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Showing posts from January, 2020

State Department symbolically bars defendants in Jesuit case from entering the US

The US State Department today barred from entry into the United States several former Salvadoran military officers for their involvement in the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter.   
The State Department press release reads in part:
Today, the Department of State is publicly announcing the designation of 13 individuals under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act 2019.  This designation is due to their involvement in gross violations of human rights in El Salvador related to the planning and execution of the extrajudicial killings of six Jesuit priests and two others on November 16, 1989 on the campus of Central American University in El Salvador.  The United States condemns all human rights abuses that took place on both sides of the brutal civil war in El Salvador, including those committed by governmental and non-governmental parties....  The Department has credible information that…

El Salvador this week

A collection of current stories from El Salvador:
Attorney General accuses Norman Quijano of fraud and seeks to strip him of legislative immunity.  El Salvador's attorney general Monday accused the ARENA party leader and former presidential candidate Norman Quijano of election fraud and making deals with criminal gangs in connection with 2014 presidential election.  Quijano is currently a deputy in the Legislative Assembly after most recently serving as the president of that body.   More on this in a future post.
Prison system head must disclose who funded his trips to Mexico.   The governmental Institute for Access to Public Information has ordered the office of the prison system to disclose who paid for trips, including private jet trips, for prisons chief Osiris Luna Meza.  The case is seen as an indicator of the new government's lack of commitment to transparency.  Investigative journalists at RevistaFactum also reported that Luna Meza last year hired a former campaign worke…

Ten Salvadoran women to remember

At Remezcla this week, Christina Noriega writes Herstory: Ten Salvadoran Women Who Changed the Course of History.  From the introduction to her piece:
[H]istory shows that Salvadoran women have faced their dark circumstances to light beacons of hope. In this installment of our Herstory series, we look at the women who survived war, colonial rule, dictatorships and other bleak episodes in Salvadoran history to create change. They led guerrilla groups, defied abortion laws, laughed in the face of the patriarchal restrictions of their times and championed the rights of women. Often erased from history, these women are today heroines. Go to the article at Remzcla to read short summaries of the contributions of:

María Feliciana de los Ángeles MirandaAntonia Navarro HuezoPrudencia AyalaJulia MojicaMatilde Elena LópezMélida Anaya MontesMarianella García VillasMaría Ofelia NavarreteMaría Teresa TulaRufina Amaya

A general on the stand

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I attended a hearing on Friday, January 24 in the El Mozote massacre trial.   In one sense it was like testimony I had seen as a trial lawyer in many cases involving multiple defendants.  A defendant takes the stand to say -- "whatever you are accusing the other defendants of, it wasn't me, I was not there."    But in every other sense, the hearing was historic.   For the first time, a former general at high levels of the Salvadoran military was taking the stand in a Salvadoran court to tell what he knew about alleged war crimes.   

The setting was the long and narrow courtroom in the San Francisco Gotera court building. The space does not match the significance the unfolding trial. Here a former general of the armed forces of El Salvador took the stand to testify in the trial for the 1981 massacre of almost 1000 children, women, the elderly and other civilians in El Mozote and surrounding communities.

The ex- general testifying was Juan Rafael Bustillo.  In 1981 he was th…

Animated life of Saint Oscar Romero

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The audio visual department at the University of Central America (UCA) has produced a three part animated video series about the life of Saint Oscar Romero with subtitles in English. Intended for children, but adults will appreciate it too.


Episode 1:



Episode 2:




Episode 3:



Anniversary of La Matanza

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This is the 88th anniversary of "La Matanza" -- The Massacre. Following a failed uprising of campesinos in 1932 led by Farabundo Martí, the armed forces of the Salvadoran government under General Maximiliano Martinez slaughtered tens of thousands in reprisal. The memory of that event continues to shape the views of right and left in El Salvador today.
This US Library of Congress article tells the story:

Between 1928 and 1931, the coffee export price had dropped by 54 percent. The wages paid agricultural workers were cut by an equal or greater extent. Food supplies, dependent on imports because of the crowding out of subsistence cultivation by coffee production, likewise fell sharply. Privation among the rural labor force, long a tolerated fact of life, sank to previously unknown depths. Desperate campesinos began to listen more attentively to the exhortations of radicals such as Agustin Farabundo Martí.  [In 1932, Martí was one of the leaders of a] rural insurrection that ha…

The dramatic drop in El Salvador's homicide rate and possible causes

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime under the title Are El Salvador’s Gangs Behind Historic Murder Drop?
By Alex Papadovassilakis

El Salvador ended 2019 with its lowest murder rate in years. But though the government has taken credit for the drop, there are signs that a conscious gang decision to lower violence, or even some kind of agreement between gangs and the state, may be driving down homicides.

