Monday, May 31, 2010


There are several tremendous photos coming out of Central America following the tragic arrival of the season's first hurricane, Agatha.  These two photos are from  A sinkhole opened up in Guatemala City swallowing an intersection and a three-story house.  Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed there.

Unfortunately, as of approximately 6:00 P.M. Eastern on Monday, 142 people had lost their lives in Central America because of the storm.  One hundred eighteen died in Guatemala, the country that appears to have been the most severely affected.  At least 53 are still unaccounted for. 

Tim has a brief round up on El Salvador and Hermano Juancito has some info on Honduras.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Armed to the Teeth in El Salvador

Gregorio Morán has some startling statistics (many from IUDOP) about guns and violence in El Salvador in an article "La salvadoreña es una sociedad armada hasta los dientes" ("El Salvador is a society armed to the teeth") at ContraPunto.
  • More than 75% of the country's homicides are committed with firearms.
  • Every 3 hours someone is killed with a firearm.
  • It is estimated that about 500,000 weapons, legalized or not, are held by the public.
  • More than 57% of the fatalities are people aged 15 to 29 years of age.
  • Since the end of the war in 1992, El Salvador became the 7th largest importer of weapons worldwide whose main market is the United States.
Just last week, the FMLN proposed a disarmament law in the Legislative Assembly with the goal of reducing the number of weapons in the country. 
According to deputy Aristides Valencia, the project established a process of 60 days for persons to register the weapons they have in the Logistics Direction of the Ministry of Defense.
After that period those weapons confiscated by authorities that lack inscription will not be returned to the owners.
The disarmament law is a good start.  However, there are some that are opposed to the measure, at least at the present moment.  In the ContraPunto article, José Antonio Almendáriz of the PNC says that his political party would not be in agreement with the disarmament law while the PNC is "incapable of defending the population and guaranteeing its security."

Young Dead in Puerto Rico

There's an interesting story about "exotic" wakes in Puerto Rico complete with pictures.  Recently, deceased young men have been embalmed and waked in unusual positions.  One young man was standing up while another was waked on his motorcycle. 

There are several interesting angles to the treating the deceased including how traditions change and how those with vested interests in traditions (such as funeral homes that sell coffins and prepare bodies lying down) look to government to protect them. 
Cultural anthropologist Melba Sánchez, author of the Spanish-language book Death: Social Aspects and Contemporary Ethics, said the funeral directors shouldn't be in such a tizzy. They should know that funeral traditions change with the years and have become more and more tweaked to individual tastes.
There's also the fact that today's youth want to showcase their originality even in death.
If anything, the trend shows that in parts of Puerto Rico, death is so common that young men are fearless about expressing how they want to be viewed, said University of Puerto Rico sociologist José Méndez.
``It clearly expresses a contemporary tragedy: how we lose a large sector of our youth,'' Méndez said. ``It made me sad. It didn't take me long to understand the `why' behind it: They are in constant search of originality and looking for ways for their lives to make an impact after their death.''

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Prison Attacks and Potential Instability in Guatemala

Several attacks against prison employees have been carried out in Guatemalan in the last few days.  Last Thursday, MS-13 members held a warden and three or four guards hostage.  They negotiated the hostages in exchange for the return of several MS-13 gang leaders that had earlier been moved to another facility.  Following the agreement, the prison officials reneged on the deal.

The MS-13 promised to retaliate against what they considered “a joke.”  Since the failed hostage exchange,
A National Civilian Police officer was killed and four prison guards were wounded when gunmen attacked an official vehicle transporting inmates on a highway in Chimaltenango, a province in northwestern Guatemala, officials said...
A prison guard was killed and another wounded earlier in the day when assailants opened fire on them as they were traveling in an official vehicle, officials said.

The attack occurred about 200 meters (some 220 yards) from a military barracks in Guatemala City, police and national prison service spokesmen told reporters.
Last year, ten prison employees were murdered and so far this year three prison guards have been killed in Guatemala. 

