Saturday, November 21, 2015
Monday, November 16, 2015
El Salvador's Human Rights Ombudsman David Morales went to El Salvador's Supreme Court on Monday, November 16, the 26th anniversary of the murder of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Morales was there to file a petition asking the Court to rescind its prior order on extradition of 13 military officers to Spain. A Spanish court has issued an arrest warrant to require those officers to face justice for the Jesuit massacre, but in 2012, El Salvador's Supreme Court refused the Spanish extradition request.
Morales petition probably has no more than symbolic significance. The Supreme Court has not changed its composition and is highly unlikely to reverse itself. Also pending in front of the Supreme Court is a challenge to the 1993 amnesty law which has so far prevented the military command from being prosecuted in El Salvador. That challenge has been pending for years with no sign that a decision is due soon.
The crimes of El Salvador's civil war remain in impunity as each November 16 anniversary reminds us.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit El Salvador each year for study, tourism, cruise ship visits, business, and volunteer work. There is no information to suggest that U.S. citizens are specifically targeted by criminals; however, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country.
Since January 2010, 34 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador including a nine-year-old child in December 2013.
- Do not wander off alone away from the group
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Do not become an attractive target for crime: do not flash smartphones, jewelry, electronics, IPads, stuffed wallets, expensive cameras
- Obey the instructions of your group leader
- Only get money from an ATM in a secure location
Travelers should remain in groups and avoid remote or isolated locations in order to minimize their vulnerability. Travelers should also avoid displaying or carrying valuables in public places. Passports and other important documents should not be left in private vehicles.
U.S. Embassy security officials advise all U.S. Government personnel not to walk, run, or cycle in the unguarded streets and parks of El Salvador, even in groups, and recommend exercising only in gyms and fitness centers. Criminals often become violent quickly, especially when victims fail to cooperate immediately in surrendering valuables. Frequently, victims who argue with assailants or refuse to give up their valuables are shot. U.S. citizens in El Salvador should exercise caution at all times and practice good personal security procedures throughout their stay.
Armed holdups of vehicles traveling on El Salvador's roads are common, and we encourage U.S. citizens to remain aware of their surroundings. The U.S. Embassy warns its personnel to drive with their doors locked and windows raised. Avoid travel outside of major metropolitan areas after dark and on unpaved roads at all times because of criminal assaults and lack of police and road service facilities. Armed assaults and carjackings take place both in San Salvador and in the interior of the country, but are especially frequent on roads outside the capital where police patrols are scarce. Criminals have been known to follow travelers from the El Salvador International Airport to private residences or secluded stretches of road where they carry out assaults and robberies. Armed robbers are known to shoot if the vehicle does not come to a stop. Travelers with conspicuous amounts of luggage, late-model cars, or foreign license plates are particularly vulnerable to crime, even in the capital.
Travel on public transportation, especially buses, both within and outside the capital, is risky and not recommended. The Embassy advises official visitors and personnel to avoid using mini-buses and regular buses and to use only radio-dispatched taxis or those stationed in front of major hotels.
U.S. citizens using banking services should be vigilant while conducting their financial exchanges either inside local banks or at automated teller machines (ATMs). Recently, there have been cases reported in which criminals observe and follow customers making withdrawals at ATMs and banks, and then rob them on the road or at a residence. U.S. citizens have also been victimized at well-known restaurants, hotels, and retailers within San Salvador.
Friday, November 13, 2015
As El Salvador approaches the 26th anniversary of the massacre of the six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America on November 16, 1989, one of the country's award winning authors has just fled the country and sought asylum in Spain after receiving death threats. Jorge Galán had just published "Noviembre" in October, which narrates the story of the massacre of the Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter and those figures in the military who were behind the crime. On November 1, Galán was attacked by armed men who threatened and insulted him. He is now seeking protection in Spain.
Spain is the country where court proceedings are currently pending against twenty military officers of their involvement in the crime. El Salvador is the country where those accused of the crime continue to walk free, safe from extradition and protected by an amnesty law and impunity from ever having to face justice.
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Looking for any glimmer of improvement in the wave of murders which has hit El Salvador this year, Salvadorans heard from the PNC yesterday that "only" 139 people were murdered in the first ten days of November, for an average of 13.9 per day. This compared to an average of 22.7 per day during October.
