The SHARE Blog

Honduras: Intimidation in Upcoming Election?

November 7, 2013

This article, written by Eben Levey, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns intern for Central America issues, was first posted in their November/December newsletter. Levey will be participating in SHARE’s election observation delegation to Honduras this month.

On November 24, Honduran citizens will go to the polls to elect a new president. As the date rapidly approaches, there is much doubt that the current situation in Honduras will permit free and fair elections. From violence and intimidation to institutional impediments to justice, the closely contested presidential race will occur in a context far from conducive to democracy.

Honduran military police patrol in Tegucigalpa.  (Photo courtesy Karen Spring)

Honduran military police patrol in Tegucigalpa.
(Photo courtesy Karen Spring)

Since the military coup in 2009 that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras has become one of the most violent countries in the world. As reported by CNN and NPR, San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in the country, has claimed the title of murder capital of the world for two years running. Yet much of the violence is far from random. The government that illegitimately replaced President Zelaya has embarked upon a course of militarization of police forces and criminalization of social protest, a course that has seen political opponents and social activists systematically targeted for prosecution, armed attacks, and assassinations.

In October, current President Porfirio Lobo deployed over 1,000 military members into the streets to act as law enforcement. These are forces that are trained to fight and kill, not to provide law enforcement. Furthermore, supervising the military police operations are individuals such as Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla, widely known for human rights violations such as extra-judicial assassinations. Many in opposition to the current government have decried the militarization of the country as a tactic to intimidate social movements and civil society opposition to the current government. Read More »


“Juntas Somos Más”

November 4, 2013

Women at the Natonal Assembly cheering!

Women at the Natonal Assembly cheering!

On October 15th, The Alliance of Rural Women convened for the Third National Assembly, at the National University of El Salvador. Various organizations of women working for gender equality through education compose the Rural Women Alliance, including: the CCR, CRIPDES, CORDES, National Network of Women Leading Change (RMPC) , Research Institute for the Training and Development of Women (IMU) , Salvadoran Women’s Movement (MSM), Mélida Anaya Montes Association Movement (Las Mélidas), and AMSATI, a women’s agricultural organization within CONFRAS, the Confederation of Federations of Agricultural Cooperatives from the Salvadoran Agricultural Reform.

The assembly conveyed the power that rural women are gaining as they organize their communities and advocate for policies that will improve the lives of rural families. Rural women confront various threats in their communities, such as machismo, domestic violence, lack of opportunities to obtain jobs in the public sector, the lack of education regarding women’s rights and laws, as well as the complete lack of educational opportunities generally.

At the first Assembly in 2011, the women discussed the politics of gender equality and the importance of creating a space for female organization. In the second Assembly in 2012, the women presented specific policy demands to various government officials who signed commitments assuring positive change. However, the objective of this year’s assembly was to encourage women to embody an articulate front, and to demand answers from government officials who promised to facilitate dialogue between women and the Legislative Assembly. The absence of these government officials at the Third Assembly was a symbol of their failure to follow through on their commitments. Juanita, the women’s coordinator from the CCR, insists that the next step is to “transform these demands into real changes and to implement new public policy which is in favor of rural women”.

Read More »


Update on Women´s Attention Centers: A Life Free of Violence

October 30, 2013

On November 25th, 2010, The Special Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women passed, guaranteeing that unlike in the past, the thousands of femicide cases, physical abuse, harassment in the workplace, communities, and schools, would be addressed, not pushed aside as “cultural issues”. Prior to the passage of the law, El Salvador ranked highest for intentional female homicide in the world: 13.9 for every 100,000 women.

ORMUSA (Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace), a longtime SHARE partner, recognized the severity of the violent situation women faced on a daily basis and decided to take action. “Women need to know that there are spaces for them to denounce these crimes,” explains Silvia Juarez of ORMUSA.  Although the femicide rate has only dropped slightly, the number of court cases and convictions concerning violence against women have increased. According to Juarez, this is because women are slowly learning their rights, denouncing these crimes, and most importantly, standing up for themselves.

