Economy

Dollarization: “A Sack of Unfulfilled Promises”

In January 2001, El Salvador began the dollarization process, which changed the official currency from the Salvadoran Colon to the U.S dollar. According to an article posted on Tim’s El Salvador Blog, former President Francisco Flores and his Minister of Finance, Manuel Enrique Hinds, made the change in order to keep interest levels low, control inflation and increase foreign investment.

In the twelve years since, Salvadorans have engaged in a constant debate over dollarization – has it been good or not, and should they keep the U.S. currency or revert back to the Colon. In June 2011, we posted an article on this blog looking back at ten years of dollarization, concluding that it has not brought about the positive benefits promised.

Others have reached the similar conclusions, including the current President of El Salvador’s Central Reserve Bank, Carlos Acevedo who earlier this month said dollarization was “a sack of unfulfilled promises.” The Central Reserve Bank is a government-controlled entity that regulates many aspects of El Salvador’s economy, including its currency, and Acevedo’s opinion carries some weight.

This is not the first time Acevedo has criticized dollarization. In March 2012 he penned an opinion piece for El Faro that described the process of planning for and implementing dollarization as “hasty and improvised.” He also said that reversing dollarization (de-dollarization) would be even more detrimental. Acevedo, however, also told Contrapunto that “the next government will be forced to consider the possibility of de-dollarization to allow for a monetary policy that provides greater flexibility of public finance, and so it will be able to return to printing money and adjusting interest rates to stimulate the economy.

Bank President Acevedo made his most recent statements (reported by Active Transparency) following the release of a government study on dollarization, which reached some rather negative conclusions. The report found that many key economic indicators, including exports and GDP fell, while inflation and interest rates rose. Dollarization has failed to shield the economy from downturns and instead made El Salvador more susceptible to instabilities in the U.S. economy, as witnessed during the 2009 recession. The Economista published an article yesterday reaching very much the same conclusions.

In his statements this month, Acevedo said dollarization was “badly designed, improvised and lacking consultation,” and that El Salvador’s fiscal performance with dollarization was the worst in sixty years. He also said the performance was so poor that even proponents of dollarization could not ignore its negative impacts. Even in his most recent comments, however, Acevedo stressed that the Funes administration is not considering de-dollarization and that doing so would cause more economic hard and instability. One of his fears is that Salvadorans would make a run on the banks, withdrawing dollars before they were converted to Colones or another currency.

While President Funes may not have de-dolarization plans for the last year of his administration, Vice President and FMLN 2014 presidential candidate Sanchez Ceren said in May 2012 that dollarization was the cause of the current economic recession and that El Salvador’s currency had to be changed back to the Colon.

Norman Quijano, the Mayor of San Salvador and the ARENA party’s 2014 presidential candidate stated in the past that dollarization would be beneficial to consumers. In a more recent interview he said, “reversing dollarization would be the worst thing to do.” Former President Tony Saca, who may run as the GANA party’s 2014 presidential candidate, stated in the past that he supported dollarization and that de-dollarization would be detrimental.

Acevedo’s comments paint a pretty difficult position for El Salvador in terms of the country’s economic policy. Dollarization has been bad, but de-dollarization would be really bad. While the current slate of presidential candidates have made general statements, it is unclear whether they are open to more nuanced positions that will give government economists more tools to promote a more stable economy.

Advocacy, El Salvador Government, Politics

El Salvador’s Armed Forces Veterans Take the Streets

On January 8, 2013, Salvadoran police clashed with military veterans who had blockaded several of El Salvador’s busiest highways in protest over pensions and benefits.

For more than a year, veterans groups have been negotiating with the Funes Administration to secure benefits they believe they were due for their service during the civil war. Some veterans groups are demanding that the government pay each veteran $10,000 for indemnification and begin disbursing $700 per month pension. These groups said that if the government did not start making payments by the end of 2012 they would start protesting, which they did on January 8 and have promised to continue doing.

