International Relations, U.S. Relations

Sonia Sotomayor Visits El Salvador

Yesterday, August 15th, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor arrived in El Salvador for a week-long visit. Justice Sotomayor is visiting her close friend, Mari Carmen Aponte who is the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador. During her stay, Justice Sotomayor will meet with Magistrates on the Salvadoran Supreme Court, as well as law students in San Salvador. She also plans to meet with students from Supérate, an youth program that seeks to improve opportunities for youth to develop their professional lives.

 

Justice Sotomayor and Ambassador Aponte, both Latinas with very successful legal careers, serve together on the board of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. The two have been so close that Justice Sotomayor swore in Aponte as Ambassador in 2010.

 

The visit comes less than a month after the resolution of the constitutional crisis that began on June 3rd when the Legislative Assembly and Executive branches tried to impede on the judicial independence of El Salvador’s Constitutional Court. This seems less of an official visit in response to that crisis, than two old friends getting together.

Sotomayor and Aponte in El Salvador
violence

Preliminary Hearing for 9 Trinidad Murder Suspects Postponed… Again

On July 1, 2010, Salvadoran Police and government prosecutors announced that they had arrested nine people for the murders of Ramiro Rivera, Dora Alicia Sorto, Felícita Echeverría, Horacio Menjívar, and Esperanza Velasco.

At the time, they claimed that Ramiro Rivera and Santos Rodriguez had paid gang members to kill Horacio Menjívar (April 2009) and Esperanza Velasco (October 2009), and that Oscar Menjívar and his sister Naomi hired the same gang members to kill Ramiro Rivera and Santos Rodriguez in revenge in December 2009. Felícita Echeverría was an innocent bystander who was killed while riding in Ramiro’s truck when assassins struck. Authorities presume that a few days later, assassins were searching for Santos Rodriguez, but when they came across his wife Dora Alicia, they killed her instead. She was 8 months pregnant at the time and carrying her two-year old son. The two-year old was wounded but survived. The unborn child did not.

The police and prosecutors claimed at the time that the violence was a family feud between members of the Menjívar family and leaders of the CAC, which is a local anti-mining organization. In one press release, the state prosecutor’s office states that the violence was an escalation of the debate over mining. In previous and subsequent statements, they have denied any link to mining.

Though the nine suspects being held for the murders were arrested over 13 months ago, they still have not had a preliminary hearing to determine whether the prosecutors and police have enough evidence to move forward with a trial. The preliminary hearings have been scheduled and cancelled four times in the past year – the most recent was last Friday, July 29th.  According to a press release from the Environmental Committee of Cabañas (CAC), the hearings were cancelled due to poor planning and logistics on the part of the prosecutor’s office.

According to a report by Sydney Blanco and Francisco Díaz, El Salvador has an impunity rate of 96.2%, meaning that of all murders committed in the country, only 3.8% result in a suspect being tried and convicted of the crime. Though police make arrests in 15% of all murders, the prosecutors only convict in 3.8% of them. The report places the blame for such a high impunity rate on the police, which they found were responsible for 26% of murders going unprosecuted, and the state prosecutor, which they found responsible for 54% of the murders going unprosecuted. The report says that the police and prosecutor’s office are jointly responsible the other 20% of the murder going unprosecuted.

In their recent press release, the CAC urges international organizations to take action to spur on the trial of the accused. They make the following demands:

–       We urge the Attorney General’s Office to expedite this process once and for all so that the hearing, which has been suspended four times, may be held and that no more excuses are put forward further delaying the procedure;

–       We demand that the investigations of the murders of Ramiro Rivera Gómez and Dora Alicia Sorto are comprehensive and coherent without trying to hide the truth;

–       The prosecutors must investigate all leads, which have already been discussed publically, instead of being fixed upon a single hypothesis that we (the CAC) do not agree with;

–       They (the CAC) will hold the authorities in charge of the investigation responsible if their negligence results in the suspects going free with impunity, and anything else happens to members of the CAC and the families of the victims;

–       We have called on international organizations and friends to watch out for the results of this trial, and we have asked them to demand that the authorities take these cases more seriously so that we don’t have to mourn the loss of another person, since three people from the CAC have already been killed for their involvement in the organization;

–       As an association defending the environment and human rights we also express that we will fight to defend life at the expense of losing our own.

