News shorts

Some of the recent news from El Salvador.

1.  Stories continue to emerge about a mass grave found at the home of an ex-policeman in Chalchuapa.  Exhumations have revealed that there may be dozens of bodies.   Whether the killings are the work of a single psychopath, an organized group, or some other network is not yet clear.   What is clear is that El Salvador has a great number of families whose loved ones have disappeared, and a grisly discovery like this one produces the hope/fear that the daughter or son for whom they have been searching might be located.  Details here:

 A Mass Grave Was Discovered in a ‘Psychopath’ Ex-Cop's Well (Vice World News)

2.  Bertha María Deleón was summoned to the Attorney General's office to hear various charges against her.  Deleón is a prominent criminal defense attorney in El Salvador, whose clients included Nayib Bukele, but she has subsequently become a vocal critic of her former client.  She ran unsuccessfully as a candidate of the new reform-minded Nuestro Tiempo party in legislative elections in February.  Prior to those elections, Deleón filed a complaint against a vocal ally of Bukele, Walter Araujo, resulting in a court order barring him from the ballot.  He is now one of the complainants against her before the Attorney General.  Deleón asserts that the investigations are all politically motivated in order to silence her.  She told El Faro, she was even offered an ambassadorship if she would keep quiet.  Observers worry that these criminal investigations under new replacement Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado could be the start of persecutions of Bukele's political opponents. 

3.  The Legislative Assembly approved several international borrowing agreements in the amount of $1.53 billion to fund initiatives of the Bukele government.  Governmental debt will now grow to 82% of the country's gross domestic product.     

4.  The Legislative Assembly also announced its intention to work from a clean slate as the various commissions of the Assembly, each controlled by Nuevas Ideas, removed from consideration pending drafts of legislation for a wide variety of matters which were being reviewed by the prior Assembly controlled by Bukele's political opponents.  Archived matters include the long stalled national water law, a law of gender identity, a law to provide exceptions to El Salvador's strict abortion ban, and more.

5.  A new initiative has been launched called "Freedom of the Press, Access to public information and Democracy in El Salvador."  The project is intended to emphasize the need for strong press freedom as well as governmental transparency to preserve democracy in El Salvador.   It is an effort supported by the European Union and participants in the initiative include the Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America, El Faro, the International Federation of Journalists, the Assembly of Cooperation for Peace, and the Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES).  

6.  USAID announced it was redirecting US dollars away from the Salvadoran justice and security system and towards civil society,  In a press conference, Nayib Bukele responded to questions about the decision of USAID, saying that it was their money to decide how to use.  He said they could use it for humanitarian measures which would be fine, but it would be illegal to funnel money to "opposition movements."   

7.  US Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled a "Call to Action" creating an initiative with US and Latin American corporations to make private investments in the Northern Triangle of Central America, in order to address lack of economic opportunity as one of the root causes of irregular migration.   More from Reuters here

8.  The US State Department designated Ambassador Jean Manes as "Chargé d’ affaires ad interim" to the Republic of El Salvador.  Ambassador Manes previously served as U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador from 2016 to 2019, and she will be the highest official in the US embassy until a new ambassador is appointed and confirmed.

In Sports:  This week sees the presence of surfers from around the world on El Salvador's coast, competing for spots in the Tokyo Olympics later this year. El Salvador's beach soccer team defeated the US for the CONCACAF championship and qualified for the upcoming World Cup in that sport to be held in Russia.