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What is Going on in El Salvador?

You are cordially invited to a very intriguing conversation with Salvadoran experts, tomorrow evening. The topics we will be discuss are the Current state of Politics and Freedom of Expression in El Salvador.

If you want to directly contribute via the Zoom meeting, pre-register @ shorturl.at/goqR5

We can’t wait to see you!


Están cordialmente invitad@s a una conversación muy intrigante con expertos salvadoreños, esta noche. Los temas que trataremos son el estado actual de la política y la libertad de expresión en El Salvador.

Si desean contribuir directamente a través de la reunion de Zoom, preinscríbase @ shorturl.at/goqR5

¡Estamos ansiosos por verte!

Community News, El Salvador Government, events, News Highlights

THE LARGEST MARCH AGAINST NAYIB BUKELE’S GOVERNMENT

LEER EN ESPAÑOL

[Reuters]

On September 15, the same date as the Bicentennial commemoration of Central America’s independence, thousands of Salvadorans took to the streets of San Salvador to express their rejection of different political decisions recently made by the government of President Nayib Bukele.

“No to presidential re-election!”, “No to bitcoin!”, “No to militarization!”, “No to dictatorship!”, “No to corruption!” and “We demand respect for human rights!” were the most common messages seen on the banners carried by protesters.

But the most forcefully expressed demand, both on the banners and the loudspeakers, was the rejection of the adoption of bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador. Last June, Bukele sent a proposal to the Legislative Assembly to adopt this cryptocurrency in the country. In response and without further analysis, the Assembly, controlled by the official party, approved a law that establishes that all economic agents must accept bitcoin as a form of payment.

On Tuesday, September 7, said law came into effect, despite its unpopularity. In a survey conducted by the Central American University (UCA) in August, 95.9% of the population believed that the adoption of bitcoin should be voluntary. This study also revealed that more than half of the population, 54.3%, believed that the prices of basic foodstuffs would increase with the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender. In addition, different social organizations expressed their concern over the fact that bitcoin is an extremely volatile cryptocurrency.

Protesters also showed their contempt for the dismissal of judges over 60 years of age. On September 1, the Legislative Assembly approved another controversial law, a reform to the law of the judicial career that establishes the mandatory retirement of judges who are 60 years of age or 30 years of service. Up until September 1, there was no age limit to be a judge.

According to the administration, the justification for this reform is the purification of the judicial system by removing corrupt judges, however many suggest that the hidden purpose is the control of the judicial body by the executive since the more than 200 vacant positions will be filled by judges aligned with the interests of the ruling party.

One of the judges to be dismissed under this reform, is Jorge Guzmán, the investigating judge of San Francisco Gotera, who is hearing the case of El Mozote, which is in its final stage.

According to David Morales, a notable victims’ and human rights attorney, “this dismissal of Judge Guzmán will directly affect the State’s obligation to carry out, without obstacles, the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the massacre of El Mozote.”

Another clear reason for the protest was the resolution of the Constitutional Chamber, issued on September 3, which enables the re-election of the president.

“This decision allows immediate presidential re-election and is clearly contrary to the Salvadoran Constitution, which establishes that immediate re-election is not allowed,” remarked Jean Manes, ambassador to El Salvador (2016-2019) and who now heads the US diplomatic representation in the country.

On this same topic, Ricardo Navarro, a renowned environmentalist, during the march told the press: “Before there was a decent Constitutional Chamber, now there is a room that is a branch of the Presidency of the Republic.”

As expected, the march did not go unnoticed by the government. That same evening, the president spent a few minutes on radio and television networks attempting to downplay it, as his closest officials flooded the social networks with messages hoping to minimize the protest.

Despite the official narrative, the images speak for themselves. They show that this was the largest demonstration carried out against the Bukele administration. There is no doubt that despite citizen approval of the government remains high, decisions such as the bitcoin law, reforms to the judicial career law, and presidential re-election have activated the emotions and feelings of a good part of the citizenry, which this time legitimately expressed themselves in the streets.

Learn more at our upcoming Virtual Forum: Bitcoin in El Salvador and its Impacts


[El Faro]

LA MARCHA MÁS GRANDE CONTRA EL GOBIERNO DE NAYIB BUKELE

El pasado 15 de septiembre, la misma fecha en que se conmemoró el Bicentenario de la independencia de Centroamérica, miles de salvadoreños y salvadoreñas se tomaron las calles de San Salvador para manifestar su rechazo a diferentes decisiones políticas, tomadas por el gobierno del presidente Nayib Bukele, en los últimos meses.

“No a la reelección presidencial”, “no al bitcoin”, “no a la militarización”, “no a la dictadura”, “no a la corrupción” y “exigimos respeto a los derechos humanos” eran los mensajes más frecuentes en las pancartas que portaban los manifestantes.

Pero la demanda expresada con más fuerza, tanto en las pancartas como en los altavoces, era el rechazo a la adopción del bitcoin como moneda de curso legal en El Salvador. El pasado mes de junio Bukele envió una propuesta a la Asamblea Legislativa para adoptar esta criptomoneda en el país. En respuesta y sin mayor análisis la Asamblea, controlada por el partido oficial, aprobó una ley que establece que todos los agentes económicos deberán aceptar el bitcoin como forma de pago.

El martes 7 de septiembre entró en vigencia dicha ley, aún con el desacuerdo, mayoritariamente, de la población. En una encuesta realizada por la Universidad Centroamericana, en el mes de agosto, el 95.9% de la población opinó que el uso del bitcoin debería ser voluntario. Dicho estudio también revela que más de la mitad de la población, el 54.3%, sostiene que los precios de los productos básicos aumentarán con el uso del bitcoin como moneda de curso legal. Además, diferentes organizaciones sociales sostienen que se trata de una criptomoneda que tiene una extrema volatilidad.

