agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Climate Change, COVID 19, Economy, El Salvador Government, Food Security, Public Health, Water/Agua

LA OTRA CRISIS EN EL SALVADOR

read in English
13063245_847843142009600_3055142244203715557_o
“El Salvador Soberano Libre de Agrotoxicos y transgénicos”

A la desigualdad económica, violencia social y vulnerabilidad ambiental que se vive en El Salvador desde hace décadas, ahora se suma con toda su intensidad, el impacto en la salud pública y en la economía de la pandemia por el covid19.

El Banco Mundial estima que la economía de El Salvador se contraerá 4.3% y la pobreza aumentará 4% en 2020. El último dato publicado por el gobierno, indica que el 26.3% de los hogares ya viven en condición de pobreza; es decir que el covid19 puede hacer que la pobreza suba al 30% de los hogares salvadoreños, lo que equivale a más de 66 mil hogares que caeran en la pobreza.1

La razón principal de esta realidad es que las medidas impuestas por el gobierno para contener la pandemia ha afectado al 95% de las empresas y por lo menos el 60% reportan que ya no cuentan con dinero para pagar salarios, por lo que 350,000 empleos estan en riesgo inminente de perderse.2 Adicionalmente hay que tener en cuenta que el 72% de la economía salvadoreña es de carácter informal,3 y que este sector es el más golpeado por la pandemia.

Sumandose a la ya complicada situación, está la dependencia del país con respecto a las remesas. Más de 300 mil hogares, la sexta parte de la población, reciben remesas; en 2019 estas representaron el 21.3% del producto interno bruto de El Salvador. Para el 2020 se estima una caida por lo menos del 14% en este rubro,4 ya que Estados Unidos está registrando un récord histórico de desempleo en sectores donde laboran salvadoreños: restaurantes, comercio y construcción.

Sin duda la primera y más profunda manifestación de la crisis económica será en la alimentación. Sobre este tema el Director Ejecutivo del Programa Mundial de Alimentos, de la Organización de las Naciones Unidas, ONU. David Beasley, recientemente dijo: “si no nos preparamos ahora podríamos enfrentar múltiples hambrunas de proporciones biblícas en unos pocos meses”.5 En El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua, incluso antes de la pandemia, la inseguridad alimentaria y nutricional se había incrementado y alcanzaba los 4.4 millones de personas; a consecuencia de la pandemia se estima que esta cifra podría duplicarse.6

Para el caso específico de El Salvador la seguridad alimentaria se ha visto afectada por diferentes factores, desde políticas de apertura comercial que arruinaron la agricultura campesina en décadas anteriores, hasta impactos del cambio climático que en los últimos años se ha manifestado en consecutivas y profundas sequías. En 2019, la falta de lluvias dejó pérdidas de producción del 61% y 55% en los cultivos de maíz y frijol. La disminución y en algunos casos la pérdida completa de los granos básicos dejó en crisis a muchas familias, sobre todo aquellas en donde la agricultura es la única fuente de ingresos para subsistir. Resultando en que 277,769 familias, especialmente del oriente del país, antes de la pandemia, ya se encontraban en graves problemas alimentarios.7

Esta situación puede agravarse, también porque El Salvador depende en muy alto grado de las importaciones de alimentos; por ejemplo, el 90% de las frutas y verduras provienen de países centroamericanos y de Estados Unidos. La carne de res, harina de trigo, arroz, maíz amarillo y lácteos, son otros de los productos que se importan en grandes proporciones. Un riesgo potencialmente grave es que los países productores restrijan sus exportaciones para enfrentar la caída de su producción y la alimentación de sus propios pueblos.

En tal sentido, es de extrema importancia asegurar la disponibilidad de alimentos básicos especialmente para la población más vulnerable, de lo contrario los indices de desnutrición se verán aumentados y el covid 19 será más fatal debido a la carencia de una alimentación adecuada.8

De momento, el gobierno salvadoreño está entregando dinero en efectivo para suplir la alimentación básica de un millón y medio de familias, además ha anunciado una serie de medidas económicas de beneficio a la empresa privada con el fin de aliviar los impactos en el empleo. Aunque se están tomando algunas medidas positivas, lamentablemente no son sostenibles porque su financiamiento depende de los préstamos y la capacidad de endeudamiento del estado salvadoreño que está llegando a su límite.

Todo parece indicar que la alternativa más viable es la producción agrícola familiar, de forma masiva en todo el país, cualquier espacio de tierra disponible, sea en la zona rural o urbana, en la costa o la montaña, debería utilizarse para producir alimentos saludables, de lo contrario, en el corto plazo, la comida comenzará a escasear, de forma realmente temible.

DSC_1673 copy
A family farm in Morazán

THE OTHER CRISIS IN EL SALVADOR

Economic inequality, social violence and environmental vulnerability have been experienced for decades in El Salvador. Added now to this reality however, in all its intensity, is the impact that the current pandemic is having on public health and the economy.

