Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Season Hard on Immigrants

According to an article in the Washington Post today, the Metro DC Latino communities are suffering this holiday season due to the crippling economic recession. Day laborers and construction workers have been hit particularly hard as service industries are scaling back and construction is coming to a standstill. Latino-owned small businesses are experiencing major setbacks as many of their clients have lost their jobs.

Travel agencies say they have sold very few round trip tickets to Central and South America, but they are currently surviving off of one-way tickets to countries like El Salvador and Guatemala. More and more immigrants are "giving up on the U.S. economy after years of legal residency." Pedro Guadrón, an immigrant from El Salvador said, "I was proud to buy a house, but this year we had to take in relatives to help pay the mortgage. The way I feel right now, Christmas doesn't even exist for me."

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

150 Soldiers Currently Occupying the Community of El Papaturro in Suchitoto

This morning, three large trucks carrying a total of 150 soldiers armed with heavy artillery entered the community of El Papaturro, in the zone of La Bermuda, Suchitoto. The soldiers have set up a military camp and said that they will be in the community for the next three days doing "military maneuvers." The mayor of Suchitoto has called the police and regional military base, and has been given no further information about the soldiers.

This act of aggression comes after the Salvadoran government recently declared that it as intelligence of secret armed groups active in various parts of El Salvador, including the region of La Bermuda, Suchitoto. Although the government continues to speak about these groups, which they link to the opposition party, the FMLN, they have shared no evidence to prove their existence. The government has implied that these supposed groups are a revival of guerrilla soldiers from the Civil War, and a threat to the Salvadoran military.

The community members of Papaturro and the Association for the Development of El Salvador, CRIPDES, believe that the government is claiming the existence of armed groups in order to cause fear in the population and provoke violence. This actions comes one month before the January municipal elections in El Salvador, and the FMLN continues to lead in the polls for both the presidential and municipal elections, threatening 19 years of dominance by the governing party, ARENA.

Community members in Papaturro worry that the military has entered the community in order to try to provoke conflict or set up a situation to make it look like community members are part of secret armed groups. Community leader Francisco Martinez said, "All the military has to do is put machine guns in a cave, and then come back and photograph them. They have taken photos of us while we were at marches or other activities, and it would be easy to change these photos on a computer and publicize them in the press." Many people connect today's situation to the case of the Suchitoto 13, when the government tried to provoke violence in the same region on July 2, 2007.

The idea that secret armed groups would operate in Papaturro is seen by community leaders as completely unreasonable. Vilma Castillo, representative of the Papturro community directive said, "In our community, parents explain the history of the war to their children. We don't want to return to the war and parents tell their children that. There is no reason that there would be armed groups here."

Community members in Papaturro report that the entrance of the soldiers into this small community has caused panic and fear within the population. For many the presence of so many soldiers brings back the trauma of military attacks on civilians during the El Salvador's civil war. Along with fear within the population, community members say that the soldiers have destroyed their property, such as fences around their farmland and the products that were growing on their farms.

This afternoon the community of Papaturro held an assembly with over 200 participants, where they created a community strategy to respond to the military presence.

The Ombudsman for Human Rights, Coalition for Human Rights, Mayor of Suchitoto, and members of the National Press were in the community today, documenting the situation.

- US-ES Sister Cities

- Posted by Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

El Salvador Responds to Pacific Rim's Legal Action

In response to Pacific Rim Mining Company's December 9 announcment of filing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to arbitrate against the Salvadoran government under CAFTA for failing to grant mining exploitation permits, notable figures in Salvadoran civic and religious society have taken a stand against the mining company. On December 14 after a mass in the metropolitan cathedral, the Archbishop of San Salvador, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle criticized Pacific Rim, "It is not right to risk the health of the people and damage the environment so that a few who do not live here can take 97% of the juicy earnings but they leave us with 100% of the cyanide." His statement is consistent with those made by the participants of the Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops in El Salvador in 2007, where the Bishops released a statement of opposition to gold and silver mining in El Salvador.

The Mesa de Minería, the Salvadoran national coalition of anti-mining groups, issued a press release following Pacific Rim's announcement. The Mesa urged people from all sectors of Salvadoran society to protest Pacific Rim Mining Company. The Mesa also promoted its most recent campaign, "I Reject Metallic Mining: Sign the Citizen's Letter," which demands that the Salvadoran president, Antonio Saca, not approve mining projects and calls for the Legislative Assembly endorse a law the prohibits metallic mining.