Among the busiest roads protestors blocked was the Comalapa Highway that runs between the Comalapa International Airport and San Salvador. After protestors had blocked the highway for a couple hours causing major disruptions the police used their batons and teargas to break them up. They arrested 37 protestors in the process.

Seven of the protestors arrested at the Comalapa Highway blockade are from Nuevo Amanecer, a small community in the Lower Lempa of Usulután that was settled in 1991 by demobilized armed forces veterans. After being detained for 72 hours, the protestors were released on probation. The Nuevo Amanecer veterans are not new to protests and blockades. In 2011, the same group blocked the coastal highway that runs through San Maros de Lempa in protest of the government’s mis-management of dams on the Lempa River and their weak response to flooding caused by Tropical Storm 12-E.

Voices staff spoke with several of the Nuevo Amanecer veterans arrested during the protests. Daniel Benavides Martinez said he is a veteran of the Armed Forces and was demobilized in February 1992 after the Peace Accords were signed. He says he never received any of the benefits promised to veterans following the war. His father, who is also a veteran, received a piece of land in the Lower Lempa, but none in the family have received any other pension payments or benefits. Mr. Benavides Martinez also recalled that towards the end of the war military leaders mistreated soldiers in an effort to get them to desert the Armed Forces without collecting salaries, pensions, or other benefits.

Another of the Nueveo Amanecer veterans arrested during the protests spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisal. He said “there were funds assigned to us (veterans) after the Peace Accords, and [former Presidents] Cristiani and Calderon Sol and other members of the Tandona (military leadership) split it up amongst themselves.”

We also spoke with Pedro Martinez, a former FMLN militant and friend of those arrested. He explained that many veterans were cheated after the war, but are just now learning how to organize and advocate for their rights. Martinez, who is part of a veteran’s association that represents both armed forces and guerilla veterans, is working to distribute resources to veterans in need through the War Wounded Fund. However Martinez says that people try to take advantage of the limited fund. He said, “now someone who maybe just got bit by a horse is out on the street saying they were wounded from the war.”

Not all of the veterans are on board with the protests. José Amaya heads a veteran’s association that has been negotiating with the Funes Administration since November 2011. He disagrees that the administration has not done anything and apologized to Salvadorans for the protests, ensuring that they were not involved.

The day after the protests, Alex Segovia, the President’s Technical Secretary, emphasized that the government had never promised the veterans monetary compensation. “They say the government has made a commitment and this is false. We are never going to accept the amount [of pension] that they are proposing because it would break the State and we are not going to bend to pressure from anyone who makes demands.”

Retired Army Colonel Ochoa Perez, who is now serving as a legislative representative, disputes Alex Segovia’s claim that the administration has not made any promises. He said that in the past few months the Funes Administration has made promises of an indemnification package (the $10,000), a pension fund, land grants, and agricultural packages, but they have not followed through on any of them. In an interview just after the protests, he told La Pagina that he has documentation that proves they made promises. Perez unabashedly supports the protests, stating that he is a soldier before he is a politician. He even visited the veterans who were arrested while they were in jail, and gave them $160 to buy food while they were detained.

In January 2012, President Funes and Segovia promised a law that would provide more benefits to FLMN and Armed Forces veterans. And the general consensus seems to be that the FMLN and Armed Forces Associations agree that since the Funes Administration took office, they have begun to receive more pensions and social and economic support, especially for the war wounds, who are represented by ALGES. The Instituto de Previsión Social de la Fuerza Armada (IPSFA) has provided pensions and services for Armed Forces veterans for over 30 years, but getting benefits can be a long and tedious process, and the resources available are quite limited. In October of 2012, IPSFA announced that they were running a $4 million a month deficit and would be selling off a lot of their assets, which include beach resorts, hotels, and other properties. (The comment sections at the end of these articles are full of interesting comments and accusations of corruption within IPFSA).

