The SHARE Blog

Reflection from a Saint Patrick´s Delegate

December 11, 2013

 This is a reflection written by Debi Covert-Bowlds, a delegate from the St. Patrick´s parish in Seattle, Washington. The small group of five came in mid Novemember to learn more about their sistering community in Chalatenango called Nueva Trinidad.

 

(From Left to Right) Catalina, Betty, Debi and Chris at the 24th Anniversary of the UCA Martyrs Vigil.

(From Left to Right) Catalina, Betty, Debi and Chris at the 24th Anniversary of the UCA Martyrs Vigil.

Since we’ve returned from El Salvador, the people of  our sister community Nueva Trinidad dominate my dreams, as if part of my spirit continues to dwell with them.  I continually think of the people of this dear country, proud that they are standing up to the Archbishop, who closed down the human rights office of Tutela Legal that was entrusted with 50 thousand case files of victims of the war, demanding the files be released to the care of the victims’ families; that they have marched to demand justice for Pro-Busqueda (Pro-Search), which was terrorized by armed gunmen who torched the case files used to find children who were disappeared and sold into adoption internationally by military officials; and that the people continue to push the judicial system to nullify the Impunity Law, so that these cases can be tried, justice is upheld, reparations are made, and historical memory is emblazened in public record.

 I carry in my heart the suffering of the people, especially made real when I placed my fingers in the bullet holes in the hefty metal doors of the Church of the Rosary in San Salvador, doors  riddled by the military massacre of citizens calling for justice and democracy.  I felt I was placing my fingers into the wounds of the crucified Christ.  I am grateful for the 21 years St. Patrick’s Catholic Church has been gifted to accompany, build and deepen our relationship with Nueva Trinidad, advocating for justice alongside these dear sisters and brothers for their beloved country.  I learned that the international voice of solidarity  is a key component of hope for the Salvadorans, and their fear is we will abandon or forget them.  I returned with a deeper understanding that our commitment in this relationship is a joy as well as a responsibility.  I carry with me the importance of continuing to learn from and encourage one another in this sistering relationship, grounded in a deep spirituality that bears our hope.

 

 


Falling in Love: A SHARE/VMM Volunteer Reflection

December 9, 2013

This is a reflection written by Katy Stader, the Delegations Coordinator for SHARE, and whose position is also funded by VMM (Volunteer Missionary Movement), an organization that supports volunteers to accompany the people of Latin America in their process of development and fight for justice. 

I have fallen in love. I am head over heels, knee deep, someone-please-pinch-me, in love with El Salvador. However, my relationship with El Salvador has not played out like a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan, instead it has challenged my emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual self. I have hiked mountains, made hundreds of tortillas, been threatened by gang members, interacted with priests, farmers, preschoolers, mayors, doctors, the homeless, waded through floods, slept in hammocks, drank corn coffee, played futbol in the rain, hugged mothers with missing sons, held newborns plagued with disease, jumped off buses, danced salsa, and much more. Sometimes I really do have to pinch myself as a reminder that this is my life.

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Rosibel, whom I consider to be my Salvadoran mother, is forever telling me to take deep, intentional breaths. She is my Salvadoran Thich Nhat Hahn. “Hay que cerrar los ojos, pero bien bien pegaditos, e imaginar tu lugar tranquilo…You have to close your eyes, but really really close them, and imagine your relaxing space,” she tells me, whenever I run off to visit her in Chalatenango and to escape the chaos of San Salvador. “But my happy place is here, “I explain.  “That is because you are loved here,”  Rosi always says.

My love relationship with El Salvador is real.  It is tangible. It is life-giving. And it is something I will carry in my heart with me always. But my service in El Salvador as a volunteer missioner is in its final stretch.  Once back from a (much needed!) holiday break in December, I will only have six months left. And just like the end of any love relationship, I will be emotional, uncertain and looking for comfort.