Click here to visit the Mesa de Minería's website and sign the Citizen's Letter against mining.

- Sara Skinner, SHARE Foundation

Thursday, December 11, 2008

FMLN Presidential Candidate to Speak in Washington, DC Tomorrow

Mauricio Funes, FMLN presidential candidate, will speak at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Washington, DC on Friday, December 12, 2008. The event, sponsored by the FMLN, will begin at 4:30PM, and Mauricio Funes is expected to speak at 5:30PM. SHARE Foundation is not co-sponsoring the event, but we encourage folks in the area to attend to hear what the presidential candidate has to say.

Wesley United Methodist Church is located at the UDC-Van Ness metro stop on the red line. The L1, L2, and L4 buses also stop near the church.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Antonio Saca Scheduled to Visit White House Next Week

President Bush will be meeting with Salvadoran President Antonio Saca on Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at the White House. In a White House press release on December 8, 2008, the White House stated that the two out-going country leaders will discuss "a range of issues, including their shared commitment to strengthening democracy and advancing economic development."

Read the press release here.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

El Salvador Declared One of the Most Polluted Countries in the Region

The World Bank released a report documenting climate change yesterday that warned El Salvador of future, and more frequent, tropical storms and hurricanes. The World Bank predicts that by 2025, the amount of damages due to tropical storms and hurricanes will quadruple. The predicted damages include in increase in disaster-related illnesses, such as malaria and dengue fever, and deaths.

The World Bank gave some hope by pointing out that these climate change effects are still preventable, but El Salvador must address its grave pollution problem. The report cited El Salvador as one of the most polluted countries in the region. Researchers found that greenhouse gas emissions rose by 14% in El Salvador between 1990 and 2000, in comparison to the 0.6% increase in the rest of Central America. Gases from energy production and consumption rose by 136% in the same time period in El Salvador, in comparison to 40% in the rest of the region.

The World Bank's chief economist, Augusto de la Torre, urged municipal governments to invest in clean energy, hydroelectric energy, reforestation, more eneregy-efficient transportation systems, and fewer pollutants.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pacific Rim Filed a Notice of Intent to Seek CAFTA Arbitration

Pacific Rim Mining Corporation announced his morning that it has filed a Notice of Intent to seek CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) arbitration against the Salvadoran government for prohibiting the company to mine in El Salvador. Pacific Rim says that the Salvadoran government's failure to issue exploration and exploitation permits to the company has cost the company significant financial losses. Pacific Rim argues that because it has invested over $75 million in El Salvador, the company is entitled to the mining permits.

Tom Shrake, President and CEO of Pacific Rim stated, "It is with deep regreat that we must now pursue our legal rights through the initiation of a CAFTA action and we intend to pursue these rights vigorously. He also added, "Sadly, it is not just Pacific Rim whose rights are being compromised, but the rights of all Salvadoran and foreign investors. Local communities and social and environmental agencies are being denied the benefits of our community programs."

The Salvadoran government and Pacific Rim have 90 days after the filing of the NOI to resolve the matter under CAFTA rules.


Pacific Rim is hosting a conference call TODAY to discuss the details of their action. The conference call starts at 11:00 am (EST) and is open to all interested parties. For those who missed the call, a replay will be available from 3 hours after its original completion until December 16, 2008. For those calling from the US or Canada, call toll-free 1-800-406-7325. For those calling from other countries, call 1-303-590-3030. The access code to listen is 3952530.

Click here to read the full article.


Note - Pacific Rim's announcement comes just days after dozens of Salvadorans staged Pacific Rim's "funeral" in San Salvador. Check out the article from the Institute for Policy Studies.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Prudencia Ayala Feminist Coalition Publishes Platform for 2009-2014

The Prudencia Ayala Feminist Coalition, a group of feminist organizations in El Salvador, announced their platform and demands for 2009-2014. Their demands fall under the following seven themes:

  1. Comprehensive health for women
  2. Institutional and public policy
  3. Political participation: "women in power"
  4. Women's access to education
  5. Economic rights
  6. Autonomy over our own bodies
  7. Violence against women: "no more violence"
With regard to women's health, Coalition calls for reforms to the Salvadoran health care system so that it better serves Salvadoran women, which requires the recognition and incorporation of midwives into the public health care system, greater financial investment of educational programs that prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, the legalization of abortion up to 20 weeks of gestation, and the expansion of environmental law to ensure access to potable water and safe, healthy living environments. The Coalition in particular demands that mining be prohibited as it is a threat to public health.