In his response to the protests, Alex Segovia alleged that the protests were an effort by other political parties to destabilize the government and the FMLN party in what is essentially an election year (presidential elections are scheduled for January 2014). This would not be the first time that the military and veterans have been used for political gains. Even Ochoa Perez said after the protests that “they have used veterans and thrown them in the trash like sugarcane pulp.”

Pedro Martinez says that anger and protests targeting the current administration are a little misplaced considering that there were four conservative ARENA governments that failed to adequately address the needs of military veterans.

Voices Developments

La Voz – Voices on the Border Winter 2012 Newsletter

As we close out 2012, we thought we’d provide one more update on our efforts to promote just and sustainable development in El Salvador. In addition to news from our partner communities in Morazan and Usulutan, we have some other exciting developments to announce.

One such development (detailed inside the newsletter), is that after 6 years, Rosie Ramsey is leaving Voices – she has some great things happening in her life and we are grateful for her years of service and friendship. We are pleased to announce that Jose Acosta will be taking over the field director position and implementing our new Grassroots Resource Center in the new year.

Here’s a link to our Winter Newsletter:

Winter_Newsletter_2012Also, thank you for your great response to the Matching Grant Opportunity, but we still need to raise $3000 between now and the end of the year.

You can click here to get to our Network for Good page and make an online donation – its easy and secure, and your funds will be used to directly empower our partners in Northern Morazan and the Lower Lempa region of Usulutan.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Uncategorized, Voices Developments

Matching Grant Opportunity!!! Please Donate Today

Reality: it’s easier to raise money during emergencies (like floods and droughts) when the damage already is done.

Reality: It’s much more difficult to raise money between emergencies when preventative measures can be taken to mitigate damage.

Your support during past emergencies has helped Voices on the Border provide aid in shelters and assist with recovery efforts. But it’s what we (you and I) do between emergencies that has the greatest impact.

Everyday we work side-by-side with communities in Morazán and Usulután to mitigate the risks of disaster. As climate change results in even more extreme weather, these efforts become more and more important.

Mitigating risks, however, is not just making sure the local rescue squad is trained and equipped – we have done that. It is also ensuring that our community partners are able to achieve economic sustainability and preserve their natural resources so that people are more resilient and extreme weather has less of an impact.

After a lot of dialogue about how we can best serve our partner communities in Usulután and Morazán achieve their goals of achieving economic sustainability and protecting their natural resources, we decided to re-focus our efforts on building local capacity.

In January 2013, Voices will launch a Grassroots Resource Center that will help empower our community partners to achieve economic sustainability and better protect their natural resources. We will do so by implementing two programs – a Civil Society Training Center and a Research Institute.

The Training Center will offer local leaders workshops and other opportunities to local leaders to increase their capacity in strategic planning, project management, and others. We will also provide workshops on land use, public health, education, and sustainable agricultural.

The Research Institute will gather and disseminate information and analysis about issues that impact economic sustainability and mitigating risks associated with climate change and other issues. The information will allow citizens and local leaders to have a stronger voice in the policy decisions that affect them.

Rosie with the Amando Lopez Community Borad
Rosie (Voices’ Field Director) with the Amando Lopez Community Board

With your support, Voices has been engaged in this kind of empowerment for over 20 years. But as free trade agreements, tourism, and aid programs like the Millennium Challenge Corporation create new barriers to economic sustainability and threaten natural resources, we have to be more efficient in our response.

To launch the Resource Center in January, we need to raise $12,000 by December 31st. We have a generous donor willing to match donations up to $6,000, meaning that if you donate $100 today, we receive $200.

It’s just a matter of time before our partners experience more extreme weather. Your contribution today will help us ensure that it does not become another tragedy.

