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Funes sworn in as President of El Salvador

June 1, 2009

Today, El Salvador celebrated the inauguration of the country’s first leftist president, Mauricio Funes. Stay tuned for more information!

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


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Funes announces several members of his Cabinet

May 26, 2009

Several names of President-elect Mauricio Funes’ Cabinet have been announced over the last couple of days. The positions include:

  • Chief Advisor to the President and Chief of Staff: Alexander Segovia, Funes’ current economic advisor,
  • Treasury Minister: Carlos Cáceres, the former Executive Director of the Central Banking System,
  • Economic Minister: Dr. Hector Dada, current Democratic Change (DC) Legislator,
  • President of the Central Bank Reserve: Carlos Acevedo, an economist with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
  • Agriculture Minister: Manuel Sevilla, another economist for the UNDP,
  • Environment Minister: German Rosa Chávez, former Executive Director of the Salvadoran Program for Investigation of Development and the Environment (PRISMA),
  • Public Works Minister: Gerson Martínez, current FMLN Legislator,
  • Coordinator for State Modernization: Hato Hasbum, Funes’ presidential campaign director,
  • President of CEPA (Salvadoran Port Authority): Guillermo López, former Treasury Minister in the Saca administration, and
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs: Hugo Martínez, an FMLN Legislator

*Photo of Mauricio Funes and Hector Dada from Amigos de Mauricio.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Workers’ Party begins process of becoming official political party

May 22, 2009

Yesterday, Diario CoLatino reported that members of the new Partido de los Trabajadores (Workers’ Party) picked up 50,000 ballots from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for citizens to sign in order for the new party to be registered as an official political party. If the Workers’ Party, which was founded in 2002, is able to collect 50,000 signatures, the party will be able to participate in the next election. The party members stated that all wage earners can join their party. including those who work in the informal sector of the economy.

According to the Secretary of the Workers’ Party, Abel Quijano (pictured above at the TSE), the new party will represent the “true interests of the working class, which are not currently being represented anywhere else.” This statement may surprise some people in El Salvador, where the FMLN, the party farthest to the left, recently celebrated their first presidential victory. However, Pedro Zaldívar, another leader of the Workers’ Party, indicated the party’s interest in working with the FMLN. “I am a leftist, we are from the left, the FMLN defines itself as part of the left so hopefully we can work together.”

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Intellectuals propose creation of Ministry of Culture

May 21, 2009

The Forum of Salvadoran Intellectuals (FIE), a group comprised of artists and writers, have submitted a proposal to the Salvadoran government for the creation of a Ministry of Culture. The office would be responsible for the development and preservation for Salvadoran culture. José Roberto Cea, a poet, professor, and member of FIE (pictured at left with Chinchilla), asserted, “After twenty years of ARENA administrations, it is now time for neoliberalism to disappear and give way to fundamental factors for society, like cultural development.”

Although there are 173 cultural centers in the 262 municipalities in El Salvador, members of the FIE complain that the relationship between the organizations and governmental institutions remain abysmal. Miguel Ángel Chinchilla, another member of FIE, suggested that this situation could be rectified with the creation of a Ministry of Culture. The members of FIE agree that Funes’ new government “opens the door for a new cultural policy that dignifies and develops society in all of its components.”

*Photo from Diario CoLatino.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


Funes visits Venezuela


Less than one month before his inauguration, President-elect Maurcio Funes is visiting Venezuela to discuss trade and social projects with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. After meeting with Funes on Tuesday, Chávez announced plans to set up a commission for future projects with El Salvador. Chávez also announced that he will attend Funes’ inauguration on June 1, 2009 in San Salvador.

Contrary to what ARENA predicted during the presidential campaign, the U.S. Government does not appear alarmed or concerned by Funes’ visit with Chávez. US Deputy Assistant of the Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Craig Kelly, stated, “It is not up to the US to make comments on the diplomatic relations of El Salvador.”

*Photo from Diario CoLatino.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


CESTA rejects Pacific Rim’s lawsuit

May 13, 2009

The Diario CoLatino reports that the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA), a Salvadoran member of Friends of the Earth International, called Pacific Rim Mining Company’s lawsuit against the country an “injustice.” CESTA’s President, Ricardo Navarro, stated that Pacific Rim’s legal action is an effect of the flaw of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Navarro pleaded, “I urge the Legislative Assembly to establish a lay that prohibits metallic mining, then, we should review and analyze Association Agreement of the European Union and Central America (AdA) which is more of the same, and finally, President-elect Mauricio Funes should make revisions to these economic treaties without fear.” Touching on the insecurity that many Salvadorans feel regarding the outcome of the lawsuit, Navarro stated, “We could lose the cause, because it’s an international tribunal and we don’t know if it’s impartial or if it has corporate leadership, we do not know who they are because it is a closed process, but we should continue fighting and remove Pacific Rim from the country.”