To read the rest of the demands, contact Sara Skinner at

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Monday, December 8, 2008

NACLA Article on Mauricio Funes

In an article dated November 19, 2008, the North American Conference on Latin America (NACLA) profiles Mauricio Funes' and the FMLN's rise in populartity in the 2009 Salvadoran elections. NACLA cites the FMLN's call for open social dialogue and the resulting creation of 32 mesas (committees) that encourage new forms of widespread political participation as reasons why more and more Salvadorans are leaning towards Funes in the presidential election in 2009.

Click here to read the NACLA article.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CONFRAS Criticizes the Right in a Press Release

In a press release from 27th of November 2008, the farmers association, CONFRAS, stated their dissatisfaction with the right-wing neglect of their demands. During 2008 they have made a series of proposals to the Legislative Assembly for changes in agricultural laws. None of these proposals have neither been discussed nor approved by deputies from the conservative parties.

Salvadoran farmers are facing hard times due to the vulnerable state of the agricultural industry. CONFRAS states that the Salvadoran government is not willing to put much effort into protecting them, and an increasing amount of food products in El Salvador are being imported from abroad. 81% of all rice in the country comes from other countries, and 42% of the corn.

CONFRAS says that the agricultural sector is in crisis due to several factors: free trade agreements like CAFTA, high food production costs, lack of access to credit, lack of technical support, and speculation in grain prices.

Rural areas in El Salvador provide few stable job opportunities for farmers and the salaries are very poor. Many of the farmers here live in poverty, which encourages the rate of immigration to larger cities in El Salvador and abroad.

CONFRAS addresses this press release specifically to the conservative deputies, claiming that they don't care about the poor farmers. They urge them to do something to reactivate the agricultural sector and secure the agricultural conditions in the rural areas.

Here is the link to the press release

- Lars Joon Flydal, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Reopening of Jesuit Priests Murder Case - Interview with Diane Orentlicher and Douglas Farah

Click on the link below to listen to this radio show on WAMU in Washington D.C. The interview discusses the infamous and tragic murders of the six Jesuits priests and two women in November 1989, and it discusses the reopening of this case and the outlook for the process. The guests are Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law and Director of War Crimes Research Office, American University, and Douglas Farah, former Washington Post Correspondent in El Salvador from 1987-1990.

Click here for the link to the radio show.

- Lars Joon Flydal, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

US Financial Crisis Hits El Salvador Hard

Click here to watch a short video about the effects of the global financial crisis on El Salvador. The small city of Intipuca in El Salvador faces difficult times due to a decline in remittances from Salvadorans living and working in the U.S. The decline in the value of the U.S. dollar also continues to hurt families in El Salvador.

* Some of the video is in Spanish.

-Lars Joon Flydal, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

MCC Urges Nicaraguan Government to Respect Democracy - A Hint of What's to Come for El Salvador?

Chief executive officer of the MCC, John Danilovich, has decided to reevaluate the aid package from MCC to Nicaragua due to irregularities regarding the recent municipal elections in Nicaragua.

This decision comes after recently-reelected Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega refused accreditation to independent election observers to monitor the elections, violence erupts in Nicaragua following the election results, and the opposition and unofficial election observers allege fraud. As a result, MCC has now suspended all disbursements to all projects and activities which are not already contracted with the MCA-Nicaragua, until further notice.

Danilovich states: "We had hoped, for the sake of the Nicaraguan people, that the government would continue the country's trend towards peaceful, democratic, and credible elections," I am afraid that recent evidence shows that this is not the case."

The way the elections were undertaken did not comply with the standards required by MCC in order to deliever grants to reduce poverty. MCC have determined to restrict their funds to governments that are committed to economic freedom, good governance, and free and fair elections.

Danilovich urges the Nicaraguan government to return to the principles of democratic norms, and MCC's board of directors will for the next weeks reassess Nicaragua's eligibility with a view on recent events.