So please click on the Donate Button at the top of the page and contribute to Voices’ important work! Thank you and Happy Holidays

Environment

The Mangroves of La Tirana

Thompson Reuters published a photo yesterday of La Tirana, one of the communities in the Lower Lempa region of Usulutan targeted for tourism. The short article accompanying the photo focused not on tourism, but on the impact of greenhouse gases and climate change on the region. Here’s the photo and the full text:

Mangrove trees are pictured at the small community of La Tirana, about 110 kilometres (68 miles) from San Salvador August 3, 2012. Because of its location as a thin strip of land between two oceans in a tropical zone, Central America is one of the regions most vulnerable to greenhouse gases. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) estimates that the area stands to lose $10 billion over the next four years for this reason alone. The damage is not confined to El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, but also its neighbours. Across the region, large tracts of mangroves have also been destroyed by the shrimp and hotel industry, the cultivation of palm oil and sugarcane, as well as salt fields. According to a FAO study, Central America’s mangroves as a whole declined by 35 percent between 1980 and 2005 in terms of hectares. Honduran mangroves decreased by 56 percent, Nicaragua’s forests by 37 percent and Panama by 32 percent. Picture taken August 3, 2012. REUTERS/Ulises Rodriguez

Last year, Ryan Luckey published an article in Al Jazeera English documenting the loss of these mangrove forests in La Tirana and elsewhere in El Salvador. The article quotes Dr. Ricardo Navarro from CESTA (EL Salvador Center for Applied Technology), “All along the central coast of El Salvador there is a dead zone stretching along the beach, measuring between 10 and 50 metres. The cause? Climate change.”

Voices staff took a delegation to La Tirana earlier in this year to see the dead zone – here are a couple photos:

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El Salvador Government, violence

Payés Takes a Bus Ride: Something Smells Bad

Yesterday, El Salvador’s Minister of Justice and Security David Munguía Payés did something most unusual for a high-ranking government official – he rode a bus in San Salvador.

Dressed in a blue polo shirt, some serious sunglasses, and a ROLEX (yes, as in a super-expensive gold watch) Payés boarded the 29-F on the Juan Pablo II (a major road through San Salvador) bound for the shopping center in Soyapango. Once he paid his $0.25 fare, the Minister of Justice and Security took his seat amongst “the people.”

Photo credit: La Prensa Grafica

Payés’ bus adventure, which lasted only 10 minutes, wasn’t really meant to be an act of solidarity with his Salvadoran brothers and sisters, many of whom travel long distances by bus everyday just to get to their low-paying jobs. Nor was it an effort to raise awareness of climate change by ditching his chauffeured, gas guzzling, SUVs for public transportation.

According to La Prensa Grafica, Payés’ excursion was meant to prove that his use of military and police have made bus routes throughout San Salvador safe. He seemed to want to show the poor, who rank security among their greatest concerns, that things aren’t as bad as they make it out to be – and he was even willing to risk loosing his gold Rolex to prove it.

Payés could have done a few things to make his demonstration/publicity stunt a little more credible. For example, he could have left his three bodyguards and the Rolex at home. I’m sure most people would feel pretty safe on a bus in Soyapongo knowing they’ve got three bodyguards with them and a security detail waiting at their stop. And the Rolex surely distinguished him from anyone else riding a bus in El Salvador yesterday.

One person indicated in the comment section of the LPG article that Payés would have more credibility if he rode the bus after 7 or 8 at night when they are a little more dangerous.

And by arguing that militarization of San Salvador’s streets have made them safer, he seems perfectly comfortable with reports indicating that what Salvadorans, especially young men, fear most are the military and police.

A woman on Payés’ bus summed it up pretty well. According to the LPG article, when Payés and his bodyguards got on the bus, she was overheard telling the young boy she was riding with, “all these men getting on the bus at the same stop – something smells bad.”

Economy, El Salvador Government

Street Vendors Ousted from Downtown San Salvador

San Salvador looks a bit like a war-zone today after mayor and ARENA presidential candidate Norman Quijano deployed 1,000 police officers and 4,000 city employees to oust 970 vendors from 33 blocks in the downtown area.

