Showing posts from March, 2023

One year and counting under El Salvador's State of Exception

March 27 marks one year since El Salvador's Legislative Assembly passed an emergency State of Exception at the behest of president Nayib Bukele. As this one year anniversary is reached, much is being published about the State of Exception:  War on Gangs Forges New El Salvador. But the Price is Steep , Megan Janetsky and Fernanda Pesce, writing for the Associated Press offer a detailed look at the reality on the streets of El Salvador today, and the harsh measures implemented over the past year.  Their reporting and the photos which accompany the story illustrate the opening up happening in communities formerly controlled by gangs, but also describe the price paid, and continuing to be paid under the current regime. Countering El Salvador’s Democratic Backsliding . Tamara Taraciuk Broner of Human Rights Watch and Noah Bullock of Cristosal, writing in Americas Quarterly, call on regional leaders to counteract the decline of the rule of law in El Salvador.  They note:   Leaders in t

The final days of Oscar Romero

March 24, is the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Saint Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador.  I am republishing here a post which first appeared on the 40th anniversary in 2020. Carlos Dada , founder of the online periodical El Faro, has been researching and reporting on the Romero murder for years.   His most recent piece, titled  A 5-Millimeter Hole appeared in the English version of El Faro and is taken from a book he is working on.  Dada describes in detail Romero's actions in the final few days of his life, beginning with the planning for the fateful final sermon which Romero would preach on Sunday, March 23 to the time when an assassin's single bullet would end the life of the voice for the voiceless. Dada describes the fateful moment: Romero read from the Gospel of John: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” It was a short mass and the homily was brief. As h

InterAmerican Court hears abortion case from El Salvador

Ten years ago  doctors in El Salvador sought court permission for a young woman named Beatriz to have a therapeutic abortion, one to preserve her life and health.  Doctors believed Beatriz life was in danger if she carried her non-viable fetus to term, but Salvadoran courts up to the Supreme Judicial Court, declined to vary from the absolute ban on abortion in Salvadoran law.  El Salvador has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world. El Salvador outlaws abortion for any reason. There are no exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. Moreover, El Salvador arrests and imprisons women who have abortions, sometime charging them with murder and sending them to prison for thirty years. Noor Mahtani, writing in El Pais , describes Beatriz' case: Beatriz was just 21 years old, with a nine-month-old son and many financial difficulties, when she was diagnosed with lupus. A year later, in March 2013, she found out she was pregnant for the second tim

US State Department Human Rights Report on El Salvador

The United States State Department today released its 2022 human rights reports for countries around the world.    With respect to El Salvador, the report is blunt: Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, forced disappearances; torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including censorship and threats to enforce criminal laws to limit expression; serious government corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for gender-based violence; significant barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services; and crimes involving violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex individuals.  You can read the entire report here

Primary victims on El Salvador's roads are pedestrians and motorcyclists

Last Tuesday, three traffic accidents in different parts of El Salvador provided graphic examples of some of the issues involving traffic management in El Salvador.   Two involved the deaths of motorcycle riders who perished when they were struck by other vehicles on Salvadoran highways.  The third was a massive pile up in the capital city San Salvador when a large trailer truck careened in what appeared to be uncontrolled speed into stopped traffic at a point where major thoroughfares come together. Two people were killed and at least ten injured, many in critical condition.  Dozens of cars were left destroyed by the pile-up.   Road fatalities are an ongoing concern in El Salvador. With an annual death rate of around 22 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, the country faces a significant challenge in reducing the number of lives lost due to traffic accidents. Many factors contribute to this situation including inadequate infrastructure, poorly maintained roads, insufficient traffic la

The far right in the US falls for Bukele

President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador has become the Latin American leader most lauded by the far right in the United States. The millennial president, who once labelled Donald Trump “nice and cool” after meeting with Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting, is now being held up by the far right as a model for what strong national leader should be.    Among the conservatives,  one group of Bukele fans are libertarian in their leanings – these are the supporters who enthusiastically promote Bitcoin.  They support Bitcoin for providing a currency system which is free of government control and not dependent on the actions of multinational financial institutions. When Bukele tweets “We will stand for freedom… bitcoin is FU money” these libertarian Bitcoiners stand up and cheer.  More recently, a different swarm of conservative pundits has come out in praise of Bukele after his recent videos of the transfer of the first prisoners into the new mega-prison outside of S

Global studies give El Salvador failing grade on democracy

In recent months, several annual surveys of the strength of democratic institutions around the world have been published.  I collect several of them below. El Salvador is shown to be losing ground as a democracy in all of these studies, as the researchers find a trend toward authoritarianism under Nayib Bukele. Freedom House In its annual reports, Freedom Houses uses a methodology evaluating 25 indicators of political and civil rights based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In its 2023 report , Freedom House gave El Salvador a grade of 56/100 on its freedom status, classifying the country as "partly free.”  The country has lost ground for the past decade in Freedom House surveys, declining from a score of 77 to 56 during the past 10 years.  In this year’s report Nayib Bukele was highlighted with other leaders showing authoritarian tendencies: “After assuming office through elections, these leaders rejected the established democratic process and sought to rewrite t

Less than a year before elections in El Salvador

El Salvador is less than a year from national elections. On February 4, 2024 the country will elect its president and all the deputies in the Legislative Assembly. That election will be followed a month later on March 3 with municipal elections and for delegates to the Central American parliament.  Since the president has a 5 year term and the rest of elected officials have 3 year terms, the conjunction of all officials being elected in the same year happens only once every 15 years. Opinion polling shows very strong support for the re-election of Nayib Bukele as president, despite the fact that legal experts state that re-election of the president is expressly prohibited by the  Constitution  of El Salvador.  However, the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador’s supreme court, put into office when Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party summarily deposed the sitting magistrates in 2021, ruled that, clear language or not, the president may be re-elected. Then on September