Tuesday, September 2, 2014

''We're not intervening in El Salvador's affairs...'We're just recognizing a liberation movement.''

Aaron Margolis, a PhD candidate in Borderlands History at the University of Texas at El Paso, has a post up at the History News Network entitled Guess What Mexico Did When Tens of Thousands of Guatemalans Overran Its Border in the 1980s?
Though there were some missteps overall the story was a success and a model that should be a point of reference for the United States. Instead of treating the Guatemalan refugees of the 1980’s as some unwanted package to be shipped back, Mexicans in and out of government led a pragmatic effort to enrich their country with those who needed room to breathe and live. Like many today in the United States, vocal elements in Mexico looked on the Guatemalans in Chiapas and saw a threat instead of desperation, thought of burden instead of charity. As a whole, Mexico as a nation did not listen to those protests, instead choosing compassion and humanity for those thousands whose desperation for a better life caused them to ignore borders. In the present situation the U.S. could do no worse.
And it wasn't just the refugees that the Mexican government and people hosted. The Central American revolutionary groups and solidarity committees were very busy in Mexico from the 1960s into the 1990s. They raised money there. They transported guerrillas through Mexico to other countries, often Cuba. Some stayed in Mexico for medical care. Families of combatants fled to the safety of Mexico. Weapons were also smuggled from the US through Mexico to Guatemala (which I am not sure was part of the deal).

The Guatemalan guerrillas were welcomed in Mexico as long as they did not launch attacks from Mexican territory (mostly the 1970s and 1980s) or link up with the Zapatistas (the 1990s). Most of the commanders lived in Mexico for several years of the war as well. While the Salvadoran FMLN used Nicaragua as its rearguard, the Guatemalan URNG used Mexico.

And with regard to El Salvador, the Mexican government, as well as the French, recognized the guerrilla-led opposition as a ''representative political force" on August 28, 1981.
The statement said the guerrillas had a right to take part in negotiations aimed at ending the conflict. It also called for a restructuring of El Salvador's armed forces before ''authentically free'' elections could be held there.
(In Washington, the State Department criticized the statement for suggesting that the leftist parties represented anything more than a small minority of the Salvadoran people. But the department praised the document's expression of concern for El Salvador and its right to self-determination.)
In recent months, Washington has endorsed the Salvadoran junta's rejection of several offers of international mediation in the conflict, including initiatives by Mexico, Venezuela and the Socialist International. But this is the first time that France, under the new Socialist Government of President Francois Mitterrand, has taken such a public stand on El Salvador.
In their statement today, Mexico and France seemingly anticipated charges of interference in El Salvador's internal affairs by pointing out that the conflict was ''a potential threat to the stability and peace of the entire region'' and therefore required international attention.
Mexican officials noted that neither Government had broken diplomatic relations with the junta nor formally recognized a government in exile. ''We're not intervening in El Salvador's affairs,'' a Mexican official said. ''We're just recognizing a liberation movement.''
The sources said France and Mexico were prompted to act by evidence that neither the military-civilian junta nor the so-called Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front seemed able to achieve a military victory over the other and by the increasing number of civilian deaths.
The Salvadoran civil war would end in military stalemate over ten years later.

Poverty and homicides decrease in El Salvador - Isn't life great?

Some good economic news out of El Salvador. Poverty decreased from 34.5% in 2012 20 29.6% in 2013. Tim takes a closer look with Economic statistics -- poverty and the middle class both shrinking in El Salvador. Costa Rica has economic growth without poverty reduction while Guatemala has economic growth and impoverishment. El Salvador is trying poverty reduction with no economic growth.

Imagine how bad things would have been had El Salvador not experienced two years of relatively low homicide rates and poverty rate improvements. I'm skeptical like Tim about the causes of the decrease in poverty. However, if the numbers are to be believed, I'd say that it was a combination of many factors - remittances, government spending on health and immigration, perhaps the outward migration towards the US of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

El Salvador: ¿Quién paga el precio de la evasión fiscal?

El Salvador gangs announce re-launch of 2012 truce. See more from Tim with Gangs announce a new phase of the truce. At this point, I can't keep up.

Some more security news as the Fiscalía pide captura de jugadores futbolistas; Growing Calls for Reforms of El Salvador’s Privatised Pension System; and El Salvador: Desmantelan red de trata de menores y prostitución.