The World Bank estimates that El Salvador’s economy will decrease by 4.3% and poverty will increase by 4% in 2020. The latest data published by the government indicates that 26.3% of households already live in poverty; that is to say that COVID19 can increase the rate to 30%, which is equivalent to more than 66,000 households, all falling into poverty.1

This is happening in part because the measures imposed by the government to contain the pandemic have affected 95% of companies and at least 60% of them report that they no longer have the money to pay wages, this means 350,000 jobs are at an imminent risk of disappearing.2 Also, what must be taken into mind is the fact that 72% of El Salvador’s economy is informal,3 the informal sector of course being the most affected during this pandemic.

Adding to this already complicated situation, is the country’s dependence on remittances. More than 300,000 households, or one-sixth of the population receive them. In 2019, these money transfers represented 21.3% of El Salvador’s GDP. For 2020, since the US is registering a historical record of unemployment in sectors where Salvadorans work i.e restaurants, commerce and construction, a drop in remittances of at least 14% is estimated.4

Undoubtedly, the first and most profound manifestation of the economic crisis will be the issue of food. On the subject, David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Program recently said, “If we don’t prepare now we could face multiple famines of biblical proportions in a few months.5 Even before the pandemic, 4.4million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, were already experiencing an increase in food and nutritional insecurity, and as a result of COVID19 this figure is estimated to double.6

In the specific case of El Salvador, food security has been impacted by distinct factors, from trade liberalization policies that ruined peasant agriculture in previous decades, to the impacts of climate change that in recent years has manifested itself in consecutive and deep droughts. In 2019, the lack of rains left production losses at 61% in corn and 55% in bean crops. The decrease and in some cases the complete loss of these basic crops left many families in crisis, especially those where agriculture is their only source of income. Last year’s drought resulted in 277,769 families, many from the eastern part of the country, experiencing serious food problems.7

Things can get worse because El Salvador depends to a very high degree on food imports; for example, 90% of fruits and vegetables come from other Central American countries and the US. Beef, wheat flour, rice, yellow corn, and dairy are other products that are imported in large quantities. A potentially serious risk is that the producing nations eventually restrict their exports to go and deal with their own reduction in production and to be able to feed their own people. In this sense, it is extremely important to ensure the availability of basic foods, especially for the most vulnerable populations, otherwise malnutrition rates will increase and COVID19 will prove more deadly due to an inadequate access to food.8

At the moment, the Salvadoran government is giving out cash aid to supply the basic needs of one million and a half families, and has also announced a series of economic measures to benefit private companies in order to alleviate the impact on employment. Although positive measures are being taken, they unfortunately are not sustainable because their financing depends on loans and the debt capacity of the Salvadoran state which is reaching its limit.

Everything seems to indicate that the most viable alternative is family agricultural production on a massive scale throughout the entire country. Any available land space, be it in rural or urban, coast or mountain, should be used to produce healthy food, otherwise, in a short period of time, food will become scarce in a really frightening way.


Click here to donate to our COVID19 Emergency fund.


COVID 19, human rights, Politics

ABUSO DE PODER EN MEDIO DE LA CRISIS

read in English

 

imagen.aspx
credito: bbci.co.uk

El sábado 21 de marzo, en una extensa cadena de radio y televisión, el presidente salvadoreño Nayib Bukele decretó una cuarentena por 30 días, advirtiendo que quien no acatara la orden, en lugar de pasar la cuarentena en su hogar, con su familia, la pasaría encerrado en un centro de contención.  Para el día siguiente, domingo 22 de marzo, la Policía y la Fuerza Armada habían detenido en la calle a por lo menos 300 personas; sin embargo, el Gobierno, la Policía y el Ejército solo tenían claro el tema de las capturas, pero no el del resguardo de los detenidos, por lo que fueron trasladados hacia delegaciones policiales como cualquier delincuente, porque no existía ningún centro de contención habilitado.

Frente a este hecho, La Sala de lo Constitucional, de la Corte Suprema de Justicia emitió una resolución decretando que ni la policía ni el ejército pueden detener y encarcelar a alguien por incumplir la cuarentena domiciliar, porque viola derechos humanos establecidos en la Constitución; pero los abusos continuaron. Una nota publicada por el periódico español El País, lo expone así: 

Las denuncias de arbitrariedades y abusos de fuerza se cuentan por cientos. El presidente  (Nayib Bukele) ha respondido públicamente que no es momento de discutir si sus rigurosas medidas contra la pandemia son o no constitucionales, y el día 7 (de abril) dobló su apuesta legitimando el uso de la fuerza: “He dado la instrucción al ministro de Defensa y al ministro de Seguridad de ser más duros con la gente en la calle, la gente que está violando la cuarentena”, dijo. Tres días después, un policía disparó dos veces en las piernas a un joven de 19 años sospechoso de violar el confinamiento. El joven asegura que fue por negarse a pagar mordida (soborno) a los agentes; las autoridades lo calificaron en un comunicado oficial de “accidente.”

La actuación de la Policía y del Ejército, durante 30 días, estuvo amparada principalmente en  la “Ley de Restricción Temporal de Derechos Constitucionales Concretos para Atender la Pandemia COVID-19″ aprobada por la Asamblea Legislativa a medidos de marzo para una duración de 15 días, posteriormente se prorrogó por un periodo igual. Esta Ley caducó el pasado 13 de abril y a pesar que el Gobierno solicitó al Parlamento una nueva prorroga, esta no fue concedida, precisamente por las denuncias de las arbitrariedades cometidas y no fueron abordadas.