I need to remember Rosi´s advice.  I need to take more deep breaths. I need to trust that wherever life takes me, I can fall in love and be loved in return.  


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Salvador Sánchez Cerén: From Guerilla Commander to President?

December 6, 2013

Salvador Sánchez Cerén is a Salvadoran politician, one of original founders of the leftist party, Frente Farabundo Marti (FMLN), and the dissolved political-military organization, Fuerzas Populares de Liberacion “Farabundo Marti” (FPL).  He is the FMLN’s presidential candidate for 2014, with VP candidate Oscar Ortiz.

He was born in the city of Quetzaltepeque on June 18th, 1944.  Quetzaltepeque has indigenous origins and literally means “the quetzal’s (colorful bird) place”. Sanchez Ceren comes from a large, working family.  He grew up with twelve brothers and sisters, his mother and father.  His father was a carpenter by trade, and his mother was a market vendor. He went to primary and secondary school in Quetzaltepeque, at Centro Escolar Jose Dolores Larreynaga.

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Sánchez Cerén worked as a teacher, after graduating from the National Teaching School Alberto Masferrer in 1963.  On June 21st, 1972, he founded the National Association of Salvadoran Educators (ANDES 21 de junio). In 1992 he was elected as an FMLN parliamentarian, and then re-elected in both 2003 and 2006 as the Chief of Party. In September of 2007, he was nominated vice president, and won the campaign alongside current president Mauricio Funes.

Once vice president, he took position as the Minister of Education. As Minister, he was best known for his school uniform and cup of milk programs, that provides every student through the 9th grade with a uniform, two pairs of shoes, and a daily glass of milk.  But in June of 2012, he renounced his position as minister, and announced his candidacy for the 2014 Presidential Elections. His running mate is Oscar Ortiz, the popular former mayor of Santa Tecla.

Sánchez Cerén and Ortiz have a very clear platform: to continue with positive changes for El Salvador. They speak of a country of hope, change, and opportunity for its people. The majority of the FMLN platform focuses on education, economic development and violence prevention. Sanchez Ceren wishes to generate more jobs, stimulate the public-private sector, and support small and medium-sized businesses. He is also committed to strengthening Salvadoran agriculture, fighting crime, defending the constitution, and to governing with honesty, integrity, austerity, ethics and efficiency.

 

24th Anniversary Commemorating the UCA Martyrs

November 28, 2013

The large crowd walking through the UCA campus to honor the martyrs.

The large crowd walking through the UCA campus to honor the martyrs.

Saturday, November 16th marked the 24th anniversary of the massacre of the six Jesuit priests: Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín Baró, Segundo Montes, Joaquín López y López, Amando López, Juan Ramón Moreno, their housekeeper, Elba and her daughter, Celina Ramos at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador. SHARE delegates from St. Patrick’s Church in Seattle joined thousands of others in the annual activities commemorating the martyrs. This year’s theme, “No hay justicia sin solidaridad compartida”, or, “There is no justice without shared solidarity,” truly conveys SHARE’s mission as well as the underlying goal of the sistering relationship St. Patrick’s has maintained for over twenty years with El Salvador, specifically Nueva Trinidad in Chalatenango.

Thousands of Salvadorans were accompanied by pilgrims and visitors from all over the world.  This strong international presence represented a fellowship and common understanding of the attendees:  El Salvador may very well be a tiny nation, but the significance of the UCA Massacre continues to be recognized on a global scale. People from around the world, like the St. Patrick´s delegation, come together in solidarity and love for the Salvadoran people. Although this day is marked with deep sadness and lingering anger at what transpired that day twenty four years ago, we celebrate the dedication and commitment to justice of these martyrs with joy and hope. Their memory inspires others who possess the courage to facilitate change and strive relentlessly for a better reality for the Salvadoran people.

The St. Patrick´s delegation enjoying the vigil, commemorating the UCA martyrs.