The MCC's decision serves as a warning to El Salvador, whose own municipal and legislative assembly elections take place on January 18, 2009, and the presidential election on March 15, 2009. To learn how you can be an election observer for the Salvadoran elections, click here.

Click here to read the full MCC press release.

- Posted by Lars Joon Flydal and Sara Skinner

Bishops beg priests not to enter into political partisanship

Participation of priests in partisan politics would generate an environment of exclusion and could propagate violence in the society. This is the conclusion from the Central American bishops after their meeting in Ayagualo. They asked the clergy to stay out of partisan politics, and also refrain from instigating and initiating violence in the communities they live in.

The claim is that partisan politics would be destroying to the mandate of the priest as a figure for all of society. It would also hamper the proper identity and mission of the priests. The societal values of the priests should not be identified with certain political parties and it is not compatible to have both civil and religious power at the same time. Bishop Gonzalo de Villa from Guatemala claims that each person should have their own sphere of influence and interest.

Another important issue is that priests should be very careful in participating in protests on behalf of communities. Such type of participation means that they claim the rights of someone at the expense of others. It has been questioned whether it is right for the priests to participate in protests against dam and mining projects on behalf of communities. This kind of participation can be viewed as violating other persons` rights when these persons are hurt, and that is contradictive to the values of the priests and the clergy.

However, the priests have a plight to protect the most vulnerable in the society, so every case should be subject to consideration and analysis. Nevertheless, in every case it should be reviewed whether the protests are politically influenced or not before taking part.

Swiss expert warns about the impact on water from the mining

Swiss specialist in environmental chemistry warns about the dangers related to the approval of different mining exploration projects in El Salvador. The overall supply of the water resources, the quality of the water in the rivers nearby, and the health of the population living nearby are severely threatened by the mining projects.

Fresh water is highly susceptible to contamination because of the acid drainage coming from the mines. This drainage contains high levels of heavy metals which are damaging to the waters. This is very difficult to evade even with the use of “green methods” in the mining. These methods are promoted by the companies, but are considered to represent a small difference from the normal methods.

The high amount of water needed to run the mines are also alarming because of the increasing scarcity of potable water and the likeliness of desertification of the surrounding nature. Millions of liters of water are needed, and this amount of water must be used at the expense of other needs.

In addition to these consequences, it was also investigated how the mining impacted the infant mortality rate. In the surroundings of a mine in Honduras, the swiss found an infant mortality rate at 300 for every 1000 inhabitants. This was immensely above the average rate of 26 for every 1000 inhabitants.

It was made an effort to have the mining companies comment on these findings, but it did not succeed.

Here is the link to the complete article from El Diario de Hoy

High Murder Rates among Youth in El Salvador

Murder rates in El Salvador have reached frightening levels; in fact, 230 murders have been counted in 23 days. The daily average has then reached a rate of ten murders per day. This is two more than the daily average for 2008 as a whole. According to the national police, the high rates can largely be seen as a result of gang activities. The gang activities can account for about 70% of the murders, while the rest of them are due to family violence.

A large number of the murders are also murders among youths. The murder rate for youth is actually much higher than the rate for the overall population. The murder rate among youths in El Salvador is 92 in a population of 100,000 people. This rate is mainly due to the high presence of youth gangs. It is also a matter of importance that the country has a long history of armed internal conflict.

These problems are largely spread out through the whole of Latin America. Young Latin Americans have a 30 times higher probability of being murdered than European youth. The countries which have the lowest murder rates are Chile, Cuba and Uruguay, with an average of seven killings per 100000 people.

Click below to read the full articles informing this post:

La Prensa Grafica
BBC News

- Lars Joon Flydal

Central American crime is a growing U.S. problem

Central America has the highest crime rates in the world, with the Caribbean and South America following close behind. The country with the highest rate of homicides per year is El Salvador, with other neighbouring countries next. Of a population of 100000 inhabitants, El Salvador has a rate of 68 killings per year.

These criminal tendencies are also posing a problem to the United States. People with criminal records from Central America enter the U.S. illegally and continue their habits there. This has contributed to the increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants. What is more problematic is that these people often return illegally to the U.S. later on.

