The SHARE Blog

Perspectives on the Gang Truce Part 3: Rehabilitated Gang Member Giovanni

December 14, 2012

Gang member on the 100th day of the truce, April 2012. Photo from BBC

This is the third blog post in a three part series discussing a truce that began between El Salvador´s main gangs, the MS 13 and 18th Street gangs, in March of 2012. The homicide rate in El Salvador dropped from an average of 14 a day to 5, and has continued at this level for just over six months now. This fall, the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS) and the Foundation for the Study and Application of the Law (FESPAD) hosted a forum on the opportunities and challenges the truce provides for creating a sustainable peace process. Raúl Mijango, one of the mediators of the truce, and Geovanni Morales, Coordinator of SSPAS´ Reinsertion Program, offered two perspectives on the truth. In this third entry of the series, Geovanni discusses the truce. 

Geovanni, a gang member who has gone through rehabilitation processes with SSPAS and now coordinates their reinsertion program, does not share Mijango´s optimism. ¨I am neither in favor of nor against the truce. ¨ Geovanni iterated that he did not get to where he is today because of the truce, but because SSPAS opened a space for rehabilitation and insertion, a place where he could be accepted and supported.

Youth living in poor urban areas face a high level of repression and discrimination from the police, military and broader society. Gang members, especially those with tattoos, encounter an even deeper stigma and extremely limited opportunities for employment.

Geovanni asserts that because de-escalating their involvement in violent gang related activities means distancing themselves from the deep level of support, understanding, and acceptance from their fellow gang members, and because of the societal discrimination that gang members face whether or not they are active in their gangs, having a support system is essential for youth that want to transform their lives. Otherwise they face hostility from both the gang that has been their family and from society. ¨I have wanted to distance myself from all of the violence that I have lived and seen. When I started to work with re-insertion, fellow gang members started to say ¨this guy´s gone soft.¨

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Court Orders Government to Investigate El Mozote Massacre


The Salvadoran military systematically assassinated over 800 men, women, and children in the massacre

On Monday, December 10th, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a long awaited ruling on the El Mozote massacre case. The Court condemned the government as responsible for the massacre, for this violation of life. As part of the ruling, the Court ordered the Salvadoran government to investigate those responsible for the El Mozote massacre, citing that the 1993 amnesty law does not cover war crimes that occurred during the civil war.

Throughout the war, the government repeatedly committed acts of extreme cruelty and violence, and the El Mozote massacre was undoubtedly one of the most brutal. On December 11th, 1981, Salvadoran armed forces entered El Mozote and the surrounding villages. They then rounded up, separated, and systematically killed nearly 1,000 men, women, and children. Only one survived. Over half of the victims were children. The massacre is just one war atrocity among many for which the Salvadoran government is responsible as the state implemented its policy of terror against its people; it remains burned into the collective Salvadoran memory as the most horrific violation against human life.

Up until recently, national Salvadoran courts refused to investigate the killings, using the 1993 amnesty law to avoid responsibility for the long list of human rights they so cruelly violated in December 1981. Because of this impunity, human rights organizations like Tutela Legal took the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and then to the Inter-American Court in 2011. However, Monday’s ruling is encouraging in the fight for truth, justice, and reparations for the crimes committed. Among other things, the Inter-American Court ordered the Salvadoran government to enact the following remedial measures:

i) continue compiling a Register of Victims and Relatives of Victims of the massacre  
ii) perform investigations of the events,  
iii) ensure that the Amnesty Law does not represent an obstacle to investigations,  
iv) investigate the conduct of officials who obstructed the investigation

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Honoring Women Religious: Our Journey in Photos

December 3, 2012

The women of the LCWR are honored during the Patron Saint Festivals in El Puerto De Libertad. Members of the Women’s Center in La Libertad included images of Ita, Maura, Dorothy, and Jean in the mural they are painting on the side of the women’s center.

 


The Cumbia music was too good to resist. Women Religious take a dance break at the Puerto de La Libertad.

 

Women Religious in front of the chapel built on the site where the four church women were found. We celebrated mass there with the community on December 2nd, the 32 anniversary of their death.

 

Sister Claire Morrissey, CSJ receives an award honoring her work at the chapel.