While acknowledging this was a reduction, Howard Cotto of the PNC cautioned that it was too early to be labelled a trend. While refusing to disclose particular police strategies, Cotto believes that actions by security forces are having a positive effect.
At the same time, Cotto dismissed the idea that the reduction in homicides represented a response by the gangs to the call of the IPAZ churches for the gangs to cease their violent actions. The churches, for their part, see the reduction in homicides as a response to their call for peacemaking.
Cotto repeated the claim of the government that most of the victims and most of the killers were gang members. However, past reviews have shown that homicides are rarely investigated thoroughly enough in El Salvador to support such claims.
Monday, November 09, 2015
Acceso Oferta Local – Productos de El Salvador has worked with 300 smallholder farmers and sources 42 different varieties of fruits and vegetables.
In November 2013, CGEP began working in El Salvador and replicated their successful supply chain enterprise model by creating Acceso Oferta Local – Productos de El Salvador. CGEP and Fundación Carlos Slim facilitated a total investment of $1.05 million to the enterprise, which currently operates in the highlands and in San Salvador, El Salvador. CGEP’s supply chain enterprise in El Salvador trains smallholder farmers and sources over 42 different varieties of fruits and vegetables for sale to Super Selectos, the largest national supermarket chain, and has recently begun supplying Corporacion de Franquisias Americanas, the country’s largest restaurant conglomerate which includes Wendy’s and other fast food chains. With better knowledge, targeted inputs, services and access to affordable credit, farmers can increase their current yields with minimal cost increases.President Clinton wrote on his Foundation's Instagram account:
Today I met Edgar Lemus, a smallholder farmer in El Salvador whose income has more than doubled because of the agricultural training provided by CGEP’s Acceso program and their purchasing of Edgar’s crops at fair prices and selling them to buyers like Super Selectos. Great to hear his story and see the impact the work is having on his life and the lives of so many others. - BCA photo posted by Clinton Foundation (@clintonfoundation) on
Clinton also met with the president of El Salvador, Salvador Sanchez Ceren.
Saturday, November 07, 2015
The hearing lasted two days and was covered by swarms of media.
The prosecutor outlined his case. In 2003, $15 million was received in checks made out to Flores form the Taiwan embassy, The checks were taken to Costa Rica, where they were deposited in a newly created account for a supposed institute for political studies. Of the $15 million, $10 was later distributed to Flores' political party, ARENA. The other $5 million went into Flores own pockets. The investigative reporters at El Faro published an exhaustive studying tracing the path of all the funds in October 2014 which you can read here.
|One of the checks from the Embassy of Taiwan to ex-President Francisco Flores|
One aspect of the hearing with an interesting twist was the conflict between certain private complainants and the public prosecutor. The private complainants want a count of money laundering added to the trial. The public prosecutor (FGR) objects saying there is not enough evidence, and the hearing had the odd moment where both the prosecutor and Flores' attorneys were making the same arguments against the money laundering allegations.
The judge must now decide whether Flores will be set free or whether he must face trial on the corruption charges. The judge will announce his decision December 3.
Ex-president Flores is from the right-wing ARENA party and participated on the campaign team of ARENA candidate Norman Quijano in the presidential elections in 2014. The corruption allegations became one of the central themes leading up to the victory of the left wing FMLN in March.
Friday, November 06, 2015
I have written several times on this blog about IPAZ, the pastoral initiative for life and peace, a group of protestant churches in El Salvador which advocates for dialogue in Salvadoran society, including dialogue with the gangs, as a path towards reducing violence in the society.
a) cease all violent actions against the lives of Salvadorans
b) cease recruiting members, especially boys and girls
c) cease all types of threats which force families to leave their homes or neighborhoods
d) permit the free transit of people throughout all El Salvador
La única oportunidad que tenemos es que las pandillas todavía respetan a las iglesias y a los pastores, porque esos pandilleros, cuando fueron niños, llegaron a nuestras iglesias.
The only opportunity we have is that the gangs still respect the churches and the pastors, because these gang members, when they were boys, came to our churches.
