The SHARE Blog

Violence and Impunity in El Salvador

May 13, 2009

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 »

ARENA names Cristiani as head of party

May 5, 2009

ARENA named formed president Alfredo Cristiani as the head of the party late last week. Cristiani, whose family is part of the 14 families who make up the oligarchy, was elected President of El Salvador in 1989, marking the beginning of ARENA’s twenty-year rule over the country. His presidency was marred by scandal and corruption. In 1989, the Salvadoran army shot and murdered six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper’s teenage daughter at their residence in the Central American University. Recently, the Center for Justice and Accountability filed a criminal case in Spain against Cristiani and fourteen members and former members of the Salvadoran military for their involvement in crimes against humanity and state terrorism. In January of this year, a Spanish judge formally charged Cristiani and the members of the military for their roles in the murders of the Jesuits and the women.

The naming of Cristiani to ARENA’s party leadership came just ten days after current President Tony Saca announced that a former president of El Salvador would not take over party leadership. However, many party members blame Saca for ARENA’s loss in the recent presidential election to the FMLN and for “using the party for his own particular interests.” In a veiled criticism of Saca, Cristiani emphasized the importance of “returning to the party’s roots.”

*Photo: Cristiani speaks as Rodrigo Ávila and Tony Saca listen behind him. Photo from El Faro.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Immigrant Roots – Immigrant Rights!

May 4, 2009

Below are a few pictures from NCIC’s May Day rally for immigrants’ rights. To see more pictures from the march, click here.

*Photos taken by Jake Cunningham.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

“The people who love their freedom will one day achieve it.” – Simón Bolívar

Below are photos taken during the 2009 May Day march in San Salvador last Friday:

To see a slideshow of photos from the march, click here.

*Photos from El Faro.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Legislative Assembly votes against same-sex marriages

Last week, the Legislative Assembly in El Salvador approved a new amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as a union solely between a man and a woman, thereby by prohibiting same-sex marriages as well as adoption by same-sex parents. Rodolfo Parker, PDC Legislator and supporter of the amendment, pronounced, “Marriage is only between a man and a woman, born that way. It remains consecrated in our country that marriage is not possible for same-sex couples.”

FMLN politicians expressed concern over the amendment for its discriminatory nature and did not vote to approve the amendment. FMLN Legislator Arturo Fernández stated that although the party refused to support the amendment, the FMLN has no plans to promote the legalization of same-sex marriages and pointed out that the country’s LGBT organizations have not asked for legalization of same-sex marriages either. In fact, the Alliance for Diversity Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) issued a statement confirming that “we are have asked them to legalize [same-sex] marriages, but that they enact laws that do not affect their legality.”

*Photo of the Alliance for Diversity’s vigil courtesy of El Diario de Hoy.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Put aside the may pole – march for immigrants’ rights!

May 1, 2009

As I prepare to participate in tomorrow’s May Day March for Immigrant Rights, I try to recall memories of May Day celebrations during my childhood. I remember a class project on the May Pole and extra recess time, but I cannot recall any memory of a lesson, unit, or class speaker that touched on the history of May Day. It was not until I was eighteen years-old that I learned about the true importance of May Day. In my history classes in college, I learned about the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, when a bomb was thrown in a rally to demand the eight-hour work day and police fired into the crowd. Eight anarchist activists were tried for murder and four were executed with little evidence and a biased jury. As a result, workers and labor unions around the world took to celebrating what became known as International Workers’ Day with parades, marches, and civil disobedience. For many countries, May Day is a holiday from work. However, the U.S. Government has refused to join the global festivities around May Day. For example, in 1884, Congress passed an act making the first Monday of every September Labor Day in an effort to disassociate labor activism from the radical left. Moreover, in 1957 then President Dwight Eisenhower co-opted May Day and renamed it “Law Day” to celebrate the importance of the rule of law in society. Learning about May Day made me put aside the May Pole and join my brothers and sisters around the world to mobilize for justice….

To read the rest of the article, click here.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

BREAKING NEWS: Pacific Rim subsidiary sues Salvadoran government

April 30, 2009

Today a Pacific Rim Mining Company subsidiary began arbitration proceedings under CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) against the Salvadoran government. The company claims that is has operated “in full compliance with Salvadoran law, including the country’s environmental, mining and foreign investment laws, and have met or exceeded all applicable standards while conducting business in El Salvador.” In a press release, Pacific Rim stated its intention to seek damages in the “hundreds of millions of dollars from the [Salvadoran] government” for its loss of potential profits.
Pacific Rim officials state that their company has invested over $77 million in their mining projects. The company states that the Salvadoran government has violated international and Salvadoran law by failing to issue the company mining extraction permits. In a statement included in the press release, Tom Shrake, Manager and CEO of Pacific Rim, tried to appeal to those with concerns regarding the effects of mining on human rights, environmental rights, and the Salvadoran economy. “It is not just the rights of Pacific Rim that are being compromised, but the rights of all Salvadorans and future foreign investors,” he lamented, claiming that Salvadorans were losing out on jobs and the privilege of being one of the first countries in the Americas to hold a new standard in environmentally-friendly mining projects.

To read the press release, click here. To read a copy of the filing, click here.

– Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

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