When police and city workers showed up Friday with heavy machinery and began clearing the area, vendors fought back by setting up barriers and lighting fires. They were eventually removed, but not before 10 people were injured including 6 police officers. The mayor has asked for locals to be patient as 2,500 workers clean up the area, a process he expects to continue through Tuesday. He also estimates that the clean up will cost taxpayers a whopping $200,000!

Downtown El Salvador has been the home to an informal market for many years. Venders sell just about everything – food, clothing, videos and music, school supplies, hardware, and so much more.

Vendors did not have advanced notice of the removal and many lost all of their merchandise and other capital investments including refrigerators, jukeboxes, slot machines, video games, antennas, and much more. One vendor, who lost $10,000 worth of merchandise, told La Prensa Grafica, “they did not give us the opportunity. They arrived and threw us out and we lost all of our things. The mayor is responsible for everything.”

La Prensa Grafica noted that this was not the first action of its kind. Since 2009, the San Salvador municipal government has removed vendors from 167 blocks in the city in more than 31 interventions.

The mayor’s office says the vendors are able to move to a central market in the area where there are 623 stalls available for them to use. Of course that is not enough space to accommodate for the 970 vendors removed over the weekend.

This has been a complex issue for many years (downtown street vendors organized their first union in 1962) and there are some real issues, all of which stem from the systemic exclusion of people from the formal economy. Salvadorans without jobs can generate income by selling things on the street, generally to other poor people who can’t afford to shop in the formal economy. These informal markets are a bad deal all the way around. The street vendors lack the security, rights, and benefits that their counterparts in the formal sector have (or are supposed to have, but that’s another article). But they also don’t collect or pay taxes, which has been a point of contention for the international community (World Bank, IMF, U.S, and other). Many street vendors also violate international intellectual property laws by selling pirated movies, music, software, and clothing ($10 knockoff Ray Bans). Street venders also clog downtown streets, and if you’ve ever tried to take a bus through downtown on a Friday afternoon, you know how bad it can be.

Spending $200,000 to clear street vendors with bulldozers is in no way a sustainable solution to these problems. It doesn’t help venders get work in the formal sector and it definitely doesn’t mean low-income folks will all of a sudden start buying their blue jeans at Metro-Centro (a San Salvador shopping mall).

These evictions only mean that the poor have even fewer and fewer options – but that seems to be a global trend.

Here is a link to photos of the destruction.

 

Climate Change

Climate Change in Central America

On Saturday, the National Catholic Reporter published an article by Danielle Mackey about climate change and a recent Catholic Relief Services technical study to help Central American communities adapt.

Climate change is an especially timely topic – just this morning Frankenstorm is starting to pound the East Coast of the U.S. promising to affect 60 million people.  While this storm event is unprecedented in one sense (three systems, including a hurricane, converging on such a heavily populated region), severe/freaky storms like this are not so rare anymore. This time last year, for example, we were writing about Tropical Storm 12-E that dumped an unprecedented 55 inches of rain on El Salvador in a 10-day period, causing extreme flooding.

Danielle’s article reports on ongoing efforts to help Central American communities, which are the most vulnerable to the affects of climate change, survive. Earlier this month, Catholic Relief Services published a technical study called Tortillas on the Roaster, which provides farmers with the technical information they need to adapt to climate change. Specifically, the report “seeks to assess the expected impact of climate change on maize and bean production in four countries in Central America.”

This is the kind of technical information that our partners in the Lower Lempa need to plan their future. Tortillas on the Roaster provides the kinds of detailed forecasts necessary to know how climate change will impact corn and bean crops, and how our partners may adapt.

The article and technical report are a little long to repost in this article, but here are some links to Danielle’s report (Central American Farmers Seek Buffers Against Climate Change) and the CRS technical study (Tortillas on the Roaster – in English and Tortillas en el Comal – en Español).

Our thoughts and prayers go out to folks on the East Coast.