The St. Patrick´s delegation enjoying the vigil, commemorating the UCA martyrs.

St. Patrick’s of Seattle, WA demonstrates the importance of solidarity through painful times. The parish of St. Patrick’s has been accompanying the Salvadoran people ever since the Sanctuary Movement began in the 1980s, which helped Central American refugees find a safe-haven as they fled atrocious civil wars. St. Pat’s sustains their relationship of mutual accompaniment by sending delegations to visit their sister community Nueva Trinidad. While providing spiritual, physical, and economic support to their Salvadoran brothers and sisters, the parish has continued to speak out against injustice in El Salvador and raise awareness in their region to encourage others to do the same. These important types of relationships that have historically been facilitated by

SHARE and other organizations help to strengthen the solidarity between the United States and El Salvador and deepen the significance of commemorating important events in history such as this one.


Press Release from ProBusqueda

November 21, 2013

The following press release was issued by PRO-BUSQUEDA on Thursday, November 14.

This morning at 4:45am, the PROBUSQUEDA Association was surprised by a violent act. Three armed men threatened the director of the institution at gun point when he arrived at the offices. The director himself was held at gunpoint and threatened until he call for the PROBUSQUEDA guard to open the door so they could gain access to the PROBUSQUEDA archives. The guard and president of the board were also attacked. After they were gagged and thrown to the floor the armed men proceeded to enter the specific rooms where the archives and documents are stored, they proceeded to damage the computers, douse the archives with gasoline, and light them on fire causing considerable damage.

La oficina de probusqueda.

La oficina de probusqueda.

It is important to emphasize that this violent act was intended to destroy specific documents as the armed men attacked units that were of vital importance to the work of PROBUSQUEDA, damaged computers with classified documents. In addition to destroying archives that are essential in the cases that have been presented to the justice system at the national and international level, they also destroyed the organization’s financial information.

Although the extent of the damage has yet to be determined, it has affected many things including DNA samples and the theft of data of families of victims of human rights abuses during the armed conflict. In addition, an employee of the institution was threatened the same morning. At 7:50am when she was on her way to work, a vehicle approached the bus stop where she usually waits for the bus, three men got out and followed her on foot until she found a taxi. She was still in a state of shock when she arrived at the office only to find the destruction described above. Read More »


From SHARE scholarship student to literacy promoter

November 19, 2013

Carlos Gomez Marinero, 23 years old

Carlos Gomez Marinero, 23 years old

From SHARE scholarship student to literacy promoter, the tireless work of Carlos Gomez Marinero is inspiring to say the least. Carlos was born in the community of San Francisco Angulo, San Vicente.

Since graduating from university in August of this year, Carlos has worked with CIDEP´s youth literacy program.  The program is directed towards youth between the ages of 12 and 18 who have left their studies for various reasons, such as economic instability forcing them to find work, living too far from appropriate schooling, gang involvement or exclusion from local census research which identifies people and communities of need. CIDEP, along with the Ministry of Education (MINED), CRIPDES, and the International Organization of Work (OIT), makes up the Literacy Alliance in San Vicente. The alliance has worked to liberate Salvadoran society from illiteracy since 2009. Carlos is a proud member of CIDEP´s regional team, and hopes to leave his impact on the campaign, “by creating common conscience and developing lives.”

Read More »


Probusqueda Office Ransacked by Armed Men

November 14, 2013

At 4:30am this morning in San Salvador, three armed men forced their way into the office of Probusqueda, a prominent Salvadoran human rights organization that searches for and reunites children who were forcibly disappeared during the civil war with their families.

Probusqueda office Wednesday morning.

Probusqueda office Thursday morning.

After the men attacked, tied up, and disarmed the security guard, they ascended to the second floor of the building, where Pro-Busqueda stored legal and advocacy documents, and burned archives containing police records that Probusqueda uses to search for lost children. They also stole two computers that held information concerning cases of the disappeared.