En ausencia de este marco legal que respalde la detención de las personas y su reclusión en un centro de cuarentena, el gobierno emitió el Decreto Ejecutivo Número 19 que establece medidas similares o más drásticas, a la anterior ley. Por ejemplo: se establece  que toda persona que circule sin justificación y que se catalogue como caso sospechoso, deberá permanecer en un centro de cuarentena por 30 días. Además si la persona infractora se traslada en vehículo, este será sometido a desinfección y quedará en deposito en los lugares establecidos, la persona detenida solo recuperará su vehículo despues de pagar el costo del estacionamiento, luego de la cuarentena.

bukele2-1
credito: elmundo.sv

También el Decreto Número 19 establece que toda persona está obligada a permitir el ingreso de los delegados del Ministerio de Salud a inspecionar su casa. Para la abogada María Silvia Guillén esta disposición es insconstitucional, pues las autoridades pueden ingresar a una vivienda por el consentimiento de quien la habita o por mandato judicial, exclusivamente. “Cuidado policías y militares que están pretendiendo entrar en las viviendas con una disposición de un decreto ejecutivo”. Escribió la reconocida abogada en su cuenta de facebook.

Por su parte, la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia (máximo tribunal de justicia de El Salvador) emitió una nueva resolución en la que reafirmó que la Policía no debe detener arbitrariamente a personas para llevarlas a centros de contención ni proceder al decomiso de vehículos, entre otras medidas restrictivas. Ante este hecho el presidente Bukele dijo que no acataría tal resolución y que continuará aplicando el Decreto 19, al cien por ciento, no importando que las resoluciones de este tipo son de obligatorio cumplimiento.

La desobediencia del presidente ha sido rechazada por un gran número de actores dentro y fuera del país. La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) instó al Gobierno de El Salvador “a cumplir las medidas ordenadas”. Así mismo, la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU) publicó que en situaciones de emergencia el Estado de Derecho y el sistema de “pesos y contrapesos” son esenciales para asegurar los derechos humanos de las personas. Por su parte el congresista Jim McGovern, instó a Bukele a respetar los fallos judiciales, diciendo que el país necesita democracia y no a un gobierno autoritario, así mismo el líder del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores de la Cámara de Representantes estadounidense, Eliot Engel, lamentó el desacato de Bukele a la resolución de la Sala de lo Constitucional y urgió al presidente “a respetar los fallos judiciales de la Corte Suprema sobre el Covid-19” recalcando que “los líderes mundiales deben ser capaces de proteger tanto la salud como las libertades civiles”.

Pero todas estas recriminaciones y exigencias no parecen inmutar al presidente Nayib Bukele, ni a sus funcionarios de seguridad. Una nota recientemente publicada en el periódico digital El Faro, define la situación actual del país como una triple crisis: sanitaria, económica y democrática. La primera causada por un virus; la segunda por las medidas obligadas para combatir al virus; la tercera por un gobierno antidemocrático. 

Es necesario resistir, y sobrevivir, a las tres.

el_salvador_covid_xinhua.jpg_1718483347
credito: bbci.co.uk

ABUSE OF POWER IN THE MIDST OF THE CRISIS

On Saturday March 21, via an extensive radio and television network broadcast, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele decreed a 30-day quarantine, warning that whoever did not comply with the order, instead of spending the quarantine at home with their family, would be locked up in a quarantine center. By the next day, the police and the armed forces had detained at least 300 people who had allegedly violated that order. The government, the police and the army were only clear on the issue of captures, and not on how to properly care for “detainees,” which meant that they were being transferred to police “lock ups” just like any other criminal, since there were no adequate quarantine centers built.

Faced with this fact, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice issued a resolution decreeing that neither the police nor the army can arrest and imprison someone for failing to comply with the domicile quarantine because it violates human rights established in the Constitution. Still the abuses continue.  A note published by the Spanish newspaper El País puts it this way: “The allegations of arbitrariness and abuse of force are in the hundreds. The president (Nayib Bukele) has publicly replied that this is not the time to discuss whether or not his rigorous measures against the pandemic are constitutional, and on April 7 he doubled down on his bid legitimizing the use of force: “I have instructed the Defense Minister and the Security Minister to be tougher on the people on the street, the people who are violating the quarantine,” he said. Three days later, a 19-year-old man suspected of violating the lockdown was shot twice in the legs by a police officer. The young man assures that it was for refusing to pay a bribe to the agents, while the authorities describe it as an “accident” in an official statement.

The 30-day activation of the police and the army was mainly protected under the “Temporary Restriction Law on Concrete Constitutional Rights to Address the Pandemic COVID-19”, which was approved by the Legislative Assembly in mid-March and expired on April 13. Despite the fact that the government requested a new extension from Parliament that was denied precisely because of the complaints of the unjustified actions being committed and not addressed, the abuses continue to occur.