The El Salvadoran Security and Justice Minister says that these people will start to make fast money through criminal activities as soon as they arrive in El Salvador. Such activities include robberies, drugs, or kidnappings. With these money they can make it back to the U.S. again. The problem is worsening due to the gang members outnumbering the police forces in some of these countries.

The cost of these crimes are estimated to 6,5 billion dollars a year. For a relatively poor region like Central America this is damaging to development, and hampers effective measures to reduce the criminal activities. Consequently, the number of such people entering the U.S. illegally is not likely to go down. The solution of this may be found in education and crime prevention programs.

Latin America awaits Obama action

Washington analysts on Obama`s policies towards Latin America are careful in predicting too much changes in the policy. “No major changes or initiatives, but a change in tone”, is the common attitude. Despite a huge involvement in Latin America and several areas of common interest, the current situation with economic recession and involvement in two wars are reducing the likeliness of major change. Latin America was hardly mentioned in the electoral campaign, and Obama has never put his feet on the continent. However, the more soft power approach to foreign policy promoted by Obama can open for understanding and more fruitful cooperation between the two.

On the issue of Cuba, Obama slightly mentioned a small policy shift towards Cuba in the campaign. He wants to reduce the restrictions on family travel to Cuba and on remittances sent from the US back to relatives in Cuba. Nevertheless, any breakdown of the US trade embargo is not likely to happen in the near future.

Migration has also been an issue of mutual interest, and Obama has pronounced a desire to reform the path to legal status. At the same time, the issue of migration is receding because of the US economic downturn and the return of immigrants to their home countries.

Finally, Obama`s pledge to restore the US position in the world can possibly contribute to a change in the general Latin American indifference about US policy towards Latin America.

Here is the link to the complete article from BBC News

Company promoters “contaminate” communities in El Salvador

The Canadian mining company Pacific Rim, creates social tensions in the communities they operate. In addition to the environmental pollution that comes from the mining, their way of entering the communities creates “social pollution”. The company hires people from the communities to work as promoters for the mining projects. The promoters are then working on behalf of the mining company, and they create tensions in their effort to convince the other locals to support the mining. The use of promoters creates divisions across communities and families and tears down earlier community bonds.

Even if the consequences of mining are often unknown and uncertain for the local people, many have been informed because of reports from similar projects in neighbouring countries and neighbouring areas. The communities are now divided between those who benefit from the mining, and those who oppose it.

A man from the community of Trinidad in El Salvador tells that life was great before Pacific Rim arrived. Nowadays, he does not have contact with neither his father nor his grandparents. His father is working as a promoter for Pacific Rim and is motivated by money and free rides into the town. On the other hand, his grandparents on the mother side are opposed to the mining. The promoters are not only promoting the mining business with conventional methods, but threats and physical attacks have also been used in tearing down the opposing community members. Good friendships have been destroyed and the people blame the Pacific Rim. Recently, and 18-year-old boy committed suicide after being thrown out of his home by the family. The reason was that he joined an environmental group working against Pacific Rim.

Here is the link to the complete article from the Dominion

Friday, November 21, 2008

Salvadoran Archbishop: "El Salvador's Problems Should Be Resolved in El Salvador."

The Salvadoran Archbishop, Fernando Sáenz Lacalle, spoke out against the recent criminal complaint against former Salvadoran president, Alfredo Cristiani, and 14 other former military members for the murder of the six Jesuit priests and two female employees in El Salvador in 1989. The Archbishop responded to the news by commenting, "El Salvador's problems should be resolved in El Salvador." However, many argue that the case cannot be resolved in El Salvador because of the amnesty laws that protect war criminals from the Salvadoran civil war.

Click here to read the article in the National Catholic Reporter.
Look for the quote from SHARE's executive director, José Artiga!

- Posted by Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator, SHARE Foundation

Congressional Candidates in El Salvador Will Allow Mining

Future lawmakers are willing to facilitate mining in the country, but with certain conditions that will prevent contamination.
With the joke that if a congressman found gold under his house he would vote in favor of a law to allow him to excavate all the metal, invitees to the debates of congressional candidates for the central zone made it clear that they are in agreement to regulate mining, which has been an important topic due to the interest by several companies in digging on Salvadoran soil.

Mario Valiente of ARENA, Benito Lara of FMLN, Ciro Cruz Zepeda of PCN, and Medardo Hernandez of PDC are all seeking San Salvador seat and they all say that they will support a mining law.