The Salvadoran churches which form part of IPAZ, with profound thanks to God, respond to the responses received from the gangs.
We say to them, many thanks for having respect for the churches and keeping in the love and fear of God. We accept and take you at your word. We hope that all Salvadorans will see the concrete gestures that you indicate you are going to do. Please, make it be widely known in all the country, the changes from violence to peace.
We make a call to the government and to all the authorities of the country, to all the sectors of the Salvadoran people, to the international communities, to join yourselves in this route for the construction of peace in our country, that together we could build a process of well-being in order to dedicate it to our God this coming Christmas, full of happiness and a new year 2016 without bloodshed, grief and pain.This video shows scenes from the October 27 march, with the four petitions, followed by an interview with supposed spokesmen for the two 18 gang factions accepting the call of IPAZ:
|Leaders of IPAZ churches at press conference.|
In taking these steps, the IPAZ churches are certainly voices crying out in the wilderness. Public opinion is strongly against anything that sounds like a truce, or negotiation, or dialogue. Comments on a news story on the LaPagina website were vitriolic in their rejection of this proposal. Government policy focuses on a repressive policy using heavily armed police and military raids (although it has recently proposed a law for the reinsertion of youth associated with gangs who have not committed serious crimes). Elements of the Catholic church which were formerly involved in IPAZ have withdrawn from the group.
Yet don't expect the IPAZ churches to back away from this position. Lutheran Bishop Medardo Gomez, who is the only Salvadoran other than Oscar Romero to have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, is committed to this path and has the courage of his convictions. For these churches, they cannot walk away from being pastors for all members of Salvadoran society, including those gang members who arrived at the churches as boys and girls.
Will this process lead to a reduction in El Salvador's bloody wave of gang-related violence? There are good reasons to doubt it. But IPAZ will keep being a lone voice urging dialogue among all parties as a necessary building block to a peaceful society.
Disclaimer -- as the URL of this blog "luterano.blogspot.com" would suggest, I have close ties to the Lutheran church in El Salvador and great personal admiration for Bishop Gomez.
Thursday, November 05, 2015
This year El Salvador's government began publishing a measure of multi-dimensional poverty. The concept gets away from just looking at poverty as an income level, but instead looks at conditions of life including housing, access to health services, education and employment. Under this new multi-dimensional approach, a household is considered in poverty if it is lacking in 7 or more of 20 basic categories. Under this definition of poverty, the poverty rate in El Salvador is 35.2%
The 20 basic categories and the percentage of Salvadoran households who lack the minimum level for each category are:
Looking at poverty this way gives policy makers a much more sophisticated way to think about poverty and recognizes that all of these factors are necessary for citizens to enjoy a sense of well-being.
The distribution of households suffering from multi-dimensional poverty varies significantly by department:
|Percentage of households in poverty|
Wednesday, November 04, 2015
Last week the government of El Salvador released data on poverty in El Salvador based on household polling during 2014. The statistics showed an uptick in poverty in 2014, and continuing disparities between rural and urban areas. The country continues to make progress in reducing extreme poverty.
The poverty level household income in El Salvador is measured in comparison to the cost of a basic basket of food for a household for a month. That amount is $184 in urban areas and $131 in rural areas. A household is defined as living in poverty if its household income is less than two times the basic basket price (i.e., $368 urban / $262 rural).
Under this measure, 31.9% of Salvadoran households lived in poverty in 2014, up from 29.6% in 2013:
Looking over a longer time period, poverty in El Salvador has generally fluctuated between 30 and 40 percent during the past 15 years with a high 40.6% in 2011 and a low two years later of 29.6%:
Extreme poverty has generally followed a downward path during that time period, with the percentage of Salvadorans living in extreme poverty being cut in half during the last 15 years:
Looking at the 15 year data, which includes right wing ARENA administrations 2000-2008 and left wing FMLN administrations 2009-2014, both can claim credit for reducing extreme poverty while neither has a clear record on changing the level of relative poverty in the country.
- Average household monthly income -- $540 ($640 urban / $357 rural)
- Average years of schooling -- 8.1 (9.3 urban, 5.8 rural)
- Illiteracy rate -- 10.9% (7.0% urban / 17.7% rural)
- Internet users: 1.32 million