Corruption, Organized Crime

50 kilos of Coke Decommissioned in Honduras

In recent years, El Faro has posted numerous articles and reports that document organized criminal activities, including drug trafficking, in El Salvador. A few days ago they published a detailed account of Istvan Zachary Sánchez and his August 2012 arrest in Honduras for transporting 50 kilograms of cocaine. The story indicates that Istvan is part of the Texis Cartel that operates out of Metapan and controls a trafficking route from Honduras, through El Salvador, and on to Guatemala.

While there are many unknowns about this case, it offers some details about how traffickers operate and how the authorities respond or fail to respond.

Instead of translating the whole El Faro article from Spanish – it’s pretty long – we thought it better to retell an abbreviated version. If you read Spanish and have the time, the original article is worth reading – here’s a link.

Police stopped Istvan while he was driving down a dirt road in rural Choluteca, Honduras, a province nestled between El Salvador to the west, Nicaragua to the east, and the Gulf of Fonseco to the south. When the police pulled him over they asked what he was doing so far off the main highway. He responded that he had been to the city of Choluteca to visit a girlfriend and was headed back to El Salvador. The police didn’t buy it because the Pan-American Highway would have been his most direct route.

They asked Istvan to step out of the 2005 Hyundai Terracan he was driving so they could search him and the car. At that point he handed the police officer an envelope with $600 (the equivalent to 1 ½ months salary for a Honduran police officer) and asked him to just let him get on his way. El Faro points out that there is a lot of corruption within the Honduran police department, but Istvan had the bad luck of getting pulled over by an officer who was not for sale.

They searched the Hyundai and found 50 kilos of cocaine wrapped in clear plastic and brown tape, and tucked into a hole between the trunk and chassis. The load was valued at $600,000 and $1.2 million. The police charged Istvan with trafficking and put him in the Choluteca jail. He has hired a private attorney and is supposed to have his first hearing before the end of October.

Salvadoran security officials had the Hyundai and license plate (P111-483) on their radar for a while. In April 2012 the Salvadoran Center for Police Intelligence drafted a three-page report in which both the car and the license plate were mentioned in relation to drug trafficking and money laundering, and members of the Texis Cartel, an organized crime network based out of Metapan and Texistepeque, Santa Ana. The report was part of a larger file that had been shared with the top levels of government including the Minister of Security and Justice. It discussed Roberto “El Burro” Herrera, José Adán Salazar (aka Chepe Diablo), and a series of vehicles and people used to transport money and drugs. In May 2011, El Faro published a series of reports/articles on the Texis Cartel – definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen them yet (here’s a link).

The April report says, “also, the vehicle license plate P111-483 has been observed in some transactions; the [Hyundai] was observed in agricultural fairs in which the subjects Burro Herrera and Chepe Diablo participated. The same plate was seen with other vehicles crossing the border at Poy [a border crossing near Metapan where the Texis Cartel is allegedly based].” This seems to directly tie the Hyundai that Istvan was driving and the 50 kilos back to the Texis Cartel in Santa Ana.

After the police arrested Istvan, Choluteca prosecutor Manuel Eduardo Díaz sent the case to the Honduran Office Against Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, which is supposed to investigate drug trafficking. It’s not clear why, but the investigators sent the case back. Manuel Eduardo Díaz, however, decided to prosecute the case on his own. The situation got a little more complicated, and tragic, when last month assassins shot and killed him in downtown Choluteca. Police made arrests but deny any link between the murder and Istvan or the 50 kilos of cocaine.

Police on both sides of the El Salvador/Honduran border claim they are trying to figure out where the drugs were going, where they had come from, who Istvan was working with, and other questions. But so far the Salvadoran and Honduran authorities have yet to get too far or even discuss the case.

After the arrest, Salvadoran Police visited Istvan’s parents who live near the Cuscatlán stadium in San Salvador – he had listed their home as his permanent address. His family didn’t have any information, just a suitcase with some of his personal papers, which revealed that left for the US when he was 14. They also found that the US Drug Enforcement Agency had a file on him related to drug trafficking. Other documents indicated that Istvan had been incarcerated in the US but released in May 2009.