Following the recent events in Jamaica, Boz wonders whether there are any other countries on the edge of instability in the Western Hemisphere.  I can't say that Guatemala is that close to the edge, but one shouldn't discount further instability in the country between now and the 2011 elections.  Some of the issues that Guatemala has to manage include
  • Retaliation from shadowy forces as CICIG continues its work.
  • The movement of Mexican cartels into Guatemala.
  • MS-13 and other gangs (drugs, extortion, murder, etc.).
  • Sandra Torres de Colom as a potential presidential candidate.
  • A food and energy crisis.
  • The prosecution of individuals responsible for gross human rights violations during the civil war.
  • The inability of the US and Latin America to deter and/or rollback the coup in Honduras.
  • Lack of US immigration reform.
One had hoped that the resolution of the Rosenberg murder would have set Guatemala on the right path.  I'm hopeful, but not betting on it.  Which country is your pick?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

American in Trouble for Carrying Pocket Change

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
An American woman was arrested by drug enforcement agents at Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport when she allegedly tried to transport nearly $420,000 in undeclared cash to Ecuador, a National Civilian Police, or PNC, spokesman told Efe.
Marie Magdalena Stahl was arrested Sunday by the DAIA drug enforcement agency, the police spokesman said...
Investigators are trying to determine where the money came from, but they suspect it is the proceeds from drug trafficking.

Stahl is being held at a jail and the money is being retained as evidence, the police spokesman said.

Lori Berenson Paroled

From Yahoo
A judge granted parole Tuesday to Lori Berenson, the 40-year-old New York activist who has spent 15 years in Peruvian prisons on a conviction of aiding leftist rebels.
Judge Jessica Leon granted a request by Berenson for conditional release at a hearing at the Lima prison where the American has been held since January 2009 and where she gave birth to a son a year ago.
She said, however, that Berenson cannot leave Peru until her sentence for terrorist collaboration ends in November 2015.
You can read more about Berenson and her involvement withthe Tupac Amaru Revolution Movement (MRTA) at Wikipedia.  I was interested to learn that Berenson was a secretary and translator for Leonel González of the FMLN during the peace negotiations to end the war in El Salvador.  Today, González is better known as Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the Vice President of El Salvador.

I tend to talk about the Berenson case with students in my Latin American Politics class warning them about the dangers of getting involved with political groups while traveling or studying abroad.  Associating with a group that a foreign government considers a terrorist group, even if you don't think that it is, can bring harsh consequences.

Anyway, I'm happy to hear that she has been granted her conditional release.


Two Central American asylum cases have recently hit the wires.  In the first case, a refugee from El Salvador, Jose Figueroa, was denied asylum in Canada because he was once a member of the FMLN's political wing.  The Immigration and Refugee Board ruled that
Figueroa was "inadmissible on security grounds for having been a member of a particular type of organization … that is, an organization that is engaged in terrorism."
Several professors and human rights advocates are outraged that the board concluded that membership in the FMLN (even if he was only doing political work) was the equivalent of being a member of a terrorist organization.  The judge highlighted the fact that the ERP (and therefore the entire FMLN) had engaged in systematic attacks against mayors opposed to the FMLN project.  The attacks upon unarmed civilian mayors constituted terrorism.  The judge concluded that even though the government clearly had engaged in more acts of terrorism than the FMLN, the FMLN should still be characterized as an organization that engaged in terrorism.

It's interesting to read the ruling and how a person unfamiliar with the events in El Salvador interprets the country's history.

In the second case, a Guatemalan man living in San Francisco was denied asylum and ordered out of the United States within two weeks.  While other members of Mario Mendoza's family were granted asylum, he was denied because he failed to show up at an immigration hearing in 2002.  According to Mendoza,
who was 14 at the time, [he] says he didn't appear at the hearing -- because of a language barrier. He's Mayan and didn't speak English or Spanish. His lawyer also claims Mendoza never received any written notice.
Neither news story speaks to the credibility of the asylum seeker's case.  Why were they seeking asylum in the first place?  Who persecuted them and who would persecute them should they be repatriated?