También, se protestó contra la destitución de los jueces de más de 60 años de edad. El 01 de septiembre la Asamblea Legislativa aprobó otra polémica ley, una reforma a la ley de la carrera judicial que establece el retiro obligatorio de jueces que tengan 60 años de edad o 30 años de servicio. Hasta ahora no había límite de edad para ser juez.

El argumento para esta reforma es la depuración del sistema judicial apartando a los jueces corruptos; no obstante, hay reiteradas denuncias que el propósito oculto es el control del órgano judicial por parte del ejecutivo, pues las más de 200 plazas vacantes serán ocupadas por jueces alineados a los intereses del oficialismo.

Uno de los juzgadores que sería cesado con la entrada en vigencia de esta reforma es el juez de Instrucción de San Francisco Gotera, Jorge Guzmán, quien conoce el caso de El Mozote, el cuál se encuentra en su etapa final.

De acuerdo con David Morales, abogado de las víctimas y ex procurador de Derechos Humanos de El Salvador, esta separación del juez Guzmán directamente estará afectando la obligación del Estado de llevar adelante, sin obstáculos, la investigación y enjuiciamiento de los responsables de la masacre de El Mozote.

Otra fuerte razón de la protesta fue la resolución de la Sala de lo Constitucional, emitida el 03 de septiembre, en la que se habilita la reelección del presidente.

“Esta decisión permite la reelección presidencial inmediata y es claramente contraria a la Constitución salvadoreña, que establece que la reelección inmediata no está permitida”, expresó Jean Manes, embajadora en El Salvador entre 2016 y 2019 y quien ahora encabeza la representación diplomática estadounidense en el país.
Sobre este mismo tema, Ricardo Navarro, un reconocido ambientalista, durante la marcha expresó a la prensa: “Antes había una Sala de lo Constitucional decente, ahora hay una sala que es una sucursal de la presidencia de la república”

Como era de esperar la marcha no pasó desapercibida para el gobierno, por la noche, el presidente dedicó algunos minutos, en una cadena de radio y televisión, para restarle importancia, así mismo sus funcionarios más cercanos inundaron las redes sociales de mensajes con el propósito de minimizar la protesta.

Pero las imágenes muestran claramente que fue la manifestación más grande realizada contra la administración Bukele y aunque la aprobación ciudadana al gobierno sigue siendo alta, no hay duda que las decisiones como la ley bitcoin, las reformas a la ley de la carrera judicial y la reelección presidencial han activado emociones y sentimientos de una buena parte de la ciudadanía, que esta vez se expresó legítimamente en las calles.

Aprende más en nuestro próximo Foro Virtual: Bitcoin en El Salvador y sus impactos

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THE DOOR IS OPENED TO PRESIDENTIAL RE-ELECTION IN EL SALVADOR

downloadLEER EN ESPAÑOL

On Friday, September 3, the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador, through its Constitutional Chamber, issued a surprising resolution that opened the door for the reelection of President Bukele for the period 2024 – 2029. This resolution orders the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to comply with this new mandate and allows the sitting President to participate in the electoral contest for the second time.

The Constitution of El Salvador establishes the prohibition of sitting presidents from holding a second term. In the first paragraph of Article 152, that the person who has held the Presidency for more than six months, consecutive or not, during the immediately preceding period may not be President; however, Bukele has been maneuvering to find a way around this ban.

Last May, he managed to get the new Legislative Assembly to dismiss the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber and the Attorney General, excusing himself in arguments without legal support. The new law states that the Legislature is empowered to take such decisions, but only after following a procedure based on specific grounds established in the Constitution.

However, these types of illegalities were possible thanks to the fact that the Legislative Assembly is made up of a majority of deputies from Bukele’s party and aligned with the interests of the president. It is important to note that this election was obtained through illegitimate and undemocratic actions, and with a disproportionate electoral campaign, in which the New Ideas party concentrated more than 70% of its spending on publicity, not to mention the use of public resources for electoral purposes.

Although this resolution establishes that: “allowing the sitting President to seek a second term, does not imply de facto that he will be elected, it only implies that the people will have among their range of options the person who at that time holds the presidency, and it is the people who decide whether to place trust in him again or whether to opt for a different option.”

However, it is clear that if he were to compete for new presidential reelection, Bukele would have an extraordinary advantage over any contender, because he has the entire governmental ideological apparatus and abundant state resources.

To many, what’s most disturbing is that this resolution signifies a new violation of the Constitution with no consequences because the government has no significant opposition, nor institutional counterweights.

An article by investigative journal El Faro entitled “Salvadoran Democracy is in a Coma“, states that: “We are witnessing the end of the Republic and its replacement by an undemocratic family clan that uses the state for its own benefit. But for Bukele and his circle to achieve their ends, they must rely on a slew of dishonorable, opportunistic, and corrupt officials and bureaucrats who operate at their behest, as well as on a citizenry blinded by propaganda.”


SE ABRE LA PUERTA A LA REELECCIÓN PRESIDENCIAL EN EL SALVADOR

La Corte Suprema de Justicia de El Salvador, a través de la Sala de lo Constitucional, en una sorpresiva resolución, emitida la noche del viernes 3 de septiembre, abrió la puerta a la reelección del presidente Bukele para el período 2024 – 2029. La resolución ordena al Tribunal Supremo Electoral que acate que una persona que ejerza la Presidencia de la República y no haya sido Presidente en el periodo inmediato anterior participe en la contienda electoral por segunda ocasión.

