Monday, December 31, 2012

Ixil congresswoman dies in plane accident

On Saturday, Guatemalan Congresswoman Catarina Castor Perez died when the private plane in which she was flying crashed in Nebaj, Quiche. Castor was a member of the Patriot Party. She was on her way to the city of Santa Cruz to take part in a ceremony to celebrate the 16th anniversary of the signing of the peace agreements that ended Guatemala’s civil war.

Castor was the first female Ixil to win a congressional seat. As a member of congress, she served on the Agricultural, Food Security, and Indigenous Peoples commissions, the last of which she served as its vicepresident.

Unfortunately, poor road conditions and insecurity lead government officials and others who have the means to make use of private planes and helicopters more than they probably need to. Early indications are that the plane struck a tree and fell to the ground because it was overweight. The pilot also died while the governor of Quiche survived.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends, and the people of Quiche.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

16 years of peace in Guatemala

Today, the people of Guatemala celebrated the sixteenth year since the signing of the Firm and Lasting Peace in 1996. During the event's commemoration at the National Palace of Culture, President Otto Perez Molina said that
Peace is only going to be possible when there are no children with hunger, when there is no chronic malnutrition, when there is opportunity for all.
Former commander Ricardo Rosales, on the other hand, argued that the national problems that caused the conflict, such as poverty, remain unresolved and that there can be no peace without respect for natural resources and with the criminalization of social protest.

I haven't seen any firm numbers for there sure seems to have been an increase in violent conflict between the state and the Guatemalan people over natural resources, indigenous rights, and a variety of social issues. The murder rate will continue to go down this year, as it did in 2010 and 2011, but social unrest seems to be increasing with both government and nongovernmental officials worrried about what 2013 will bring (See Sunday's story from Prensa Libre).

Read more here:

Read more here:ó que los problemas nacionales como la pobreza, que originaron el conflicto, permanecen sin resolverse y que no puede existir paz sin el respeto a los recursos naturales y con la criminalización de la protesta social.

Read more here:

Friday, December 28, 2012

Over 40,000 Guatemalans deported from US in 2012

On Friday morning, the last three planes of the year carrying 371 Guatemalans deported from the U.S. touched down at La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City. Their arrival increased the number of Guatemalans deported via air from the US in 2012 to 40,647. The total deported was 9,792 over that of 2011 for an increase of 32%.

The Guatemalan migration director fears that the number deported in 2013 could equal or surpass 2012's total should the U.S. Department of Homeland Security not offer Temporary Protected Status to Guatemala in the next few months.

IPS coverage of Latin America

At the end of 2012, I am thankful that IPS provides consistently strong reporting on Latin America.

Julio Godoy, Edgardo Ayala, and Danilo Valladares co-wrote a piece on Renewable Energy Alliance Stretches From Germany to Central America.
Recent collaborations between German and Central American experts on renewable energy made one thing clear: governments in Central America will need to launch comprehensive industrial policies if they are to harness the full capacity of renewables.
Several Central American engineers from the private sector, in Germany for an educational tour sponsored by the German government back in October, told IPS that a lack of coordination between different sectors – such as education, finance, and technology imports – is hindering efforts to expand and optimise the renewables sector.
Marcela Valente checks in with A Year of Progress in Argentina’s Human Rights Trials.
Although it didn’t receive much media coverage, this year Argentina’s justice system made strides in speeding up human rights cases, and dozens of defendants were convicted, three decades after the end of the 1976-1983 dictatorship.
Figures from the “prosecution unit for the coordination and monitoring of cases involving human rights violations committed during the state terrorism” indicate that nearly 400 suspects were tried this year, and that 86 of them were sentenced, 72 of them for the first time.
The accused, mainly former members of the military and former politicians, were charged with crimes against humanity such as kidnapping, illegal detention, torture, sexual violence, theft of the babies of political prisoners, homicide and forced diappearance.
Finally, Edgar Ayala had a story on Gangs Back Plan for Violence-Free Districts in El Salvador.
Salvadoran youth gang leaders have accepted a proposal to declare 10 municipalities free of violence – a bold plan that has run up against the mistrust of vast segments of society with regard to the gangs and their aim of reinsertion in society.
“We want to eradicate all illegal activities and have a better relationship with the community,” Carlos Mojica, alias “El Viejo Lin”, the leader of one of the two factions of the Barrio 18 gang, told IPS.
The initiative launched by the mediators of the peace process between the gangs and the government, former guerrilla fighter Raúl Mijango and Catholic bishop Fabio Colindres, was publicly accepted on Dec. 4 by the heads of the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), the two main gangs in El Salvador, and later by smaller groups like Máquina, Mao Mao and Mirada Locos, according to a communique.
I hope that these trends continue in 2013 - coordination on improving the use of renewable energy in Central America, prosecutions for human rights violations in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America, and a transformative gang truce in El Salvador.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The United States should grant TPS for Guatemala