In the Canadian ruling, the judge seems sympathetic to the Petitioner.  However, his prior membership in a terrorist organization prevented him from being granting asylum regarless of the merits of his case.  In the US case, the lawyer (probably for the Petitioner) believes that the ruling might be overturned because the government failed to properly communicate with the applicant in 2002.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Life of a Former Guerrilla in Guatemala

Tracy Barnett at The Huffington Post has an interesting article on Alberto "Tino" Ramírez Recinos, a former guerrilla with the ORPA.  Tino spent nearly one decade working with La Voz Popular, the URNG's radio station. 
He worked with the production crew on the Mexican side of the border. And then, once a week, he'd wrap a cassette tape tightly in plastic bags and swim across the river that divides the two countries and through enemy territory to a broadcast post on the Guatemalan side. There they set up their short-wave radio and broadcast up to Tajumulco volcano, where that crew caught the message and transmitted it to the world.
Tino has been working to broaden access to community radio since the peace accords were signed in December 1996.
Currently some 200 community radio stations are operating without a license, broadcasting news, public health, educational and environmental programming in the native languages, but have been subject to harassment, raids and even imprisonment by local governments who dub them "pirates."
When I interviewed Tino in 2004, he was frustrated with the commandancia and how they had pursued the peace negotiations.  He believed that they were primarily looking out for themselves and not for the organization.  Their dismissal of popular radio, a format that he thought would encourage people to participate and support the URNG, was evidence of that.  They didn't see its potential.

ORPA Commander Rodrigo Asturias, the son of nobel-laureate Miguel Angel Asturias, thought that Tino might have been on to something but he wasn't so sure.  The guerrillas might have been able to promote the rights of community radio stations throughout the country and used these stations to support the new party's platform.  However, he wasn't convinced that the majority of these radio stations would have been as "progressive" as Tino had expected.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Winter Rains Begin

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
The torrential downpours drenching Guatemala since the beginning of the rainy season last week have up to now left seven people dead, two missing and 161 families homeless, authorities said Friday.
According to Prensa Libre, the total number of deaths during the first week of winter increased to nine on Saturday after three family members, including a three-year old boy, were dragged away by raging flood waters.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thanks for the (un-)invite

According to
Former Honduras' de facto President Roberto Micheletti suspended his visit to Guatemala due to people's rejection and demonstrations in this capital.

The Foundation for the Development of Guatemala (FUNDESA) had previously invited Michelleti to deliver a presentation at the National Insurance Company on Wednesday, but it had to cancel the event beacuse of mounting criticism againt the presence of Micheletti....
FUNDESA members do not see Zelaya's removal from government and Micheletti's rise to power as a coup but as a constitutional transtion, however after the decision of inviting Micheletti was known, political analists stressed it was wrong to welcome in Guatemala someone who has violated the human rights of the Honduran people.

The demonstration was organized not only to protest against Micheletti's visit, but also against the illegitimate government of Porfilio Lobo.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lula and the World

I had planned on writing something about Brazil's recent venture into Middle East politics this week.  However, grading and an affidavit have set me back. 

As you probably know, Brazil and Turkey successfully or not so successfully (depending on what you read and, more importantly, what happens in the next few months) negotiated a deal that would allow Iran to ship much of its nuclear material to Turkey and avoid further sanctions.  The negotiations have elevated Lula and Brazil to global players, at least temporarily.

Just a few quick thoughts / questions then:
  • While Lula has dismissed speculation of becoming the next UN Secretary General, one could see a grassroots lobbying campaign (similar to the Facebook campaign to get Betty White on SNL) forcing him to accept the job.  Lula would become the second Latin American to occupy the post (a plus in his favor).  However, Javier Perez de Cuellar (1982-1991) might have occupied the post too recently to elect another LA (a point against).  Pérez de Cuéllar as Secretary General, you might remember, contributed to the peace process that ended El Salvador's civil war.
  • The permanent five members of the UNSC might find it in their best interest to thwart any additional effort by Brazil and Lula to assume a major role in world diplomacy.  How does this affect BRIC?  Will Russia and China (with seats already at the table) force Brazil and India to work more closely together?
  • How much of this foreign policy foray is led by Lula and likely to end with Lula?
  • Will Lula become the new Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton?
  • Will the US act to undermine a peacemaker in the same way that it tried with Oscar Arias and Esquipulas II?
Sorry, I don't have answers to these questions.  What do you think?  Any other implications?