To read the full article, click here. To learn more about Pacific Rim’s lawsuit, click here.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

*Photo from The Ecologist.


Violence and Impunity in El Salvador


The LA Times published an excellent article today about gang violence in El Salvador. As violence along the border in Mexico increases, El Salvador continues to have one of the highest murder rates in the world; in fact, the article cites that the country’s murder rate is five times that of Mexico. Half of the murders in El Salvador are committed by youth, and the National Civil Police state that 70% of the victims are youth between the ages of 15 and 39.Some of the violence can be attributed to gang violence. LA Times journalist Tracy Wilkinson interviews a Spanish priest, Father Antonio Rodríguez, who runs a violence-prevention program in a parish in the impoverished Mejicanos neighborhood in San Salvador. Father Rodríguez asserted that “gangs used to protect the neighborhoods, their turf, and attacked only outsiders.” However, with current President Antonio Saca’s ineffective and draconian Iron Fist policies toward youth involved with criminal activity and the rise of the number of gang members in prison, gangs now “strike anywhere…because they need to support their incarcerated associates and families.”

The article points out hundreds of murders each year are committed by members of the police force, private security guards, and assassins hired to carry out “social cleansing.” Meanwhile, impunity reigns as few murder cases are rarely solved. El Salvador has a long history of providing impunity for the worst human rights offenders: war criminals during the country’s bloody Civil War are protected by a blanket Amnesty Law. Given the prevailing sense of impunity coupled with dire poverty, is there any wonder that the death tolls keep climbing?

To read the article, click here.

*Photo by José Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images though the LA Times.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator


SOAW lobbies Sánchez Cerén to withdraw ES from the School of the Americas

May 11, 2009

School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) activists visted El Salvador this week to ask President-elect Mauricio Funes’ new government to withdraw military officers from the School of the Americas/WHINSEC, reports IPS. Lisa Sullivan, Latin America Coordinator for SOAW, expressed hope that when Mauricio Funes takes office on June 1, there is a possibility that his government will stop sending troops to the School of the Americas.
There are currently 37 Salvadoran military officers studying at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA, but El Salvador has a long, ugly history with the military academy. The IPS article included frightening links between the School of the Americas/WHINSEC and the gristly murders during the Salvadoran Civil War:

  • 19 of the 26 Salvadoran soldiers and officers involved in the murders of the Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s teenage daughter at the University of Central Americain 1989 were SOA alumni.
  • Three of the five Salvadoran troops who raped and killed three U.S. nuns and a Catholic layworker in 1980 were SOA alumni. Read More »

“Victimizer wants to punish the victim”

May 7, 2009

Below is an English translation of the public opinion piece from the National Working Group Against Metallic Mineral Mining published in the Diario CoLatino in response to Pacific Rim’s initiation’s of arbitration proceedings against the Salvadoran government.

Victimizer Wants to Punish the Victim

On April 30, Pacific Rim made good on its threat to sue the Salvadoran State for denying them the environmental permit to extract the El Dorado mine in San Isidro (Cabañas).

Having completed the ninety days waiting period, the Canadian company went to the International Center for Investment Disputes (ICSID) to demand repayment of $77 million in “mining exploration investments.” Read More »


What We Want: An Interview with a Salvadoran Student Activist


Below is an excerpt of an interview with Oswaldo Natarén, a student activist and founding member of the Roque Dalton University Front of the University of El Salvador, with Erica Thompson. This interview is part of a series of interviews with Salvadoran activists conducted by Upside Down World.

UDW: Tell us a little bit about the founding of the FURD and why you chose Roque Dalton as a historic figure to identify with?

ON: The FURD was envisioned as a new chapter in the ongoing response of students in the National University to organize ourselves and to uncover the UES’ historic role in El Salvador’s revolutionary movement. The political project of the FURD arose in 2002 out of a collective need to continue that struggle. The group continues to explore and affect the life of the University through these objectives: to examine the other side of the history that is taught to us; to discover that there are many of us who think differently than the way society has trained us (as this is the case, we often think differently than one another); and to articulate both what the University’s role in society is at the moment and what it could be. Read More »


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