My newest Al Jazeera piece is just a short shout out to President Obama to get behind TPS for Guatemala.
Central America is a region that suffers from frequent natural disasters, including earthquakes, tropical storms and volcanic eruptions. Guatemala has recently suffered from each of these disasters and this nation where over 50 percent of the population lives in poverty is having a difficult time recovering.
In order to help Guatemala recover from these natural disasters, President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano should move to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the estimated 1.5-1.7 million Guatemalans living in the United States.
According to Guatemala's central bank, Guatemalans working in the US sent over $4bn in remittances to their families living in Guatemala between January and November, a 9 percent increase over the same period in 2011. The Guatemalan people cannot afford the loss of their second largest source of national revenue (remittances) or the increased costs associated with the return of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of deported Guatemalans from the US.
On the one hand, it sure would be nice if, in return for TPS, President Otto Perez Molina promised (1) to tackle corruption, organized crime, and drug trafficking in his government and among his associates, (2) to support the justice system in its pursuit to hold former leaders accountable for massive human rights violations even if he disagrees with the court's rulings, and (3) to support human rights advocates (widely interpreted) involved in defending the rights of the poor, indigenous, and other vulnerable populations.

On the other hand, I hope that the US simply approves TPS because helping a neighbor in need is the right thing to do. There should be no strings attached. Just a little Christmas gift.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Violence to end the year in Guatemala

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable Christmas. Unfortunately, while the murder rate in Guatemala looks like it will be down for the third year in a row, that's little consolation for those who live in constant fear of violence from gangs and organized crime.

Al Jazeera has a brief report on gangs that were demanding holiday bonuses from bus operators. Extortion stories come out at Christmas every year. That's not to minimize the story's seriousness, just to say that this is a fact of life around Christmas and most other days of the year for bus operators and other Guatemalans.

In the second story, a prosecutor from Chiquimula and six others were killed in an ambush near the Mexican border as they were returning from the inauguration of a hotel in La Messilla city. Authorities blame drug traffickers but it could just as well have been organized crime. The Minister of the Interior did say that individuals involved in Chiquimula's criminal justice system had received death threats earlier this year but he did not say whether the threats had been directed at Irma Olivares, the prosecutor killed in the attack.
The attackers burned the bodies of their victims, including Chiquimula prosecutor Irma Olivares, a businessman and the director of a regional government social services agency, said Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez. The bodies of three bodyguards were found in another charred vehicle nearby.
Like the extortion story, the assassinations of prosecutors and other individuals in the criminal justice system do happen. Assistant Prosecutor Allan Stowlinsky Vidaurre was murdered in Coban in May 2011.
About 42 percent of crimes and acts of violence in Guatemala are tied to drug trafficking, according to government estimates.
I hadn't heard that last statistic before (at least that I can remember). Otto Perez Molina was fudging murder numbers on the campaign trail in 2011 but I am not sure whether these came from his people or more of an independent agency.

While Guatemala might show improvement in murder and other crime statistics in 2012, it's clear that the government, CICIG, and others working to improve the country have a long way to go before the Guatemalan people will be able to live the lives that they deserve.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

El Salvador's Rating Outlook is revised to Negative

Standard & Poor's lowered El Salvador's outlook from Stable to Negative.
Rating agency Standard & Poor's on Friday cut El Salvador's sovereign credit outlook to negative from stable, citing the risk that political gridlock could weigh on growth.
The agency affirmed the country's BB-minus sovereign rating.
"The outlook revision reflects the risk of a downgrade if political polarization continues to weigh on investment and GDP growth, resulting in a higher burden of fiscal and externaldebt," Standard & Poor's said in a statement.
Moody's Investors Service rates El Salvador Ba3 with a stable outlook. Fitch rates the country BB with a negative outlook.
I can't say that they're wrong on political gridlock as the country's congress is very divided and its members have few incentives to work across the aisle as they all have their sights set on 2014's presidential elections. They have had a constitutional crisis in 2011 and 2012 around the Independence of the country's judiciary. This year has also been a fight over the selection of the Fiscalia.

The 2014 elections are likely to swing the country back to the right (Quijano and ARENA) or to the left (Sanchez Ceren). While the terms left/right don't mean what they used to, the country will likely see some attempts to water down tax reform, reduce expenditures on the poor, and repeat the mantra that the free market (which ES has never had) solves all. I would also worry about the government's involvement in a gang truce.