Finally, there's the The Age of Survival Migration from Diana Cariboni. Children fleeing violence and economic opportunity is a global phenomenon, not just one between the Northern Triangle and the United States.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Corruption in the Northern Triangle: The siren song of crime

Ivan Briscoe has a new report on Corruption in the Northern Triangle: The siren song of crime.
More than ever, it seems clear where Central America’s people and government should direct their efforts: to controlling money laundering, stiffening the autonomy of oversight bodies, bringing development to border regions, and eliminating graft from security forces and judiciaries. But in democracies where money and fear are important sources of mobilization, achieving public backing for these policies requires making lucid, tangible connections between progress in combating civil insecurity and improvements to the integrity of the state. It is this virtuous cycle that is needed to replace the current vicious cycle of emergency, militarization and crime, and the siren song of the ice-cream bell.
It is the third installment on a three part series for The Broker. Pien  Metaal and Liza ten Velde produced Drugs and violence in the Northern Triangle: Two sides of the same coin? while Wim Savenije and Chris van der Borgh wrote Anti-gang policies and gang responses in the Northern Triangle: The evolution of the gang phenomenon in Central America.

You can also check out Bastiaan Engelhard's Preventing crime and violence is better than fighting it.

Happy Labor Day!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Deportation for woman who killed US veteran in El Salvador

US Veteran Michael Brown was murdered in El Salvador in February 2013 (see here and here). He was killed while stopping for what he believed was a checkpoint along a road in road in San Isidro, Izalco Sonsonate. His ex-wife tried to flee the armed men but tripped. She was eventually left unharmed.

According to initial reports, $1500 was found at the scene so authorities did not believe the attack to be robbery-related. They then claimed that his death might have been motivated by a crime of passion but authorities, again, produced no evidence to back that up.

Nuri Liseth Aquino-Torres, Brown's ex-wife, was taken into custody at her home in March in Utah after a Salvadoran court issued an arrest warrant for her in January 2014. She was then ordered removed from the US in July and deported in August. She is accused of having orchestrated her ex-husband's murder. Police are now again saying that the motive was money.

I had received emails after Brown's death indicating that his murder might have been related to sex trafficking and a pretty famous strip club in San Salvador - dangerous people with perhaps terrible implications depending on where the investigation went. They thought Brown's wife had worked in the club before Brown helped her get out and that he might have been involved in helping or planning to get other young, trafficked women out of the club. We'll have to see where this investigation goes but there's a good chance we'll never know what happened.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A push is on in the US to reunite families torn apart by El Salvador’s civil war

Argentina has been in the news recently as two grandchildren disappeared during that country's dirty war have been identified, including the grandson of the president and founder of the Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto. The whereabouts of children stolen during wartime continues to be an issue for numerous Latin American countries, including Guatemala and El Salvador.

A new campaign has been launched in the United States to help identify children stolen during that country's civil war. The English and Spanish campaigns targets Salvadoran Americans who are seeking their biological parents.
“Were you separated from your child during the war in El Salvador between 1980 and 1992?  The Pro-Búsqueda Association of Disappeared Children from El Salvador will help you: Text the word FIND to 99000, or write to info@probusqueda.org.sv.” 
A good number of Salvadoran Americans have already reached out to Cristián Orrego Benavente, the director of forensic programs at the Human Rights Center, at the University of California, Berkeley. Read the story here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When Mothers and Fathers Migrate North

I just finished reading "When Mothers and Fathers Migrate North: Caretakers, Children, and Child Rearing in Guatemala" by Michelle J. Moran-Taylor (gated, ungated).
A substantial portion of Guatemala's population—about 10—15 percent of a population of 12 million—emigrates to the United States. Although this northward movement has produced significant social change, few studies have examined it from the perspective of the increasing involvement of household structures in transnational migration processes. Ethnographic research focused on transnational families reveals the social relationships that develop between caregivers and children and between parents and caregivers because of the necessity for transnational migration and identifies the emotional costs of these arrangements.
While violence and economic stress are clearly contributors to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors to the US, so too is family reunification. In this article, Moran-Taylor looks at what happens when one or both parents leave their children in Guatemala to seek out a better life in the US. In many ways, it isn't pretty.

Extended family, particularly grandmother and aunt caretakers, often watch the children of those who have left for the US. The caretakers raise the kids as their own. However, the parents who have traveled to the US often don't appreciate the sacrifice that their relatives are making in caring for the children. The children, while they appreciate the caretaker immensely, still have that unbreakable bond with their parent or parents in the US.

Over time, lots of negative effects are seen. The children left behind in Guatemala become almost single-mindedly obsessed with the remittances that they receive from the US. They get upset if they are interrupted or decreased. It often becomes the only thing that they care about.