Though a legal framework that addresses the detention of people and their confinement in a quarantine center is still lacking, the government recently issued Executive Decree No. 19 which established similar and more drastic measures than the previous law. For example: it established that any person who circulates without justification and who is classified as suspected for testing positive for COVID19, must remain in a quarantine center for 30 days. In addition, if the offending person is driving in a vehicle, that vehicle will be subject to disinfection and will be sent to a police impound, only to be released after a fee is paid and time is served.

Also Decree No.19 establishes that every person is obliged to allow Ministry of Health personnel into their homes. “Beware of police and military who are trying to enter houses with a provision of an executive decree,” well-known lawyer María Silvia Guillén writes, for her, the provision is unconstitutional since authorities can only enter a dwelling with the consent of the person who inhabits it or by a judges warrant. 

For its part, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (the highest court in the land) issued a new resolution in which it reaffirmed that the police should not arbitrarily detain people and take them to quarantine centers or confiscate their vehicles, among other restrictive measures. President Bukele said that he would not abide by such a resolution and that he will continue to apply Decree No. 19, a hundred percent, regardless that such resolutions are binding.

The president’s disobedience has been rejected by a large number of actors inside and outside the country who agree with the supreme court’s ruling. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the government of El Salvador to “comply with the ordered measures.” Likewise, the United Nations published that in emergency situations the rule of law and the system of “checks and balances” are essential to ensure that human rights are being upheld. For his part, US Congressman Jim McGover  urged Bukele to respect the supreme court’s judicial decisions, saying that the country needs democracy and not an authoritarian government. Likewise, the leader of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the US House of Representatives, Eliot Engel, regretted Bukele’s contempt of the Constitutional Chamber’s resolution and urged the president “to respect the Supreme Court’s judicial decisions on Covid-19” stressing that “world leaders must be able to protect both the health and freedom of civilians.”

But all these recriminations and demands do not seem to faze President Nayib Bukele, nor his security officials. An article recently published in the digital newspaper El Faro defines the current situation in the country as posing a triple crisis: health, economic and democratic.The first is caused by the virus, the second by the measures required to combat the virus and the third by an undemocratic government.

It is necessary to resist, and survive, all three.

 

 

Historical Memory, Liberation Theology, romero

Recordando a San Romero: 40 Años de Inspiración y Esperanza

read in English

romero3Oscar Arnulfo Romero nació el 15 de agosto de 1917 en Ciudad Barrios, Departamento de San Miguel. Al terminar sus estudios básicos se dedicó al aprendizaje de carpintería y a la música. En 1930 a los trece años de edad, ingresó al seminario menor en San Miguel y luego, en 1937, se mudó a Roma donde terminó sus estudios teológicos en la Universidad Gregoriana, el día 4 de abril de 1942. Regresó a El Salvador en 1943, y fue asignado a la parroquia de Anamorós, un pueblo cerca de San Miguel. En 1966, es nombrado Secretario de la Conferencia de Obispos en El Salvador, cargo en el cual permaneció por once años. En 1970, es nombrado Obispo y el 3 de febrero de 1977, la Iglesia Católica en el Vaticano bajo el mando del Papa Pablo VI, lo nombró Arzobispo de San Salvador.

Durante los siguientes tres años se desempeñó como Arzobispo de San Salvador, por ese tiempo el país se embarcaba en una guerra civil, de las más sangrientas de América Latina. Uno de los hechos más dolorosos para Monseñor Romero fue el asesinato de su amigo, el sacerdote Rutilio Grande, tras el asesinato del padre Grande, Monseñor Romero se convierte un férreo defensor de los derechos humanos. Su incansable lucha en la defensa de los más pobres lo convirtió en una poderosa voz de denuncia contra la represión que sufría el pueblo, al punto de ser considerado “La Voz de los Sin Voz.”

Sus palabras siguen resonando:

“La persecución es algo necesario en la Iglesia. ¿Saben porqué? Porque la verdad siempre es perseguida.” (Homilía 29 -05-1977)

“Mi voz desaparecerá, pero mi palabra que es Cristo quedará en los
corazones que lo hayan querido acoger.” (Homilía 17-12-78)

“… Les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: ¡cese la represión!” (Homilía 23-03-80)

“Es inconcebible que se diga a alguien cristiano y no tome como Cristo una opción preferencial por los pobres.” (Homilía 9-09-1979)

“Si me matan resucitaré en el pueblo salvadoreño.” (Marzo 1980)

MinoRomero-650

Su palabra y sus acciones como defensor de los pobres y oprimidos lo convirtieron en enemigo de los sectores más conservadores y de la dictadura militar que gobernaba el país, por lo que el 24 de marzo de 1980, mientras celebraba una misa, es asesinado de un certero disparo al corazón. Desde el momento de su muerte Monseñor Romero se convierte en un símbolo universal de la justicia y la paz. El 14 de octubre de 2018, Monseñor Romero fue Canonizado por el Papa Francisco; sin embargo, este hecho solo fue el reconocimiento formal de la iglesia, al pueblo que lo hizo Santo desde el momento de su asesinato.

