The SHARE Blog

San Carlos Lempa’s Young Entrepreneurs

September 30, 2014

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Monica in the chicken coop

In San Carlos Lempa, youth are organizing and putting their education to use to move themselves and their community forward. Monica, a recent high school graduate, leads a group of her peers in managing a chicken farm project funded through CORDES.  In order to fulfill graduation requirements at the end of their last year of high school, Monica and her fellow students created a business plan. CORDES saw this as an opportunity to support organized students, but had limited funds. However, several groups of high schoolers had project proposals. Thus, the groups had to submit fully developed applications detailing not only their business plan but a projected community impact. Monica and her nine peers developed a project that would provide local stores with cheaper, fresher chicken than what they could purchase from large suppliers. Read More »


Cuentos de Chalatenango: Youth Leadership Development and Academic Formation

September 27, 2014

The following is the semester report of the Youth Leadership project in Chalatenango.

Description
With this project, the CCR will strengthen youth organizing in Chalatenango communities, including Hacienda Vieja, Las Lomas, El Amatillo, Jícaro, Ignacio Ellacuría, Teosinte, Chalatenango, Los Posos, San José Cancasque, Buena Vista and La Lima. Scholarships will incentivize youth to get more involved in community organizing and participate in community structures. The CCR will work with youth to build their leadership skills through formal and informal education spaces.
Project duration: January-December 2014

This semester included:
Three bi-monthly youth scholarship assemblies held for the 16 high school students. Each assembly
features a workshop regarding a certain theme relating to the scholarship students’ holistic leadership
formation: historic memory, mining exploitation, and analysis of current events.
CCR team members have given similar workshops in the schools where scholarship students study.
Youth helped organize and participated in various historic commemorations and other community
activities in Chalatenango.

Read More »


Que Viva la Democracia! Moving forward on Mining Ban

September 25, 2014

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Photo Cred: International Allies Against Mining in El Salvador

The municipality of San Jose Las Flores in Chalatenango, one of El Salvador’s northern departments bordering Honduras, historically has found itself in struggles for rights to resources located in the region.  Up until September 21st, 2014, this narrative prevailed. The citizens of San Jose Las Flores decided to put Salvadoran democracy to the test. Last Saturday, the municipality held a community consultation regarding foreign mineral mining on their land, an act that would contaminate local and national  water sources and force them to relocate. 67% of those eligible to vote, an impressive turnout, arrived at the various voting centers within the municipality to let their voices be heard. A resounding 99% voted down the mining proposition. According to Salvadoran municipal code and national law, this consultation is legally binding. San Jose Las Flores became the first town to completely ban mining. This area, as long as the law is upheld, is the only municipality in El Salvador to protect its natural resources in this manner.

This community consultation not only legitimizes Salvadoran democracy in Chalatenango but it also gives hope to the rest of the country. Currently, the government of El Salvador is being sued in a World Bank tribunal for not allowing Canadian/Austrialian mining company, PacificRim/OceanaGold to operate in El Salvador.  The company filed the case on the grounds that El Salvador acted against the free market agreements between North and Central America. OceanaGold identifies northern El Salvador as a lucrative gold production site. However, the Salvadoran government denied their request for permits in recognition of the environmental, health, and social implications of gold mining. If the company wins, the government will be forced to either allow OceanaGold to mine or to pay the company a fine amounting in hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no speculation when it comes to assessing the environmental and societal impacts on El Salvador if PacificRim/OceanaGold wins the case. Neighboring Honduras allows mining extraction, which has since left the rivers toxic, complicating access to clean water sources, and introducing hundreds of cases of skin disease. National borders don’t keep polluted waters from flowing in to the next country. Mining in Honduras (not to mention if mining begins in the northern region of El Salvador), has provoked great concern over cyanide entering the Lempa River watershed. This particular watershed provides over half the Salvadoran population with water for cooking, cleaning, washing, and drinking, including the majority of the population in San Salvador.

There are also social implications attributed to mining in Honduras. The mining issue pits family members and neighbors against each other. On one side, there are those whose livelihoods depend on the jobs provided by the mining industry. However, there are others raising awareness of the environmental and health repercussions caused by mining exploitation. This same issue already burdens Salvadoran society.

As people in solidarity with El Salvador, we cannot let that happen. We want to see more large scale action like that in San Jose Las Flores.  Let your voice be heard today and sign this petition demanding that OceanaGold drop the case and get out of El Salvador!


A Shared History of Injustice: Central American Solidarity

September 23, 2014

“Nuestra historia es una historia viva.”-Rigoberta Menchú
“Our history is a living history.”
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Rigoberta Menchú Tum addresses the audience at the National University of El Salvador

On September 8th, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Guatemalan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, spoke at the National University of El Salvador at the Central American Symposium for the Access to Justice for the Victims of Crimes Against Humanity. After the murder of her father in the Massacre at the Spanish Embassy in 1980 during the height of the Guatemalan Civil War, Rigoberta Menchú became a peaceful human rights activist. As a member of Guatemala’s Mayan Indigenous population, Menchú felt called to stand up against the military regime that carried out a genocide against her people.