Should the FMLN win, the government will continue to spend a larger share of the country's GDP on health, education, and other social programs which isn't a bad thing if the economy can sustain the increases. The government will also move closer to the socialist models of Venezuela and Nicaragua, but in its own Cuscatlecan style.

Should the FMLN win in 2014, one might look back at the Funes administration as a transitional one that moved the country slightly towards the left laying the groundwork for the implementation of a more radical system desired by the FMLN. Should ARENA win in 2014, ARENA partisans will say that their victory was the result of failed radical policies pursued by the Funes and FMLN government.

While it's not always about the US, I do wonder whether we can draw some parallels to the US's support for the Christian Democrats during the 1980s when it tried to prop up a moderate civilian alternative to ARENA and the FMLN. PDC corruption and a contradictory policy of support for the government's military helped contribute to that alternative's failure and the subsequent emergence of a system dominated by ARENA (beginning in 89) and the FMLN (in 94).

For some, the Funes administration was meant to be a moderate alternative to the crony capitalism or electoral authoritarianism desired by ARENA and the 21st century socialism desired by the FMLN. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended Funes' inauguration. President Obama made a very important visit to El Salvador in 2011 and fought to have Mari Carmen Aponte returned to El Salvador as ambassador. The US has also invested over half a billion dollars in various aid programs in the last few years (no, not just security).

A choice between returning to the ARENA of old (which really doesn't seem to have changed at all) or to the non-democratic left is not what the US was hoping for in 2014. Given that Funes' approval rating remain above 60%, I can't say that's the choice Salvadorans were looking forward to either.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Corruption charges against Miguel Angel Rodriguez overturned

On Friday, a Costa Rican appeals court overturned the conviction of former president Miguel Angel Rodriguez (1998-2002) on instigating corruption charges.
Rodriguez and other former government officials were charged with taking bribes in exchange for giving the Latin American branch of the French telecom company Alcatel a $149 million cellphone contract while he was president in 2001...     
Rodriguez told a radio station that Friday's ruling shows the case was "a political humbug staged by an attorney general who wanted to stand out and get noticed." 
The court ruled that prosecutors had waited too long to bring charges against the former president and do not appear to have ruled on the merits of the charges against Rodriguez. The court also overturned convictions against two other government officials and a formed Alcatel manager because “the evidence against them was improperly obtained.”

Costa Rica scored 54 (where one hundred is least corrupt) on Transparency International's most recent Corruption Perception Index.

Read more here:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Honduran congress wants parliamentary democracy

Honduras Politics and Culture and Geoffrey Ramsey have the latest on happenings on Honduras. From RNS
The Honduran Congress is on the way to passing legislation that would give it the power it claimed de facto by firing four Supreme Court judges. Except the new law would allow Congress to remove any high government official, elected or appointed. Even the President.
Call it the legal coup law. Or "the Law of Political Judgement".
The Honduran congress might as well come out and propose to change the country's political system from a presidential democracy with checks and balances to a parliamentary democracy with parliamentary, or legislative, supremacy. From wikipedia
Parliamentary sovereignty (also called parliamentary supremacy or legislative supremacy) is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. It holds that the legislative body has absolute sovereignty, and is supreme over all other government institutions, including executive or judicial bodies. The concept also holds that the legislative body may change or repeal any previous legislation, and so that it is not bound by written law (in some cases, even a constitution) or by precedent.
Parliamentary sovereignty may be contrasted with the doctrines of separation of powers, which limits the legislature's scope often to general law-making, and judicial review, where laws passed by the legislature may be declared invalid in certain circumstances. Many states have sovereign legislatures, among which are the United Kingdom,[1] Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and others.
It wouldn't be the first time in Latin America's history. Chile had a parliamentary democracy from the late 19th century until the first few decades of the 20th. Brazil also had it for a bit when Goulart went on a trip to China. I'm just not sure that you can have parliamentary supremacy within a presidential system of government.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chileans Don't Want to Work During "End of the World"

So the people of Detroit are silly for cancelling classes because of the impending end of the world. However, they're not alone.
Chileans Don't Want to Work During "End of the World"
Superstitions about what could happen on December 21st seem to be big in the South American nation of Chile. In a telephone survey conducted in that country by the website, , 24 percent of respondents said that they will ask their employers for the day off on December 21st, with almost half of these respondents saying that they will do so because they are "very superstitious." The 21st of December marks the end of a 5,000 year long period of the Mayan Calendar, known as the 13th Baktun. Some western mystics have said that this date represents "the end of the world," while others describe it as a period of renewal, or as a chance to connect with Mother Earth.
I can't complain. People work too much anyway.If you can't get the end of the world off, you need to find another job.