Guatemalan Man Killed in Virginia

According to the Washington Examiner
The residents of a Centreville mansion where a handyman was killed by two intruders say the man died trying to protect them.
Thirty-nine-year-old Jose Ramiro Rosales Cardona, of Manassas, was killed Monday morning after the gunmen entered the house through the garage. The gunmen fled after the shooting.
Robbie Brar says he believes he wouldn't be alive if Rosales hadn't gotten between the gunmen and the family.

Rosales, a devout Christian who regularly sent money back to his family in Guatemala, worked regularly in the home and for the Brars' construction and real estate business.

The 28-year-old Brar says he, his parents and younger brother were home at the time of the attack. He says they plan to help Rosales' family any way they can.

Who thought that this was a good idea?

Now that's pretty dumb.
A Jefferson County geometry teacher was investigated by the Secret Service after he used a hypothetical assassination of President Obama as a way to teach angles.
School officials say the Corner High School teacher apparently was teaching his students about parallel lines and angles and used the example of where to stand and aim to shoot the president.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Early Voting in Lackawanna County

From the Scranton Times Tribune
Polling places were quiet and voting remained light at mid day for the primary election.
Marion Medalis, county deputy director of voter registration, reported all was going smoothly at polling places throughout Lackawanna County.
"We got the usual amount of calls (from voters)," Ms. Medalis said. She said some called to find out where they should vote, and there were others who apparently could not remember for which party they had registered.

Otherwise, Ms. Medalis said just before noon, "it's just kind of quiet."
If you can't remember whether you're a registered Republican or Democrat, you shouldn't get to vote.  We can't make it any simpler. 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Extortion and Bus Drivers in Guatemala

The Christian Science Monitor recently published a story about the violent life of Guatemalan bus drivers.  While many of the stories are familiar to readers of this blog and others covering events in Central America, it was interesting to read that as of mid-2007 the killing of bus drivers drew outrage. 
At the time [August 2007], Mr. Chivalan's death was a front-page story in Guatemalan tabloids...Since then, the killing of bus drivers has become a footnote in this country's violent downward spiral, in which Escobar has seen neighbors become widows.
I was last in Guatemala in June 2007.  I remember hitting the ground because gunshots had rung out somewhere nearby.  It turned out that there had been an exchange of gunfire about one-half block away following a traffic altercation (someone on a motorcycle had cut someone else off).  One guy that I saw had been shot and killed while another had been shot, but was still breathing.  I don't know what happened to him in the end.

I never had any problems on the buses in Guatemala, either in the capital or between departments.  However, I'll probably spend more time traveling by cab when I go to Guatemala City this July to carry out some research.  Let's hope that this trip is uneventful.

Death Threats Against Jesuits in Colombia

Javier Darío Restrepo on IPS News has an interesting story about a Jesuit priest in Colombia, Father Javier Giraldo. 

The death threats against Catholic priest Javier Giraldo painted on walls in the Colombian capital may have come from far-right paramilitaries, the military, drug trafficking gangs or groups with interests in African oil palm plantations.
Nor can it be entirely ruled out -- even if it is a remote possibility -- that they were spray-painted by left-wing guerrillas. After all, the first people killed in the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, which Giraldo supports, were slain by a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that dominated that part of the northwestern province of Antioquia.
Despite the powerful enemies he faces, Giraldo, a dedicated human rights defender, refuses police bodyguards. Besides his total distrust of anyone who carries a weapon, Giraldo has said he could not bear it if someone else were injured or killed during an attempt on his life.