While it is unclear why the prosecutors are delaying the hearings, there are real consequences. Though they are accused of murder, the suspects have a right to a trial. They were arrested over a year ago and the prosecuting attorneys have been unable to get their case to the point where they are even ready for a preliminary hearing.  In addition, the family and friends of the victims have a right to see justice done. If the suspects are indeed guilty, they should be held accountable for their crimes.

The preliminary hearings and trials are also important because it is an opportunity for the public to learn more about the facts about the case. Currently, there is little known about what happened in 2009 that led to the murders. Locals believe that there are intellectual authors involved that have not yet been arrested, and the preliminary hearing is an opportunity to gain access to information that may help others continue to investigate.

Time is also essential to these cases. The more time goes by, the greater the chance that the memories of witnesses become foggy and skewed. And the more time passes the greater the likelihood that something could happen to witnesses. The most recent murder involving a member of the CAC occurred in June 2011. Though the victim was not a witness to these crimes, there are potentially others whose lives are in danger. An example of this is the August 2009 shooting of Ramiro Rivera. Oscar Menjívar had been charged from trying to kill Ramiro Rivera in August 2009, but before Rivera could testify he was killed. The judge dismissed the charges against Mr. Menjívar because that the key witness, Mr. Rivera, was dead.

The violence in Cabañas continues and there are people guilty of murder who still enjoy impunity. With every passing day, the chances that they will be brought to justice diminish. We join the CAC in calling upon El Salvador’s state prosecutors to bring those accused to trial, while continuing to consider all other lines of investigation, including the possibility that there are intellectual authors to these crimes and that the violence was more than just a family feud.

Uncategorized

Fiestas Agostinas in El Salvador

Yesterday marked the first day of the August vacations in El Salvador.  In the capital, the celebrations began at 5:00 this morning when people gathered around the Plaza Las Américas to sing in commemoration of their patron, Divine Savior of the World (Divino Salvador del Mundo), after whom the city and country are named.  At the center of the plaza is the Monument to the Savior of the World (a giant statue of Jesus Christ standing atop the globe), which is a national symbol of El Salvador.  Later that day, there was a procession from the statue to Cuzcatlán Park featuring floats and costumed revelers.

Although the festival itself is of a religious nature, this week is also a time for secular retreat.  Last year, about 70,000 Salvadorans left the country for vacation, most of them to other parts of Central America.  Additionally, over 19,000 Salvadorans living abroad returned to the country.

The religious events of the week will culminate with a Saturday evening mass celebrating the Transfiguration of Jesus, a miracle in the Gospels and Catholic feast.  This feast is celebrated every year on August 6, and holds particular significance for El Salvador as it also commemorates the victory of the Spanish over the indigenous Cuscaltecos in 1526. Elsalvador.com provides a full list of the week’s festivities on their website.  Security will be tight all week, with the National Civl Police deploying 20,600 officers to patrol the areas in which the main festivities will take place.  Last year, 78 homicideswere committed during the festival, down 26% from the year before, and San Salvador’s Mayor Quijano has stated that safety will be a top priority.

The National Civil Police was featured prominently in the August 1st parade. Photo credit- La Prensa Gráfica
El Salvador Government, News Highlights, Politics

The People Spoke and 743 Was Repealed!

Yesterday, representatives from the FMLN and ARENA in the Legislative Assembly joined together to repeal Degree 734 – the controversial bill that required the Constitutional Court to reach unanimity in order to publish a decision. The Legislative Assembly passed Decree 743 and President Funes signed it into law on June 2, with no public debate. Protestors of all political colors and ideologies joined together to protest the bill, claiming that it violated the principal of an independent judiciary as established in both the Salvadoran Constitution and international treaties.