Those happy Latin Americans

Gallup Inc. asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year if they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment.
In Panama and Paraguay, 85 percent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top of the list.
They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Looking at the complete list, Nicaragua checks in at 77%. I thought that it would be higher given what we read about economic growth, poverty reduction, and relatively low levels of crime. Seventy-seven percent doesn't seem that low except that Hondurans were even more upbeat at 79%. All are above the US which checks in at 76%. I wouldn't take the poll too seriously although it is nice to know that the world is pretty upbeat.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fulbright to Guatemala

Like most faculty, the end of the semester gets pretty busy with grading papers and exams. This year, the semester's end also led to time dedicated to discussing the implementation of a merit pay system, moving the Education for Justice office (which I run) to a new location, and going to New York City for Freedom House's annual meeting for its Freedom in the World publication. I'm also working to get an R and R out before Christmas.

In addition, but am in no way complaining, I am also preparing to take advantage of a spring sabbatical. I am honored to have been selected for a Fulbright Scholarship to Guatemala where I will be spending the next six months.

My proposal called for teaching a course at the Francisco Marroquin University on Comparative Civil Wars and carrying out research on the former guerrillas turned political party, the URNG. It's a Teaching/Research grant that calls for about 60% teaching and 40% research. I hope to do some other work on the party system, in general, and the Patriot Party specifically.

At the end of last week, however, I found out that my proposed class at the UFM didn't roster. Now, I'm trying to work with the administration at the UFM to see what else we can work out.

Getting ready to go has been more time consuming than I thought which is why I've been on Twitter a little more often than the blog. Hopefully, that'll start to change as long as the world doesn't end this week.

Please drop me an email if you are in Guatemala or plan to be next year so that we can meet up. I'd love to meet up and talk politics and avenues of collaboration.


News from around Central America

Here are a few interesting stories from the past few weeks that I wanted to write about but just hadn't gotten around to:

To no one's surprise, Tony Saca will run for another term as president in El Salvador (Tim). According to the polls, Salvadorans prefer the FMLN to ARENA. However, they prefer Quijano to Sanchez Ceren. And Saca leads to a near certain runoff (whatever that means fifteen months from the actual election). That's the easy story. The more difficult one to explain is that Funes is still popular (over 60%) even though Salvadorans do not think that the economy or the security situation is going particularly well. He has he's not the FMLN nor is he ARENA going for him.

The blocking of a rural development law by in Guatemala by Danilo Valladares. The first year of OPM has had some big failures - sounds like it should be an Al Jazeera post.

Deforestation Wreaks Havoc in Guatemala’s Caribbean Region by Valladares as well.

Peace zones and the gang truce in El Salvador by Boz, Tim and Insight Crime.

Will the IACHR's ruling on El Mozote lead Funes to act more than the rulings on the Jesuits? I'm not so sure. Funes has apologized on behalf of the state for a variety of crimes. At this time, it doesn't seem that he's prepared to go any further. I'm not that optimistic that a Quijano or Sanchez Ceren administration will push for a repeal of the amnesty law (if necessary) and trials.

President Funes isn't interested in a repeal of the anti-gang law. I called for its repeal several months ago when I said that it wasn't enough for the gangs to change. The Salvadoran government's approach to gangs also need to change and the truce provided it an opportunity to do so. Maybe it's public posturing like I won't negotiate with gangs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ernesto Che Guevara Lynch

We are watching The Voice and discussing how Christina Aguilera's dad is from Ecuador and her mom from Europe. According to her Wikipedia entry, she is "proud of [her] Latino roots and proud of [her] Irish roots." 

Once I read Irish roots, I thought that it was appropriate to post this mural of Ernesto Che Guevara Lynch. I snapped the photo in Derry, Northern Ireland this summer. Che's grandmother, Ana Lynch, was a descendant of Patrick Lynch, an emigrant from Galway, Ireland in the 1740s.

In speaking about his son's "restless" nature, Che's father declared "the first thing to note is that in my son's veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels."

Guatemala's Maya population facing deep poverty

December 21st marks the end of an era according to the Mayan calendar. It's a date that for some marks the end of the world. As the possible doomsday approaches, many indigenous Maya in Guatemala are facing a difficult reality. Access to education, food and work opportunities are scarce and life for many is an ongoing battle.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Help El Salvador's First Craft Beer Brewery

Brew Revolution is looking for some help through a Kickstarter campaign.