The Hidden Costs of Violence

Indira Srivastava has an article republished at Mike Hitchen Online that discusses the costs of violence in non-conflict (probably meaning non-civil war) countries.
Armed violence destroys lives and livelihoods, breeds insecurity, and hampers prospects for human development. According to the most recent estimates, the total cost of armed violence in non-conflict countries amounts to $163 billion – more than the total annual spending on official development assistance.
In El Salvador, firearm violence costs the state and its citizens 11.5 percent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – more than twice the budget for education and health (4.8 percent of GDP), according to the most recently available figures that relate to 2003.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One more to the Righteous List

From the AP:
Israel's ambassador to El Salvador says a Salvadoran diplomat will be named as one of the "Righteous Among the Nations" for helping save Jews during World War II.
Ambassador Mattanya Cohen says the distinction will be awarded posthumously to Jose Arturo Castellanos, who gave citizenship certificates to as many as 40,000 Jews during the Holocaust.
The "Righteous Among the Nations" recognizes non-Jews who helped Jews escape death in Nazi-controlled Europe.

Castellanos is the first Salvadoran to be so recognized. He served as El Salvador's consul general in Geneva, Switzerland, in the early 1940s. He died at age 86 in his homeland in 1977.
Tim linked to an article two years ago that gives a more detailed description of Castellanos' actions.

Dangerous Game

Am I allowed to shoot and eat trespassers in Pennsylvania?

As long as Joe Sestak isn't my next Senator, I should be okay.
On Sestak’s new Senate campaign website, he specifically highlights his efforts on behalf of animal rights. His first boast is of his 82% score with the anti-hunting organization, Humane Society of the United States. This is the organization whose leader has said, “[I]f we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.” He didn’t stop there, as he said a few months earlier, “Our goal is to get sport hunting in the same category as cock fighting and dog fighting. Our opponents say hunting is a tradition. We say traditions can change.”
Don't be mislead, Sestak didn't say those things.  But, what's the difference. 

And then there's this discomfiting news.
Ultimately, Joe Sestak is bad for Pennsylvania’s gun owners, something reflected by his previous F rating with NRA.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Extortion in the U.S.A.

A few days ago, I mentioned how rapidly crimes of extortion were growing in Guatemala and how extortion in both El Salvador and Guatemala was forcing people to flee north to the US. 

Well, for many, the extortion doesn't stop when they flee.  From
Agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) say they have rescued three children being held hostage by smugglers in Phoenix.
The parents of the three children, from El Salvador, allegedly paid $13,000 to have the kids smuggled into the United States and delivered to Washington, D.C. but after the smugglers demanded additional ransom twice, the parents contacted federal officials for help.
ICE investigators worked to find the children and have them delivered to a safe location in the Valley. The children will be united with their parents.
It looks like they moved the country to northern Mexico just so that they could fit Phoenix, Washington, D.C., and El Salvador onto a single map.

Asylum in U.S.A.

Here's an interesting article from the Chicago Tribune related to the increasing number of Mexicans and Central Americans applying for asylum in the United States. 

Unlike the 1970s and 1980s, when people fled Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua because of state-directed repression, most asylum seekers today are fleeing from violence (beatings, murder, extortion, rape, forced recruitment, etc.) committed by drugtraffickers, organized crime, and gangs. 

For a successful asylum application, the petitioner needs to show that he (or she)
  • fled his home country because he suffered persecution,
  • will suffer persecution should he be sent home,
  • the authorities are unable or unwilling to protect him,
  • was targeted because of his membership in a particular social group, and
  • cannot reasonably relocate within his home country to escape the perpetrators who targeted him in the first place.
Even those who have strong cases are often denied asylum and sent back to their home countries.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Venezuela arrests suspects in US priest's slaying - Yahoo! News

In a follow-up to the killing of a US priest in Venezuela on April 29th, it appears that  Rev. Esteban Woods was murdered during a break-in at his apartment.  (AP/Yahoo)
Venezuelan police have arrested and charged three suspects with murder in the slaying of an American priest.
The Attorney General's Office announced in a statement Wednesday that the suspects were arrested last week...
Prosecutors initially suspected he was stabbed to death, but now believe he was strangled.
I'm going to have to as my Criminal Justice colleagues, but how does one mistake a case of strangulation for a stabbing?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Guatemalan First Lady Travels to Arizona