Para el Movimiento de Comunidades Eclesiales de Base de El Salvador:
Monseñor Romero es grato a Dios porque desenmascaró la mentira histórica de aquel momento que hacía creer que la pobreza y la miseria de las mayorías era voluntad de Dios. Y confesó valientemente la verdad sobre el Dios que mandó a su Hijo Jesucristo a tomar una preferencia sin ambigüedades por los pobres. Así mismo, es el reconocimiento a la justeza de la lucha del pueblo salvadoreño por definir su propio destino.

Ahora, a 40 años de su asesinato, Monseñor Romero es conocido como “San
Romero de América.”


Remembering San Romero: 40 years of Inspiration and Hope

Oscar Arnulfo Romero was born on August 15, 1917 in Ciudad Barrios, Department of San Miguel. After finishing his basic studies he devoted himself to learning carpentry and music. In 1930 at the age of thirteen, he entered the minor seminary in San Miguel and then, in 1937, he moved to Rome where he finished his theology studies at the Gregorian University on April 4, 1942.

He returned to El Salvador in 1943, and was assigned to the parish of Anamorós, a town near San Miguel. In 1966, he was appointed Secretary of the Conference of Bishops in El Salvador, a position in which he remained for eleven years. In 1970, he was appointed Bishop and on February 3, 1977 the Catholic Church, under the command of Pope Paul VI, appointed him Archbishop of San Salvador.

During the following three years he served as Archbishop of San Salvador, the country was embarking on one of the bloodiest civil wars in Latin America. A defining moment for Monsignor Romero was the tragic murder of his friend, priest Rutilio Grande. After the murder of Father Grande, Monsignor Romero became a strong defender of human rights. His tireless fight in defense of the poor made him a powerful voice against the repression suffered by his people, to the point where he was considered to be “The Voice of the Voiceless.”

His words continue to resonate:

“Persecution is something necessary in the Church. Do you know why? Because the truth is always persecuted.” (Homily 29 -05-1977).

“My voice will disappear, but my Word which is Christ will remain in the hearts of those who have chosen to accept him.” (Homily 12-17-78).

“… I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!” (Homily 03-23-80).

“It is inconceivable that some can call themselves Christian without taking, like Christ, a preferential option for the poor.” (Homily 9-09-1979).

“If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people” (March-1980).

romero2Needless to say, his word and his actions as a defender of the poor and oppressed made him an enemy of the most conservative sectors and the military dictatorship that governed the country. On March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass, he was assassinated by a sniper’s bullet through the heart. From the moment of his death, Monsignor Romero became a universal symbol of justice and peace.

On October 14, 2018, Monsignor Romero was declared a saint by Pope Francis. However to his people, he became holy at the hour of his death.

For the grassroots Movement of Ecclesial Communities of El Salvador, Monsignor Romero pleased God by unmasking the historical lie that poverty and misery of the people was God’s will. He bravely confessed the truth about the God who sent his Son Jesus Christ to take an unambiguous preference for the poor. Likewise, Romero’s canonization signifies a recognition of the just struggle of the Salvadoran people to define their own destiny.

Now, 40 years after his assassination, Monsignor Romero is known as “Saint Romero of the Americas.”

roemro4

education, Public Health, Voices Developments, Womens issues, Youth Development

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

Download the PDF letter

cropped-voices-logo-only.jpg

March 19, 2020

Dear Friend,

El Salvador, like many countries around the world, is reeling from the effects of COVID19. To clamp down on the spread of the virus, on March 15th, the government declared a state of emergency and approved a partial suspension of constitutional rights. What does that look like?

  • Foreigners are prohibited from entering the country by land, air or sea. All who enter illegally or legally are subject to a mandatory quarantine in a government run facility.
  • All educational activities are suspended, private and public.
  • Crowd sizes exceeding fifty people, such as concerts or sporting events are canceled.
  • All bars, cafes and discos are closed; restaurants can only offer delivery or take out.
  • Trade will continue normally. Commercial activities will remain unchanged, including imports and exports, under the proper sanitary control at customs.
  • People are told to shelter in place and only venture out if truly necessary.

On March 18th, El Salvador registered it’s first single confirmed case of the virus, from a Salvadoran returning from Italy, who defied the barrier the President put in place around the perimeter of the country. Because of citizen denouncements, he was picked up and tested positive for the virus and subsequently the entire municipality of Metapan, in the department of Santa Ana has been cordoned off for the next 48 hours in an effort to find his line of infection.

Impacts on the Salvadoran Society
The majority of the population has reacted with panic, no matter how many calls for calm are made. Supermarkets are crowded and supplies are beginning to become scarce, partly because there is hoarding and price inflations. For example in some places bottled water is selling for three times its normal price.

Bukele has said that the department of labor will do what it can to make sure employers and workers are economically supported during the quarantine, but every hour labor abuses are being called out via social media of workers being indiscriminately laid, off, mistreated or made to work when they aren’t supposed to.
The sectors most economically impacted by this national quarantine are the service industry, domestic workers, day laborers, street vendors, factory and sweatshop workers. Also affected are those Salvadoran families who already live in El Salvador’s precarious situation of water shortage. For young girls and women who face abuse at home, the situation of isolation becomes even more serious. It encourages victim control and greater submission of the victim.

