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Showing posts from November, 2019

Some war records of Salvadoran military found in archives

After a judge hearing the El Mozote massacre case ordered the president of El Salvador and the country's military to provide records concerning military operations, some records may have been located in the General Archive of El Salvador.   While the military continues to claim it does not have a single document throughout all of its branches, some records of "historical significance" may have been saved in other archives.

On October 24, Judge Jorge Alberto Guzmán, who is presiding over the El Mozote trial issued his order to the president and defense minister to turn over records.  Now, according to a report in El Faro, the 42 divisions of the Salvadoran military have all responded that they have no records from the time of the El Mozote massacre.  However, the president's office stated that it has located records which could be "of interest" in the General Archive of the Nation.   The General Archive falls under the Ministry of Culture.

According to the E…

El Salvador's economic challenges

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The economic challenges El Salvador faces today are significant.  According to El Salvador's most recent national household survey (EHPM), only 43.2% of the working age population has full time employment and another 13.4% have part time employment.  The rest of the working age Salvadorans work in the informal economy as street vendors, day laborers, food sellers, etc.   Only 35% of the working age population has coverage in the social security system of medical insurance and pensions.

Wages are low.  The average earnings in El Salvador according to the EHPM are $327 per month.  The average worker in El Salvador has finished only 8.5 years of school, a figure which has only improved one grade level in the past 10 years.  Thousands of Salvadorans continue to attempt to migrate to the US every month.

26.3% of Salvadoran households are in a condition of poverty and 5.7% live in extreme poverty.

Economic growth which might improve the situation has been steadily slowing since the firs…

Take care on El Salvador's ocean beaches

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I know that many people who read this blog do so because they travel to El Salvador on church mission trips -- perhaps to build houses with Habitat for Humanity, to run a medical clinic, or to drill a well. I am often asked about how to stay safe in El Salvador. One thing I uniformly answer is that more people die on mission trips to El Salvador drowning in the ocean than for any other cause. Mission trips often conclude with a relaxing day enjoying El Salvador's wonderful beaches. But too often, those trips have ended with tragedy: A 54 year old man from Bloomington, Illinois on a trip to build houses in June 2008.A Baptist worker from Missouri in April 2007A mother from Huntington, West Virginia in July 2005A Seventh Day Adventist pastor from New Jersey in February 2002.A Canadian working with SalvAide in 1988.A Peace Corps Volunteer, January 1969. I am aware of others as well. Each year dozens of Salvadorans die by drowning in the ocean, including a 22 year old young man who dr…

Earthquakes and tsunamis in the twitter era

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El Salvador is a country exposed to a myriad of possible natural disasters, from volcanoes to hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, and tsunamis.   During November, numerous small earthquakes have been shaking the Central American nation.

There were at least 160 earthquakes between November 12 and November 21 centered in the greater San Salvador area, of which 32 were strong enough to be felt by those of us living here.  Quakes ranged in size between 2.0 and 3.9 on the richter scale.  In addition, there have been regular quakes off the coastline of El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico which can be felt in San Salvador.  As I was typing this post, another quake shook the building where we live. 

El Salvador's environment ministry, MARN, explained the recent quakes:
The origin of this activity is attributed to the activation of the geological fault system in the AMSS and, it should be noted that, due to the seismic potential of these faults, the occurrence of major earthquakes or the ac…

Pro surfing at Surf City

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One of president Nayib Bukele's signature initiatives is Surf City -- a name for developing El Salvador as a world class surfing destination and attracting related tourism development along the Pacific coast.

This week that initiative was on full display as the Association of Latin American Professional Surfers (ALAS) held the Surf City ALAS Latin Pro 2019 competition at Playa El Tunco.   El Salvador's own Bryan Perez did not disappoint as he took the silver medal in the men's open competition.   Surfer Noé Mar McGonagle of Costa Rica took the gold.

You can see highlights from the finals in this video.



Participants in the Surf City competition received an invitation to the Casa Presidencial where president Bukele greeted them with a message to spread the word that El Salvador was a world class surfing destination where no other government could claim to be a better friend of surfers.