The first lady of Guatemala, Sandra Torres de Colom, is scheduled to travel to Arizona on Wednesday (Prensa Libre).  According to the Minister of Exterior Relations, Mrs. Colom is on a "humanitarian" trip and not an "official" one.  She is there to learn about the situation of Guatemalans in the state and to learn more about the recently approved anti-Latino law.
Photo: I have no idea why Prensa Libre posted this photo to accompany
the story.  Anyway, it must be important so I am posting it as well.

Migrant groups in Arizona hope that the trip is just about this humanitarian issue and that she won't use it to drum up support for a run at the presidency in 2011.  Good luck with that.

Monday, May 10, 2010

PBS Frontline and the Pottsville, Iowa Raid

PBS Frontline will air a dicumentary entitled "Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages" Tuesday night at 9:00 P.M. 
A documentary examining the impact an immigration raid had on Postville and a small Guatemala village will air on Iowa Public Television Tuesday.
Nearly 400 illegal workers were arrested in a 2008 raid on Agriprocessors, a meatpacking plant in Postville, in May 2008.
"Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages" follows deported workers from Postville back to Guatemala...It includes Courier video and files from the raid, and shows what life is like for the immigrants in Postville and their families in Guatemala.  (

Murder and Extortion

The murders of bus drivers and transport owners continue in Guatemala. 
The president of a transportation cooperative was gunned down as he left his house in a suburb in the southern section of Guatemala City, a union leader said.
Hugo Morales, who was killed on Saturday, had been threatened with death by gang members who extorted money from him every week, Short Haul Transportation Union chief Gamaliel Chin said...
Gang members were demanding that Morales pay them $1,875 per week to operate his buses in the area, and the businessman had refused to hand over the money, Chin said. (Latin American Herald Tribune)
The article does not say how many drivers work for the cooperative, but it does mention that 6 of its drivers have been murdered so far this year out of 22 nationwide. 

Extortion has recently surpassed kidnapping as the most common criminal act in Guatemala..  According to the PNC, there have been 35 kidnapping cases and 400 extortion cases so far this year.  (Prensa Libre)  

Criminals have increasing relied on extortion because it requires less risk and sophistication compared to kidnapping.  They also seem to be relying more upon telephone extortion scams.  If it is anything like El Salvador, the target of the extortion will receive a phone call from an unidentified person.  The caller will have some details about the person's family and finances.  The victim will then be given several hours to come up with $500 to $1500 or some harm will come to them and their family. 

While bus operators are the most publicized group suffering extortion in Guatemala and El Salvador, small business owners and those with family in the US are often targeted as well.  Gangs have targeted people with family in the US because it is assumed that these people have access to cash.

Like El Salvador, the calls have come from prisons within the country.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Roque Dalton II

Here is English-language coverage from the IPS of the Roque Dalton flap that I mentioned last Thursday.  The Dalton family has also sent a letter to the government of Mexico in protest of its having hired Joaquin Villalobos (another former ERP commander involved in Roque's death) as a consultant in its war against drug trafficking.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Updates on the Poveda and teachers' murders

The PNC has taken several suspects into custody related to two separate high profile murders.  French Filmaker Cristian Poveda was murdered while making a film on gangs in El Salvador in September 2009.  In the other case, three teachers were abducted and killed in April after they had denounced gang members to the police for stealing computers and other supplies from Centro Escolar El Ángel.  (Contrapunto)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Roque Dalton

On May 10, 1975, the leadership of the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) ordered the assassination of Roque Dalton on charges of insubordination. Dalton believed that the ERP should forge links with the country's mass (non-revolutionary) organizations and for that he was killed.

Those who collaborated in the decision to kill Dalton include Joaquin Villalobos, Jorge Melendez, Edgar Alejandro Rivas Mira, Vladimir Rogel, Alberto Sandoval and Matthew (pseudonym). 