At the same time police were visiting with Istvan’s family in San Salvador they raided the home of Mario David Rodríguez Linares in San Miguel. In October 0211 he bought the 2005 Hyundai that Istvan had used. He sold it in May 2012 but didn’t register the sale with the Vehicle Registration Office so records indicate that he is still the owner. The search turned up a lot of sales records that have opened up the pool of suspects, but when investigators called Linares to come in to make a statement he never came. It still remains unclear how Istvan had possession of the car.

The April 2012 report ties the license plate on the Hyundai (no P111-483) to a business that helps traffick drugs north and money (from drug sales) south. The police have been watching a car lot in Santa Ana owned by Roberto Antonio Escobar Martínez. He allegedly hides money (millions of dollars) in shipments of cars that are headed for Costa Rica. The car lot is on the same block where earlier this year police arrested Jesús Sanabria (former councilman of Metapan) for trying to sell five kilos of cocaine. The report also says, “Roberto Antonio Escobar Martínez is linked criminally with Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernández, alias El Burro.”

Salvadoran prosecutors say they trying to connect all the pieces and identify how Istvan and his 50 kilos of cocaine fit into the drug trafficking/money laundering networks. Prosecutors investigating the case in El Salvador say they have solicited information from their counterparts in Honduras, but officials in Choluteca say that during the months that they’ve had Istvan no Salvadoran has reached out to them.

El Faro’s article is interesting because it provides a glimpse into the world of trafficking in El Salvador. We hear and read that drug trafficking and money laundering are big problems, but this story provides some insight into what this looks like. It demonstrates that trafficking can be as nondescript as a grey Hyundai driving down a back road.

The article also illustrates how hard it is to stop trafficking. Top ranking security officials in El Salvador have reports that detail who is trafficking, who is laundering money, and when and where shipments are arriving. They have details about the cars they use and the police even caught a guy with a 50-kilo shipment. But not much happens. Istvan got unlucky and got pulled over by a cop who wouldn’t take a bribe. But the Honduran agency that is supposed to take drug trafficking cases refused to investigate and the local prosecutor who was investigating was assassinated. The Salvadoran officials who are “investigating” on one side of the border haven’t even gone to interview Istvan or called to get information about his case.

Environment, Mining

Discussion on Goldcorp at Salvadoran Consulate – Tuesday, October 30

This morning we (Voices staff) received an invitation for an important event next Tuesday evening (October 30th) concerning the Cerro Blanco Mine in Guatemala and the environmental implications for El Salvador. The event is sponsored by the Salvadoran Consulate, the Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights in El Salavdor, and CISPES.

The Cerro Blanco mine, which is owned and operated by Goldcorp –a Canadian mining company –, is in the Guatemalan province of Jutiapa. Environmentalists and local communities are concerned that mining activities will contaminate Lake Guija, which spans the border between El Salvador and Guatemala. Salvadoran environmentalist David Pereira explained a couple years ago that “toxic waste water from the mine will flow into the 45 square kilometers of Lake Guija, and on into the Lempa River, the main river basin in El Salvador.” Fears are substantiated by a study produced by Dina Larios, professor of geochemistry and hydrology at Ohio University, that contains serious warnings about wastewater from the mine.

Here’s some information on the event:

 “Implications of the Cerro Blanco mine on the El Salvador/Guatemala Border Area”

Report presented by the Ombudsman for Human Rights and the Center for Investigation of Commerce and Investment to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Washington DC

Date:             Tuesday, October 30

Time:            6:00 pm

Place:            Salvadoran Consulate

2332 Wisconsin Ave. NW

Washington DC 2007

RSVP:            camelgar@rree.gob.sv or (301) 437-7698

We don’t hear as much about mining in El Salvador these days, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge issue. As long as there is gold, silver, and other minerals of value there will be people trying to extract them.

So if you’re in DC on Tuesday, please try to attend.