HWR Dec. Delegation First Photos

December 2, 2012

 

 

65 delegates. 6 days. Two missing suitcases. Celebrating life, togetherness, justice, and the people of El Salvador, past and present.

Please, check out the short slideshow to share in a few moments from the past two days!


Celebrating Solidarity: The History of SHARE and the University Lutheran Chapel

December 1, 2012

In 1981, Eileen Purcell, a community organizer working with Catholic Social Service of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, made a presentation to the Lectionary Group meeting at the University Lutheran Chapel. Eileen had been invited by Reverend Gus Schultz to share her work with Central American refugees and the findings of her 1980  fact-finding trip to El Salvador. Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador had been assassinated while saying mass on March 24, 1980, 4 US Church women had been raped and killed by the US sponsored military in December, and thousands of Salvadorans were killed or suffering persecution and fleeing the country seeking refuge. Many who reached San Francisco turned to the Catholic Church for help. The Archdiocese in San Francisco was turning a bright light on the situation. Catholic Social Service was committed to building effective services and advocacy for the refugees in our midst while at the same time addressing the root causes of the exodus.  Included in that Lectionary Group was Reverend Gustav Schultz, Pastor at University Lutheran Chapel.  Also included were several other future key players in the Sanctuary Movement.

 Eileen Purcell presented the Lectionary Group  with the startling facts of Salvadoran brothers and sisters; Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Pastors, Nuns, and more importantly thousands and thousands of people – peasant farmers, women, men, children, who were being slaughtered in a brutal civil war that raged with no end in sight in the very small country of El Salvador.  That day the Lectionary Group heard of how the war arrived violently and destructively taking away any chance of safe ground within El Salvador.  Those who spoke out against the impunity were killed or disappeared or fled for their lives.  Many were arriving in the U.S. with no where to go.  They wandered through the desert and through the cities traumatized and seeking safety.

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Why are you going to El Salvador? And why is your union letting you go?

November 29, 2012

Today, more than 50 Women Religious will travel to El Salvador to honor the memory of Ita Ford, Maura Clarke, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, who were martyred in El Salvador 32 years ago.

Guest blog by Eileen Purcell, former Executive Director of SHARE El Salvador.

Thirty two years ago, I met Jean Donovan on the steps of San Jose de la Montana – the minor seminary and Archdiocesan headquarters of the Catholic church in San Salvador.  I had  traveled to El Salvador as part of a San Francisco Archdiocesan delegation to document the human rights atrocities convulsing El Salvador.  In 1980 alone, human rights experts estimated  1,000 deaths per month (33 per day)) at the hands of the Salvadoran military and death squads, causing  a vast  exodus of refugees, many of whom came to San Francisco.  An additional 25,000 persons were “disappeared.” This state violence was supported and financed by the United States government.  It led to the  assassination Archbishop Oscar Romero in March of 1980 and the rape and killing of  Jean Donovan along with Ita Ford, MM, Maura Clarke, MM,  and Dorothy Kazel, UR on December 2, 1980, just a few months after our meeting.  Their deaths galvanized world opinion and solidarity with the people of El Salvador. 

The trip represented a turning point in my life:  I witnessed unthinkable human rights atrocities  and sweeping state-sponsored violence funded by my country. I   placed my hands and heart in the open wounds  of men, women and children who shared  stories of torture, loss, and despair.  At the same time, I  experienced the extraordinary faith, organization and resilience of a people, “a resurrection people living Good Friday.” Hope grounded in solidarity and action overcame fear.

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Delegates to Remember Martyred Jesuits

November 21, 2012

“A fight against impunity implies a long term struggle. If one remains firm in one’s position, a well-rooted seed will take hold and the consciousness of new generations, new professionals, will change as well.” — Jesuit Father José María Tojiera

For twenty three years, individuals, non-government organizations, and international groups have been fighting for justice for six Jesuit priests assassinated at the Jose Simeón Cañas University of Central America (UCA).As the Jesuit University in El Salvador and as one of the centers of liberation theology, the UCA played an active role in speaking out for human rights during the Civil War. For this reason, six Jesuits in residence, including the rector of the University, were murdered along with their housekeeper and her daughter in 1989.  

