The SHARE Blog

Patricia Guadalupe García Panameño, PRESENTE!

March 3, 2014

Paty, Patricia, Hija de la Madre Alicia, daughter of Madre Alicia, Fiel luchadora de los derechos humanos, faithful defender of human rights, voz para la verdad y la justicia, voice for truth and justice, te extrañamos, we miss you, te recordamos, we remember you. Patricia Garcia, Presente!

Paty Betania at Romero march

The day of the Salvadoran presidential elections, Patricia Garcia, president of Comadres and life-long defender of human rights drew her last breath, ending a painful struggle with cancer. No words seem sufficient to truly express Patricia’s spirit, courage, humility, commitment, and beauty.

Patricia grew up in the midst of the Christian Base communities, in the times when it was a crime to carry a Bible, with Monseñor Romero as light and guide. She accompanied her mother, Alicia Garcia and other members of Comadres in search of their disappeared loved ones, including her uncle. When she and her family had to flee to Mexico in 1979, Monseñor Romero helped them find families to stay with and visited them there. When Patricia returned to El Salvador, she helped care for the children of the Comadres as they searched for their loved ones, and helped take the mothers’ testimonies. In the late 80s Salvadoran security forces captured, imprisoned, and tortured Paty. Only through a pressure campaign supported by Edward Kennedy was she released.

Patricia worked alongside Alicia Garcia accompanying las Comadres in the struggle for justice as well as their daily struggles for subsistence, and sharing their testimonies with countless delegations and visitors. Patricia said that her mother taught her that every victim is a gem and should be treated as such. With her gentle spirit, Paty showed profound love in her interactions with the madres of Comadres. Her eyes held a glow of humor, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

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Human Rights Tour and Update!

February 28, 2014

Join SHARE for our 2014 Truth and Justice for El Salvador Tour! Wilfredo Medrano of Tutela Legal María Julia Hernandez, a representative of the Pro-Historical Memory Commission, and Bethany Loberg of SHARE will be visiting the U.S. for a speaking tour! See below for locations, dates, and how you can get involved!

wilfredo

The last six months has been full of chilling and exciting surprises for members of human rights organizations and movements – and they just keep coming. Last fall ranged from the Attorney General´s announcement that it would investigate the El Mozote Massacre to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court admitted a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 1993 Amnesty Law, to the Archbishop´s abrupt closure of Tutela Legal and the attack on Pro-Busqueda. The closure of Tutela Legal raised especial outrage, giving birth to the Movement for Historical Memory, and new levels of collaboration between human rights organizations, victims, Christian Base Communities, and youth activist networks. Just this morning they held a press conference in front of the Supreme Court, calling on the court to accept an injunction for violations of constitutional rights committed by the Archbishop.

In January the lawyers of Tutela Legal opened their new, independent organization Tutela Legal María Julia Hernandez, with the support of the victims they have worked with for years. Additionally, events this month have continued to weaken the Amnesty Law. At the beginning of February, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the Attorney General´s Office to investigate the San Francisco Angulo Massacre in San Vicente. The Supreme Court also invited forensic experts for four days of consultation on the investigation of massacres. María Silvia Guillen, Director of FESPAD, and other human rights leaders believe there is a real possibility that the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court will declare the Amnesty Law null within the next couple of months.

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First Round Elections Delegate Reflection

February 26, 2014

The following reflection was written by Cathy Lester, a first round elections observer, and representative for Meta Peace Team.  Cathy lives in Grayling, Michigan.  She writes a blog for the Traverse City Record-Eagle website.  You can read some of her other posts here.

Cathy Lester on the right.

Cathy Lester on the right.

A lot of the election procedure in El Salvador is a result of elections having seen so much fraud and corruption in the past. Along with my fellow monitors, I found it fascinating to see how each stage was a counter to a specific abuse.

Problem: Voters were unable to get to the polls to vote. Solution: This year saw “residential voting,” whereby polling stations were set up in every municipality and village so campesinos (country people) could get there. This may not sound like a big thing to Americans, but ask yourself: if Kingsley, Grawn and Acme were up in steep mountains without bus service, how many people from there would walk to Traverse City to vote?

Problem: People voting more than once, and/or people from neighboring countries being paid to come in and vote as Salvadorans. Solution: Everyone had to vote in their specific neighborhood, and they had to have their National ID card. At each polling station, voters had to go to a designated table. The urban center my group was monitoring had 69 tables with their own voting booths. Each table had a list of 500 voters. The voter showed their ID, found their name on the list, and an official put a stamp by their name. Voters have to dip their thumb into a pot of indelible ink AFTER voting, so officials inspected people’s hands beforehand. One guy who’d been working had to dust his hands off on his pants twice or thrice before the officials were satisfied he didn’t have any ink on them. Only after all that did the voter get their mitts on a ballot paper. The officials were really suspicious of one woman with a stain on her index finger. Eventually they smelled her finger and finally let her have a ballot. I asked if the ink had a particular smell. Yes. Could I smell it? Yes, but be careful. The “careful” came a second too late as I got a noseful of pungent, stinging smelling salts!

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SHARE is hiring!

