Friday, April 11, 2014

Constitutional Chamber approves troops in the streets

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court ruled today that the use of the armed forces to support activities of the national civilian police is constitutional.   A citizen had filed a challenge to the use of troops to patrol crime-ridden areas of the country, a practice begun under president Tony Saca and continued by Mauricio Funes.   The challenge asserted that this violated the provisions of El Salvador's constitution, added after the 1992 Peace Accords, which were to return the army to its barracks and limit its role in domestic security.

In its ruling the Constitutional Chamber found that the executive decree authorizing the use of the troops was justified by the exceptional situation of criminality and insecurity in which citizens of the county find themselves.  

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

El Salvador Happy

This video of happy Salvadorans will put a smile on your face.   It worked for me.   :-)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Turquoise-browed Motmot

El Salvador's national bird is el Torogoz, which is easier to say and remember than its English version, the   Turquoise-browed Motmot.

From Wikipedia:
The Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) also called Torogoz by the inhabitants of El Salvador, Guardabarranco in Nicaragua, and the Toh in the Yucatán Peninsula, is a colourful, medium-sized bird of the motmot family, Momotidae. It inhabits Central America from south-east Mexico (mostly the Yucatán Peninsula), to Costa Rica, where it is common and not considered threatened. It lives in fairly open habitats such as forest edge, gallery forest and scrubland. It is more conspicuous than other motmots, often perching in the open on wires and fences. From these perches it scans for prey, such as insects and small reptiles. White eggs (3-6) are laid in a long tunnel nest in an earth bank or sometimes in a quarry or fresh-water well. Its name originates from the color of its brow, turquoise.
Los Torogoces was also the name of a musical group performing revolutionary songs during El Salvador's civil war.  Hear them here.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The status of LGBT rights in El Salvador following the 2014 presidential election

The headline of the article is Transgender people voted for the first time in El Salvador's history,  but the situation the article describes is much less sanguine.   Despite a recent victory over discrimination at polling locations, the LGBT community in El Salvador faces entrenched societal and institutional discrimination in El Salvador.   Journalists Danielle Marie Mackey and Gloria Marisela Moran provide a candid assessment of the slow progress towards the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The election process is really over

Today the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Court rejected by a vote of 3-2 the petition of ARENA which demanded a ballot by ballot recount of the vote from the March 9 presidential elections.   Following the ruling, ARENA released a statement indicating that it would abide by the court's decision because of ARENA's "democratic vocation" and "full respect for the institutionality" of El Salvador.  

While the process stirred up tensions and passions, in the end I think this very close election strengthened governance in the country.   We have had another election in El Salvador which was fought out with passion but not with violence.   The TSE was credited by all independent observers with running a fair and transparent election.   Despite the attacks from Norman Quijano and ARENA on the credibility of the TSE, it proceeded with great openness to follow the requirements of El Salvador's election laws to the letter.  

ARENA did challenge the outcome, but it used mechanisms for challenges which were set out by law.   The TSE quickly addressed the challenges filed before it, and the Constitutional Chamber considered and issued its own ruling.  Thankfully, ARENA now indicates that it will abide by that ruling.

Yesterday the US Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement congratulating Sanchez Ceren on his election as president of El Salvador.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

34th anniversary of assassination of Oscar Romero

March 24 is the 34th anniversary of the 1980 assassination of Salvadoran archbishop, Oscar Arnulfo Romero.   This church man who acted as the "voice of the voiceless"  was gunned down for turning the emphasis of his church to one which would demand justice for the oppressed, the poor, and the campesino.

Much is the same as on other anniversaries -- countless voices in Latin America still call on the Roman Catholic church to canonize Romero as a saint, while his killers go unpunished and uninvestigated by any Salvadoran authority.

Romero's mark on El Salvador and throughout Latin America has been profound.   On this anniversary, watch this music video of the song "Romero" by The Martyrs Project.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Key problem for next president? Police corruption

Governing El Salvador is no easy task.   It is made more difficult by endemic corruption which can extend to the highest levels within the National Civilian Police (PNC).

Insight Crime recently published a series of five detailed articles on police corruption in El Salvador by journalist Hector Silva, formerly of La Prensa Grafica, and now at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University in Washington, D..C.   The series is taken from an upcoming book by Silva, and everyone should read it to understand the threat which corruption stemming from organized crime poses in the country.