During the Honoring Women Religious Delegation we will visit the museum at the UCA, built to pay homage to those eight martyrs and other Christian martyrs of the Civil War in El Salvador. We will also see the Rose Garden, where the Jesuits were found, now a memorial garden, and the Chapel, where they are buried.

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VMM Delegation Commemorates with the Romero Coalition

November 19, 2012

Patricia Garcia from COMADRES (Committee of Mothers Monsignor Romero) and participant in the Romero Coalition (Concertacion Romero) accompanied VMM delegates to Romero’s crypt

When Patricia was imprisoned in El Salvador and exiled to Mexico for her role as a human rights activist, she thought of the moment when, at nine years old, she shook hands with Monseñor Romero. His support through out her time in prison and Both his support in her life while imprisoned and his current role in her life have greatly influenced her work as an activist.

A victim of the violence and oppression of the paramilitary and government, Patricia is a part of the Romero Coalition. The Coalition is working to obtain justice in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and for the more than 8000 other victims of the right-wing regime in El Salvador during the armed conflict. A delegation from SHARE and the Volunteer Missionary Movement had the privilege of meeting Patricia during the week long VMM delegation in October.

Delegates spent the week learning about the Salvadoran reality and the work of VMM missioners for justice in Central America. Among the delegation were VMM board members, VMM founder Edwina Gately, supporters and friends. Included were SHARE’s Sistering Accompaniment Coordinator and Human Rights Advocacy Coordinator, as well as several missioners in Nicaragua and Guatemala, all of whom are all supported by VMM-USA.

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Perspectives on the Gang Truce Part 2: Raúl Mijango Mediator

November 16, 2012

In March 2012 a truce began between El Salvador´s main gangs, the MS 13 and 18thStreet gangs. The homicide rate in El Salvador dropped from an average of 14 a day to 5, and has continued at this level for just over six months now. This fall, the Passionist Social Service (SSPAS) and the Foundation for the Study and Application of the Law (FESPAD) hosted a forum on the opportunities and challenges the truce provides for creating a sustainable peace process.  This is part two in a series on the truce and features two perspectives presented at the forum: Raúl Mijango, one of the mediators of the truce, and Geovanni Morales, Coordinator of SSPAS´ Reinsertion Program.
Raúl Mijango, mediator


As one of the mediators of the gang truce, Raúl Mijango expresses great excitement for the possibilities the truce opens up. He sees the beginning of the truce in March as a historic date in the Salvadoran peace process, and a game changer in addressing ascending levels of violence in El Salvador and the world. Mijango called attention to the truce´s success in preventing the deaths of over 1,600 Salvadorans who would have been killed in the last six months if the violence had remained at 14 homicides a day.  He also noted that while the international community has reacted with amazement and support, the Salvadoran society has had very little reaction to or support for the change.

Photo Credit: Danielle Mackey

For Mijango, in order to address these issues it is crucial to recognize that El Salvador´s struggles with violence, gangs, and criminality is not simply a rising wave of crime, but is in fact a new manifestation of social conflict. He sees this conflict as rooted in a failure to move forward with public policies that addressed socio-economic divides after the armed conflict. Instead, the socio-economic gap has only widened and the government did little to respond to the initial development of the gangs in the 1990s.

 

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Government Apologizes for Disappearance of Six Children

November 12, 2012

Family Members of The Disappeared

During the civil war, government security forces forcibly disappeared seven of Magdalena´s family members and held and tortured Magdalena as a political prisoner. On October 29th, The Salvadoran Government officially apologized for their role in the disappearance of six specific children. Magdalena was there to hear their apology along with Madre Guadalupe, other victims and their families.

Between 1981 and 1983, Ana Julia and Carmelina Mejía Ramírez, José Rubén Rivera and Gregoria Herminia, Serapio Cristian and Julia Inés Contreras were forcibly disappeared in three separate incidents in Morazán and San Vicente. Pro-Busqueda took the case to the Inter-American Human Rights Court. In the end, the court ordered the state to recognize their responsibility and apologize to the families of the deceased. On August 31st, 2011, the court declared the Salvadoran state to be responsible for their disappearances.

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