February 24, 2014

67677_4345101263671_1615241769_nWe are hiring! Are you or is someone you know interested in working in El Salvador? Feel passionate about social justice, human rights and development? Consider this two year position with SHARE and VMM! For more information click here:

SHARE VMM Sistering Accompaniment Coordinator 2014-2016

SHARE El Salvador is an international non-profit organization that accompanies poor communities in El Salvador as they work for economic justice, democracy and sustainable development alternatives at the local and national levels. In the United States, SHARE works closely with faith and solidarity communities to promote solidarity and accompaniment of the organized poor in El Salvador. SHARE believes that leadership development, women’s empowerment, environmental justice and increased participation of civil society are essential to building sustainable solutions to injustice and poverty. While supported by a network of communities of faith, SHARE is a not a religious organization. Please visit www.share-elsalvador.org for more information.

SHARE is seeking an intern for its El Salvador Office for the position of Grassroots Sistering Accompaniment Coordinator. The position is supported by the Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM), and therefore requires a strong commitment to the VMM mission, as well as full participation in all VMM activities. The Volunteer Missionary Movement (VMM) recruits lay Christians in an ecumenical spirit to bear witness to the Catholic social justice tradition. Volunteer Missioners support one another’s commitment to sharing their lives, resources and skills as they collaborate with domestic and overseas partners to promote equality, empower sustainable human development, and challenge unjust and oppressive social structures. Please visit www.vmmusa.org for more information.


New Legislation Bans Chemicals, Aims to Prevent Kidney Failure

February 21, 2014

What do you do if one out of every four men in your town suffered from mysterious kidney failure?

This is a question that rural communities from San Vicente, El Salvador, to Sandamalgama, Sri Lanka, to Uddanamm, India have been asking since an epidemic started in the early 1990s. 

Massive floods, like 12-E in October 2011, contribute to the contamination of ground water.

Massive floods, like 12-E in October 2011, contribute to the contamination of ground water.

What do the victims of Chronic Kidney Failure in these far reaching countries have in common? They have little formal education, work back-breaking agricultural jobs in sweltering temperatures, handle pesticides and fertilizers, and drink ground water from areas near where these pesticides and fertilizers were applied.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) has increased threefold in El Salvador since 1990, rising 25% in just the past 5 years, and is now the leading cause of hospitalized deaths in El Salvador. CKD has disproportionately affected young men who live in rural communities and work long hours harvesting sugar cane. Between 2005 and 2012, 1,500 men under the age of 19 were hospitalized for CKD (out of a total 40,000 hospitalized patients of all ages during the same period). In a national sample 95% of CKD patients worked as agricultural laborers where they were required to spray pesticides and fertilizers.

On September 5, 2013, forty-five Salvadoran legislators voted for and successfully passed the Law to Control the use of Pesticides and Fertilizers that was championed by SHARE’s partnering organization, CONFRAS. This legislation originally banned the use of 53 of the most toxic chemicals commonly found in fertilizers and pesticides in El Salvador and many believe are the main contributing factor of CKD. After the legislation was approved by the Salvadoran legislators, President Funes revised the law to only include 42 of these chemicals.

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The Sovereign Power of the People

February 19, 2014

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SHARE delegates during the first round of Elections on February 2nd, 2014.

These days it is common to see party flags and colors decorating electrical lines and store fronts in El Salvador. Photos of the three leading presidential candidates smiling convincingly cover the sidewalks all over the country—“Pick me! Pick me!” they all say as one walks by. It is a constant elections season here.

This is generally what people imagine and describe when asked to define democracy: “Oh that´s easy…it´s the right to vote and participate in free and fair elections.” or “It´s a government for the people and of the people.” And although this is not entirely incorrect, it definitely does not capture the full meaning and understanding of true democracy.

True democracy is seen in El Salvador every day, not just in the months leading up to Presidential Elections. True democracy is seen when the National Rural Women´s Alliance takes to the streets, demanding dignified housing, fair wages and simple recognition that what they do on a daily basis truly is a job. True democracy is when a community council meeting consists of the elderly, the working class, the youth, and the religious; when all groups are represented. True democracy is being able to speak your mind without fear. True democracy is recognizing the power we possess as individuals and as a group. True democracy encourages solidarity, understanding, commitment, and change.

Although El Salvador experienced a gripping first round of elections, the race for the presidency is yet to be over. Salvadorans must take to the polls once again on March 9th, and exercise their democratic right to vote for either the FMLN or ARENA.

Want to help El Salvador ensure another round of fair, transparent, democratic elections? We invite you to join us for our Second Round Delegation from March 6th to March 11th. Deadline to sign up is February 25th.  For more information click here. Or email Sarah Hall with questions at solidarity@share-elsalvador.org


Salvadoran President Remains Undetermined: Runoff Elections on March 9th

February 6, 2014

Taken at the CIFCO Voting Center in San Salvador.

Taken at the CIFCO Voting Center in San Salvador.