The country already has a mining law which is very old, hence lawmakers want to update it. There is even a special commission in the Assembly to study the preliminary project presented by the PCN, but there have not been any major progress.

Click here for the original article in Spanish.

- Posted by Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Justice for the Slain Jesuits in El Salvador?

Spanish human rights lawyers have filed a complaint against former Salvadoran president Alfredo Cristiani and 14 former members of the Salvadoran military for their involvement in the deaths of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and the housekeeper's daughter almost twenty years ago and the resulting cover-up by the Salvadoran government. Alfredo Cristiani was president when the priests and the two women were murdered on the Central American University campus in November 1989. The priests were symbolically shot in the head for being a part of a group of intellectuals who openly criticized the Salvadoran government during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980-1992). Despite the investigations of and the international outcry over the murders, Alfredo Cristiani and those involved with the case have remained free due to the amnesty laws in El Salvador for those involved in war crimes during the Civil War. However, most of the priests who were murdered were Spanish, so the Spanish High Court may decide to charge them with crimes against the humanity and seek their extradition.

Click here to read an article from the NY Times.
Click here to read an article from CNN.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Video on Metallic Mineral Mining in ES

Click on the link below to watch a video on metallic mineral mining in El Salvador. The video also includes an interview with Marcos Orellana, a Chilean lawyer who specializes in environmental law and international treaties. To view the video, click here.

*This video is in Spanish.

-Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Monday, November 3, 2008





Call or write your US Representative and ask him or her to sign onto a Dear Colleague letter in support of free and fair elections in El Salvador. The letter is being circulated by Congressmen Jim McGovern (MA) and Dennis Moore (KS), and the staff contact person is Cindy Buhl in Congressman McGovern's office. The letter is currently in circulation in the House of Representatives and signatures will be collected throughout the month of November. Below is a list of talking points to include in your message:

  • With the upcoming Municipal, Legislative Assembly, and Presidential elections that will take place in El Salvador on January 18th and March 15th, 2009, I believe the United States can help ensure that the 2009 Salvadoran elections are free, fair, and conducted under the most transparent conditions.
  • According to Salvadoran public opinion polls, 54.4% of the population has little or no faith in the 2009 electoral process, and 55% predict fraud in the upcoming elections.
  • These will be the most fiercely contested elections in Salvadoran history because the opposition party is leading in public opinion polls, which could lead to changes in long-established patterns of political control.
  • I respect the Salvadoran people's sovereign right to choose their leaders, and I believe the US State Department should encourage the Salvadoran government to:
  1. Encourage domestic and international observation of the entire electoral process;
  2. Urge political parties to stop the use of deceptive or misleading advertising that aims to sway voters' decisions based on fear and misinformation; and
  3. Carry out a comprehensive investigation of acts of political violence in the period leading up to elections, on Election Day, and during the post-election transition period.

Presenting these points to your representative will express to them the importance of supporting democracy and free and fair elections in El Salvador.

To contact your representative, call the US Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121, or click here to write your representative an email. Feel free to use the sample email below as a guide.

For more information, contact Michelle Petrotta at

Dear Representative ______________________:

As a constituent of your district, I am asking you to sign onto Congressmen Jim McGovern's (MA) and Dennis Moore's (KS) Dear Colleague letter that you should have received during the last week of October. The letter is addressed to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, asking her to encourage the Salvadoran government to:

  • Encourage domestic and international observation of the entire Salvadoran electoral process;
  • Urge political parties to stop the use of deceptive or misleading advertising that aims to sway voters' decisions based on fear and misinformation; and
  • Carry out a comprehensive investigation of acts of political violence in the period leading up to elections, on Election Day, and during the post-election transition period.

If you have not yet signed onto the letter or have questions, please contact Cindy Buhl in Representative McGovern's office. Thank you for your dedication to democracy around the world, and I hope you seriously consider signing onto the letter in support of free and fair elections in El Salvador.


Your Name


Friday, October 31, 2008

More malnutrition and poverty in El Salvador according to FAO

The food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations, states that the recent food and financial crisis has severely increased malnutrition and poverty in El Salvador. According to experts from FAO, 18,9% percent of El Salvadoran people faces conditions of chronic malnutrition during childhood. This can in some cases affect normal growth. The FAO representant in El Salvador, Delmy Linares, says that it has to be done a lot on the issue of nutricional food security.