To recap:
  1. Brew Revolution is open and brewing really great American style Ales in El Salvador (the first EVER!)
  2. We have all of our branding, logo, website, bottles, labels etc complete
  3. We already have all of the equipment and ingredients we need to make great beer
  4. We are selling a lot of good beer already to some of the best bars and restaurants
  5. We have dozens more really great bars and restaurants ready to sell our cerveza.
  6. We just need to expand and continue training our team to meet the high demand!
You can make a huge impact and be one of the founding members of the first Craft Brewery in El Salvador, just follow these easy steps:
  1. CREATE a Kickstarter account. It's simple; all it takes is an email and a password.
  2. SIGN IN at - if you already have an account, you're all set. If not, no worries, it is easy to set-up as well.
  3. PLEDGE at whatever level you like! Your card will only be charged when we reach our full goal.
  4. SHARE this with your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and whoever else crosses your path! Let everyone know you are a rock and roller and are backing Brew Revolution's expansion project. And REMEMBER that Kickstarter is an "all or nothing" deal so we need to reach our goal to raise any money or we get zero. So share and tell all your friends a few times!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Miscellaneous thoughts on this Sunday

On Friday, I was invited to give a talk on El Salvador to a number of our staff who are heading down there in early January. First, let me give thanks that I am at a University that is paying to send a few administrative personnel and physical plant and mail room employees on an all-expenses paid trip to El Salvador to learn about that country and to gain a better understanding of themselves and of our Jesuit mission here at the University.

I spent some time giving background information on the country's political, economic, and social situation during the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. Then I spoke of the country's civil war - its causes, the dispute over when it began, the life and death of Oscar Romero, the four US missionaries raped and murdered in 1980, the massacre at El Mozote (see recent IACHR ruling), how the war ended, and the role of the United States. They asked great questions and it was really a joy to speak with them.

As I left, I kept thinking about El Mozote and the 800-1,000 men, women and children gruesomely tortured and killed by the Atlacatl Battalion in December 1981. I told them that the US covered up / failed to investigate the massacre committed by the Salvadoran military because the civil war had serious Cold War implications. The US was willing to put up with the murders of priests, US nuns, and entire villages because standing up for the poor and the innocent civilians being killed by the Salvadoran military might have led to an FMLN-victory and a Cold War victory for the Cubans and the Soviets. I said that I might disagree with the position that the US government took but that that was its thinking.

I returned to my office and then got caught up with the tragedy in Connecticut. The event struck close but fortunately not too close to home. I have daughter in kindergarten. I also went to college in Fairfield county, the county in which the shootings took place. A friend of my lives in Newtown. Fortunately her children do not attend that school although I did not know that until a Facebook post a few hours later.

I'll be back tomorrow. I'm just not sure with what. I need to go play with my kids.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Off to NYC

I'm off to to New York City for the Americas rating review meeting fof Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2013. It should be pretty exciting given what's going on in Central and South America but I'm sure that we can probably say that every year.

What do you think? Which countries have experienced the most significant improvement in terms of democracy in 2012? How about the most significant reverses?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

More tension at da U

We here at the University of Scranton are currently working out the details of a limited merit-based pay system. Apparently the administration wants to move to a performance based review system where faculty are given a minimal across the board cost of living adjustment (maybe not even that). All other salary increments would then be determined based upon a set of undetermined performance measures. However, just because the administration wants to move in the direction doesn't mean that we are there yet.

In order to get our current three-year contract, the faculty agreed to some less than ideal conditions ( I know, that's how negotiations work). Faculty received an across the board increase in 2013. We will do so again in 2014. However, our 2015 pay will be based upon a guaranteed across the board increase of between 1.5% and 3.0% (depending upon where inflation goes) and the opportunity to apply for merit pay on top of that. The merit pay will be no more than $5,000 or 5% of your total salary whichever is greater.

Merit pay applications are due February 15, 2014 and are to cover one's performance in teaching, research, and service during the 2012-2013 academic year. The merit pay adjustment then gets put into one's 2014-2015 salary. So our merit pay for the third year of our contract is based upon what we accomplish during the first year of the contract but the criteria will most likely not be agreed upon until the beginning of the second contract year. That's an obvious concern as is the fact that our merit pay will solely be based upon what we do that academic year - no more, no less. Sure, the Dean can take other years into consideration because that would actually makes sense. However, that's not what the contract says and he'll likely be receiving a slew of grievances should he violate the contract.

The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences is "coordinating" with department chairs and program directors (no, I don't know what "coordinating" entails) to determine what is meritorious scholarship in each discipline (no, he doesn't want any input on teaching or service - he already knows that). While I get that it's difficult to get a sense of scholarship standards in sixteen or so disciplines, it's not clear to me, then, how he has been making rank and tenure recommendations for the last few years. To be fair to him, though, the merit pay criteria does not have to be the same as the criteria for rank and tenure (no, that doesn't entirely make sense to me either).

