Showing posts from July, 2021

Water issues for El Salvador

Sumpul River, Chalatenango Climate change, deforestation, pollution, urban development, and government inaction all threaten the availability and quality of water for every person living in El Salvador.   Here is a summary of a number of the most prominent water issues facing the country in 2021. Proposed National Water Law The current Legislative Assembly dominated by Nayib Bukele's Nuevas Ideas party has formed an Ad Hoc Committee to review a national water law proposed by the Bukele administration.  This proposal came after the Assembly removed from discussion  drafts of a law on which prior Assemblies had slowly worked for the past several years. Environmental activists who have been working on the issue for many years have several concerns about the newly proposed law.  One of the biggest objections to the bill relates to provisions that would allow a national water authority the power to grant large industrial water users concessions lasting as long as 15 years.  Opponents w

Echoes of the past

  It's politically expedient to attack the corruption of a prior government. The tough part is making sure that your friends and allies don't engage in the same activities now that they are in power.    This sounds like something I would write today in El Salvador Perspectives.  But in fact, this was a quote from a post I wrote in June 2009 .  Mauricio Funes had just taken office as the first leftist president in El Salvador's history to much hope and fanfare and had just announced the formation of a commission to investigate acts of corruption in the government of his predecessor, Antonio Saca.   The commission was to be led by the Treasury Minister, Carlos Cáceres. Despite the announcement of an anti-corruption commission, the endemic practice of Salvadoran politicians enriching themselves at the public trough did not end.  In fact, we learned that Mauricio Funes found out from his predecessor Saca how secret slush funds controlled by the president's office in El Sa

Crypto-colonialism and the Salvadoran Bitcoin experiment

It was a little over a month ago when a delegation of crypto-currency entrepreneurs arrived in El Salvador.  They came to talk about what Bitcoin could mean for El Salvador after the country adopted president Nayib Bukele's proposal to make Bitcoin legal tender in El Salvador. The out-sized interest of the Bitcoin community in this small Central American country, raises questions about who these folks are and why they are so interested. Some previous experiences might provide a cautionary tale for El Salvador as it ventures into its crypto-experiment. Most prominent of these "Bitcoin ambassadors" was Brock Pierce who tweeted :        Pierce received a glowing reception from El Salvador's Ambassador to the US , Milena Mayorga. We have arrived! Headed for more jobs and better opportunities for El Salvador. And after the meeting with Salvadoran officials Mayorga tweeted : But who is Brock Pierce?  Rolling Stone magazine described him as " The Hippie King of Cryp

Current events in El Salvador

A collection of topics to catch you up on what is happening in El Salvador. Armed Forces to double in size President Nayib Bukele has announced that “Phase IV” of his Territorial Control Plan will include doubling the size of El Salvador’s military from 20,000 to 40,000 soldiers over the next 5 years.  The announcement was made at the induction ceremony for the newest group of soldiers in the army.  At a time when the murder rate has hit post war lows in El Salvador, Bukele professes to need a massive increase in his military to fight gangs. Under Bukele, the army has been used more broadly in internal affairs of the country than at any time since the civil war.    Soldiers have delivered food relief packages, enforced sanitary quarantines, hunted agricultural pests, and patrolled streets with and without the civilian police.  The defense budget has grown significantly, and it was the slow action of the old Legislative Assembly to approve a $109 million loan package for military spe

COVID cases rising in El Salvador

In an acknowledgment that El Salvador is experiencing an upsurge in COVID-19 cases, the government has imposed a 90 day suspension on gatherings of people in sporting events, concerts, rallies and municipal festivals.  The municipal government in San Salvador then immediately announced the suspension of activities for the first week of August in the city’s patron saint celebrations. For the moment, bars, restaurants, religious services and public transportations are unaffected by the new measures.  The Ministry of Culture announced that public museums, theaters and exhibition spaces would also be closed for the next 90 days.   The Catholic hierarchy announced the cessation of processions and festivities, but scheduled masses will continue with masses and social distancing. Schools are still being held in a hybrid in-person plus virtual fashion, although parents have the option to be entirely virtual.  Because of localized outbreaks of the virus, 19 schools are presently not holding in

New judges appointed by Bukele oppose extraditing MS leader to US

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime with the title  Did an MS13-El Salvador Govt Pact Temporarily Halt Gang Extraditions? By Steven Dudley and  Carlos Garcia Multiple sources from the United States and El Salvador say the recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several top MS13 leaders to face US charges may be related to an ongoing, unofficial pact between the gang and the Salvadoran government. However, the case -- as well as the existence of the pact itself -- are still difficult to decipher. The explosive assertions concerning extraditions came from a half dozen sources, several of whom are very close to the US investigation of 15 top leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) for terrorism and other associated crimes laid out in two broad sweeping indictments released in the last year. Current El Salvador government officials, including President Nayib Bukele, have denied there exists any pact with the MS13, the country’s largest and most fo

The Engel List firestorm

On July 1, the US State Department released the long anticipated “Engel List” of corrupt figures in the Northern Triangle of Central America who will lose visa privileges to enter the US and can face other possible sanctions.  The list is viewed by the administration as a tool against corruption which Washington believes is one root cause of migration towards the US.  The Engel List included 14 individuals in El Salvador including several members of the government of president Nayib Bukele, who has been in a vocal dispute with the Biden administration over his government’s adherence to the rule of law. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the new report in his statement accompanying its release: [A] public list ... of individuals who have knowingly engaged in acts that undermine democratic processes or institutions, engaged in significant corruption, or obstructed investigations into such acts of corruption in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The report lists a total o