Celebrations of 30th anniversary of the UCA martyrs

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The 1989 massacre of six Jesuits priests and their coworker and her daughter was commemorated this weekend in El Salvador.  Two weeks of events led up to anniversary date of November 16, including lectures on the legacy of the martyrs of the UCA from Father Jose Maria Tojeira,S.J. Father Jon Sobrino,S.J. and Cardinal and Jesuit Micheal Czerny.  There was a forum on the ongoing search for persons who were forcibly "disappeared" during the civil war, and US Congressman James McGovern spoke of the need for ongoing commitments to justice in both El Salvador and the United States.     


The university unveiled a new mural dedicated to the martyrs, and the traditional candlelight procession wound its way through the streets of the campus where colorful salt carpets (alfombras) had been created hours earlier. 





Here is a sampling of English language coverage of the anniversary of the Jesuits massacre and its relevance today. Remembering the Jesuits: Seeking justice in El Salvador, a …

Remember their names

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Too often when we write about the murders which happened 30 years ago on November 16, 1989, we just refer to the "6 Jesuits, their co-worker and her daughter." As people around the world commemorate them this weekend, let us remember these martyrs of El Salvador's civil war by name:

Father Ignacio Ellacuría, 59, was since 1979 rector of the UCA, and an internationally-respected intellectual and advocate for human rights and a negotiated solution to the Salvadoran civil conflict;Father Ignacio Martín-Baro´, 44, was the vice rector of the UCA, a leading analyst of national and regional affairs, the founder and director of the respected polling organization, the Public Opinion Institute, former Dean of Students, Dean of the Psychology Department, an internationally renowned pioneer in the field of social psychology and pastor of the rural community of Jayaque;Father Segundo Montes, 56, was Dean of the Department of Social Sciences and a sociology professor at the UCA, and th…

Witness to the truth

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When soldiers from El Salvador's military massacred six Jesuit priests and their co-worker and her daughter, there was an immediate attempt to cover it up and to suggest that the killings could have been done by FMLN guerrillas.

But there was a witness, Lucia Barrera de Cerna, whose testimony made it impossible to avoid the truth, despite the best efforts of the Salvadoran government and the FBI.

From her testimony described in "The Jesuit Murders: A report on the testimony of a witness," by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, 15 December 1989, Lucia and her husband Jorge Cerna lived in Soyapango, a suburb on the opposite side of San Salvador from the location of the UCA.  She had a cleaning job at the university.  Because of the intense fighting in greater San Salvador during the November 1989 FMLN "final offensive", Lucia asked one of the Jesuit priests, Father Ignacio Martín-Baro´, if they could stay with their 4 year old daughter on the campus of the U…

Legal proceedings in Jesuit massacre cases

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As the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Jesuit massacre approaches, there are two judicial cases pending which seek to impose criminal liability on the military hierarchy which sent troops to kill the priests and teachers at the UCA.  One case has moved steadily forward in a human rights court in Spain, homeland of 5 of the 6 Jesuits. The other case is barely alive in a court in El Salvador.

In Spain, the human rights court is proceeding in the prosecution of the one defendant before it, former Colonel Inocente Montano. Montano is the defendant, found in the US, and later extradited to Spain after he finished a sentence for immigration fraud.  Meanwhile the other defendants remain safely in El Salvador, which refuses to extradite them to the proceedings before the Spanish court.

The human rights prosecutors announced this year that they are seeking a prison term of 150 years for Montano.  Montano has been in pre-trial detention for the past two years in Spain awaiting his trial.

The refu…

Materials for 30th anniversary of Jesuits massacre

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This Saturday, November 16, is the 30th anniversary of the massacre of six Jesuit priests and one of their female co-workers and her daughter at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador.   For the rest of the week, El Salvador Perspectives will share several posts about the massacre and its commemoration this week.

To begin, we have collected some videos on YouTube in English which provide an overview.

In this video, ABC News offers early reporting on the massacre.




In this video prepared for the 2018 commemoration of the massacre, José María Tojeira, S.J., the current director of the Human Rights Institute at the UCA and a fellow Jesuit working with his martyred brothers in 1989, shares his memories and reflections.




In this video, the Center for Justice and Accountability describes the massacre and the efforts of the CJA to pursue justice.