The Central American nation, considered one of the world’s most violent countries, finished the year with approximately 28.7 percent fewer homicides than in 2018, according to official data published in Univision.

According to the figures, El Salvador recorded 2,383 homicides in 2019 — 963 fewer than the previous year, which registered 3,346 murders.

That equates to an average rate of seven homicides per day, down from nine in 2018, 11 in 2017, and 18 in 2015, the year in which El Salvador became the bloodiest nation in the western hemisphere.

The radical drop-of…

What's that smell? It's the water.

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In many municipalities in the department of San Salvador, the drinking water coming out of faucets in recent days has been brown with a foul odor.  Affected communities include parts of Apopa, Ilopango, Soyapango and Santa  Tecla among others.

These communities around San Salvador receive their drinking water from the Las Pavas water purification plant which draws from the Lempa River and is operated by the Salvadoran water authority, ANDA.  The government says the problem relates to an unexpected algae growth in the Lempa. 

Today the government rolled out a plan to supply drinking water to affected communities.   Cartons and cartons of bottled water were loaded onto trucks which headed out into the affected areas.  The effort was accompanied by a major publicity campaign, with more than a dozen government ministries tweeting out messages, with countless photos of public officials carrying cartons of bottled water, and lines of trucks heading out of the convention center on routes t…

Nepotism and patronage in Salvadoran government

One of El Salvador's large periodicals, El Diario de Hoy (EDH) has been publishing a series of articles about nepotism in the country's Legislative Assembly.  EDH reports that "The Legislative Assembly appears to be the ideal place to get a job for friends and for the members of the political party."    Their reporting found that 1239 patronage job positions were under the control of the policial parties in the Legislative Assembly, more than the total of non-partisan jobs.

And many of these patronage jobs in the Legislative Assembly go to family members of the deputies: There are cases of parents who have one, two or more children working in different dependencies of the Assembly. The most representative case is that of the wife of a deputy who has three brothers (a man and two women), a brother-in-law, a nephew, a daughter-in-law and the brother of one of his brothers-in-law on whose salaries the State disburses $ 16,300 per month. Their salaries range between $ 1,…

CICIES -- what it really is

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During the presidential election campaign of Nayib Bukele, the fight against corruption was one of his major themes.    He used the slogan "there is enough money when nobody steals," and promised the creation of a Commission against Corruption and Impunity in El Salvador ("CICIES" for its initials in Spanish).   The acronym CICIES was intentionally similar to CICIG, the anti-corruption commission in Guatemala backed by the United Nations which exposed and prosecuted corruption of powerful leaders in the country.
Seven months into the Bukele presidency, there is an entity called CICIES, and we are able to better understand what this organization will do and what will be its limitations.  CICIES is the creation of agreements executed between the Organization of American States (OAS) and El Salvador.  A key document was signed in December between the OAS and the office of attorney general (FGR) Raúl Melara, to describe the role of CICIES along with agreements with ot…

Optimism lodged in a president

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For many years I have followed the public opinion polls conducted by the University Institute of Public Opinion (IUDOP) at the University of Central America.   The polls touch many aspects of how Salvadorans feel about their country, its leaders, and its institutions.   Throughout almost all of that time, Salvadorans have not felt good about the direction their country was headed, except during brief honeymoon periods following the elections of Tony Saca (ARENA) and Mauricio Funes (FMLN)(Saca has now been convicted of, and Funes accused, of looting millions from the country).



The most recent IUDOP polling results show a dramatic turnaround in those sentiments.  In 2017, 48.7% of Salvadorans believed conditions in the country were worsening and only 7.6% believed they were getting better. Entering 2020, however, 65.9% of Salvadorans believe the country is improving and only 5.4% believe things are getting worse.

One part of this change in attitude is a changing perception of the securi…

Back for 2020

El Salvador Perspectives has been gone for a few weeks to start the year, but luckily there were many others in the English language press covering events in El Salvador.   A recent series of articles has a common thread of looking at the impact of violence in El Salvador which forces people to be flee their homes. 

We’re deporting people back to gangs. What about offering refuge and aid?   In an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mark Fazlollah writes   "I found that the economic forces and violence driving people to leave are so strong that I don’t see how we can address our immigration problems without helping El Salvador tackle those issues. Short-term solutions are not going to work for problems that have been decades in the making, sometimes resulting from problematic U.S. policies."

El Salvador's Top Anglican Bishop Urges U.S. to Not Deport Son. Reuters reports that "The top Anglican bishop of El Salvador has urged the United States not to deport his s…