Silva concludes the series:

Awaiting the new El Salvador government, which will take office in June this year, after the second voting round which will take place on March 9, discreet voices among US and El Salvador officials are starting to sound alarm bells: "At this stage it could be that the only solution is to get rid of those promoted early on [after the 1992 Peace Accords] and look for new leaders," said a US federal agent in mid-2013.  
Those first promotions, those which have dominated the PNC since the days of the first transgressions -- which allowed officials, values and a culture of impunity to flow unchecked -- have retained power for 20 years. Those first promotions have ruled over two decades marked in general by investigative failures, the absence of internal controls and the consolidation of organized crime. 
Yes, there were exceptional periods marked by the bravery of officials and agents who took advantage of the few loopholes that existed to try to stop the institutional inaction, complicity and neglect. It was during these exceptions that there were various attempts at purging, behind closed doors or openly. It was then when some officials, during the years of Armando Calderon Sol's presidency (1994-1999), dared to accuse political elites of involvement in organized crime. But all these gestures of integrity and ethics were, however, isolated acts and exceptions -- not a sustained trend capable of stopping the infiltration of organized crime which today still infects the PNC.
Read the whole series here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

TSE finishes work -- Sanchez Ceren declared president-elect

El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) received the evidence of alleged fraud and heard testimony from witnesses from ARENA on Sunday, but ruled that the election of Salvador Sanchez Ceren would not be set aside. The TSE found that there was no proof of any repetitive or systematic activity affecting the outcome of the election. Accordingly, the TSE declared that Salvador Sanchez Ceren would begin his five year term as president and Oscar Ortiz would begin his five year term as vice-president on June 1, 2014.

El Faro has  a terrific photo gallery here which illustrates well the events of the past nine days commencing with the second round of the presidential election in El Salvador.

Friday, March 14, 2014

FMLN victory not yet official

The process under El Salvador's electoral code continues.    Before El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) can ratify Salvador Sanchez Ceren's election as El Salvador's next president, it must address several timely filed petitions from ARENA to set aside the election results.

According to La Prensa Grafica, the petitions include:

  •    A petition to set aside the election because there was no vote by vote recount and no review of the "null" and disputed votes.
  •   A petition to set aside the election because the FMLN violated a TSE order and declared itself the victor prior to results being certified by the TSE  (of course so did ARENA)
  •   A petition to set aside the election for illegal campaigning by president Mauricio Funes and ALBA Petroleum in the last days before the election
  •   A petition to set aside the election because two magistrates of the TSE have not acted impartially.

The parties have until tomorrow to submit any and all proof and arguments to the TSE for its consideration.   The TSE will meet to resolve the petitions on Sunday and either set aside the election or certify the FMLN's victory on Monday.

It is also possible for ARENA to now submit a petition challenging the the "final scrutiny."  The challenge must be submitted by the end of today.

Yesterday, ARENA also submitted to the Attorney General's office alleged proof of electoral fraud.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Salvador Sánchez Cerén declared winner of El Salvador's presidential elections

Last night Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the candidate of the left wing FMLN party in El Salvador was officially declared the winner of the March 9 elections to be president of the country.   The announcement came after a process called the "final scrutiny"  where voting tally sheets from every voting station were compared with the preliminary results released on Sunday night.   There were some revisions to the results which produced final totals which were higher than the preliminary totals, but ARENA was not able to close the gap.   The final total was 1,495,815 for Ceren to 1,489,451 for Quijano, or 50.11% to 49.89%.

ARENA has not yet accepted the results.   Party members continued demonstrating throughout the day demanding that the ballots be unsealed and the votes counted "voto por voto."   Norman Quijano continued to allege that ARENA had proof of significant fraud by the FMLN, but that proof has not been shared with the public.  ARENA claimed that 20,000 FMLN poll workers had voted twice on Sunday.  Meanwhile every observer of the election from the Salvadoran attorney general's office (who had a representative at every voting center) to El Salvador's Human Rights ombudsman to various international election observer organizations all repeated that Sunday's elections appeared free and fair.
During the day on Wednesday, March 12, the armed forces made it clear that they would respect the decision of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, impliedly refuting the statements of Norman Quijano on Sunday night that the army would be ready to "make democracy."

The process leaves the country tense and polarized.  As of this morning, ARENA's next step is not clear.