Friday, October 30, 2009

EL SALVADOR: Clandestine Graves Are Back - IPS

EL SALVADOR: Clandestine Graves Are Back - IPS

FGR statistics indicate that between January and September this year, 80 bodies have been found spread around the country in 18 clandestine cemeteries and two wells, a method of disappearance used during the armed conflict by the fearsome death squads and army units who executed alleged left-wingers, although they also frequently left the bodies of their victims in public view by the roadsides.

Now clandestine burials are re-emerging in peacetime.

"Criminals try to evade justice for the crimes they commit, and the easiest way is to get rid of the body. Without a body, we can't pin the murder on anyone," an FGR prosecutor who did not give his name told IPS.
There has been an increase in the number of clandestine graves discovered in El Salvador in recent months.  Previously, almost all victims had simply been disposed of in plain sight.  Unfortunately, the Attorney General's Office has been unable to determine who is responsible for the mass graves.  Gangs, organized crime syndicates, and drug traffickers are equally capable of such violence, hovever, gangs are the prime suspects.  This reality has led to calls for radical changes to the way that the government is engaged in the war on crime, including the transfer of members of the military to the civilian police force.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Poverty in El Salvador

November 16 marks the 20th annivesary of the murder of six Jesuit priests at the University of Central America in El Salvador.  The University of Scranton, as well as most of the twenty eigth Jesuit universities throughout the United States, have planned a number of events to commemorate the anniversary.

Fr. Rodolfo Cardenal gave two talks at the university this week to students, staff, and faculty.  On Tuesday, Fr. Cardenal spoke about la realidad nacional, or the Salvadoran national reality.  In addition to the violence that I mentioned in a previous post, Cardenal highlighted the increasing poverty in the country. He estimated that an additional 600,000 Salvadorans had fallen into poverty as a result of the global economic crisis.  While it is pretty clear that the economic situation in ES is dire, I've never had a great handle on an accurate poverty measure for the country.

During a 2006 visit to El Salvador, Dean Brackley, S.J., said that roughly 2/3 of the country's population lived in poverty and the situation was deteriorating.  Father Brackley's estimate came at the same time that the US CIA Factbook had ES's poverty rate at 31% (2006), slightly less that what the Salvadoran government was reporting at 35% (2005).

In the next few months and, perhaps, years, the situation is likely to worsen.  Remittances from Salvadorans living in the US have declined (see Tim).  Immigration to the US has declined as well, which does not bode well for an uptick in remittances any time soon.  Fr. Cardenal also mentioned that the flow of foreign direct investment into the country has slowed.  As a result of the deteriorating economic situation, the government is expecting a decline in tax revenue for the rest of the year.  Fortunately, for the FMLN, the party has two more years before it has to worry about disenchantment at the polls.  Unfortunately, it is unclear how the Salvadoran people will respond in the meantime.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Archbishop warns of possible genocide in El Salvador

Following up on the last post, there seems to be pretty strong disagreement in El Salvador, including within the Catholic Church, concerning how the new government should best tackle the high levels of violence in the country. The current Archbishop warns of possible genocide in El Salvador.

“Any manner of thinking that is arbitrary and outside the law which produces violence only increases the spiral of violence and is a concrete threat that could lead society towards genocide,” the prelate said.

The archbishop is responding to a proposal put forth by the UCA earlier this month that would involve transferring soldiers from the armed forces to the national police force.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Father Rodolfo Cardenal, S.J.

Fr. Rodolfo Cardenal, S.J., the former vice rector of the UCA in El Salvador, gave a talk at the University of Scranton this afternoon. He brought attention to a variety of issues including the epidemic problem of violent crime in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

According to Cardenal, while El Salvador was the most violent country in Central America between 2000-2007, Honduras surpassed it in 2008. In 2008, Honduras had a murder rate of 58 per 100,000. El Salvador's murder rate was at 52 per 100,000. And, finally, Guatemala checked in with a rate of 48.

In many ways, the unexplained story remains how Nicaragua, a people and a country that suffered through two decades of civil war, has maintained a murder rate of less than 20 per 100,000.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Welcome to my new blog on Central American politics. I am going to be playing around with the site for the next few weeks and plan to be fully operational before spring classes.

I intend to provide some commentary on Central American politics as well as other items that catch my attention (like how well the Yankees are playing).

Thanks for stopping by.