Once they agree on what counts as meritorious service, the Dean and chairs will then decide whether there should be any differential weighting rubric to be applied to the three professional categories of teaching/librarianship, scholarship, and service that merit adjustments to base salary would address. Here's where it gets tricky. There appears to be some agreement in the College of Arts and Sciences that you need to meet your department's (college's?) minimum expectations in teaching, research, and service in order to successfully apply for merit based pay based upon your performance in one or more of the three categories ( I imagine that they are discussing the minimum expectations in order to determine what's meritorious but I shouldn't assume such things). But then we get to the question as to what the compensation should look like for someone who is meritorious in scholarship versus those who are meritorious in teaching and/or service.

There are some faculty who want merit pay distributed almost entirely based upon scholarship. The dean and administration lean in this direction because they have publicly justified the need for merit pay to prevent da U from losing exceptional faculty. This is mostly paranoia a future-based concern since at most we might lose one really good faculty member every few years. Now I imagine that in academia more generally, most people who leave to go to better universities do so because they are excellent scholars. I can't say really say that's the case here.

People leave Scranton because they've decided that it is not the place for them or their family. It's not because they aren't compensated highly enough for their outstanding research contributions. And if faculty did want to leave for more money elsewhere because of their exceptional scholarly record, the Provost had (and still does) all the power in the world to match or exceed outside offers. He chose not to or the counter still wasn't enough. Therefore the dean and administration's rationale for the need to pursuit a merit based system doesn't hold water.

There are other faculty who would prefer that merit pay be allocated more evenly for meritorious teaching, scholarship, and service. I am in favor of this model. I would prefer that teaching and research make up a larger percentage of how we distribute merit pay (40/40 with 20 for service) but I would probably settle for something like 34/33/33. I support a more balanced distribution because that is why so many of us chose to come to the University of Scranton in the first place.

I am a big believer in the Jesuit mission and I really looked forward to spending my career at an institution that expected its faculty to be good scholars, teachers, and members of the community. Given the way that things are here, I would probably benefit from a merit pay system more strongly oriented towards scholarship. So, in a way, I am going against my financial self-interest by supporting a more balanced approach.

However, I want faculty to come to Scranton because they believe in the Jesuit mission and want to work at an institution that values teaching, research, and service. I want to tell them that they are evaluated for promotion and tenure based upon certain criteria in teaching, research, and service. And, if that's what the administration so desires, as it appears that it does, I want to be able to explain to them that their merit based pay increases will also be tied to their performance in all three categories. It doesn't make sense to me to say that your application for promotion and tenure will be based roughly equal in terms of your teaching, research and scholarship but that your pay will be determine primarily, if not entirely, by your research productivity.

Unfortunately, the recently concluded acrimonious contract negotiations and the forced introduction of an up in the air merit pay system has already made Scranton a less desirable place to work. The administration has succeeded in having its faculty turn against each other.

(Sorry, there are so many other things that I wanted to include here but it might be a good time to stop and get back to work.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Adoptive mother responds to NYT Guatemala adoption story

An adoptive parent of two children from Guatemala, Jessica O'Dwyer, defends the participation of adoptive parents in the broken Guatemalan adoption system on the Parenting blog of the NYT. She writes in response to Rachel Swarns' weekend NYT story on Guatemala.
During the adoption of my daughter in 2002-3, I had ventured far beyond the hotel lobbies that circumscribed the experiences of most adoptive parents. I lived in Antigua, learned Spanish, and had gotten behind the closed doors of bureaucratic offices. The business of adoption was something I felt confident I knew — so well that I wrote a memoir about it, “Mamalita.” But after absorbing the onslaught of evidence in “The Embassy Cables,” I realized what I witnessed represented only the tiniest tip of a colossal iceberg. I had underestimated the scope and scale of dishonesty, its depth and breadth, its absolute magnitude.
For years, I have blamed myself for participating in a corrupt system. “If I hadn’t been willing to adopt from Guatemala, corruption never could have happened.” As I revealed in “Mamalita,” my daughter’s adoption was riddled with problems from beginning to end. After our agency cashed our check and abandoned us, I quit my job and moved to Antigua to finish the case myself. Soon after, my husband and I were urged to pay a bribe. Inquiries to our agency were answered with threats to put our daughter in an orphanage, forever. Seeking help from the United States Embassy, we were told: “This is a Guatemalan problem. We can’t interfere.”
After reading “The Embassy Cables,” I understand that deceit was endemic to the system, and allowed to prevail. It was much more powerful than any one individual. By permitting adoptions from Guatemala, our government reassured me, and thousands of other adoptive parents. While we participated in a corrupt system, we didn’t cause the corruption. This is a distinction that matters.
If you knew anything about the history of Guatemala or the role of the US in that history, you would know to double-check what you hear from the Embassy. But should you blame US citizens for believing what the US government tells them?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Murders of women down in Guatemala once again

From the Latin American Herald Tribune
In 2012 to date some 700 women have been murdered in Guatemala, according to records of the National Institute of Forensic Sciences.
In 2011, according to official statistics, 834 women were slain in the Central American country.
INACIF measures violent deaths, not just murders. The PNC tracks murders. While it's terrible when anyone is killed, it looks like the violent deaths of women (what INACIF measures) will be down once again this year.