According to El Faro, the agreement began as a proposal by FMLN Representatives in the Legislative Assembly searching for a solution to the constitutional crisis that has been roiling since June 2. Their original proposal, which was introduced earlier in the week, maintained the unanimity requirement for the Constitutional Court when the decide whether a law is inapplicable, while allowing for a four out of five majority in other decisions. Representatives from the ARENA party, however, said they would support the FMLN plan if they got rid of the unanimity requirement altogether.

This past weekend, Voices hosted a small event in conjunction with our summer board meeting. In attendance were several Salvadoran-Americans living in the Washington DC area, and we asked their opinions on Decree 743 and the Constitutional issue. A middle-aged man we know only as Julio (nom de guerre), said that while de did not support Decree 743 at all, he thought the debate was little more than a growing pain in El Salvador’s efforts to strengthen its democratic institutions. He took the view that Decree 473 was meant to protect the same power structures that have existed since the Peace Accords were signed in 1992. He was confident that Decree 743 would not stand and that the Court and the rule of law would be stronger for having the debate.

We think Julio’s point is an important one. The decision to repeal Decree 743 seems to be a real victory for the rule of law and the independent judiciary, and will only serve to strengthen El Salvador’s institutions. The rule of law is stronger because even though the Constitution and international law may not be convenient for those with political and economic power who want to maintain greater control over the judiciary, Decree 743 did not stand. From this point forward, it also becomes more difficult for officials from the executive and legislative branches of government to interfere with the Court, even when they are taking on controversial decisions. And with stronger rule of law and even greater independence, the Constitutional Court will be able to continue addressing controversial issues such as reform of the Electoral Code.

The Decree 743 debate has also been valuable for the amount of attention it has focused on controversial issues such as Electoral Code reform. With the local and legislative elections scheduled for March 2012, the debate over reform is very important. Those who advocate reform believe that the current system of voting for political parties (who then choose representatives for the Legislative Assembly based on the number of votes they receive) is unconstitutional and that the people ought to be able to vote for individual candidates. Those who are opposed to reform argue that by giving political parties greater control over who is appointed to represent people in the Legislative Assembly, they can better control the agenda and prevent corruption and abuse. On July 8, a group of FMLN supporters issued a declaration against electoral reform, arguing in part that they are better able to defend the people against the economic and political interests of the wealthy elites if they maintain a system in which they choose representatives.

As the debate over the electoral process for the March 2012 elections continues in the coming weeks and months, it will be very important for Salvadorans to understand the changes proposed and what it would mean for their access to the governing process.

Yesterday’s repeal of Decree 743 is also another important indication that civil society and public participation are strengthening in El Salvador. Though Salvadoran law does not provide civil society or people the right to directly comment on actions taken by the central government (the Municipal Code allows for public participation at the local level), organizations and people have mounted strong advocacy campaigns that pressure government officials to listen. The Decree 743 advocacy campaign is as important as the anti-mining movement’s efforts to prevent the government from granting exploitation permits to Pacific Rim Mining Corporation, and the 2002 health workers strike to prevent privatization of part of the health care system. And like participants in the anti-mining movement and the 2002 health worker strikes, opponents of Decree 743 set aside their political party affiliations to unify as one people.

El Salvador Government, Mauricio Funes, Politics

Decree 743: The Controversy Continues

As the constitutional crisis continues in El Salvador, several different people and groups have staked out their formal positions on Decree 743, the law passed on June 2 that weakens the country’s Constitutional Court.  If you haven’t read our other posts about Decree 743, click here for more information.

Last week, Constitutional Court Magistrate Sydney Blanco was in Washington, DC visiting friends and family, but took time to meet with Salvadorans in the area and others interested in the issue. Magistrate Blanco is one of the four Constitutional Court Magistrates most affected by Decree 743.