Probusqueda representatives disclose that this act has “sabotaged” their important archives. Victims and representatives of various human rights organizations and even Human Rights Ombudsman David Morales rushed to Pro-Busqueda this morning upon receiving the news. After inspecting the office, David Morales declared that all the evidence pointed to a planned attack with a clearly defined goal, as key organizational information was targeted. He also noted that the modus operandi of the attack mirrored attacks during the 1980s intended to indimidate human rights defenders.  The recent, abrupt closure of Tutela Legal makes this incident even more alarming.  

Pro-Busqueda is one of eight human rights organizations that constitute the Pro-Historical Memory Commission (PROMEMORIA), which SHARE accompanies in their work for truth, justice, and reparations for human rights violations during the war. Pro-Busqueda is the only Salvadoran human rights organization besides Tutela Legal to take cases of human rights violations to the Inter-American Human Rights Court and achieve a sentence against the Salvadoran government, with the case of the Serrano Cruz Sisters in 2006 and the Contreras y otros case in 2011. This April and May, Pro-Busqueda staff member and PROMEMORIA representative Marina Ortiz went on speaking tour with SHARE staff, visiting churches, universities, and community groups across the country.

Marina of Pro busqueda speaks with press

Marina Ortiz of Probusqueda speaks with press.

We invite you to stay tuned to the SHARE blog to learn how you can be in solidarity with victims of Human Rights abuses in El Salvador.


ACTION ALERT: Defend the People´s Will in El Salvador!


National Call-In Day to Congress – Friday, November 15th 

U.S. Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Jim Moran (D-VA) are now circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to encourage other Representatives to sign on to a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding El Salvador’sFebruary 2 presidential election. The letter calls for the U.S. government to remain neutral, respect the election results, and work toward a positive relationship with whichever party is elected to the presidency. 
 
Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) – the chair and ranking member of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – already sent a letter to Kerry discrediting the FMLN and UNIDAD candidates.
 
With campaign season in full swing in El Salvador, it’s urgent that Members of Congress and the State Department make it clear that February’s election is the decision of the Salvadoran people, not of politicians in Washington. 
 
You can be part of a national call-in effort to demand that the US respect the democratic will of the Salvadoran people! 
 
Call your US Representative TODAY to insist that s/he add his or her name to Rep. Vargas’ statement in defense of democracy in El Salvador. 
 
TAKE ACTION NOW!
1) Call the Congressional switchboard to be transferred to your Representative’s office: (202) 224-3121.

2) Ask to speak to the staff person in charge of foreign policy. If that person is not available, leave a voicemail.

3) Email solidarity@share-elsalvador.org so we can keep track of constituent calls and monitor the progress of this action.
 

Please use the following script:

• “My name is ___________ and I am calling as a constituent from [your city or town] to ask that [Representative’s name] sign on to a Congressional letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that has been initiated by Representative Juan Vargas. This letter calls for US neutrality with respect to the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador, and pledges that Members of Congress will seek a positive relationship with whichever party is elected. To sign on to this letter, please contact Aaron Allen at Representative Vargas’ office. His phone number is (202) 225-8045.”

•“This public neutrality statement is urgently needed. During El Salvador’s 2009 presidential campaign, various Republicans in Congress threatened to punish the people of El Salvador if they elected the opposition party’s candidate.  Fortunately, the Obama administration neutralized these threats by making a clear, public commitment to maintaining positive relationship with whomever the Salvadoran people elected. This was a welcome change from past administrations. It’s important that the State Department once again make this position clear well in advance of any attempts to manipulate or intimidate Salvadoran voters.”

•“Salvadorans, including those living here in the US who will be voting for the first time by absentee ballot, also need to hear a clear message from Congress that assures them they can vote according to their own free will, rather than in response to threats and manipulation from anyone in the US government.”

•“Thank you for your time, and I encourage [Representative’s name] to sign on to this important statement in support of free and fair elections in El Salvador.”
 

