Monday, January 10, 2011

Top El Salvador stories of 2010

My annual roundup of the top stories of the past year.


Record rains cause floods and damage crops.  Rains from tropical storms Agatha, Alex and Matthew inundated many parts of El Salvador during the course of the year.   Most of the country's bean crop was lost, causing the price of beans to soar.   Many corn fields were also impacted.  A tragic accident put a human face on the food crisis, when a father accidentally poisoned his family as their hunger led them to eat insecticide-treated seed corn.
  
Bus burning in Mejicanos.   All of El Salvador was shocked on June 20, 2010 as the country's violence took a horrifying turn. In Mejicanos, a suburb of San Salvador, gang members shot at a micro-bus of Route 47, then doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. Sixteen people were burned to death in the bus.   The massacre embodied the worst fears of Salvadorans stemming from one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Transit system shutdown.   For two days in September, the majority of buses in El Salvador did not operate.  Threats and rumors of threats by gangs led bus operators to keep their units off the streets.   The transit system is a prime target of criminal extortion and violence in the country.   A statement attributed to the gangs asserted that the shutdown of the bus system was a protest against a tough new anti-gang law passed by El Salvador's National Assembly.

Gold mining disputes in arbitration.   In 2010, the battle over gold mining in El Salvador shifted to international arbitration hearings in Washington, D.C.  Two gold mining companies, Pacific Rim and Commerce Group, have filed separate arbitrations under DR-CAFTA.  They seek millions of dollars in damages because they have not been allowed to mine gold in the country.   The government of El Salvador filed motions to dismiss both cases.  Hearings were held on those motions during 2010.   Pacific Rim survived the motion to dismiss, and the Commerce Group could get a decision as early as this week.

Tamaulipas massacre highlights risks.  Seventy-two migrant workers from Central America, including many Salvadorans, were massacred by Mexican drug gangs in Tamaulipas, Mexico.   The massacre brought international attention to the violence perpetrated against migrants trying to make their way through Mexico to the lure of jubs in the US. It was reported that more than 10,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico just in a six month period in 2009.   As 2010 closed, a kidnapping of another 50 migrants from El Salvador and elsewhere was reported.

30th anniversaries.   1980 was a tragic year in Salvadoran history when the country spiraled downward into civil war between leftist guerrillas and a government protecting the privileges of a wealthy few.  In the thirtieth anniversary year of 2010, Salvadorans commemorated the assassination of Oscar Romero, the murders of leaders of the FDR, and the rape and murder of the four US churchwomen.   Remembering their martyrdom gave remembrance as well to the 75,000 civilian victims of that war.  In January, president Mauricio Funes apologized on behalf of the Salvadoran government to victims of human rights violations during the civil war.

Funes goes to Cuba and Washington.   President Mauricio Funes continued to show that his foreign policy will be marked by pragmatism and not by alliance to any political block in the western hemisphere.   Funes traveled to Washington where, like Salvadoran leaders before him, he asked for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to be extended.   Funes also became the first Salvadoran leader since the country broke off diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1951 to travel to that island country .


Funes charts course independent of FMLN.  There was grumbling by the FMLN throughout 2010 as Mauricio Funes didn't follow the party line.  According to FMLN party official Medardo González, "Funes is implementing a plan that is not the plan of the FMLN. The FMLN presented a program, but the plan that the President is implementing has clear differences with the draft presented by the FMLN."  But it did not impact Funes' poll numbers -- the president continues to enjoy very high approval ratings half-way through his second year.

Possible election changes.    The proposals won't have an impact until 2012, but El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal moved forward with adopting residential voting in El Salvador.  Voters will finally get polling places close to where they live.  The Supreme Court shook the political landscape when it issued a ruling that would allow voters to vote for individual candidates rather than for political parties.


1 comment:

ixa said...

re:" The Bus, I took the Ruta 6 to el Conacaste for over 6 years and passed the corner street they took the bus at least a thousand times.
ONe got on the front with a pistol, one on the back with an M16 a large white didea bus. They shot the driver and cobrador. The leader, a 17 yo then started rociando gasoline on everyone inside. They shot the men who tried to escape via the windows. We got there too late. It was a horror scene. A baby even on board. The leader of it all, being 17 gets a max of five years in jail and then is released. With current laws in El Sal,
They need to lower the age. Average age is still 17 i believe.
An average 17 yo salvadoran is an equivalent 35 yo in the states imho.