Blanco speaking at an event held last Friday by the Salvadoran Lawyers Association in Maryland

At a press conference held at the Central American Resource Center on Wednesday, Magistrate Blanco stressed that, as judges on the Constitutional Court, he and his colleagues are independent. He continued, “we are not thinking whether [a decision] is going to prejudice or favor one political party or another; our only motivation is the Constitution.”

During the conference, Magistrate Blanco emphasized that not only the content, but also the form of decree 743, is unconstitutional.  The decree was approved and sanctioned in a mere 7-hour window and was not discussed, which is inherently unconstitutional.  In addition, the magistrate noted that the Salvadoran Constitution provides for pluralism of political views, as established in its article 686.  The Magistrate commented on the necessity of these “different streams of political thought…[allowing] each magistrate to think differently and possess a different view.”  He argued that pluralism is undermined by the decree’s requirement of unanimity in the Court.

Pluralism is the basis of  judicial independence, which is a recent phenomenon in El Salvador. Until 2009, when Mauricio Funes was elected President and Sydney Blanco and others were appointed as Magistrates to the Constitutional Court, the judiciary often served political and economic interests of those in power. Since taking the bench in 2009, however, the current Court has struck down several controversial laws, including the Electoral Code.

In a letter dated June 30, 2011, a group of civil society organizations, which included FESPAD, FUNDE, FUSADES, WOLA[V3] , and others, reject Decree 743 because it violates the principals of an independent judiciary and separation powers. They argue that Decree 743 is targeted to interfere with the Constitutional Court’s work, and therefore violates Article 8(1) of the American Convention of Human Rights and Article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee citizens the right to an independent judiciary.

While the Constitutional Court has undoubtedly been greatly impacted by the decree, Blanco asserted, “The decree has not interrupted the work of the Court…for us [Magistrates] the decree was born and died instantaneously.”  In addition to the charge of obstructing the function of the Court, organizations opposed to the decree view it as a separation of powers issue, in that the Legislative Assembly and Executive have limited the abilities of the court in order to keep them from ruling on the Amnesty Law, continuing their call for reform of the Electoral Code, and other issues.

On July 8, another group of Salvadoran organizations participated in a conference on electoral reform, resulting in a declaration supporting President Funes and his efforts to limit the Court’s authority. Without even mentioning Decree 743, the declaration and its signatories clearly support the administration and the FMLN in the current debate. They accuse FUSADES, ANEP, and the ARENA party of using the Constitutional Court to destabilize the government by finding the Electoral Code unconstitutional and creating chaos in the months before the January 2012 municipal and legislative elections.

It seems unlikely that the Court’s demand for reformation of the Electoral Code was a right-wing conspiracy. Domestic and international organizations have talked about the need for reform of the Electoral Code since before the 2009 elections. Whether or not there was a conspiracy with the Court, some right-wing politicians and groups have used the debate to drive a wedge between left-leaning organizations and political parties. Early on, members of the ARENA party, who are surely just as opposed to electoral reform as the FMLN, said that they would support repeal of Decree 743, and since then have been largely absent from the debate, letting Funes and the FMLN struggle to defend the unpopular law.

Drafters of the declaration produced at the July 8th conference recognized that right-wing interests are using election reform and Decree 743 as wedge issues, trying to divide the FMLN and President Funes from large segments of their base. The declaration calls on the People and organizations not to fall for false or confusing information and to continue to support the administration and party of change. The declaration, however, does not back its positions on reform of the Electoral Code and Decree 743 with the same kind of legal reasoning that the drafters of the July 30th letter to President Funes use. The drafters instead depend on the threat that the right-wing supporters of the oligarchy are trying to destablise the government.

Magistrate Sydney Blanco said that there isn’t much of a crisis for the court. He argues that they ruled Decree 743 unconstitutional and has been operating same as always. The Official Diary of the government, however, did not publish that ruling because it did not have the signature of all five Magistrates, which Decree 743 requires. So the standoff between the branches of government continues. It remains unclear what the process will be for electing representatives to the Legislative Assembly will be in January 2012 or whether the Magistrates will be able to serve out the rest of their term. It is apparent, however, that the President’s base is split on the issue and he has spent a lot of political capital.