Pamphlet explaining the importance of reporting crimes and describing the purpose of the Attention Centers.

Pamphlet explaining the importance of reporting crimes and describing the purpose of the Attention Centers.

Raising awareness of this law does not only mean educating the victims, but also ensuring that those that make up the justice system, ie., police officers, judges, social workers, etc, handle these cases appropriately. With the support of The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and the Rachael and Ben Vaughan Foundation SHARE has supported ORMUSA in training police officers, social workers, and medical personnel in responding to women who are victims of violent crimes.

“We have been training police officers, building attention centers, and promoting gender equal policies for quite some time now. And finally we are seeing some results,” explains Juarez. Six Women’s Attention Centers have been constructed in different PNC (National Civilian Police) units throughout the country.  But ORMUSA will not stop there.  They plan on having ten centers in place before the end of the year.  And plan to have twelve centers by the end of 2014.

Read More »


The Latest on Tutela Legal: Attorney General Intervenes, Archbishop Changing Discourse

October 28, 2013

"Historic memory is not private property."

“Historic memory is not private property.”

Just over three weeks have passed since Monsignor José Luis Alas Escobar, Archbishop of San Salvador issued a decree to close Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese’s renowned human rights legal aid office, and every week the situation becomes more complex. The Archbishop continues to change his discourse about the reasons for the closure. Victims’ access to the office’s archives, which include documentation of over 50,000 cases of human rights violations, including 80% of the cases in the 1993 Truth Commission report, remains questionable.

In the most shocking intervention since the initial bombshell of Tutela’s closure, on Friday October 18th, representatives of the Attorney General’s Office forcefully entered the Archdiocese declaring their intent to seize the archives. The media began to announce the presence of the representatives of the Attorney General’s Office in Tutela Legal around four in the afternoon, and members of human rights organizations gathered outside the Archdiocese to verify the proceedings.

David Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman immediately requested entrance for his representatives, but both the Attorney General and the Archdiocese denied their entry. A police unit, however, was allowed in. Members of human rights organizations asked Monsignor Urrutia why representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office were not allowed in and he simply lifted his hands, as if washing them of responsibility.  Representatives of FESPAD reported that around 8:30 in the evening, two trucks and a lab vehicle with the back end covered belonging to the Attorney General’s office and a car with its license plates covered exited the Archdiocese. Covering license plates was a tactic commonly used by death squads in the 1980s.

Read More »


Institutional Crisis: Road Paved to Fraud

October 23, 2013

Only one month remains until elections in Honduras, and the crisis in Honduran public institutions has only deepened. The Honduran people have faced a multitude of deep-rooted systemic injustices for decades, which have only been aggravated further by the coup. Impunity ranges from human rights violations in the 1980s, to dozens of murders in the context of the coup, to the current homicide rate, the highest in the world in 2012.  

Last month, Guillermo Lopez Luna, a Honduran magistrate spoke at a forum on impunity in Central America, sponsored by FESPAD, the IDHUCA, and the International Commission of Jurists. Lopez stated that Honduras faces “a complete collapse of the System of Justice,” with the Honduran police, judiciary, and the Public Prosecutor’s office characterized by corruption and inefficiency.

Additionally, the Honduran Congress has taken several actions to consolidate influence and control over the judicial system. As far back as 2003, the International Commission of Jurists noted the intervention of political parties in the Honduran Justice System. In the last year, the Honduran Congress has enacted at least three unconstitutional interventions in the judicial system:

  •  Removal of four Supreme Court Magistrates
  • Replacement of the Attorney General and Adjunct Attorney General for a longer term than outlined in the constitution

  • Election of Judiciary Council members limited to an organization of Judges aligned with the Honduran oligarchy

  Read More »


Developing Women’s Rights: Roundtable Event in Chalatenango

October 16, 2013

 

Women of CCR

Women of CCR

In the 1970s, the valiant women of Chalatenango began organizing their communities, combating historical human rights abuses, fighting for women’s rights, and against mining. Today, almost four decades later, the women of the CCR (la Asociación de Comunidades para el Desarrollo de Chalatenango) continue to stand up for the rights of their communities. Made up of over 100 organized rural communities in Chalatenango, the CCR comprises one of the four CRIPDES regions with which SHARE partners.