La Constitución de El Salvador prohibe la reelección presidencial, en su artículo 152, literal primero, se establece que no podrá ser Presidente el que haya desempeñado la Presidencia de la República por más de seis meses, consecutivos o no, durante el período inmediato anterior; sin embargo, Bukele ha venido maniobrando para encontrar la forma de obviar esta prohibición. 

En el pasado mes de mayo logró que la nueva Asamblea Legislativa destituyera a los magistrados de la Sala de lo Constitucional y al Fiscal General, excusándose en argumentos sin sustento jurídico. La ley establece que la Asamblea Legislativa está facultada para tomar este tipo de decisiones, pero siguiendo un procedimiento basado en causas específicas establecidas en la misma Constitución. 

Sin embargo, este tipo de ilegalidades fueron posibles gracias a que la Asamblea Legislativa está conformada por una mayoría de diputados del partido de Bukele y alineada con los intereses del presidente. Es importante señalar que esta elección se obtuvo a través de acciones ilegítimas y antidemocráticas, y con una campaña electoral desproporcionada, en la que el partido Nuevas Ideas concentró más del 70% de su gasto en publicidad, sin mencionar el uso indiscriminado de recursos públicos para fines electorales.

Con la resolución del 3 de septiembre, los 5 magistrados impuestos por la Asamblea Legislativa, dejan en evidencia que están alineados a los intereses del Presidente, aunque la misma resolución establece que: “el permitir la postulación del Presidente para competir de nuevo por la presidencia, no implica de facto que este llegue a ser electo, implica únicamente que el pueblo tendrá entre su gama de opciones a la persona que a ese momento ejerce la presidencia, y es el pueblo quien decide si deposita nuevamente la confianza en él o si se decanta por una opción distinta.”

No obstante, es claro que de competir para una nueva reelección presidencial, Bukele tendría una extraordinaria ventaja sobre cualquier contendiente, porque dispone de todo el aparato ideológico gubernamental y de abundantes recursos estatales.

Por otra parte , esta resolución, significa una nueva violación de la Constitución, sin la posibilidad de que hayan consecuencias, pòrque práctiamente el gobierno no tiene una oposición significativa, ni contrapesos institucionales, pues, así como lo afirma el períodico El Faro, en un artículo reciente: “La democracia salvadoreña, está en coma”

En dicho artículo se afirma: “asistimos a pasos agigantados al fin de la República y su sustitución por un clan familiar antidemocrático que utiliza el Estado en su beneficio. Pero para que consigan sus objetivos son necesarios funcionarios y burócratas indignos, oportunistas o corruptos que operen a su favor, y una ciudadanía cegada por la propaganda. 

ElectionSV2021

¿QUE SIGUE, LUEGO DE LAS ELECCIONES EN EL SALVADOR?

READ IN ENGLISH

Con los Acuerdos de Paz, en 1992, se pone fin a la guerra civil y se inicia una nueva etapa en la vida política de El Salvador, caracterizada por la desmilitarización de la sociedad, el surgimiento de nuevas instituciones y el ejercicio de elecciones democráticas.

El sistema democrático salvadoreño adolece de debilidad institucional y persisten comportamientos antidemocráticos en la mayoría actores políticos, pero se ha logrado institucionalizar elecciones de manera periódica. Desde 1992 se han llevado a cabo 13 eventos electorales. 6 para elección de presidente y 7 para elección de diputados y concejos municipales.

En una sociedad democrática, la celebración de elecciones justas, libres, transparentes y competitivas son esenciales para el sano ejercicio del poder y sobre todo para que la decisión de la población, expresada en su voto, se traduzca en servidores públicos electos por mayoría, quienes, durante un periodo de tiempo, efectivamente deberían estar al servicio de la población.

Si bien, las 13 elecciones realizadas han sido en el marco de la legalidad, la celebrada el pasado 28 de febrero tuvo ciertas particularidades; en primer lugar, una desproporcionada campaña electoral, en la cual el partido Nuevas Ideas (partido del presidente Nayib Bukele) concentró más del 70% del gasto en publicidad.

Otra característica fue una exacerbada violencia electoral; al grado que, a pocas semanas de la elección, un grupo de militantes del FMLN fue atacado a balazos luego de participar en un acto partidario en San Salvador, como consecuencia dos activistas murieron y tres resultaron heridos. El ataque fue condenado por varios representantes diplomáticos, entre ellos el encargado de negocios de la embajada de Estados Unidos en El Salvador, Brendan O’Brien. Sin embargo, no fue condenado por el propio presidente, quien en cambio culpó al partido FMLN por llevar a cabo un autoataque.

Adicionalmente, hubo una constante violación a la legislación electoral, especialmente por parte de funcionarios del más alto nivel del gobierno y del mismo presidente de la república, así como la utilización de abundantes recursos públicos para fines electorales.

Estos factores representaron ventajas antidemocráticas para Nuevas Ideas; quienes, como era de esperar, ganaron las elecciones, y no solo porque llevaron a cabo una campaña bien planificada que no temía romper las reglas, sino también por una acumulación de instituciones desacreditadas, promesas incumplidas, deficiencia de liderazgo y la corrupción generalizada de los partidos políticos tradicionales.

De confirmarse los resultados preliminares, “el partido del presidente” obtendría 56 de 84 diputados y 145 de 262 alcaldías y concejos municipales. Para tener una apreciación de lo que esto significa, hay que decir que nunca un partido había logrado tantos diputados. La cifra más alta la logró Arena en 1994, al sumar 39 parlamentarios.