On February 2, 2014 thousands of Salvadoran youth, women, and men rose at three a.m. to ensure a smooth and transparent presidential election. They served as members of polling stations, political party watchpersons, supervisors, chiefs of centers, municipal and departmental electoral boards, and security personnel. Thousands of volunteers arrived at voting centers at 5 a.m. to set up ballots, ballot boxes, and the electoral registry. Salvadorans often describe their elections as a “civic party” – which is very apt, given that so many people participate in facilitating the process,  and voters often bring along the whole family and hang out at the voting centers long after they finished voting.

As the vote count trickled in over the evening, the FMLN took a definitive lead, falling just short of an outright victory. Under the Salvadoran electoral code, presidential candidates must win an outright majority – 50.01% – of the votes to win, otherwise the elections go to a second round run-off election. On March 9th, 2014, Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the FMLN and Norman Quijano of ARENA will face off.  The FMLN carried a ten point lead over ARENA and the UNIDAD Coalition, with 48.9% of the vote. ARENA followed with 38.9% and UNIDAD with 11.4%. Neither of the other two small parties competing managed to garner more than 1% of the vote.

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Who Will be the Next President of El Salvador? Open-Forum with Presidential Candidates

February 2, 2014

Tomorrow, eighty SHARE delegates will travel throughout El Salvador to participate as international observers in the 2014 Salvadoran Presidential elections.  

Yesterday, these delegates had the privilege of meeting the Vice Presidential candidate for the three largest political parties in this elections: FMLN, UNIDAD, and ARENA. While the political campaigns officially ended on Wednesday and political parties can no longer promote their candidate, the vice presidential candidates answered a series of questions covering the economy, security, and education.

To open the forum the first presenter, FMLN Vice Presidential candidate Oscar Ortiz began, “I want to thank CIS and SHARE for bringing you here to help the Democratic process. Thank you for accompanying us at this historic moment. I won’t ask you to vote, but I will tell you that we will win.”

Ortiz explained the FMLN’s top five priorities:

1. Grow the economy to both improve jobs and create more jobs

2. Education, invest more in the people of El Salvador

3. Security,guarantee greater safety for families and entire communities

  • Continue to lower the homicide rate
  • Reign in extortion
  • Reform the prison system in El Salvador

4. Continue with social inclusion programs

5. Strengthen the democratic system in El Salvador

Ortiz recognized that though the homicide rate in El Salvador has decreased from 83 per 100,000 in 2009 to 42 per 100,000 in 2013, too many Salvadorans continue to suffer from high levels of violence. The mass immigration to the United States has torn families apart and the FMLN will invest in children, art, community programs that will reconstruct the social fabric of Salvadoran society.

“We don’t want our biggest export to be people. We are grateful for the way people in the U.S. have received our people, but we need to ensure that our people can stay here.” said Ortiz.

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Electoral Delegation 2014

January 31, 2014

Delegate Michelle Hannahs giving a literacy circle in Nueva Concepción, San Vicente school supplies.

Delegate Michelle Hannahs giving a literacy circle in Nueva Concepción, San Vicente school supplies.

Garnered by a frenzy of democratically charged delegates, SHARE and several other solidarity organizations have been busy at work educating more than 200 International Observers on issues such as; democracy, food sovereignty, literacy, human and LGBTQI rights. Delegates have spent time learning about the history of SHARE as well as its current projects and focuses via various mediums, for example: a group of young people, from MPR-12(connect info) put on a short skit depicting SHARE´s role in accompanying the Salvadoran people while they struggled during the armed conflict. This morning, SHARE delegates attended a forum with the three primary Vice Presidential candidates from the FMLN, ARENA and UNIDAD. Later this afternoon, the delegates will begin their in-depth elections observation training. 

But the most exciting and significant is yet to come: Election Day. The delegates will disperse throughout the country to assure a fair and democratic process. They will observe various sites in San Salvador, including two of the largest voting centers in the city. Other groups will go to Ahuachapán, San Jorge, and Tacachico to monitor the voting process. All observers will make frequent call-ins to SHARE´s office team who will then consolidate the information into a report for the TSE (The Supreme Electoral Tribunal) just twenty-four hours after Election Day. On February 4th, SHARE and the other solidarity organizations will present their findings to the public at a press conference.

Over 200 International Observers this morning, at an open-forum with the three primary Presidential Candidates. (Photo Credit to Anna Fuqua-Smith)

Over 200 International Observers this morning, at an open-forum with the three primary Presidential Candidates. (Photo Credit to Anna Fuqua-Smith


Meet Janet Rosas: SHARE Volunteer

January 28, 2014

Janet Rosas in China this past July, showing her school spirit!

Janet Rosas in China this past July, showing her school spirit!

With over seventy delegates about to descend for our 2014 Elections Observation Delegation, SHARE needed a few extra hands on deck. Janet Rosas, a Mexican-American Chicago-ite has come to make her mark on SHARE and accompany the Salvadoran people during this pertinent time, the 2014 elections! She will assist our Sistering Accompaniment  Coordinator Katy with the delegation from  Northwest Highschool, a sistering group from Seattle. Their group will spend the bulk of their time in the UCRES region deepening their relationship with the community of Huisisilapa.  She and the Northwesterners will  get to know the kind-hearted inhabitants while learning about their commitment to social transformation and justice.

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