 

El Salvador Government

Magistrate Sydney Blanco Event in Hyattsville MD – Tonight

For those of you in the DC area, Salvadoran Magistrate Sydney Blanco will be speaking at an event hosted by the Salvadoran Lawyer’s Association and the Salvadoran-American Initiative for Democracy in El Salvador at St. Mathew’s Episcopal Church in Hyattesville, MD tonight from 5:00 – 8:00.

Magistrate Blanco has been a judge in El Salvador for over 15 years, and currently serves on the country’s highest Constitutional Court. He and three other magistrates are currently embroiled in a constitutional crisis in El Salvador, which many believe to be the worst institutional conflict in El Salvador in a generation. For background information you can read our previous blog posts here, here, here, and here.

In a press conference earlier in the week, Magistrate Blanco said that he came to the DC area to visit family and friends, and to get away from the stress he has endured since the crisis began over a month ago.  He makes it clear that while he is not hear  to lobby around the issue, he is happy to speak to those who are interested.

No matter your position on Decree 743, we recommend going to hear Magistrate Blanco tonight from 5-8.

Here is the invitation we received:

Los invito a participar en un foro muy importante para informar a nuestra comunidad Salvadoreña-American del area de Maryland, Virginia, y DC.

Tenemos la oportunidad de escuchar la ponencia que dará el Magistrado Sidney Blanco en un foro comunitario sobre la actual crisis de gobernabilidad que El Salvador está enfrentando. Desde la firma de los Acuerdo de Paz, hemos venido avanzando y fortaleciendo los procesos democráticos. Pero ahora..¿qué significa el Decreto 743 para el futuro de la democracia Salvadoreña, la transparencia institucional, y la independencia jurídica?

Who/Quien: Magistrado Sidney Blanco de la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia
When/Cuando: Viernes 15 de Julio de 5 a 8 p.m.
Where/Donde: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 5901 36th Ave, Hyattsville MD 20782

Sponsors/Invitan:
Salvadoran Lawyers Association (SLA) and
Salvadoran-American Initiative for Democracy in El Salvador

Contacto: Daniel Joya 301-468-9299 danjoyas@yahoo.com <about:/mc/compose?to=danjoyas@yahoo.com>

Dear Friends,
I want to invite you to participate in an important event for our Salvadoran American community in the MD-DC-VA area.
You will have the opportunity to hear a presentation by Salvadoran Supreme Court Judge, Magistrado Sidney Blanco, at a community forum on the current governance and constitutional crisis that El Salvador is now facing. What does passage of legislative Decree 743 mean for the future of El Salvador’s democratic processes, transparency in governance, and an independent judiciary?

Hope to see you there! Espero verlos a todos!
Saludos,
Ana Sol Gutiérrez

Uncategorized

US Ambassador to El Salvador Attacked for Support of LGBT Rights

Mari Carmen Aponte, the United States Ambassador to El Salvador has come under attack this month by various pro-life and pro-family groups, notably the Catholic Church, after authoring an article in support of LGBT rights in El Salvador. Aponte called for the elimination of prejudice against LGBT individuals, noting that the impetus for change is not just the responsibility of the government, but requires the cooperation of its people as well.In her article, Aponte championed the celebration of the “diversity of the Americas.”

The coalition of pro-life/pro-family groups opposed to Aponte’s ideas is comprised of 22 Salvadoran organizations, and 20 other organizations from the Americas and Europe. The group is accusing Aponte of violating international rules of diplomacy and international rights as stated in the Vienna Convention of the United Nations Assembly. This Convention provides that diplomats must abstain from interfering in the internal affairs of other states or countries, while simultaneously respecting the character of said states.