Con estos números a su favor, el presidente Bukele no necesitará de ningún otro partido para tomar decisiones como la elección del Fiscal General; elección de Magistrados de la Corte Suprema de Justicia; del Procurador General de los Derechos Humanos y de Magistrados de la Corte de Cuentas de la República; aprobación de nuevos préstamos, otorgar concesiones estatales al sector privado, entre otras leyes. Con lo cual tendría un poder político, casi absoluto.

Otra preocupación tiene que ver con la reforma constitucional, que ya está en marcha, y la cuestión de si el presidente Bukele buscará o no reformar la constitución para permitirle ser elegido para otro mandato, considerando que el actual mandato presidencial es por 5 años, sin oportunidad de reelección.

No obstante, la concentración de poder político en la figura del presidente, incluida la posibilidad de su reelección, no parece ser asunto de mucha transcendencia para la mayoría de la población. En 2018 una encuesta del Latinobarómetro reveló que El Salvador era el país de América que menos importancia le daba a la democracia, solo el 28%, la consideraba importante, mientras que el 54% reportó que le daba lo mismo vivir en una democracia que en una dictadura.

Afortunadamente, la democracia no se reduce al ejercicio del poder institucionalizado, la democracia también se encuentra en la organización y participación de sociedades marginadas movilizadas, que trabajan incansablemente para exigir el respeto de los derechos humanos de sus comunidades.

Nada le haría más daño a la precaria democracia salvadoreña que un rol pasivo de la sociedad civil. Hoy más que nunca, la academia, la prensa independiente, la iglesia progresista y el movimiento social en general deben asumir un rol de contrapeso frente a las estructuras de poder gubernamental que actúan en contra de las necesidades tangibles del pueblo, y hacerlos responsables, sin importar el color de su partido.


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WHAT’S NEXT, AFTER THE ELECTIONS IN EL SALVADOR

With the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, the civil war ended and a new political era began in El Salvador. This era was characterized by the demilitarization of the society, the emergence of new institutions and the free exercise of democratic elections. Despite all this, the Salvadoran democratic system has continued to suffer from institutional weakness and undemocratic behaviors from the majority of it’s politicians, still, it has been possible to hold elections on a regular basis. Since 1992, 13 national elections have been held, six for the president and seven for the National Assembly and municipal councils.

In a democratic society, the holding of fair, free, transparent and competitive elections are essential for the healthy exercise of power, and above all so that the decision of the people, expressed in their vote, is translated into public servants who, for a period of time, must actually be at the service of the population.

Although the 13 elections held have been within the framework of legality, the one held on February 28, 2021 had certain peculiarities; such as a very expensive electoral campaign, ran by Nuevas Ideas (President Bukele’s party), which concentrated more than 70% of it’s party’s budget on advertising.

Another unfortunate issue was exacerbated electoral violence; which a few before the elections, led to a group of FMLN party supporters being shot at after participating in a party rally in San Salvador. Two activists died in that attack and and three others were injured. The attack was condemned by numerous diplomatic representatives, including Brendan O’Brien, the charge d’affaires of the United States embassy in El Salvador. It was not however, not condemned by the President himself, who instead placed the blame on the FMLN party for carrying out a self attack.

Additionally, there was the constant violation of electoral laws, especially by officials from the highest level of the government and the President of the Republic himself, as well as the abundant use of state resources for electoral purposes.

These factors represented antidemocratic advantages for Nuevas Ideas; who unsurprisingly won the election across the board, not just because they ran a well-strategized campaign that wasn’t afraid to break rules, but also because of an accumulation of discredited institucions, broken promises, leadership deficiency and the overall corruption of the traditional political parties.

If the preliminary results are confirmed, “the president’s party” would secure 56 out of 84 parliamentarians and 145 out of the 262 mayorships and municipal councils. These are historical numbers for El Salvador, before this, the highest figure achieved was by a single party was the ARENA party in 1994, who secured 39 parliamentarians.

With these numbers in his favor, President Bukele will not need any other party to make decisions such as the election of the Attorney General; Human Rights Ombudsman, Supreme Court Magistrates; Magistrates of the Court of Accounts of the Republic; approval of new loans, granting state concessions to the private sector, among other laws. With this level of influence, he would have almost absolute political power.

Another concern has to do with constitutional reform, which is already under way, and the question of whether or not President Bukele will seek to amend the constitution to allow himself to be elected for another term, considering that the current Presidential term is for 5 years, with no oppurtunity for re-election.

However, the concentration of political power in the figure of the president, including the possibility of his re-election, does not seem to be a matter of great importance for the majority of the population. In 2018, a Latinobarometer survey revealed that El Salvador was the country in America that gave the least importance to democracy, only 28% considered it important, while 54% reported that living in a democratic state was the same as living in a dictatorship.

Fortunately, democracy is not reduced to the exercise of institutionalized power, democracy is also found in the organization and participation of mobilized marginalized societies, who all work tirelessly to demand respect for the human rights of thier communities.

Ultimately, nothing would do more harm to El Salvador’s precarious democracy than a passive civil society. Today more than ever, academics, the independent press, the progressive church and the social movement in general must assume a counterweight role against the governmental power structures, that act against the tangible needs of the people, and hold them accountable, regardless of party lines.

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TWITTERSTORM! El Salvador 2021 Elections

THIS SUNDAY FEB 28:
Stay tuned and join the conversation!