She emphasizes that the problem in El Salvador is not only the decrease in food production, but also lack of food accessibility for the majority of the population. It is misleading when food security is only referred to as a question of lack of production when it is also about whether the people has access to food or not. She uses beans as an example of a product which is not lacking, but has an unaffordable price for many people. There are various products being imported and produced in El Salvador, but people does not always have the money.

Also, the National Association of Rural Producers in El Salvador (AMPRES), states that supply of food does not necessarily mean that there is production of food. The situation is that the majority of the food is imported because local production is not stimulated. El Salvador is facing a situation where they are dependent on 80 % of the rice, 100 % of the yellow maize, and 12% of the white maize they need to feed the people. AMPRES suggests to increase stimulation of national production.

The World Food Program revealed that more than 100000 of the millions of Central American people thrown out in poverty because of rising food prices, are people from El Salvador.

Link to the complete article:

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Amnesty Law

For the upcoming municipal, legislative, and presidential elections 2009, the question of justice for the wounds from the civil war is raising up in the public debate. The El Salvadoran civil war resulted in 75000 deaths and 10000 disappearings, according to a study performed by the UN. The law of amnesty is still protecting the offenders from any kind of investigation. Human rights organizations and relatives of victims are demanding a repeal of the law. In responding to this issue, both presidential candidates are clearly opposing the repealment of the law. Mauricio Funes, the presidential candidate for FMLN, states that repealing the amnesty law would create a difficult climate for governing and therefore restrain the creation of a new future. He further states that instead of contributing to reconciliation, it will open up wounds. The presidential candidate for ARENA, Rodrigo Avila, is also distancing himself from a repealment of the amnesty law and is backing up the army which would be threatened by an eventual repealment.

Human rights organizations are especially disappointed with the FMLN, which in contrast to other Latin American leftist parties asuming power, does not want to open this issue from the past. The director of the legal division of the Catholic church, Ovidio Mauricio González, opposes Funes and claims that the wounds are already open and that a decree will not heal these wounds.
He asks rethorically what the victims will say about this. Victims and relatives of victims are stating that they will continue to fight for justice, even if it will take time.

To read the complete article, follow this link:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saca failes to fulfill his promises about the initiation of the Longitudinal del Norte

December 2008 was the president Saca's announced starting date for the construction of the motorway Longitudinal del Norte. The new executive director of Fomilenio, Josè Àngel Quiròs, on the other hand does not predict the project beginning until 2009.

Today, right after the change of executive director of Fomilenio, it looks like Saca`s words cannot become reality. Fomilenio is the group in charge of implementing the 461 million dollars donatedby the US-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), directed to the creation of economic growth in the Northern part of the country. After a closer look at the timetable, Fomilenio has now proposed an unspecified date in 2009 for the initiation of the project.

According to the new director Josè Àngel Quiròs, the plan for the first stretch of the giant construction will not be ready until the end of 2008. Quiròs then estimates that the real construction will not begin until at least three months later.

This delay is due to the fact that there is a lot of preparational work to do for the firm which eventually signs the contract. The firm will need employees, machines, land, installation of plants, etc., says Quiròs.

In April 2008, when Saca announced the start of the project, members from Fomilenio already anticipated the failure of the announced start date since the design of the motorway was not even finished. For starters, the company Parsons Brinckerhoff Internaciònal was delayed about six months in delivering the design.

This delay and the danger of delay in executing the construction were raised by members of CND and Fomilenio. They were fully aware of the fact that money which was not being executed during the five years of the contract with MCC could be lost. Previous delays in the execution of the funds were mainly what caused the removal of the former director Llort. Under his direction, only 30% of the amount projected to have been implemented during the first year had been completed.

Very few members of the CND and the Fomilenio, including Josè Àngel Quiròs, attended the announcement by Saca in April this year.

Quiròs is now temporarily in charge of Fomilenio for the last 3 months of 2008. His name will eventually be evaluated, among other candidates, in the decision of a permanent director.

Both Quiròs and the MCC residential director in El Salvador, Kenny Miller, are confident that the process will accelerate from now on and that they will reach the goals set forth. The only eventual obstacle Quiròs can identity is possible problems with interinstitutional coordination after the 2009 elections. He says such challenges will be met in a professional, technical, and independent way, whether there is another party in government or not.