The coalition further argued that in “not accepting the legitimacy of ‘sexual diversity’ does not mean [they] are violating any human right.” The coalition rejects the notion that Aponte is defining the progress of human rights in El Salvador as the acceptance and promotion of LGBT issues. The group stated that they “prefer to feel proudly ‘old fashioned,’ keep [their] moral values…and preserve their families,” and to decide what is right and wrong themselves.

Members of the coalition feel as if Aponte has completely disregarded and undervalued their Christian values, which they find very offensive. They argue that it is wrong for Aponte to lecture organizations, citizens and the government of El Salvador from a pedestal and with a tone of moral superiority when in the United States abortion, which they do not support, is legal and accepted by many.

While Aponte and the groups agree that violence against LGBT communities needs to be curbed, the coalitions deny that this means they must accept and approve of gay marriage. Officials from the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador claim that Aponte’s comment was not pertaining to foreign culture and laws, but it was instead a reinstatement of U.S. policy. President Obama, and Secretary Hilary Clinton have been explicit in their support the respect of rights for the LGBT community, a position that Aponte was merely echoing and doing her job as a US ambassador to explain to those outside the US border.

This disagreement, along with the June 15th Gay Pride March in San Salvador, has highlighted how sensitive the issues surrounding Salvadoran LGBT rights are.  In the coming weeks, Voices will be writing a short series of articles about the everyday realities of members of the LGBT community in the country. Stay tuned!

Economy, Public Health, violence

Cities: El Salvador’s Growing Problem

Urbanization is something that every country faces at one point or another in its development. The US, for example, experienced urbanization during the industrial revolution and on to the early 20th century. Today, many developing countries are also experiencing it. Because it is part of the path to development, urbanization is an indicator worth analyzing in the context of El Salvador as it becomes increasingly problematic, specifically in terms of poverty, violence and health.

 

As nations’ economies move from rural farms to more modern technologies, cities begin to form as hubs for commerce and other economic activity. Urbanization’s momentum grows when even more poor people then decide to relocate to the city in an effort to find better opportunities. This can be seen from Mexico City to Shanghai. Problems arise, however, when cities begin to get overcrowded and the poor create squatting communities along the outside of the cities. Often times these individuals have no rights to the land; more so, living conditions in these communities are terrible.

 

El Salvador has cities that are not unlike those of other developing countries. In fact, about 60.3% of Salvadorans now live in urban areas. El Salvador’s main urban hubs are San Salvador, San Miguel, and Santa Ana. While Salvadorans decide to go to cities to pursue better lives, city life is often not that glamorous. Typically, urban homes are made out of bricks and cement. Homes in the slums however, are essentially huts made out of aluminum, plastic, and cardboard. It is important to note that these homes are especially susceptible to constant flooding in the rainy season. There are also instances where the single water source in these communities is contaminated.

 

Urban poverty in El Salvador currently stands at 56%; that is, more than half of those living in cities are barely able to afford to survive. Fewer job opportunities and high costs of living explain why urban poverty is so widespread. Even so, the urban population in El Salvador is growing by about 1.9% each year while the rural population is only rising at 0.6% each year. It becomes a problem when far too many Salvadorans are living in the cities because the government is not able to provide the necessary services to everyone.

 

Another problem related to urbanization is urban violence. Poverty alone does not explain why crime in cities is more common. It seems that inequality, which is more distinguishable in urban areas, is also a key indicator of crime. Inequality, coupled with daily living conditions, is likely to result in conflict and violence. Violence specifically affects developing countries by stifling necessary economic growth. Urban conflict drains financial capital by requiring greater investments in judicial services and healthcare. Human capital is also reduced by the presence of persistent violence. Deaths and reductions in life expectancy, lower levels of personal security, fewer educational opportunities and lower productivity in the workplace all function to weaken the labor force. Lastly, social capital is also reduced through the ongoing fear and lack of trust within communities that result in less coordination.