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Politics

The Swearing In of El Salvador’s New President

Version en Español

iOn June 1, Nayib Bukele was sworn in as the new President of El Salvador. Bukele dabbled in political life in 2012, under the banner of the FMLN party when he won the mayorship of Nuevo Cuscatlán and three years later, in 2015, when he became governor of San Salvador, the capital. His differences with the left-wing party caused his expulsion from it on October 10, 2017. He won the presidency under the Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA), a right-wing party founded by former members of ARENA.

His first speech as president lasted 24 minutes in which he spoke in generalities, without referring to his outlook for the country, or to what his priorities will be. Generally, in their inaugural address, elected presidents reflect on their vision of the country they receive, and what their strategies will be during the five years of their administration.

For his part, Nayib Bukele called for national unity and asked Salvadorans to work hard to move the country forward; but most of his speech was dedicated to exalt his followers, who were present in Plaza Barrios. He also reminisced about his father in an extensive anecdote; thanked his wife; criticized previous governments for unfulfilled promises and reiterated that he will do what he promised in his campaign… making difficult decisions.

As expected, the FMLN harshly criticized the content of his speech, calling it “superficial” through a statement via their official Twitter account. The party argued that the speech did not express commitments or proposals to the important problems facing the Salvadoran people, such as the privatization of water, pension reform and citizen security.

ARENA issued a press release in which it “extends its hand to President Bukele so that he can make a correct government in accordance with the law and institutions; and strive to meet the urgent needs of the people who demand more opportunities that improve their quality of life.”

Both parties agree that the new government faces a country with complex problems. A recent article by the news agency BBC Mundo states that Nayib faces five major challenges as the President of the most violent and poorest country in Latin America.

The main one is the violence. Bukele will face a complex and entrenched issue that is considered a real national security problem, and which has translated into the omnipresence of gangs in the lives of Salvadorans; gangs that sometimes control entire lives. Homicides, extortions, drug trafficking and human trafficking are common crimes associated with gangs.

Poverty is another of the chronic problems. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), El Salvador was ranked the third poorest country in Latin American between 2015 and 2017. However, 37.8 % Salvadorans still live in poverty.

Corruption, scarce investment to generate sustainable sources of employment and an opposing Legislative Assembly are other obstacles that the new government will face. How will they do? This is still a question that remains unanswered.

The most structured response the incoming government has put forth is their campaign platform, called Plan Cuscatlán, however, it is unknown if this will be adopted as a government plan or if it will undergo substantial modifications. Plan Cuscatlán is an extensive document consisting of 1,075 pages, which identifies parts of the economic model to be implemented, for example, a commitment to mega infrastructure projects such as an airport in the eastern part of the country and train service along the Salvadoran coast.

According to the economist Julia Evelyn Martínez, there are enough signs to conclude that the new government will adopt a neoliberal economic model strongly committed to the interests of the United States. “I have analyzed Plan Cuscatlán and as a result of that analysis I have concluded that what it offers for the next five years is more neoliberalism than there has been in the last 30 years,” Martinez stated during a television interview.

In fact, a few hours after Bukele’s inauguration, President Donald Trump said: “The United States is ready to work with Nayib Bukele to promote prosperity in El Salvador and the hemisphere. Congratulations President Bukele on your inauguration.” With this type of support it can be intuited that the political and economic influence of the United States in El Salvador will increase over the next five years.

What does constitute a positive signal is that the President’s first executive order was directed to the armed force to “remove the name of Colonel Domingo Monterrosa from the barracks of the Third Infantry Brigade.” This is a controversial order because for the Armed Forces, Monterrosa is to this day considered a hero; however, he has been identified as responsible for the El Mozote massacre, so demystifying his name is good for the country’s wellbeing.

Despite both positive and negative signals, it is important to wish the new President all the best, especially since June 1st he became the captain of the ship in which all Salvadorans travel, although it is worrisome when the captain doesn’t point clearly where the ship is heading.

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NUEVO PRESIDENTE EN EL SALVADOR

El pasado uno de junio Nayib Bukele fue juramentado como el nuevo Presidente de El Salvador. Bukele incursionó en la vida política en el 2012, bajo la bandera del FMLN cuando ganó la alcaldía de Nuevo Cuscatlán y tres años más tarde, en el 2015, se convirtió en el alcalde de la capital, San Salvador, pero sus diferencias con el partido de izquierda lo llevaron a su expulsión el 10 de octubre de 2017. La presidencia la ganó con el partido Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional, GANA. Un instituto de derecha fundado por exmiembros de ARENA.

Su primer discurso como Presidente tuvo una duración de 24 minutos en los cuales habló generalidades, sin referirse a la visión que tiene del país, ni cuales serán sus prioridades. Generalmente en su discurso inagural los presidentes electos suelen reflejar su visión del país que reciben, y cuáles serán sus estrategias durante los cinco años que durará su gestión.

Por su parte Nayib Bukele hizo un llamado a la unidad nacional y pidió a los salvadoreños trabajar fuerte para sacar adelante al país; pero la mayor parte de su intervención la dedicó a exaltar a sus seguidores, presentes en la plaza pública donde se celebraba el evento; recordó a su padre en una extensa anécdota; agradeció a su esposa; criticó a los gobiernos anteriores por las promesas incumplidas y reiteró que hará las obras que prometió en su campaña, lo cual implicará tomar decisiones difíciles.

Como era de esperar, El FMLN criticó duramente el contenido de su discurso, a través de un comunicado en su cuenta de Twitter, calificándolo como “superficial”. El partido de izquierda sostuvo que en el discurso no expresó compromisos, ni propuestas ante los grandes problemas que enfrenta el pueblo salvadoreño, tales como la privatización del agua, la reforma de pensiones y la seguridad ciudadana.

