Bits and pieces

Here are a collection of bits and pieces from the news in El Salvador during the past month when we were on break. 

1.  Cargo ferry service begins.

Commercial cargo ferry service arrived between Costa Rica and El Salvador on Thursday, August 10.  The Blue Wave Harmony ferry is able to carry 100 tractor trailer trucks for the 430 mile voyage through the Pacific from one country to the other in less than 24 hours.  There will be two trips per week.   The first trip was not without problems, needing almost 28 hours to complete the journey and being unable to unload trucks on arrival in Costa Rica when it was low tide. The business case for the ferry rests in being able to ship good between the two countries while bypassing border crossings with Honduras and Nicaragua.  Commerce with Nicaragua under the dictatorial Ortega government has become increasingly subject to uncertainty.

2.   A crypto safe haven.

El Salvador is becoming a haven for crypto-companies banned from operating in the US and European companies.  Binance was the latest to be licensed in El Salvador.    Also seeking a haven in El Salvador has been Bitfinex, fined $42.5 million by the US Commodities and Futures Trading Commission in 2021 for making false and misleading statements.  Bitfinex' sister company Tether recently hired Damian Merlo, an advisor to Bukele, as a lobbyist for Tether in the US.

3.  Sainthood for more of El Salvador's Catholic martyrs?

El Salvador's Archbishop calls for canonizations and transfiguration in El Salvador, from Americas Magazine: "On Aug. 6, the Most Rev. José Luis Escobar Alas, archbishop of San Salvador, said that the El Salvador’s bishops’ conference had initiated the canonization process “of a large group of our martyrs from the recent armed conflict suffered in our country.”   Prominent among those who might be considered are the six Jesuit priests assassinated in 1989 along with a female coworker and her daughter, as well as the four US churchwomen murdered in 1980.

4.  A purge within Nuevas Ideas.

There has been a mini purge within the Nuevas Ideas political party of Nayib Bukele.  One of Bukele's advisors on internal security began publicizing allegations tying Nuevas Ideas deputies in the Legislative Assembly to drug activity.  The advisor, Alejandro Muyshondt, was then accused by Bukele of secretly working for exiled former president Mauricia Funes and was subsequently arrested. One of the deputies fingered by Muyshondt was Erick Garcia. The Legislative Assembly has now voted to strip Garcia of his legislative immunity and the Attorney General announced charges against Garcia for "false ideology."  Garcia was also expelled from Nuevas Ideas and removed as a candidate in the 2024 elections.

At the beginning of August, another Nuevas Ideas deputy, Rebeca Santos, was also expelled from the party for unspecified unethical activity. There had been allegations that she had procured the appointment of her husband to a post in the government for which he was not qualified, and that persons linked to her had fraudulently obtained votes for her in recent primary elections within the party. It is unclear whether any of these allegations were linked to her ouster from the party.

None of the evidence against Muyshondt, Garcia or Santos has been publicly shared. The Bukele government is holding up the cases as symbols of Bukele's recent call for a new war on corruption. However the cases could also be examples of the punishment which awaits persons who are disloyal or embarrass the party.