 

Health is yet another problem affected by urban growth; slums are inherently unhealthy living arrangements. Because these individuals do not own the land and are residing in informal communities, they cannot demand better living standards from the government. Living in city slums, like those in San Salvador, Santa Ana, and San Miguel, where there has been little to no urban planning also facilitates the spread of illnesses. More than that, traffic accidents and pollution, two seemingly trivial consequences of urbanization, account for an alarmingly high number of deaths and illnesses.

 

While the government has not done much to address the issue of living conditions in the cities and slums, it has attempted to address the issue of crime. As a result of its high crime rates, El Salvador has passed a substantial number of laws aimed at reducing crime. With mixed success, the government has remained dedicated to fighting crime since El Salvador became one of the ten most crime-ridden countries in the world. With that said, the government has done little to address the issues of poverty and health in the growing urban areas.

 

Indeed, urbanization signals progress, however it comes with its own unique set of problems. El Salvador does not have the necessary mechanisms in place to offer everyone in the cities the resources and services they need to pursue a better life. Instead, urban poverty is growing and living conditions continue to deteriorate. Poverty, violence, and health are all variables that interact with one another to create the reality of city life in El Salvador today. As such, one of these factors cannot be remedied without the other two being addressed as well. The government will be forced to address it in the coming years as more and more Salvadorans continue to move to the cities.

 

El Salvador Government, News Highlights, Politics

PDC and PCN “No Han Muerto”

We recently reported that last Friday, July 1, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal voted to dissolve the PDC and the PCN political parties.  However, as of today, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and National Coalition Party (PCN) have not died.  Both parties are still alive as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) was not able to sign off on its final decision yesterday. It seems as though this now permits PCN and PDC politicians to participate in the municipal elections in March 2012 and they are able to obtain funds from the state for campaigning. For the PCN and the PDC, this failure on the part of the TSE to sign off on the decision 48 hours after having decided on the verdict, has saved these parties from being removed from the ballot.

 

In order to be able to issue the verdict, four of the five magistrates were required to agree, but that was not possible yesterday after having sat down for almost three hours in discussion. As a result, there is some discrepancy as to whether these parties will in fact be able to participate in the elections or not. Eugenio Chicas, a magistrate on the TSE said on July 4 that “the cancellation process has not been consolidated, in other words, there is no clear resolution to the cancellation.” When asked if the PCN and PDC will be able to run in 2012, Chicas said that “these parties are still alive, there is a certain form of life in these parties, but I still cannot give a resolution regarding they eligibility to run in the March 2012 elections”. Even the president of the TSE was unable to clearly state whether or not the parties will obtain funds for their campaigns.

 

 

El Salvador Government, News Highlights

Civil Society Condemns Police Raid

This past Saturday July 2, Salvadoran police (PCN) arrested 35 individuals in the local office of PROCOMES office. PROCOMES, the Center for Training for Local Development and Economic Solidarity, is a civil society organization that works with at-risk youth. This organization has had a presence in El Salvador for over 20 years in nine of its fourteen departments.

 

According to reports, on Saturday July 2, a total of 270 PCN and army troops raided this office and arrested 35 employees. Margarita Posada of PROCEOMES recalls that, “they entered the office without a search warrant after having cut the PROCOMES office fence and arrested the guard, whom they first told they were pursuing a criminal;  later, they stated that they were looking for weapons in the office and proceeded to arrest these individuals, this is an abuse that takes us back to the 70s”.

 

Members of the Communal Center of El Salvador (CODESA), a group of civil society organizations, have expressed their concern with this most recent display of the PCN abusing their power. As Posada explains, almost two decades after the peace accords were signed, El Salvador is still struggling with justice and respect for human rights.

 

This group of civil organizations is not whole-heartedly opposed to the police, clarified Mario Chavez, they are merely opposed to the police overstepping their boundaries and creating a repressive environment. The Salvadoran government has taken steps in the past to fight police corruption, however, the reality of police abuse and disregard for human rights is still a reality in the country.