De igual manera, el partido ARENA emitió un comunicado de prensa en el que “le extiende la mano al Presidente Bukele para que pueda hacer un gobierno correcto apegado a nuestras leyes e institucionalidad; y se empeñe en atender las necesidades apremiantes de nuestro pueblo que clama más oportunidades para mejorar su calidad de vida”, expresa el texto.

Ambos partidos coinciden en que al nuevo gobierno le tocará hacer frente a un país con problemas complejos. Un artículo reciente de la agencia BBC Mundo expone que al nuevo Presidente le tocará enfrentar 5 desafios en el país más violento y pobre de América Latina

El principal es la violencia, Bukele se enfrentará a una compleja y enquistada cuestión, considerada un auténtico problema de seguridad nacional, que se traduce en la omnipresencia en la vida de los salvadoreños de las pandillas, quienes en ocasiones controlan barrios y colonias casi en exclusividad. Los homicidios, extorciones, el narcotráfico y la trata de personas son delitos comunes asociados al accionar de las pandillas.

La pobreza es otro de los problemas crónicos, el referido artículo señala que según la Comisión Económica para América Latina, CEPAL El Salvador se destacó como el tercer país de América Latina que más redujo porcentualmente su pobreza entre 2015 y 2017. Sin embargo, el 37.8% de salvadoreños y salvadoreñas sigue viviendo en la pobreza.

La corrupción, la escasa inversión para generar fuentes de empleo sostenibles y una Asamblea Legislativa contraria a sus intereses son otros de los obstáculos que deberá enfrentar el nuevo gobierno. ¿Cómo lo hará? Aún es una pregunta sin respuesta.

Al respecto la referencia más estructurada que se tiene es su plataforma de campaña, denominada Plan Cuscatlán. Se desconoce si este será adoptado como Plan de Gobierno o si sufrirá modificiaciones sustanciales, el Plan Cuscatlán consiste en un extenso documento de 1,075 páginas, en el que se identifican pistas del modelo económico a implementar, por ejemplo hay una apuesta a la implementación de mega proyectos de infraestructura; un aeropuerto en el oriente del país y un tren que va a recorer la costa salvadoreña, son de los proyectos más emblemáticos.

Según la economista Julia Evelyn Martínez hay señales suficientes para entender que el nuevo gobierno adoptará un modelo económico de corte neoliberal y que estará fuertemente comprometido con los intereses de Los Estados Unidos. “He analizado el Plan Cuscatlán y como resultado de ese análisis he concluido que lo que ofrece para los próximos cinco años es más neoliberalismo del que ha habido en los últimos 30 años”, manifestó Martínez en una entrevista de televisión.

De hecho, unas horas despues de su juramentación el Presidente Donal Trump expresó: “Estados Unidos está listo para trabajar con Nayib Bukele para promover la prosperidad en El Salvador y el hemisferio. Felicidades Presidente Bukele en su toma de posesión”. Con este tipo de respaldo puede intuirse que la influencia política y económica de los Estados Unidos en El Salvador se incrementará en el próximo quinquenio.

Lo que si constituye una señal positiva del nuevo Presidente es que su primer orden ejecutiva fue dirigida a la fuerza armada: Quitar el nombre del coronel Domingo Monterrosa del cuartel de la Tercera Brigada de Infantería. Esta es una orden polémica porque para la Fuerza Armada Monterrosa es considerado un héroe; sin embargo, ha sido señalado como el responsable de la masacre El Mozote, por lo que desmitificar su nombre es bueno para el país.

No obstante las señales positivas y negativas, es importante desearle lo mejor al nuevo Presidente, sobre todo porque a partir del uno de junio se convierte en el capitán del barco en el que viajan todos los salvadoreños y salvadoreñas, aunque preocupa que el capitán no diga con claridad hacia donde se dirige la nave.

Environment, Food Security

Civil Society Marches for Public Health, Food, and Water

This morning 5,000 Salvadorans from 150 civil society organizations and communities took to the streets in San Salvador to demand that the Legislative Assembly ratify a Constitutional Amendment recognizing food and water as a basic human right.

In 2012, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed an amendment to Article 69 of the Constitution recognizing access to food and water as basic rights to be protected by the State. If the current Legislature ratifies the amendment, Article 69 will include the following language:

“All people have the right to adequate nutrition. The State is required to create food sovereignty and nutritional policies for all inhabitants. A law will regulate this issue.

Water is a resource essential for all of life, and as such the State is required to protect and preserve water resources and provide it for all inhabitants. The State will create public policies that regulate this issue.”

The Legislative Assembly first approved the amendment on April 19, 2012, just 12 days before the current legislature took office. To complete the process, this Legislature has to ratify the amendment before their 3-year term expires on April 30.

When the marchers reached the Legislative Assembly this morning, Diputados (Representatives) Lourdes Palacios and Yoalmo Cabrero greeted them and declared that all 31 representatives from their leftist FMLN party would vote in favor of the amendment. They pointed out, as did many marchers, that it was the right-wing ARENA, PCN, and PDC representatives that have blocked ratification. During a meeting last month with members of MOVIAC, Representative Palacidos said that they have brought the ratification vote to the floor twice and both times ARENA, PCN, and PDC [representatives] blocked its passage. She also said that they have yet to give a valid argument for their opposition.

A statement released by MOVAIC (the Movement of Victims Affected by Climate Change), declared that “water and food, like air, are elements essential for human life and other creatures of the biosphere. Human beings are unable to live without food and water.

“It seems like a lie and its shameful that in the twenty-first century, fifty years after we put a man on the moon and reached high levels of scientific and technological development, that we still are fighting for the recognition of such fundamental rights as access to food and water.”