Empowering women to be leaders within their communities lies at the center of transforming gender relationships in El Salvador. On September 25th the Women’s Secretariat of the CCR held a roundtable event  to strengthen this movement through an exchange of information and discussion of current events among the women who work tirelessly to continue this movement.

The roundtable included the women from different communities in the CCR, a representative from ISDEMU (the Salvadoran Institute for Women’s Development), two representatives from the Ministry of Education, and a representative from CORDES (a close partner of CRIPDES that provides technical training and support for agricultural initiatives). This roundtable touched upon various themes, including: domestic violence, liberating women from their silence and encouraging them to denounce crimes committed against them, promoting literacy at the regional and national level, and promoting women’s rights through advertisements on community radio stations.

Read More »


Norman Quijano: From Mayor to President?

October 14, 2013

Norman QuijanoThis is the second post in a three-part series introducing the three main candidates for presidency, representing UNIDAD (a coalition of the GANA, CD and PCN parties), ARENA, and the FMLN. Six months remain until Election Day on February 2nd, when a team of elections observers will join SHARE to ensure a free and just electoral process for El Salvador in 2014.

On August 15th, Norman Quijano took leave from his position as the mayor of San Salvador to focus on his official presidential campaign for the ARENA party. Although the elections polls show too many discrepancies to predict a winner, Quijano is a strong candidate because of his popularity as mayor of San Salvador, having won a second term in 2012 by a landslide.

Norman Noel Quijano Gonzalez was born on November 2nd, 1946 in Santa Ana to a middle class family. He graduated from the University of El Salvador in 1977 with a Bachelor’s degree in Odontology. He continued his studies for oral surgery in Argentina, Cuba, Colombia and the United States. Quijano was first introduced to politics under the reign of then ARENA mayor Dr. Armando Calderón Sol, when he served as the Manager for Social Action of San Salvador from 1989 to 1994 . He then held the position of Board Secretary of the Legislative Assembly from 2006 to 2009.

Read More »


Hospitality in El Salvador

October 8, 2013

The following blog post was written by Faith Haining. Faith is a member of the UCC Salem High School Youth Group and traveled to El Salvador in July, 2013. 

On our trip to El Salvador, we saw hospitality everywhere. Every person we met along our trip treated us as if they had known us for years. For example, the woman who ran the guest house, Sonia, was sort of like our mother on the trip. The moment we walked in the door on the first night, she hugged and kissed us and made us so comfortable. She cooked for us, always asked how we were doing, and pampered us when some of us were sick, even dropped by the store to get us extra drinks. When I say that I only knew her for 10 days, it doesn’t seem realistic.

UCC Salem Youth Group

UCC Salem Youth Group

 We also saw a lot of kindness on our daily visits around the city. In places like the churches, the stores, and the organizations we visited, people always wanted to give us the best seat. If someone dropped something, several people would reach to help you, and help you find the right song in church if you didn’t know. And despite the fact that some of us weren’t the best Spanish speakers, they would try and help us and explain things to us so we could understand. While being there, we were almost treated like royalty. But what is even more amazing than that is that’s how everyone treats each other there. Every day. People in El Salvador show this kind of hospitality to their family, friends, and even strangers from another country. The fact that all these people were so generous to us, even though they might not know our names, it really made us feel comfortable, and I almost miss that now that I’m back here.

