a 12 month period, El Salvador would have a homicide rate of 24 per 100,000 population.   In contrast, at its bloody peak in 2015, El Salvador's homicide rate was 104 per 100,000.  In the first five months of 2019 before Bukele took office, El Salvador was averaging 8.9 homicides per day.

President Nayib Bukele is giving the credit for the reduction in violence to his Territorial Control Plan, and the people of El Salvador are agreeing with him.

I would sugges…

The overwhelming evidence of executions by El Salvador's National Civilian Police

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Last week, El Salvador's governmental Advocate for the Defense of Human Rights  (Procuradora Para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, "PDDH"), Raquel Caballero de Guevara, issued a damning report concerning overwhelming evidence of extrajudicial executions by El Salvador's National Civilian Police (PNC).    The report, which covered the period 2014-2018, examined 48 "emblematic" cases of extrajudicial killings in which security forces executed 116 people.

The report systematically gathered investigative materials on all the cases examined and was able to identify several patterns.  Most often this type of killing happened in rural areas of the country.   The victims were almost all male, between the ages of 15 and 24, but some were as young as 13 and 14.  More than 60% of the cases came from 2015-16, when the country's overall homicide rate was the highest in the world. 

Although police reports claimed that more than 90% of those killed were gang memb…