The holdup seems to be privatization. MOVIAC and others believe that the ARENA, PCN, and PDC Representatives blocking ratification of Article 69 are backing the corporations and investors that want to privatize and control water and food. Representative Palacios confirmed that the opposition from the conservative parties is strong.

In addition to calling for the ratification of the amendment, marchers ask Salvadorans to vote against any legislator or party that has refused to support ratification (on March 1, El Salvador will hold elections for the Legislative Assembly and Municipal governments).

Water resources in El Salvador are scarce and for years Salvadoran organizations have fought to ensure that all Salvadorans have access to potable water. Currently, 20% of Salvadorans do not have access to potable water. That means they have to get water for drinking and to run their household from surface waters, 90% of which are contaminated with agrochemical runoff, untreated industrial waste, raw sewage and other pollutants.

Access to adequate food and nutrition has become more difficult in recent years. Neo-liberal economic policies prioritize using El Salvador’s farmland for growing exports like sugarcane instead of corn, beans, and vegetables for local consumption. U.S. policies such as Partnership for Growth, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and others have made it increasingly difficult for families to feed themselves or make a living farming.

Ratifying Article 69 of the Salvadoran Constitution will not mean that everyone will have access to water and food, but it will require the executive and legislative branches to take affirmative steps in that direction – like passing the water law that has been lingering in the Legislative Assembly for 10 years.

News out of El Salvador is generally bad – gangs and violence, and 60,000 youth showing up on the U.S. border. That won’t change with the government doubling down on “mano duro” policies and tougher law enforcement. Things will only get better when the government is ready to engage in long-term solutions that ensure Salvadorans have what they need to survive, and nothing is more fundamental than access to food and water.

The inability for some politicians to recognize that people should have the right to access food and water indicates just how far El Salvador has to go before it can resolve its more complicated issues.

Economy, Partnership for Growth, U.S. Relations

The Price for a $277 Million MCC Grant

Since Sanchez Cerén became the President of El Salvador on June 1, his administration has said securing the $277 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant is a top priority. Vice President Oscar Ortiz said they want to get it done within their first 100 days in office, which means within the next three months.

The MCC approved the grant in September 2013, but the US Embassy blocked the release of the funds until the government met conditions such as reforming the Public Private Partnership Law (P3 Law) and restructuring a popular seed program.

The P3 Law facilitates government contracts with private entities to provide public goods and services. The US Embassy made the P3 Law a prerequisite for the MCC funds but they don’t like the law passed by the Legislative Assembly. They don’t approve of the oversight role the Legislature created for itself – a committee that must approve all P3 contracts. The Embassy and business community also don’t like that the law exempts important public goods and services like water, health, education, and public security from public private partnerships.

One of the most vocal opponents of the P3 Law has been El Salvador’s labor movement. Unions fear that public private partnerships will result in a loss of jobs, decrease in wages, and even worse working conditions as private investors maximize profits. Other civil society organizations fear the P3 Law, even with the exemptions, will lead to the privatization of important goods and services – like water, health care, and education.

The US Embassy also doesn’t approve of the Seed Distribution Program operated by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG). Officials argue the procurement process violates the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) because the government only buys seeds from Salvadoran Farming Cooperatives, excluding international seed producers like Monsanto. The program provides thousands of jobs for people working for the cooperatives and ensures that more than 400,000 farmers have quality, non-GMO seeds.

Last week US Ambassador said that the Embassy’s problem was not with the seeds, but with the process. On May 2 Voices wrote an article arguing that the problem was not the seeds or the procurement process, but CAFTA.

The MCC program is popular with a lot of Salvadorans and politicians who see it as free money for development projects. But a growing number of environmentalists, unions, and communities argue that the Embassy’s conditions are too high a price to pay for development projects they don’t want anyway. And many see the conditions as an encroachment on El Salvador’s sovereignty.

Among those who oppose the MCC program outright are environmental groups and communities in the Jiquilisco Bay. MCC funds will support tourism development in the Bay and residents fear it will cause irreparable harm to mangrove forests, nesting grounds for the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, and El Salvador’s most fertile agricultural land. (Voices has written about Tourism on this blog in the past – here are two reports we wrote on tourism in the Jiquilisco Bay).

Roberto Lorenzana, President Sanchez Cerén’s Chief of Staff said two weeks ago that the administration already has a draft Fomelinio Law (in El Salvador the MCC is called Fomelinio) that they will send to the Legislative Assembly soon. It’s unclear what is in the Fomelinio Law, but it likely contains all of the reforms the US Embassy is requiring for release of the MCC funds. Even before he became Chief of Staff, Lorenzana said the new administration is going to open the procurement process to national and international seed producers, in an apparent effort to satisfy the Embassy’s concerns.

While some Salvadorans have spoken out against the second MCC compact, the P3 Law and other neoliberal policies, many have not. The politics of opposing neoliberal economic policies grew more complex when the leftist FMLN party took office in 2009 and again on June 1, 2014. People and groups that organized against privatization, dollarization, CAFTA, and the first MCC compact (all policies adopted by the rightwing ARENA party between 1994 and 2008) have not been as critical since the leftist FMLN party took power. The result is that opposition to these destructive policies is less now that the FMLN is power.

El Salvador will soon get a $277 million grant from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, but it should be clear – this is not free money.

The 17 farming cooperatives that have been growing seed corn and beans for the MAG’s Seed Distribution Program will pay for the MCC grant when they have to compete with Monsanto and other international seed giants.

