Showing posts from May, 2023

Bukele's 4 years in office in pictures

June 1 is the four year anniversary of Nayib Bukele taking office as president of El Salvador.   Here is a collection of photos which illustrate the course his presidency has taken.   June 1, 2019. Bukele delivered his inaugural address in front of the National Palace in central San Salvador.     September 15, 2019 .  The government staged an elaborate military parade for Independence Day, passing in front of a viewing stand where Nayib and Gabriela Bukele are seated. This was an early example of how Bukele would work to bring the military close to his presidency and would later deploy it in measures from pandemic relief to the war on gangs. September 25, 2019 .  On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Bukele met with Donald Trump.   He commented that he found the US president "very nice and cool."  El  Salvador would enjoy close relations with the US during the Trump administration despite Trump calling El Salvador a "shithole country" and attempt

Bits and pieces

Sharing a series of short takes on some recent events in El Salvador. Ex-president Mauricio Funes and his former Minister of Justice and Security, David Munguía Payes were  sentenced to prison  this week for making deals with gang leaders in prison in  2012 gang truce .  Funes is living in exile in Nicaragua after fleeing there to avoid prosecution.  Munguia Payes who claims the prosecution was politically motivated is in custody in El Salvador.  Military and security forces are going out in a new offensive in the State of Exception.  The office of president Bukele  announced  that although the country was decisively winning its war on gangs, it needed to launch an enhanced offensive to round up remnants of the gangs. Nayib Bukele has appointed a new Commissioner for Human Rights and Freedom of Expression, Colombian lawyer  Andrés Guzmán Caballero . A profile in El Pais  describes the new commissioner as a specialist in cybercrimes with only 6 months background in human rights.  Guzmá

Cristosal report reveals torture chamber which is Salvadoran prisons under State of Exception

  El Salvador's leading human rights organization released a damning report today documenting the widespread abuse, torture and deaths of pre-trial detainees under the Bukele regime "State of Exception" which has now last more than 14 months.  These are people awaiting trial, which is the case for the overwhelming majority of the 68,000 people swept up off the streets of El Salvador since the State of Exception began on March 27, 2022. The full Cristosal report is available in Spanish for download here . What follows is my English translation of the Cristosal news release announcing the report.   (The translation has not been reviewed or approved by Cristosal). Cristosal Research Reveals Systematic torture and more than 150 deaths of detainees   San Salvador, May 29, 2023 . The report of Cristosal on the first year of the exception regime presents the first verified list of people who died in state custody and documents systematic torture practices inside prisons. It

The Santa Marta 5

El Salvador's government has locked up 5 community organizers and environmental activists from the rural community of Santa Marta, alleging their participation in a decades old crime during El Salvador's civil war.   But the circumstances surrounding the case suggest to many that the real motivation for their detention is to weaken resistance to metallic mining in the country and make possible the lifting of a mining prohibition. The actions of the country's Attorney General, Rodolfo Delgado, illustrate how the State of Exception with its suspension of judicial guarantees of due process is being used, not just to fight gangs, but to intimidate human rights defenders, including environmental activists. His actions show that the hard won victory to ban extractive metallic mining in the country may be under threat.  Nina Lakhani in the  Guardian  reported the arrests of the five community leaders:  Five prominent environmental defenders who played a crucial role in securing a

Studies dig into the state of Salvadoran democracy under Bukele

International experts and journalists continue to report on the deterioration of democratic institutions under the Bukele regime in El Salvador.  Here are some of the most recent in-depth looks at the current situation. The Global Initiative against Transnational Crime released a policy brief titled  Punitive Governance in Central America: An Antidote to Criminal Governance? . The brief looks at the State of Exception and Bukele's war on gangs in El Salvador and similar measures in Honduras: El Salvador’s crackdown on gangs amounts to punitive governance and has come at the expense of the basic rights of citizens. It can be understood as a government’s response to criminal governance through militarization, suspension of human rights and due process, and it has caught the attention of countries throughout Latin America. Its populist appeal makes the state of emergency easy to implement and to communicate to the public. Military and police personnel are portrayed by state media as b

Who will compete against Bukele in 2024?

El Salvador is a little more than eight months away from presidential elections.   Its enormously popular president Nayib Bukele is running for reelection in 2024 despite  multiple provisions  in the country's constitution that prohibit the immediate reelection of a president to a second term.  Up to now, one major question has been, would any party put up a candidate to compete against Bukele?  It appears today that a broad coalition of civil society groups are pushing a unity ticket to compete, and seek to make alliance with opposition political parties.     El Faro published on Tuesday an article by journalist Gabriel Labrador titled  Partidos opositores y sociedad civil a punto de concretar candidatura presidencial única.   ( Opposition parties and civil society about to finalize a single presidential candidacy ).  A shorter English version was published today under the title  Civil Society Leads Push for Unified Opposition Candidate in El Salvador . Labrador writes:  After mo

12 die in stampede at Salvadoran soccer match

A tragic incident occurred Saturday night during a quarterfinal football (soccer) match between Alianza and FAS, where a group of desperate Alianza fans knocked down a gate in their attempt to enter the stadium, resulting in injuries and fatalities.  The calamity took place at the Cuscatlán stadium in San Salvador.  By Sunday morning, the official death toll sat at 12 , with more than 80 sent to local hospitals.  Sunday afternoon authorities announced that most of the injured had been released from the hospital. Lamentable. Reportan estampida en el Estadio Cuscatlán de El Salvador Informa @CNNEE que ha aumentado a 12 el número de muertos — Luis Omar Tapia (@LuisOmarTapia) May 21, 2023 Witnesses blamed both stadium authorities and the police for the tragedy. It was alleged that an entrance gate was closed, which led fans still outside to knock it down in desperation. The ensuing stampede left some trampled to death and others suffocated in the c

Impact of State of Exception on Religious Freedom in El Salvador

The US State Department issued its 2022 country report on International Religious Freedom for El Salvador last week.   The annual reports are issued for countries around the world and describe the ability of residents in a country to freely practice their religious faith.   This year's report notes the varied impacts of the State of Exception on churches throughout El Salvador, particularly on those church leaders who worked in gang-controlled communities or sought to rehabilitate and extract persons from the gangs. The State Department report mentions some positive impacts of the State of Exception on religious freedom. In the second half of 2022, persons in formerly gang controlled communities felt freer to travel to religious services and activities, including those that involved crossing gang boundaries.  Extortion of religious bodies by gangs has declined with the breakup of gangs by security forces. However, the report also notes that the Salvadoran government has been hosti