       

Read More »


Press Conference Decries Closure of Tutela Legal and Call to Action

October 5, 2013

ACTION ALERT: SHARE AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WILL CONTINUE TO COLLECT SIGNATURES FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY PRESS STATEMENT MENTIONED BELOW THROUGH MONDAY AT MIDNIGHT. We will publish the press release in a Salvadoran newspaper. Please contact Bethany Loberg, bethany@share-elsalvador.org to sign on or send a contribution. We seek signatures from organizations and from religious, academic, and human rights leaders. We will be sending an action alert individuals can participate in on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Victims and Human Rights  Organizations gather outside the Archdiocese's offices

Victims and Human Rights Organizations gather outside the Archdiocese’s offices

This morning, representatives of a variety of human rights organizations, members of Christian Base Communities, and victims of human rights abuses held a press conference to denounce the actions of Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas of El Salvador to close Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese’s human rights legal aid office on Monday. This blatant disregard for human rights has divided the Catholic Church and infuriated many groups that continue to fight for justice. The conference took place outside of the Archdiocese´s offices and included the reading of a press statement and a moving letter to the papal nuncio signed by nearly thirty civil society organizations, including CODEFAM, COMADRES, FESPAD, PROBUSQUEDA. CPDH Madeleine Lagadec, the National Health Forum, the San Antonio Abad Christian Base Community, and FUNDAHMER, amongst others. The conference also featured the reading of a press release expressing the solidarity of the international community.

Representatives of Salvadoran human rights organizations expressed their grave concerns regarding the abrupt closure of Tutela Legal. In addition to indignation at the way the employees of Tutela Legal were treated, they worry that this is a measure to ensure impunity for past human rights violations will persist. The press release expressed four explicit demands:

1. Guarantee the integrity and security of all Tutela Legal’s case files of human rights violations, permitting the victims access to their files.

2. Revoke the decision to close Tutela Legal.

3. Declare Tutela Legal’s archive of human rights violations historic and cultural heritage.

4. An invitation to the Archbishop to reflect on his decision to close Tutela Legal and publicly ask pardon for his actions, or otherwise be removed from his office or resign.

reading press statement

The international solidarity press release signed by over 30 organizations, including all the historic U.S.-El Salvador solidarity organizations as well as the Center for Justice and Accountability, School of the Americas Watch, Sojourners Magazine, Friends of Co-Madres, and the National Lawyers Guild Task Force on the Americas, expressed outrage at the closure of Tutela Legal and concern that Tutela Legal’s archives be respected. The statement emphasizes solidarity with the first two key demands of Salvadoran civil society: a guarantee for the security of all of Tutela Legal’s records and access for the victims, and secondly, to reverse the decision to close the legal aid office, to reinstate the staff members fired unjustly, and above all to maintain the same spirit of work instilled by Archbishop Romero and  Archbishop Arturo Rivera Damas, and Dr. Maria Julia Hernandez. Full press release in English here: FINAL International Solidarity Tutela Legal ENGLISH-1.

Read More »


Archbishop Closes Historic Human Rights Office

October 1, 2013

Yesterday Salvadoran Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas ordered the closure of Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese´s human rights legal aid office, started originally by Monseñor Romero. The members of Tutela Legal have fought tirelessly for human rights in El Salvador, and Tutela has been a SHARE partner since the early eighties. STAY TUNED FOR ACTION ALERTS!!!

Protesters outside Archbishop's office on Tuesday morning.

Protesters outside Archbishop’s office on Tuesday morning.

During Monseñor Romero´s time as Archbishop, he maintained the doors to the Archdiocese open to everyone at all times, especially the poor and defenders of human rights. In contrast, today, when representatives of a variety of human rights organizations and Christian Base Communities arrived at the offices of the Archdiocese to inquire about the closure of Tutela Legal, the security guard threatened to shoot the seven that entered, and slammed the gate shut in the face of the group gathered outside.

Yesterday afternoon civil society responded with shock and indignation to the news that Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas ordered the closure of Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese´s human rights legal aid office. Tutela Legal has represented many important cases of human rights violations during the civil war at the national and international level, including the El Mozote Massacre, Monseñor Romero´s assassination, and the Sumpul massacre. Tutela Legal also coordinated community organizing work, human rights trainings for churches, and represented current cases of human rights violations, like the Record Car Battery Factory Case.

  Read More »


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