Impacts on VOICES’ work
VOICES, like other NGOs, is having to adapt to these measures. For example, this situation forced us to cancel the annual South Bay Sanctuary Covenant delegation this March, as well as suspend the special delegation of teachers from Amando López to the United States in April.
Likewise, the SBSC fundraising event scheduled for April 26 in California, at which our director was to speak, was canceled.

Also with the suspension of classes the reproduction phase of the ECHO project workshops in Morazán is on hold; likewise, some community activities, workshops and meetings.

It’s safe to say that human rights don’t simply go away because of a national quarantine, and neither will VOICES’ commitment to accompanying our local partners as best as we can. As an organization, VOICES’ staff are adhering to the rules put in place by working from home.
This involves catching up on programming materials and fine tuning our evaluation frameworks, but we are also finding other ways to support our partners in the following ways:

Women’s Network of Morazán (9 municipalities served)
– Providing 15 canasta basicas for the Network’s most vulnerable members and their families.

Amando Lopez grade school (9 communities served)
– While some students may enjoy the meal provided by the school, other families may see it as a lifeline. The school’s staff compiled a list of 88 students who are most at risk from malnutrition and we will work with them to find the best way to help feed these kids during the quarantine.

Youth Development Association of Morazán (3 communities served)
– This inspiring youth group has had to cancel all of their programming including their special activities, community events, workshops and schools like their school of nutrition, which not only serves as a means to teach recipes, but also supports families’ ability to practice food sovereignty through the family farms component. We will work with AJUDEM to ensure that those most affected will have access to plants, seeds and compost to keep their farms growing.

El Salvador is a resilient country full of ingenuity and as long as we continue to practice true solidarity, we will all be able to come out of this pandemic with heads high and the prospect for a brighter more sustainable future.

Atentamente,
The VOICES Team

52832805_303

Make a donation by clicking here.

civil war, human rights, News Highlights, violence

Salvadoran Congress Approves New Law That Benefits War Criminals

Léelo en español

Salvadoran Congress Approves New Law That Benefits War Criminals

On the night of February 26, with 44 votes in Parliament, the right-wing parties ARENA, PCN and PDC, which have been allied for decades, joined once again to approve the so-called Special Law on Transitional Justice, Reparation and National Reconciliation, or Amnesty Law 2.0. This is more or less a replica of the original Amnesty Law that was passed by the same parties in 1993. With that Amnesty Law in place, the worst crimes committed during the civil war remained in impunity and it wasn’t until 2016, when the Legislative Assembly declared that law as unconstitutional that the opportunity to prosecute war crimes arose, like El Mozote, where the Salvadoran army massacred more than 1,000 civilians, mostly women and children. In addition to the government’s many war crimes, crimes committed by death squads and other paramilitary groups linked to the Salvadoran State were also open for prosecution after the 2016 annulment.

According to various human rights organizations and those that support victims of the armed conflict, with the approval of this new law, impunity is again being favored. Under said law, war criminals could benefit from reductions or outright cancellations of penalties, if the defendants apologize for their crimes and collaborate with the justice system. It also states that a judge can abolish a prison sentence for reasons of age, health or the like, although it does not clearly specify the age or health conditions to which it refers.

Regarding this law, Amnesty International had this to say: “The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador did not pass a law, it approved a pact of impunity that seeks to ensure that those who have committed serious human rights violations during the armed conflict are not brought before justice and sanctioned for the atrocities they committed.” In similar terms, David Morales, a former Human Rights ombudsman and current member of CRISTOSAL, said: “The vote of the 44 deputies who today legitimized the massacres and atrocities of war is also a violation of human rights. Now they will be subject to internal constitutional control and international supervision, their infamous act is now part of our historical memory.”

For its part, the FMLN refrained from voting, which was described by the newspaper El Faro as a surprise, considering that on this issue the leftist party has recently “moved away from its historical discourse and has oscillated between different positions.” In fact, two members of the FMLN party who decided to speak to El Faro on the condition of anonymity, claimed that at this time the party is divided between those who support the text of the law and those who condemn it, which led them to ultimately abstain from voting.

Another criticism of the Special Law on Transitional Justice, Reparation and National Reconciliation is that it was formulated, negotiated and approved behind the backs of organizations that have been working for decades to achieve justice for the civil war victims. According to the Bureau Against Impunity in El Salvador, this is most likely due to the favoring of the perpetrators who seek loopholes to avoid prison sentences or penalties that will affect their financial assets, even if it is proven in fair trials that they have murdered, tortured or disappeared thousands of people.

Fortunately, President Bukele has already announced that said law will be vetoed and therefore cannot become the law of the republic. He tweeted: “The Presidency of the Republic will not sanction any law that does not contain the fundamental elements to be fair and constitutional: 1. Truth 2. Reparation 3. Justice. The bill that the @AsaAssemblySV intends to approve does not meet any of these three elements.”

If the veto occurs, the bill would return to the Legislative Assembly, which will have the option of overturning the President’s veto, a move requiring a 2/3 vote but given the correlation of force in Parliament, this seems unattainable. Moving forward, the deputies will have to formulate a new law, which we hope will be oriented to protect the victims and not the perpetrators.

Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 8.54.20 AM


180913-salvador-disappeared-monument-se-312p_611aa7a2a86aaec806f3832eeb720454.fit-760w

El Congreso Salvadoreño Aprueba una Nueva Ley que Beneficia a los Criminales de Guerra

En la noche del 26 de febrero, con 44 votos en el Parlamento, los partidos de derecha ARENA, PCN y PDC, que se han aliado durante décadas, se unieron una vez más para aprobar la llamada Ley Especial de Justicia Transicional, Reparación y Reconciliación Nacional o Ley de Amnistía 2.0. Esta es más o menos una réplica de la Ley de Amnistía original que fue aprobada por las mismas partes en 1993. Con la Ley de Amnistía anterior, los peores crímenes cometidos durante la guerra civil permanecieron en la impunidad y no fue hasta 2016, cuando el Legislativo La Asamblea declaró esa ley como inconstitucional que surgió la oportunidad de enjuiciar crímenes de guerra, como El Mozote, donde el ejército salvadoreño masacró a más de 1,000 civiles, en su mayoría mujeres y niños. Además de los muchos crímenes de guerra del gobierno, los crímenes cometidos por escuadrones de la muerte y otros grupos paramilitares vinculados al Estado salvadoreño también estaban abiertos a juicio después de la anulación de 2016.

No obstante, con la aprobación de la Ley Especial de Justicia Transicional, Reparación y Reconciliación Nacional, según diferentes organizaciones de derechos humanos y de víctimas del conflicto armado, se favorece nuevamente la impunidad, pues según dicha ley, los criminales de guerra podrían beneficiarse con reducciones y anulación de penas, si los acusados piden perdón por sus crímenes y colaboran con la justicia. También establece que un juez puede abolir una pena de prisión por motivos de edad, salud o similares, aunque no especifica claramente la edad ni las condiciones de salud a las que se refiere.

La reconocida organización Amnistía Internacional, al respecto de esta ley expresó: “La Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador no aprobó una ley, aprobó un pacto de impunidad que busca que quienes cometieron graves violaciones a los derechos humanos durante el conflicto armado no sean llevados ante la justicia y sancionados por las atrocidades cometidas”. En similares términos se expresó el ex procurador de Derechos Humanos y actualmente integrante de la organización Cristosal, David Morales, quien dijo: “El voto de los 44 diputados que legitimaron hoy las masacres y atrocidades de la guerra, es también una violación de los Derechos Humanos. Ahora serán sometidos al control interno constitucional y a la supervisión internacional, su acto infame ahora es parte de nuestra memoria histórica.” Por su parte el FMLN se abstuvo de votar, lo cual fue calificado por el periódico El Faro como una sorpresa, considerando que en este tema el partido de izquierda se ha alejado de su discurso histórico y ha oscilado entre distintas posturas, de hecho este medio de comunicación publicó que dos diputados del FMLN que decidieron hablar bajo anonimato aseguraron que a último momento se dividió el partido entre quienes apoyaban el texto de la ley  y quienes lo condenaban, y finalmente optaron por abstenerse.

Otro de los cuestionamientos a la Ley es que se formuló, negoció y aprobó a espaldas de las organizaciones que por décadas han reinvindicado los derechos de las víctimas, según la Mesa contra la Impunidad en El Salvador, instancia conformada por más de 20 prestigiosas organizaciones de la sociedad civil, esto se debe probablemente al interés de  favorecer a victimarios, buscando fórmulas para evitar penas de prisión o afectación de sus patrimonios, aún si se demuestra en juicios justos que asesinaron, torturaron o desparecieron a miles de personas.

 Afortunadamente el Presidente ya anunció que dicha ley será vetada y por tanto no podrá convertirse en ley de la república. “La Presidencia de la República no sancionará ninguna ley que no contenga 3 elementos fundamentales para que sea justa y constitucional: 1. Verdad 2. Reparación 3. Justicia. El proyecto de ley que pretende aprobar la @AsambleaSV no cumple ninguno de estos 3 elementos”, escribió el mandatario en su cuenta de Twitter.

Si ocurre el veto, el proyecto de ley regresaría a la Asamblea Legislativa, instancia que tendrá la opción de superar el veto del Presidente, para la cual requiere los votos de 2 terceras partes de los diputados y dada la correlación de fuerza en el Parlamento, esto parece inalcanzable, de manera que los diputados tendrán que formular una nueva ley, esperando que sea orientada a proteger a las víctimas y no a los victimarios.

 

Community News, Disasters

Community Octavio Ortiz Will Soon Inaugurate their Casa Comunal

DSC_3128 copy
In 2012, the Octavio Ortíz community decided to rebuild their casa comunal.
The new infrastructure is more spacious and has a higher foundation, which is fundamental considering that in the past the communities in this part of ​​the country have suffered greatly from floods caused by the overflow of the Lempa River. This building will serve as a shelter for natural disasters and emergency situations.

The beginning wasn’t easy.
Elmer Portillo, who at that time was serving as the President of the community, recently commented on the committed effort put into the the project, “When we began the construction of the new communal house, we didn’t have enough money, nor secured support from NGOs or institutions, we only had the will and the ability to work.”