President Funes recently appointed Melendez (nom de guerre "Jonas") Director of Civil Protection for the country.  Funes' appointment of one of Roque Dalton's killers to his cabinet has caused quite an uproar because he has praised Dalton on several occasions in recent months.  Funes has said
“tenemos en mi país dos altos referentes del espíritu. Uno de ellos, mi maestro, mi guía, que nos ha formado en la opción preferencial por los pobres, Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero. El otro es nuestro más grande poeta, Roque Dalton. Él escribió: "Tener fe es la mejor audacia, y la audacia es bellísima. Yo tengo esa fe; sé que ustedes la tienen"
"we have in my country two related high spirits." One of them, my teacher, my guide that has formed in us the preferential option for the poor, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero. The other is our greatest poet, Roque Dalton. He wrote: "to have faith is the best audacity and audacity is beautiful." "I have this faith; I know that you have it." (Contrapunto I)   
The Secretary of Culture even designated 2010 as "el Año Roque Dalton" and plans to celebrate his poetry during the month of May.  The Dalton family recently held a press conference to condemn Jonas' appointment.  They called on Funes to dismiss him from the cabinet and, until that is done, to stop celebrating Roque Dalton and using his name while his unrepentant killer remains in the administration.
The Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la UCA - IDHUCA put it brutally.
No sólo ofende a los hijos y a la viuda, sino a toda la sociedad salvadoreña. Esto equivaldría a nombrar a miembros de la “tandona” o de los “escuadrones de la muerte”.
It offends not only Dalton's children and widow but the whole of Salvadoran society. [Appointing Jonas] This would be the equivalent of appointing "tandona" or the "death squads" members [to the government].
Funes came out swinging on Wednesday saying that the state can do pretty much whatever it wants with Dalton's name and legacy (Contrapunto II).  Dalton belongs to the Salvadoran people and he has no intention of removing Jonas from his position.  While keeping a straight face, Funes also said that according to the country's Constitution, Jonas is innocent until proven guilty.

To celebrate Roque's life and to join in solidarity with the Dalton family, the UCA will celebrate Mass next Monday on the thirty-fifth anniversary of his death, in the chapel of Jesucristo Liberador.

America Rising An Open Letter to Democrat Politicians

A friend posted this on her facebook page.  For some reason, the person who posted the video on youtube can't understand why others concluded that the video was threatening in any way.


Legal status extended for Central Americans - Yahoo! News

While in El Salvador on Wednesday, Arturo Valenzuela announced that the US Government decided to extend temporary protected status to Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans for another eighteen months.  (AP/Yahoo

Nicaraguans and Hondurans living in the US prior to December 30, 1998 were provided with this privileged status because of the devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch.  Roughly 70,000 benefit from the policy.

On the other hand, approximately 200,000 Salvadorans benefit from the TPS that was extended to them following the two devastating earthquakes in 2001.  While I am happy for those that immigrants that benefit from the policy, I can't really say that it makes sense so many years after the natural disasters occurred. 

Any bets on when the US will end the program?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Former Guatemalan Soldier Arrested in Palm Beach

From the US Department of Justice
A former Guatemalan special forces soldier was arrested today in Palm Beach County, Fla., for lying on his naturalization application about his participation in a 1982 massacre at a Guatemalan village known as Dos Erres...
“Those who commit human rights abuses abroad cannot subvert U.S. immigration laws in order to take shelter in the United States,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary John T. Morton. “We are firmly committed to denying human rights abusers entrance into this country, weeding out those that are already here, and will enforce this U.S. government policy of no safe haven for human rights violators.”
Good news indeed. One can hope that this marks a sincere commitment on the part of our government to pursue legal action against human rights violators living amongst us (even if we don't do it for our own officials).   The Miami Herald has more background on Dos Erres and others wanted in the US in connection with the massacre.
Today's events follow the October decision by the Department of Homeland Security to initiate deportation proceedings against former Salvadoran Ministers of Defense General José Guillermo Garcia and General Eugenio Vides Casanova.  (Center for Justice and Accountability)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

NAFTA = Chinese Jobs

I can't say that I follow Ohio politics, but I did find it interesting that some Ohioans blame NAFTA (a Mexico, Canada, and US free trade agreement) for their jobs going overseas to China.