In this video, US Congressman Jim McGovern is interviewed about the Jesuit massacre.   As a staffer, he was part of the team support…

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly attempting "Amnesty 3.0"

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This November week in El Salvador is an important one for the country's historic memory.   It is the 30 year anniversary of the "final offensive" launched by FMLN guerrillas in the country's civil war and of the November 16, 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, a domestic worker and her daughter at the University of Central America.  It is a time to reflect back and to pray "Nunca Más"   Never Again.

Yet in the midst of remembering those events, deputies in El Salvador's Legislative Assembly are also considering a "Special Law of Transitional and Restorative Justice for National Reconciliation."  It is a measure which critics say could work to blot out the memory of atrocities committed during the war, denying victims justice, and undercutting the possibility of "Never Again." 

The impetus for this proposal is a 2016 decision of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court which overturned a blanket amnesty…

In other news

An assortment of other news related to El Salvador this week:

Democrats on the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee issued a report disclosing that when the Trump administration cancelled TPS for El Salvador and other countries, career diplomats recommended a 36 month transition period following cancellation before any deportations would start.  But some in the administration worried that date would fall just before the 2020 presidential elections, so the administration decided to grant only an 18 month period.   (Now that period is of indeterminate length because of an injunction delaying the termination of TPS in a case called Ramos v Nielsen).Speaking of Ramos v. Nielsen, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly agreed to award Crisitina Ramos, the lead plaintiff in that case, the "Order of Merit, 5th of November 1811, Hereoes of the Country's Independence."   The recognition of Ramos for her part in the lawsuit which obtained an injunction halting the termination of TP…

El Mozote soldiers testify

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A few of the hundreds of small children who were victims at El Mozote
On Friday November 1, the trial for the massacre of children, the elderly and others in El Mozote and surrounding communities took a new turn. For the first time, two soldiers who were part of the troops present in El Mozote during the massacre testified. The soldiers, who were cooperating with prosecutors, took the witness stand with their faces hidden and their voices disguised.   They testified against their superior officers and against the high military command who had sent their unit to do its bloody work in rural El Salvador in December 1981. They testified under the pseudonyms "Juan" and "Sol."
As Nelson Rauda points out in El Faro, the testimony of these two soldiers provides a key piece of the case. The fact of the massacre has been well established by civilian witnesses from Rufina Amaya to those who testified at the current trial over the past three years. But those witnesses were not…

Judges and child sexual abuse

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The dismissal of a case of child sexual abuse committed by a sitting judge in El Salvador has rocked the country.   It appears that just about every sector of society is outraged at the appearance that judges in El Salvador are protecting their own, and not protecting the most innocent of victims. 

The case involves Salvadoran magistrate Eduardo Jaime Escalante Díaz, 50 years old, who was accused of sexual assault of a child.   Specifically the allegation is that he enticed a 10 year old girl on the street to approach him and then touched her genital area before fleeing after a neighbor shouted at him.

The Legislative Assembly revoked Escalante's judicial immunity from suit so that he could face justice in a criminal court.   Last week, that court ruled that a criminal case against Escalante could not proceed.  The court ruled that the proof provided by the prosecutors was insufficient to establish the crime they had charged against Escalante, "sexual assault of a minor&quo…

Good news, but why?

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El Salvador has good news to celebrate as November begins.   The month of October closed with a post-war record low number of homicides according to official statistics. 

As shown in the chart above, the average number of Salvadorans killed in acts of violence has dropped from 9-10 per day to an average below 4 in only five months.       

President Nayib Bukele has been quick to take credit for the improved statistics:
112 homicidios en total. Dejando a agosto 2019 en segundo lugar con 130 y septiembre 2019 en tercer lugar con 143.

Los 3 primeros lugares los ocupan meses ocurridos en nuestro Gobierno (que solo lleva 5 meses). — Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) November 1, 2019
We are able to confirm that October 2019 has become the month with the least homicides since the Peace Accords...
.... 112 total homicides.   Leaving August 2019 in second place with 130 and september 2019 in third place with 143.
The first 3 places are occupied by months which have happened during our Government (…