Despite these limitations, this is the result. DSC_3116A spacious modern structure with impressive architecture.

The community contributed 100% of the labor and also some of the economic resources to purchase materials such as concrete blocks, cement and zinc sheets. Various other sources, among them VOICES, have supported the project with small donations over the years. VOICES made a final donation of $4,750 for the installation of the floor, which will conclude the project in the next few months.

VOICES ON THE BORDER congratulates the community, especially its board of directors for all their determination and hard work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Capacity Building, education, Womens issues

Maria’s Dream to Teach

Meet Maria, 

DSC_2642

Maria is a popular education teacher in the Amando Lopez community grade school who VOICES is committed to supporting this year, by providing her with the living wage that she is not entitled to by the Ministry of Education because she lacks certain academic credentials.

Maria teaches Science, Health, Environment, Literature, Arts and Physical Education classes to 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

Maria’s days begin early.

She wakes up at 4AM to clean her home, wash dishes and prepare breakfast for her husband and 4 year old daughter Hazel. After she drops Hazel off at Preschool, she begins her own school day. At noon, she picks up Hazel and goes home to prepare lunch, rest in her hammock and if she’s not called on to be a substitute teacher for the afternoon session, she prepares for the following day of classes. At the end of the day she washes clothes and prepares dinner for everyone before going to bed around 10pm.

DSC_2525

Maria is no stranger to hard work.

“I’ll always remember the summer before 9th grade, when my father told me that I wouldn’t be able to study because it was time for my younger siblings to start school. I felt really sad. I told him that I would pay my own way. That was the day I began working mornings with my brothers and father in the sugarcane fields. When we were done, I would run home as fast I could to wash up and get ready for my afternoon classes. After school I worked on my aunt’s chicken farm. That is how I put myself through high school.”

Increasing the quality of education in our partner communities continues to be of importance to VOICES. In recent years, we have supplemented teachers’ salaries, provided school transportation, covered operational expenses, provided small scholarships for high school students and continuing education courses for teachers.

DSC_2616 copy

Last year, VOICES’ board members were so impressed by Maria’s commitment to teach that we were compelled to make a commitment of our own. Since Maria doesn’t officially show up on the school’s roster, they can only pay her $100 per month.

Maria’s goal is to get her teacher’s license through a distance learning program offered by the National University of El Salvador (UES). Supplementing Maria’s salary will allow her to support her family, afford the costs involved in her coursework and assure a brighter future.

WhatsApp Image 2020-01-30 at 8.26.59 AM

Visit http://www.votb.org/donate to help make Maria’s dream a reality.

* Popular education is a people-oriented and people-guided approach to education that creates a horizontal transmission of knowledge from a teacher to students by adapting to participants and their context. LEARN MORE
Uncategorized

World Day of Non-use of Pesticides

Today was the World Day of Non-use of Pesticides and the Mesa por la Soberanía Alimentaria aka Bureau for Food Sovereignty held a press conference, to once again denounce the indiscriminate use go Agrotoxins in El Salvador. It was led by Doris Evangelista, a member of the Mesa along with a family who shared their story.

DSC_2407

Rosalía Grande López has lost three out of four sons to renal failure, and Oscar, her 4th son, is currently struggling with the disease and almost lost his battle with it two years ago. Rosalía’s house sits in the middle of sugar cane fields, in San Luis Talpa, a muncilaplity with some of the highest rates of chronic renal failure in El Salvador, a disease predominantly found in rural areas where people produce the country’s food supply.

“Sadly,” Doris reminds us, “Rosalía’s heartbreaking story is similar to thousands of other families, from Acajutla to La Union.”

She reads the press release; the facts seem unbelievable…

  • Renal failure is the number one cause of hospital mortality in Salvadoran men.
  • Worldwide, agrotoxics kill 335 million people/year, that’s 40 deaths/ hour.
  • Monsanto, and five other countries, control 60% of the global agrotoxic market.

The public health system in El Salvador is free and provides dialysis treatments and medications to patients with the disease, however the majority of these public hospitals don’t have the necessary equipment and/or medication and therefore are unable to provide the prescribed treatments for all their patients.

Oscar is prescribed two dialysis treatments weekly, but usually the hospital runs out of medication, meaning it can only perform one a week, leaving Oscar to either pay $25-$50 extra a week for medication, or forgo the second treatment, which consistently is his only option.

In El Salvador, even though laws exists, even though the health ministry has demonstrated a strong correlation between agrotoxicos and renal failure and their use has been denounced by both the Human Rights Ombudsman and the United Nations, thousands of people continue to suffer and die as transnational corporations like Monsanto enjoy profits in the billions.

The Mesa is “very concerned that the use of agrochemicals is seriously affecting water, soil, biodiversity, the local economy and food sovereignty throughout the country.” Their concerns seem justifiable, especially with the large-scale sugar cane industry boasting that 2020 will prove to be their best harvest ever.

“They will applaud while we suffer,” lamented Doris, before concluding the conference with a shout out to government institutions and civil society to come together and strategize a campaign against Big Sugar, “because this” she says, “is also about the right to life.”


ComunicadoSV_Día mundial del no uso de pesticidas (en español).
Video breve (en español).