COVID 19, Economy, Womens issues

How COVID19 is Affecting Rural Women in Morazán (Pt.1)

Author: Evelin Romero
Human rights activist for women based in Morazán

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The COVID19 pandemic is deepening the economic, social and political crises in the world, but the impacts are especially pronounced among the impoverished peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.

In El Salvador, like other catastrophes that have occurred throughout history, COVID19 exacerbates high poverty rates, especially in rural areas where populations have been historically excluded from public policies.

In departments such as Ahuachapán, Cabañas and Morazán, the greatest affects of poverty fall more severely upon women, to whom the patriarchal system has erroneously assigned the main responsibility for family care; from reproductive tasks to productive work, all without financial remuneration.

Morazán unfortunately is a living example of this reality.

Due to the highly restrictive measures placed by the governemnt to deal with the pandemic, women are experiencing serious negative economic and social impacts.

Consequently, the responsibility to care for one’s family during this uncertain time is also generating adverse emotional responses.

Specifically speaking, this compulsory home quarantine has made it impossible for many women to carry out productive activities such as street vending or domestic work for other families. Aggravating the situation is the suspension of remittances, due to loss of employment of family members living in the United States.

On the other hand, some women who dedicate themselves to professions such as making clothing or cosmetology, have also been affected by the suspension of parties, graduations and other types of social events.

As expected, the lack of income leads to food shortages and the deterioration of health, affecting the immune system, especially in children and older adults. Although women have invested their few savings to cope with the crisis, this has not been enough as the pandemic is expected to worsen.

On top of this, social distancing measures are making it impossible for organized women in associations, cooperatives and savings groups to come together to socialize, share concerns, exchange ideas and find collective ways to face their reality.

Additionally, there is the difficult task of accompanying the education of school-aged children, considering that face-to-face classes are suspended and students must work via home guides, a task that can many times only be accomplished with the help of their parents and/or guardians. The situation is complicated in households that do not have internet access or with guardians who barely know how to read and write, as is the case in most rural families in Morazán.

Despite all these difficulties, the fighting spirit of these women hasn’t been defeated. Especially those women who are part of the Morazán Women’s Citizen Network. The network has found creative ways to maintain communication among themselves, to experience solidarity and to strengthen the accompaniment of those who face increased domestic violence.

We hope that from the present crisis we will draw renewed energy in order to create new relationships between us humans, new relationships with planet Earth and new alternatives for sustainable living.


IMG-20200508-WA0015Cómo COVID19 está Afectando a las Mujeres Rurales en Morazán (Pt.1)

Autora: Evelin Romero
Activista de derechos humanos para mujeres en Morazán

 

La pandemia del COVID19 está profundizando las crisis económicas, sociales y políticas en el mundo, pero sobre todo en los pueblos empobrecidos de América Latina y el Caribe.

En El Salvador, al igual que otras catástrofes ocurridas a lo largo de la historia, el covid19 pone al descubierto los altos índices de pobreza, de manera especial en las zonas rurales que han sido las poblaciones más excluidas de las políticas públicas.

En departamentos como Ahuachapán, Cabañas y Morazán, las mayores afectaciones de la pobreza, recaen con más severidad en las mujeres, a quienes erróneamente el sistema patriarcal les ha asignado la responsabilidad principal de los cuidados de la familia; desde las tareas reproductivas, hasta el trabajo productivo, sin remuneración económica.

Morazán, lamentablemente, es un ejemplo vivo de esta realidad.

Durante el tiempo transcurrido con medidas para enfrentar la pandemia, las mujeres están experimentando graves impactos económicos y sociales. En consecuencia, también les genera un impacto emocional sentir la responsabilidad del cuidado familiar.

Concretamente la cuarentena domiciliar obligatoria ha imposibilitado a muchas mujeres a realizar actividades productivas como ventas ambulantes u oficios domésticos para otras familias, agravando la situación está el hecho de la suspensión de remesas, por pérdida de empleo de familiares que viven en los Estados Unidos. Por otra parte, algunas mujeres que se dedican a profesiones como la confección de ropa o la cosmetología, se han visto afectadas con la suspensión de fiestas, graduaciones y otro tipo de eventos sociales.

Como es de suponer, la falta de ingresos genera escasez de alimentos y deterioro de la salud con afectaciones al sistema inmunológico, especial en la niñez y adultos mayores. Aunque las mujeres han invertido sus pocos ahorros para sobrellevar la crisis, esto no ha sido suficiente y se prevé que los problemas van a continuar.

Por otra parte, las medidas de distanciamiento social están imposibilitando que las mujeres organizadas en asociaciones, cooperativas y colectivos de ahorro, se puedan reunir para socializar sus preocupaciones, intercambiar ideas y encontrar formas colectivas de enfrentar su realidad.

Adicionalmente, está la difícil tarea de acompañar la educación de sus hijos e hijas, considerando que las clases presenciales están suspendidas y los estudiantes deben responder guías de trabajo en sus casas, tarea que solo pueden lograr con la ayuda de sus padres. La situación se complica en los hogares que no cuentan con acceso a internet o que los padres apenas saben leer y escribir, como suceden en la generalidad de las familias rurales de Morazán.

Pero todas estas dificultades no han doblegado el espíritu luchador de muchas mujeres, sobre todo aquellas que forman parte de la Red Ciudadana de Mujeres de Morazán, quienes han sabido encontrar formas creativas para mantener la comunicación entre ellas, para vivenciar la solidaridad y para fortalecer el acompañamiento a quienes enfrentan violencia intrafamiliar.

Tenemos la esperanza que de la presente crisis sacaremos energías renovadas para construir nuevas relaciones entre los seres humanos, nuevas relaciones con el planeta Tierra y nuevas alternativas de vida sostenible.

COVID 19, human rights, News Highlights, Public Health, solidarity

A Note for Healthcare Heroes

BANKSY


HATS OFF! to all the fantastic Frontline Healthcare Workers worldwide– who through their dedication, hard work, sacrifice and an adherence to a certain oath, are helping to save humankind as we know it.

Today especially, we recognize the bravery that’s being required of these #UnsungHeroes, who despite politics and bureaucracy, continue to fervently provide essential health services to anyone in need, even as a virulent pandemic looms across the globe.

We hope that your governments, institutions and communities are finding ways to support you, by giving you what you need to stay safe and sane.

To everyone else out there, if you can.. #StayHome, so that they can come home.

agriculture, Agua/Aqua, Womens issues

THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE…

… Like giving from your heart


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With 587 confirmed cases and 13 deaths, COVID19 is gaining momentum here in El Salvador. Last night, the Salvadoran government decided to extended it’s lockdown measures until May 19th. This means that more people will be out of work, more kids won’t be getting their free school meals (or access to education for that matter), more abuse victims will be subject to more violence and human rights violations will no doubt persist.

To meet the needs of our communities during quarantine, we created a COVID19 Emergency Fund, in order to reach as many vulnerable people as we could. To date, with this fund we have helped over 140 families feed themselves, 14 families maintain their vegetable and livestock farms, and we’ve been working with schools to figure our ways to bring internet to more communities so that all students can fully participate in their online learning.

With the mounting restrictions, we can only do so much as an organization to help during the lockdown, so we’ve found new and innovative ways to communicate, coordinate and monitor the aid that’s needed.

This #GivingTuesday, you can be assured that any donation, small or large, will ensure our ability to carry on providing for individuals and families who’s very survival depends on them going out and earning their day to day income.


 

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

LA OTRA CRISIS EN EL SALVADOR

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“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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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

Our Note on the COVID19 Situation El Salvador

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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

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