The caretakers often have trouble when the parents send for the kids that had been left in their care. They've raised them as their own for years. The caretakers often do not want to expose the children that they have cared for to the dangers of the journey north through Mexico. That has led to conflict between the relatives. Sometimes they have paid their own way to accompany the children to the border.
They wanted me to send her [the niece] illegally. But I didn’t want to because I knew the mishaps she could potentially endure along the way. Because you hear of so many despicable things that happen, right? When we spoke on the telephone my brother-in-law would even insult me. He would say that I didn’t want to send their child because I was taking the money, the U.S. dollars they sent. But I never took any of the money for myself. I did, however, lump it together with mine to use for the household expenses, but even that wasn’t enough. They would send me $75 each month. And with these funds, I placed my niece in a private school. My youngest son, who just turned twenty, was very distressed about this whole situation. He then decided to go there [the United States] to accompany my niece along the way and drop her off at her parents’ house in Arizona. So now, there she is.
Since her arrival over there [Phoenix], my sister and her husband don’t even write to me—and they don’t even want my niece to have anything to do with us. My husband now tells me: ‘you see… since you raised her, they don’t even want anything to do with you now.’ But my little niece still keeps in touch—she calls me when they [the parents] are not around. Her father, though, always tells her that she needs to forget about us altogether. After children who have been cared for leave for the US, the remittances to the caretaker (the grandmother or grandmother-in-law, sister, sometimes friend) end abruptly. They might have sent a few hundred dollars a month to an aunt to take care of their nieces and nephews but once the kids are no longer in their care, the relationship ends. 
There are a great number of actual family scenarios described in this 2008 article, most of them negative.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Church and Central America

I'm starting my first week of class and my first semester as chair of the political science department so things are a bit hectic. Hopefully, I'll get matters figured out soon enough. Fortunately, we have a three-day weekend (four for me since I don't teach Tuesday) coming up. Now for the news.

W. Alejandro Sanchez writes on Pope pushes for beatification of Archbishop Romero. I still support Romero's canonization but I doubt that it will impact the violence and it might even make politics more divisive in El Salvador. I can't find the link but an opinion poll from a few years ago indicated that a majority of Salvadorans were unfamiliar with Romero.

Tim has a Pastoral initiative for peace coming from Christian and Catholic religious leaders looking to reduce gang-violence.

The Anglican-Episcopal Church in El Salvador has a new bishop, Juan David Alvarado.

The Guardian takes a stab at Pope Francis and liberation theology in a recent editorial. Here's what I wrote about possible changes in the Church should the Cardinals elect someone from Latin America.
Electing the next Pope from Latin America, or anywhere in the global south, would be symbolically important. Africa counts the fastest growing Catholic population, but Latin America is still home to the world's largest concentration of Catholics. While most Catholics today voluntarily profess their religion, Catholicism was violently imposed on the indigenous population that originally inhabited what we today call Latin America over five hundred years ago. And, it was only fifty years ago that Latin American bishops first travelled to Rome to participate in the Second Vatican Council after having been seen as second class for centuries. Given the large number of Catholics residing in Latin America and the global south, a successor from the south would be tremendously symbolic even if he were cut from the same conservative mold as his two most recent predecessors.
However, it is not all about symbolism. The selection of a Latin American pope might help to rejuvenate a Church that has lost ground in recent decades to Protestant and evangelical churches. It might help to heal the rift that occurred between those who supported a theology of liberation and those who preferred that the Church remain more traditional, some might say apolitical. Finally, the selection of a Latin American Pope might give added hope for the canonisation of the murdered Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.
However, in some ways, what might also change with the selection of a Latin American, African or Asian pope, is how the media, Catholics and non-Catholics listen to the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, as well as their predecessors, have spoken very strongly not only on social issues, which get the most attention, but on issues such as the damaging effects of capitalism, poverty, inequality, climate change, the environment, migration, and war. Their stances on these important issues does not excuse them for the areas in which they have failed. But perhaps the selection of a pope from outside of continental Europe will force many to listen, not blindly of course, to what the Church has to say on many other important issues of the day.
In Guatemala, Elizabeth Bell writes about Francisco Marroquín: Guatemala’s first bishop and linguist. He has a park or two named after him in Antigua and a university in Guatemala City although I'm not sure what his connection to the individualistic thought of the university is. The community feeling at the Landivar and the UCA are just so much more appealing for my tastes.