The Guatemalan Civil War, like the armed conflict of El Salvador, took place during the Cold War era lasting 36 years (1960-1996). The military government that ordered death squads, forced disappearances, and massacres of rural, indigenous peoples was primarily backed by the United States government of the time. Over 200,000 people were killed in the Guatemalan civil war,  of which 83% were of Mayan descent.

For years the press and international community ignored this conflict, , swept it under the rug, and all who were in the military at the time were given impunity. However, the 2000s have brought a greater sense of justice to Guatemala. General José Efraín Ríos Montt, de facto president during the height of the war, was sentenced to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity on May 10th, 2013. However, following through with his sentence has been complicated. Many argue strongly against referring to the deaths during the civil war as a genocide, noting that only 5.5% of the Ixil Indigenous people were killed. “Given the army’s brutality, if the intention were to destroy the Ixil, it would have been relatively easy to kill more than 5.5%” commented Raquel Zelaya, a government signatory of the 1996 peace accords. Arguments such as this build some  of the largest barriers in seeking any kind of real just reparations from this era in Guatemala’s history. Read More »


Inspired: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Delegates Reflect

September 20, 2014

In July, nine delegates from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wisconsin visited El Salvador. During the past eight years, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has stood in solidarity with their sistering community, Rutilio Grande, in their sistering region, UCRES. Three delegates share their reflections on the inspiring people of El Salvador.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation with the kids in Rutilio Grande.

“Oh how I miss El Salvador!  I close my eyes and can see so many familiar faces. Whenever I’m in church I think of celebrating mass in El Paisnal with all of our friends from Rutilio Grande….I am amazed at the passion of the people. From Luis working with the youth in the community to Felicia teaching her mother to read. Antonio trying his best to lead his little community to Jorge developing organic materials to help feed his people healthy food and protect the environment. Carmen keeping the horrible past of the civil war and the lives lost alive as a lesson to be learned from and remembered. The list can go on and on. They give their all without thinking of themselves.” Jacqueline Konkol

Read More »


Corruption continues: Ex-president Francisco Flores under house arrest until trial

September 18, 2014

This piece was written prior to the following UPDATE: Ex-president Francisco Flores ordered by the First Criminal Chamber in San Salvador to await trial in prison, rather than under house arrest. Stay tuned to SHARE’s blog and Facebook page for further updates in the case.

The day after Padre Antonio Rodriguez was released from jail, Ex-president of the Republic, Francisco Flores Pérez, turned himself in after spending the majority of 2014 in hiding.  On September 5th, Ex-president Flores walked through the doors of the Attorney General’s office at 8:30am giving himself up to the courts “out of respect for the law.”

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home.  The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores escorted by PNC and military police to his home. The ex-president is currently under house arrest as he awaits trial.

Flores was president of El Salvador from 1999-2004.  During that time, the country faced one of the largest natural disasters in its history.  The 2001 earthquake devastated the country, leaving 1,500 people dead in its wake. Flores appealed to the rest of the world to help rebuild the tiny Central American country.  Taiwan responded by sending a large sum of funds, which mysteriously never reached the reconstruction projects of El Salvador.  Later on in his presidency, Flores again appealed to his friends in Taiwan to fund his war against drug trafficking and gangs. Again, the Salvadoran people never saw this money. The total funds sent from Taiwan during Flores’ five year term totaled an impressive $15 million.  However, the only beneficiary of that money was Flores himself.  Bank transactions showed that the Ex-president embezzled that $15 million from his own government.   Read More »


Case of Padre Toño illustrates corruption in Salvadoran justice system

September 17, 2014

Toño with GeovanniLately here in El Salvador, we have been witness to high-profile court cases that illustrate the level of corruption in the Salvadoran justice system. The first came as the arrest of Spanish priest Antonio Rodriguez (Padre Toño). Padre Toño is known internationally for his revolutionary work in gang rehabilitation in San Salvador–something that no one else in El Salvador dares to attempt due to the danger that lies in becoming too close to gang members.  In late July of this year, the trailblazing priest was arrested not but a few days after he had publicly called out the Attorney General for his lax response to the increasing homicide rate (connected to the gangs) in spite of the famed truce. Back in March 2012, a deal was cut with the leaders of El Salvador’s two largest gangs–MS 13 and Barrio 18.  At that time, the homicide rate dropped by over 33%. However, in the last few months, death tolls have risen higher than before the creation of the truce. Padre Toño recognized this spike in homicides as a failure of the truce, and that it is time to reassess El Salvador’s gang problem. Unfortunately, instead of being given the opportunity to improve the situation, he was arrested and charged with the following:

  • Introducing contraband into the jails (i.e. cell phones)
  • Pulling political strings for high up gang leaders to get moved to lower-security prisons
  • Collaborating in illicit acts, specifically collaborating with leaders of Barrio 18

Read More »


Update on Romero’s Path to Cannonization

September 11, 2014

As many around the world have rejoiced about by now, the Pope lifted the beatification ban on Archbishop Romero! Here in El Salvador that excitement runs deep through the population. However, for those of us who either aren’t Catholic or aren’t really “in-the-know”, we might be a little behind. What does a “beatification ban” actually mean? Is Oscar Romero now a Saint? Not quite.

Archbishop Romero is still in the process of canonization. This process was first proposed in 1994 by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council of the Family, after recognizing that Romero had a local following devoted to his memory.  Since then Romero’s case has passed through many of the steps without too much of a problem. For instance, his orthodoxy and loyalty to the church (two of the initial steps in the procedure) were confirmed by the Vatican. PROMO9This granted Romero “Servant of God” status, which is one of the titles on the way to becoming a Saint. Generally, sainthood requires the person in question to have performed two posthumous miracles, but  because Romero was martyred, Pope John Paul II assured that no miracle is required for his canonization.

Now, Romero just needs to go through the final two steps to become a saint. Beatification is step number three, when the Pope recognizes that a person has entered heaven and can intercede on the part of those who pray to him/her. For some, that recognition takes decades just to fully discern that the person really should be venerated as such. However for others, it just takes a few months.

Regardless, in the mean time, Salvadorans and others worldwide will continue to look at Monsignor Romero’s life and teachings for guidance, hold events and marches to commemorate  his assassination, and celebrate the Vatican recognition of Romero as a candidate for beatification.

For more reading on this topic, check out:

 


New Relationship, New Perspective

September 9, 2014

Laura Gilman visited El Salvador with the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton delegation in July 2014 and wrote a reflection to share about her moving experience. 

I want to share a story with you of how my immersion trip to El Salvador has changed me.

Several weeks before we left on our trip in early July, my Mother kept calling me telling me stories of the immigrant children arriving at the border in Arizona where she lived.  They had nothing with them and were sick and there was a fear of diseases spreading.  I thought, “How could a mother do this?  How could she let her child travel all alone thru Central America and Mexico and the danger they faced on this journey?”  Then I met a mother.  She is a mother in Rutillio Grande, our sistering community in El Salvador.  She told us her story of her son.  He is 17 years old and was a recipient of a scholarship from Seton to go to school and was a good student.  But he was afraid of the gangs and the violence.  He faced them on his way to school and was at the age that gangs were recruiting new members.   He was afraid for his life and asked to go to the U.S. and be with his father.   She finally agreed and got a loan at 20% interest and paid close to $7000 to a coyote guide who took him through Central America and Mexico and dropped him off at the border to cross on his own.  It took him almost 14 days to get to the US border with little food or water.  It was December when he arrived to the border and it was a time when there were freezing rains and ice storms in Texas.  He was freezing cold and wet when he crossed the Rio Grande.  He had hypothermia and literally thought he was going to die from the cold so he turned himself in to immigration.  They took him in and helped him.  They were able to reunite him with his father in Atlanta.  He has been allowed to stay in the US as long as he stays in school and gets good grades.

Read More »


We All Have a Story

September 5, 2014

We all have a story. All we need is a pair of ears to listen to it. 

On Saturday, August 30th, mothers gathered together to commemorate their loved ones who disappeared during the armed conflict and to demand that the government declare that day the National Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance. 

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Some of the mothers with photos of their disappeared loved ones

The testimonies given by the mothers of the disappeared on August 30th in the Plaza Civica in commemoration of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearance were captivating and left many people with tear-filled eyes. The loss of a child is something that no one understands until they have experienced it  themselves.  However, in the case of the mothers of the disappeared they haven’t lived  through a definitive loss. Rather, because their children disappeared, the possibility that the children could be alive haunts the mothers and prohibits them from finding peace.  However, at the same time, this very uncertainty provides the mothers with they hope they need to continue in their struggle for justice.

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Gloria Anaya

Gloria Anaya, the daughter of Herbert Anaya who was an activist killed during the armed conflict, told the story of one of the mothers of the disappeared. One day, the woman received a letter from her disappeared son. The letter came in a moment when she had almost lost all hope. However, the letter rejuvenated her. For the first time in years, she had proof that her son existed.  The government denied his existence and told the mother that she was lying about the disappearance because she had never had a son in the first place.  The letter was her proof.  Her son did exist. That letter gave her the hope to keep moving forward in her personal struggle for recompense.

Read More »


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