Showing posts from June, 2020

The search for the El Mozote files

Despite a pandemic, the search for justice continues for the children, elderly, women and others massacred at El Mozote and surrounding communities.   Responding to the petition of lawyers for the victims, Judge Jorge Alberto Guzmán, who is presiding over the El Mozote trial, swore in expert archivists last week.   The experts are tasked with making inspections of military records and archives in four different locations across the country.   The judge's order reflects his skepticism in the prior statement of the Salvadoran military that there simply are no historical records to be had. Despite prior assurances from president Nayib Bukele that there would be a full accounting of any archives, to date no records have been produced from his government. Also today came the news that another of the elderly defendants has died .  General Rafael Flores Lima was a member of the high Salvadoran military command at the time of the 1981 El Mozote massacre.  Only 13 of the 28 military leade

At 100 day mark, El Salvador has a new hospital and increasing COVID-19 numbers

Friday, June 26 marked 100 days from the point where El Salvador recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19.  Since mid-March, the administration of Nayib Bukele had used an improvised strategy against the deadly virus which focused on blocking the borders to incoming travelers, enforcing a nationwide stay at home order, and using "contention centers" to hold persons exposed to the disease or who had violated domestic quarantine rules. Despite these measures, the size of the pandemic outbreak in El Salvador has steadily progressed, albeit more slowly than in many other countries.  Friday also marked the high point of a number of statistics of the virus spread in the country as published by the government COVID-19 website : Most new confirmed cases in a single day:  210 Most deaths with COVID-19 as the confirmed cause :  10 Highest rate of persons testing positive for the disease:  8.2% Highest total  cases classified moderate, critical or grave:1063 According to the govern

COVID-19 deaths are undercounted in official El Salvador stats

It is difficult to know how many persons have died as a result of COVID-19 in El Salvador.    But it seems clear that the 74 deaths out of 3826 confirmed cases of the disease on the government's COVID-19 website is a significant under count. The Salvadoran Minister of Health Francisco Alibi has   acknowledged that there is an undercounting  of deaths from the virus.  Some deaths are not included because the official statistics only count persons who have actually been tested for the disease.       The size of this undercount may be quite significant. I have been closely tracking the government's official statistics since the beginning of April. In the first week of May, those stats showed 20-25 persons hospitalized with COVID-19 in moderate, critical or grave condition, and an average of one person dying each day.   In the past seven days in June, the number of persons hospitalized has increased to more than 750.  Despite this increase of more than 2800% in hospitalized cases

Historic trial begins in Spain

Ex-colonel Inocente Montano on Day 1 of trial This week an historic human rights trial began in Spain.  A court in Madrid has begun trying the ex-Salvadoran vice minister of security Inocente Orlando Montano for the 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests, their co-worker and her daughter in El Salvador.   Montano is the only defendant in Spain because the Supreme Judicial Court of El Salvador has continuously protected the remaining military officers involved from being extradited to Spain.  Although there is only a single defendant, this trial offers another chance for El Salvador and the world to hear and reflect on the events of November 1989 and to consider what justice requires more than thirty years later. The best place to follow this trial is the website of the Guernica Center which is posting daily trial reports in English and Spanish.  Montano testified on his own behalf during the second day of the trial.  An excerpt from the Guernica trial note describes some of his testimon

The toll from storms Amanda and Cristobal

Tropical storms Amanda and Cristobal produced widespread flooding and landslides in many parts of El Salvador.  They represent another major relief effort for a government already stretched thin by pandemic response and an economy which has been shuttered for almost three months. Similar to its dashboard for COVID-19, the government established an online site to tally the losses from the storms.   The site is located at . As of June 12, the official death toll from the storm stood at 30 persons with one person still missing. The government reports almost 30,000 families affected and some 5000 people currently in 144 shelters throughout the country.  392 schools suffered damage and thousands of acres of corn fields were flooded. From the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs : The storms come as El Salvador, home to 643,000 people in need according to the recent regional Humanitarian Needs Overview, continues to deal with

Salvadoran politicians quibble while country suffers

The stalemate continues between Nayib Bukele and the Legislative Assembly in El Salvador over ongoing measures to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.   The country has largely been on lockdown since the fourth week of March.   Early unanimity among the legislators, the private sector and Bukele about prevention measures has long since broken down.  Twice the Legislative Assembly passed laws with its own version of emergency provisions to deal with the pandemic and its consequences.   Both times the Assembly did not give Bukele everything he wanted and so the president vetoed the measures, despite the fact that these vetoes left without legal support his executive decrees declaring stay-at-home orders, closing businesses and suspending the transportation system. On Monday, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling invalidating all of the pandemic-related laws and decrees.  The court overturned two laws and eleven executive decrees.   The court did delay