From CNN
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, locked in a tough re-election fight against Republican John Kasich, is going negative in his first television ad of the campaign.
The tough new ad features Meghan Cofield, a Dayton factory worker whose job "got shipped to China" thanks to trade deals like NAFTA, which Kasich voted for when he served in Congress.

The negative ad isn't as bad.  It blames both NAFTA and a special trade deal with China for the job loss.  CNN appears to have been just as lazy in reporting on the thirty-second ad.

A Stunning Display

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Noriega visits Paris

I know that I'm a little late to the Noriega story.  However, everytime that I read about his early release after serving seventeen years in prison, I get more annoyed with that whole Panama invasion thing. 

How can anyone really justify the invasion of a sovereign country and the deaths of a few thousand people if the best that our criminal justice system can get for the suspect is a twenty year sentence?  There's got to be a different way. 

Catholic Priest Murdered in Venezuela

From the AP/Miami Herald
Venezuelan police and prosecutors are investigating the stabbing death of an American priest.
The Attorney General's Office says Father Esteban Woods was slain inside his apartment in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz on Thursday. No arrests have been made...
The prosecutor's office says Woods was a 68-year-old native of Vancouver, Washington, and served as a priest in Venezuela's Roman Catholic Church for 23 years.

Another Guilty Verdict in the Stang Case

From Bradley Brooks at the Washington Post
A jury convicted a Brazilian rancher Saturday of orchestrating the slaying of U.S.-born nun and Amazon defender Dorothy Stang in 2005.
Regivaldo Galvao -- the last of five defendants to stand trial in the case -- was sentenced to 30 years in prison, said Telma Lima, a spokeswoman for the federal court in Belem, the jungle city where the trial was held.
Sister Dorothy had worked to protect the rainforest and the land rights of poor famers for over three decades before she was shot and killed.

A Sociology Professor with Guns

From the AP
Police in Panama say they have found an arsenal of assault rifles, grenades and almost a half million rounds of ammunition at the home of a Guatemalan-born sociology professor.
Professor Vinicio Jimenez of the Chiriqui regional university is under arrest following the raid on his home....
Police say the raid netted 47 assault rifles, 24 machine pistols, 487,900 rounds of ammunition and almost 4,000 grenades and grenade-style munitions.

Peru's Dirty War

A Peruvian court recently acquitted two soldiers and a police officer who were suspected of disappearing four peasants from the town of Matero, Ayacucho, in late July 1986.  (IPS News)

The news report makes it seem like such a frustrating ruling.  The special court ruled that while there was sufficint evidence that the army had disappeared the men, reasonable doubt remained as to which specific individuals was responsible. 

The police officer who turned over the "suspects" to the army was acquitted as were the two soldiers.  It looks like these two soldiers might have taken the suspects from the police headquarters to the base. 

According to human rights defenders, the case is not an anomaly.
"The acquittal of the two soldiers and the police officer accused of the forced disappearance of the four peasants in Matero is not an isolated incident," said Carlos Rivera, an attorney from the non-governmental Legal Defence Institute. "It forms part of a trend in the judicial branch to exonerate human rights violators."
They do this "under the argument that there isn’t sufficient proof against the accused or that there is reasonable doubt of their guilt," Rivera told IPS.
"This is the seventh case in which the Special Criminal Court has acquitted the military personnel and police implicated. In three other cases, they were found guilty," he added.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

El Salvador - 1985

Journeyman Pictures has a compilation of CNN videos from the 1985 elections in El Salvador.  I'm always struck by the child soldiers in the FMLN which very few people seemed to have cared about.  While Innocent Voices focuses on child soldiers forcibly recruited into the army, the FMLN also made use of child soldiers.  I don't get the impression that the FMLN forcibly conscripted children, but that doesn't make me feel much better seeing eleven-year olds walking around in battle fatigues with an AK-47.