Communities that depend on the mangroves for their survival will pay for the MCC grant when developers cut down forest to build resorts and golf courses.

The Salvadoran labor force will pay for the MCC grant when private contractors take over government services and cut jobs and wages to increase profitability.

And all Salvadorans will pay if public goods and services like water, education, and health are contracted out to for-profit entities, especially if there is no oversight in the process.

 

Uncategorized

FGR Investigating Minister of Defense for Arms Trafficking and Raul Mijango for Gang Truce

The new Sanchez Cerén Administration has been in office for two weeks and is already having to manage in its first conflict between government agencies.

Attorney General Luis Martínez recently opened an investigation into Minister of Defense David Munguía Payés, in part for arms trafficking. The military was supposed to have destroyed hundreds of weapons but it seems they never got around to it. The Attorney General alleges they were instead sold to gang members.

The Minister Payés clarified this week in a conversation with La Prensa Grafica that the Attorney General “did not say that I was involved, he said that I was part of investigation.” While that might be the case, the Attorney General seems to be going after Payés pretty aggressively.

In fact, this last President Sanchez Cerén called on the Attorney General to make sure he has sufficient evidence before making accusations or filing charges, underscoring the sensitivity of the situation. The current Minister of Justice and Security, Benito Lara, also called on the Attorney General’s investigation to be thorough and objective. “This will have a big impact, because we are talking about the institution of the armed forces of this country, and that is why I say this should be a very objective and serious investigation.”

According to El Faro, Martínez has been investigating Payés since he became the Attorney General in December 2012. On May 30, 2014 just a couple days before Sanchez Cerén was inaugurated, the Attorney General’s Office tried to get records and archives from military bases concerning their arsenals, but they were denied access citing national security interests. Diario CoLatino reports that instead the Attorney General will interview the Minister of Defense on June 18 to discuss the allegations of arms trafficking.

In a related case, Attorney General Martínez is also investigating Payés and former FMLN diputado Raul Mijango for their roles in negotiating the gang truce, which was signed in March 2012. The truce, which reduced the murder rate from 70 per 100,000 own to 41, fell apart at the end of May when the homicide rate spiked to new highs.

Last week, Mr. Mijango met with the Attorney General’s Office for more than 12 hours talking about the truce and the role that he and others played in lowering El Salvador’s murder rate. The investigations are focused on alleged payments made to those who were a part of the process. Earlier in the year, members of the ARENA party said that while serving as the Minister of Justice and Security, David Munguía Payés made at least 10 payments between $2,000 and $5,000 to Mijano and others. The payments, which were allegedly made from the government coffers, would be a violation of Salvadoran law. Mr. Mijango admits that he received monthly payments of $1,500 for his role in negotiating the truce but he says the funds came from a nonprofit organization called Interpeace and not the government.

Last week when Mr. Mijango left his 12-hour interview with the Attorney General he told reporters, “I feel politically persecuted… but I’m not one of those people who pee in their pants in difficult situations.”

It is still unclear whether the investigations into Payés and Mijango are legitimate or the Attorney General is just out to inflict some political damage. Perhaps we’ll know more on June 18th when Payés goes in for his interview with the Attorney General.

2014 Elections, El Salvador Government, Organized Crime

Crime Continues to Rise in El Salvador

Yesterday, Salvador Sanchez Cerén took office as the new president of El Salvador, becoming the first former FMLN militant from El Salvador’s Civil War to ascend to the presidency.

DSCF0265President Sanchez Cerén’s political victory has not been the glorious triumph many wanted for the former guerrilla leader. The runoff election against the ARENA’s Norman Quijano was surprisingly close, as Sanchez Cerén squeaked out a victory with only 50.2% of the vote. Quijano’s late surge seemed to stem from Salvadorans’ discontent with the lack of security and the failing truce between the country’s two rival gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.

The FMLN and the country’s mood have only soured since the election. In May, the police reported 396 homicides, 170 more than the same month last year, and fingers are being pointing in all directions. Now former President Mauricio Funes recently said recently that political interests “want to give the impression that there is a failed state incapable of facing crime,” meaning that foes of the FMLN want to make the leftist government seem unable to address crime.

Indeed, the State appears helpless in stopping the violence. The gangs have taken steps over the past few years by signing a truce but the government was unable or unwilling to support their efforts. And past administrations and political leaders continually fail to address economic and social equalities, or provide youth with good alternatives. Until they do so, gangs will continue to fill in the gaps left by the stagnant economy and broken families.

President Sanchez Cerén said yesterday during his first speech as President that he would lead a System of Citizen Security. He also said, “improving the security of citizens will require that we work together against organized crime, traffickers, extortion, and all expressions of violence. We will fight delinquency in all its forms, with all legal instruments and tools of the State.”

President’s and politicians have made so many speeches over the years but taken little action. If President Sanchez Cerén is going to promote security and end the country’s violence he will have be willing to take bold and creative measures that set aside politics. Language like fighting delinquency in all its forms and using all legal instruments seems to indicate more of the same Mano-Duro or heavy hand kind of law enforcement, which has never been successful.

Unfortunately, President Sanchez Cerén also seems to be embracing the same neoliberal economic policies that the U.S. government has been promoting since the end of the civil war – creating an export economy and attracting foreign investment. These policies have failed to address the social and economic inequalities that have allowed the gangs to flourish, and in fact made divisions even wider.

Most Salvadorans seem to have pretty low expectations for their new President and his administration, and he has given them little reason to have hope for something new. Salvadoran communities and Diaspora seem willing to support the new administration, but President Sanchez Cerén and his team will have to show a level of creativity and boldness that we haven’t seen yet.