That's good news any way you slice it. What remains troubling is the small number of femicides / homicides that lead to successful prosecutions. They have not increased at nearly the rate that that the muder rates have been decreasing.

Guatemala's stalled adoption programs

Rachel Swarns at the New York Times has another story on the difficulties that U.S. couples confront in trying to adopt young children from Guatemala.
The Carrs are among the 4,000 Americans who found themselves stuck in limbo when Guatemala shut down its international adoption program in January 2008 amid mounting evidence of corruption and child trafficking. Officials here and in Washington promised at the time to process the remaining cases expeditiously.
But officials and prospective parents say that bureaucratic delays, lengthy investigations and casework hobbled by shortages of staff and resources have left hundreds of children stranded in institutions for years. Today, 150 children — including Geovany — are still waiting in orphanages and foster homes here while the Guatemalan authorities weigh whether to approve their adoptions to families in the United States.
Only five international adoption cases have been resolved so far this year. It's a shame that the Guatemalan and US governments have been unable to move fast enough on reforming the adoption system but it's worse that they helped to create the criminal system in the first place.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday morning links

Here are a few links collected during the week.

A migration court met in Miami on Monday to consider the deportation of El Salvador's former defense minister, retired general José Guillermo García, who is accused of having tortured and murdered members of the opposition between 1979 and 1983.

Rural Co-ops in Central America Speak Out on Climate Change. Delegations from farming and forestry cooperatives and associations from Central America and the Dominican Republic met in late September to "discuss[ed] a regional agenda for dealing with the impacts of climate change, and for learning how to sustainably manage natural resources. The idea is for the recommendations set forth by the cooperatives to influence policy-making at a regional and national level."

Deaf Ear Turned to Local Opposition to Mines in Guatemala by the country's government and local and international businesses.

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo claims that there is a conspiracy brewwing to remove him similar to what happened to Zelaya in 2009. Lobo claimed that Jorge Canahuati, owner of Grupo Opsa, which publishes the country's two largest daily newspapers is behind the shenanigans.

Friday, December 7, 2012

IDB approves US$45 million loan for El Salvador

From Infosur Hoy
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has approved a US$45 million loan to implement the Central American nation’s new social youth violence prevention project.
The initiative combines work training, institutional strengthening and jail rehabilitation programs, among other actions that will improve the chances of successfully reintegrating young offenders into society.
The project, which is a joint initiative by the federal and local governments, is projected to create more opportunities for nearly 25% of Salvadoran youths between the ages of 15 and 24 who are not employed or in school. The project also will help those between the ages of 18 and 35 who are incarcerated.
“According to several studies, more than one in every ten dollars generated by the Salvadoran economy is absorbed by the cost of crime and violence,” Jean Eric Theinhardt, the IDB’s project leader said in a prepared statement. “This constitutes a key development challenge for the country. The program will work through a series of integrated actions, which taken together offer alternatives to crime and open spaces in society for greater coexistence and rehabilitation.”
El Salvador is no longer home to the world’s second-highest murder rate, which it had in 2011, when a rate of 69.2 per 100,000 inhabitants trailed only Honduras’ 91.6, according to the 2011 United Nations Global Study on Homicide.
Let me just say that it is nice to see an international story on El Salvador provide an update on the country's murder rate. We don't know what the final year's number will look like but that shouldn't stop reporters from saying that they are going down.

Meanwhile in Guatemala, there has been an uptick in murders during the last three months with November being the most violent month of the year. However, CABI still projects the murder rate to fall to 34 per 100,000 in 2012, down from the 39 that was registered last year. OPM's government will have attained a 13% reduction in murders during the first year of his administration.

And in South America, More Killings in Brazil Than in Some War-Torn Countries - can't be good as Brazil prepares for hosting both the World Cup and the Olympics.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Free access to the Journal of Latin American Studies

The Journal of Latin American Studies has a number of articles related to Indigenous Politics in Latin America freely available to non-subscribers right now, including several papers on Guatemala

Stener Ekern from the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo, Norway has an article on The Production of Autonomy: Leadership and Community in Mayan Guatemala.