 

 


ACTION ALERT: Defend the People’s Will in El Salvador! National Call-In Day to Congress – Friday, November 15th


U.S. Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA), Mike Honda (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), and Jim Moran (D-VA) are now circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to encourage other Representatives to sign on to a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry regarding El Salvador’s February 2 presidential election. The letter calls for the U.S. government to remain neutral, respect the election results, and work toward a positive relationship with whichever party is elected to the presidency.

Reps. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ) – the chair and ranking member of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – already sent a letter to Kerry discrediting the FMLN and UNIDAD candidates.

With campaign season in full swing in El Salvador, it’s urgent that Members of Congress and the State Department make it clear that February’s election is the decision of the Salvadoran people, not of politicians in Washington. 

You can be part of a national call-in effort to demand that the US respect the democratic will of the Salvadoran people! 

Call your US Representative TODAY to insist that s/he add his or her name to Rep. Vargas’ statement in defense of democracy in El Salvador. 

TAKE ACTION NOW!

1) Call the Congressional switchboard to be transferred to your Representative’s office: (202) 224-3121.

2) Ask to speak to the staff person in charge of foreign policy. If that person is not available, leave a voicemail.

3) Email solidarity@share-elsalvador.org so we can keep track of constituent calls and monitor the progress of this action.

Please use the following script:

• “My name is ___________ and I am calling as a constituent from [your city or town] to ask that [Representative’s name] sign on to a Congressional letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that has been initiated by Representative Juan Vargas. This letter calls for U.S. neutrality with respect to the upcoming presidential election in El Salvador, and pledges that Members of Congress will seek a positive relationship with whichever party is elected. To sign on to this letter, please contact Aaron Allen at Representative Vargas’ office. His phone number is (202) 225-8045.”

•“This public neutrality statement is urgently needed. During El Salvador’s 2009 presidential campaign, various Republicans in Congress threatened to punish the people of El Salvador if they elected the opposition party’s candidate.  Fortunately, the Obama administration neutralized these threats by making a clear, public commitment to maintaining positive relationship with whomever the Salvadoran people elected. This was a welcome change from past administrations. It’s important that the State Department once again make this position clear well in advance of any attempts to manipulate or intimidate Salvadoran voters.”

•“Salvadorans, including those living here in the US who will be voting for the first time by absentee ballot, also need to hear a clear message from Congress that assures them they can vote according to their own free will, rather than in response to threats and manipulation from anyone in the US government.”

•“Thank you for your time, and I encourage [Representative’s name] to sign on to this important statement in support of free and fair elections in El Salvador.”


Salvadoran Youth Combat Poverty and Develop Communities

November 12, 2013

Not everyone has access to the basic human right to write and read. In El Salvador many people suffer this injustice. Without the work of the Ministry of Education (MINED) and the various organizations working together to carry out the National Literacy Campaign, Salvadoran society wouldn’t be able advance towards the day when no student, adult or young person, has to give up schooling for reasons such as: being obligated to work due to economic conditions, living too far from local schools to attend, or lack of resources to afford materials and uniforms, among many other barriers.

Karen and

Karen showing her group’s work.

In 2009, FMLN President Mauricio Funes launched the national literacy campaign  “Si, Yo Puedo” or “Yes, I can”  adapted from both Cuban and Nicaraguan models that rely heavily on volunteers. A similar campaign was pushed previously under ARENA President Tony Saca; however, it operated on a much smaller scale and all employees were paid. The current program, which serves to provide a second chance for both children and adults deprived of education, only exists because of the tireless work the volunteers put in with few paid employees. The Ministry of Education hires only 26 promoters that are placed in each of the  departments and  oversee recruitment and training of volunteers who implement the literacy circles. Each municipality also has a local program in conjunction with MINED under the supervision of their Mayor’s office, which contracts its own promoters.

Read More »


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