Elisabet Dueholm Rasc from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utrecht has Quetzaltenango's First Mayan Mayor: Transforming Political Culture and the Politics of Belonging?

Charles Hale from UT Austin has Does Multiculturalism Menace? Governance, Cultural Rights and the Politics of Identity in Guatemala.

Finally, Nick Copeland of the University of Arkansas has ‘Guatemala Will Never Change’: Radical
Pessimism and the Politics of Personal Interest in the Western Highlands.

That's great news from The Journal of Latin American Studies. Thank you. Hopefully, I can get around to reading them once I am done grading and the semester is over. If you have any commentary on the articles that you'd like to share, please forward them to me and I will post them.

(h/t Matthew Scalena on Twitter @mateo79)

Chipping away at democracy in Nicaragua and Panama

I have a new article up at Al Jazeeza on Chipping away at democracy in Nicaragua and Panama. In it, I elaborate on an argument that I began last week.
While overseeing sustained economic growth and relatively low crime rates, governments on the left in Nicaragua and the right in Panama have slowly chipped away at democracy. Recent conditions in these two Central American countries sound somewhat comparable. There is more crime than there used to be, but both are still relatively safe.
Both have experienced several years of strong economic growth and poverty reduction, but both have been undermined by quite a bit of government corruption. Governments have attacked opposition parties and the media leading to an erosion of democracy in the country.
Finally, Daniel Ortega and the Supreme Court of Justice disregarded the country's constitutional ban on re-election in Nicaragua, while critics are concerned that Ricardo Martinelli and the Supreme Court will do the same in Panama. The democratic breakdown in Panama has not been quite as severe as that of Nicaragua, but it does have the potential to become so in the next two years.
Chipping away is probably an understatement with regards to Nicaragua. We'll have to see about Panama. What do you think? Do them get more of a free pass on how we view democracy in the two countries becuase of positive economic growth and relatively low crime rates?


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Voces Inocentes El Salvador

Last night I screened Voces Inocentes for some students and staff at the University of Scranton. It is definitely one of, if not the best, movies about the Salvadoran civil war. It's a true story based on the life of Oscar Torres who grew up in a town caught between the guerrillas and the government in the 1980s. At eleven years old, Oscar (Chava in the movie), becomes the man of the house following his dad's exodus for the United States. He lives with his mom, little brother, farty sister, and, later, with his grandmother.

It's a powerful story about survival in the midst of civil war, child soldiers as no young boy wants to turn twelve out of fear being forcibly conscripted into the army, and the roles of the Catholic Church and the United Sates in civil war El Salvador.

If you have the time and the money, I would also encourage you to bring Oscar out to the screening. We've had him at the University of Scranton twice in the last few years. He's great with students and provides some additional stories about the film that are worth learning about, especially what happened to Cristina Maria.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Abuse of inmates at a psychiatric hospital in Guatemala City

David Mercer has a short clip for Al Jazeera on recent investigations into abuse at a psychiatric hospital in Guatemalan City. The abuse was allegedly committed by hospital staff and by inmates from a prison adjacent to the hospital.

Randy Archibold of the New York Times had a write-up on the findings from Disability Rights International that made the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) act on the allegations. The commission said that conditions at the Federico Mora Hospital were "among the most troubling" but the problem is not unique to Guatemala.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Launching a food revolution in El Salvador

Caro Jaime has the scoop on starting a food revolution in El Salvador.
Today our population is suffering from obesity-related diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and fatty liver disease. The country has about 800,000 diabetic patients, and nearly 500,000 people are assisted each year for suspected hypertension (high blood pressure). These figures should not surprise you, because each weekend in El Salvador $37 million dollars are spent, of which 37% is spent on fast food, specifically pizza and fried chicken. That's why we need an immediate a Food Revolution!
We started our Food Revolution here in El Salvador with young people, connecting with Universities and companies which engage and employ youth, including Teleperformance, a call center, FUSAL, a non-profit organization that works for the nutrition of families in the rural area of the country, Be Fit, a local gym, Pigmalion, an etiquette and personal image school, and Joven360, a youth program which helps young people find work.
The next step is organizing Food Revolution Day 2013 in Santa Tecla.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Justice for My Sister"

The Latin Americanist posted a story and video about "Justice for My Sister"
a documentary released this year that focuses on Rebeca Eunice Pérez, an impoverished Guatemalan woman who sought retribution for her murdered sister, Adela Chacón Tax. The film shows the many hardships faced by Pérez over three years including the trial against her Tax's ex-boyfriend who was accused of beating her to death.
It's even on Prensa Libre's home page.