Link to article:

Seeking a home away from homophobia

In the US, there is an increasing acceptance of sexual orientation as grounds for asylum. It is an emerging field of immigration law in the US, and gays and lesbians from different parts of the world are now becoming aware of this opportunity.

Offering a haven for gays and lesbians,the US government is beginning to deal with an increasing number of asylum applications from this group. Homophobic attitudes or lack of international experience among judges and government officials, which could lead to unfortunate decisions, are of concern. A Mexican national was denied asylum by an immigration judge in 2003 on the grounds that he was obviously not gay. He then appealed last year and he was granted asylum. At the same time, critics of this practice claim that it is impossible to control fraudulent cases. The applicants could pretend to be gay or lesbian when they are really seeking asylum for other reasons.

Being homosexual in different parts of the world is not necessarily easy. Even though Brazilian law forbids discrimination against homosexuals, a total of 116 gays, lesbians, and transvestites were killed last year. India, Uganda, and Jamaica have made homosexuality illegal, and being accused can warrant up to ten years of prison.

Having been granted asylum in the US, Delmy Berganza tells about the difficulties of being a lesbian in El Salvador. She kept her sexuality a secret her whole life after seeing her aunt, and others, be harassed and threatened for being suspected homosexuals. She took her first opportunity to go to the US.

Genesio Oliveira from Brazil was raped at the age of 16 and was living in several countries before he came to the US. Oliveira came to the US in 2002. He has still not been granted asylum because Brazil has antidiscrimination laws. He then went back to his father's funeral in Brazil. He is now preparing a second appeal while living separated from his American spouse.

Link to article:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Remittances from US to El Salvador Decline

According to a recent Washington Post article, remittances sent from Salvadorans working in the United States did not increase by as much as they have been in recent years. Until recently, money sent home to Latin America had been soaring, helped by increased migration and lower money-transfer costs. Now, with an increase in inflation in Latin America, the dollar does not stretch as far. What's more, with the looming economic problems in the US, workers have less money to send back to their families. This is significant, especially for El Salvador, because as much as 18% of El Salvador's GDP depends on remittances from abroad.

Currently, there are groups working to formalize remittance giving by sending the money through banks so that immigrants may have the opportunity to develop economically, allowing them to build assets on their earnings.

- Anna Sanger, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Friday, October 17, 2008


Following the guidance of one of our strategic goals, SHARE DC reached out to the Salvadoran community in Washington DC during Hispanic Heritage Month. The Washington DC metro area is home to the second largest Salvadoran community in the United States after Los Angeles, CA. With approximately 500,000 Salvadorans living in the area, they constitute the largest foreign-born population according to the 2005 US Census. Migration from El Salvador to Washington started in the 1970’s, increased in the 1980’s because of the civil war and continued to grow in the late 1990s and into this decade because of the harsh economic conditions back home.

a) Fiesta DC 2008

Each year, Fiesta DC, a non-profit organization sponsored in part by the DC Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs, organizes events during Hispanic Heritage Month. The largest of these events is Fiesta DC’s Latino Festival, which includes a parade of nations, a children’s festival, an arts and crafts fair, food vendors, music and dance performances, and a community-based organization information fair. This year more than 60,000 people attended the Festival on Sunday, September 28th. Therefore the Latino Festival is an excellent opportunity for non-profit organizations to reach out to the Latino community, particularly to Salvadorans. SHARE DC, with the support of the Salvadoran Allies Group (CISPES, Sister Cities, Voices on the Border and SHARE) and the Center for International Policy (CIP) had a booth at the fair to raise SHARE’s visibility among the Salvadoran community and to advocate for free and fair elections in El Salvador. To prepare for the event, the SHARE DC Grassroots Team asked and received contributions from the Salvadoran Allies Group and CIP to sponsor the table. Each organization was invited to send organizational materials and volunteers for the event. SHARE DC was in charge of coordinating the volunteers and materials, set up and take down the booth, and disseminate materials to festival visitors.
The day of the Festival, SHARE DC staffed the table from 8:00am to 6:30pm and handed out grassroots and advocacy materials to visitors. In addition SHARE DC took advantage of the opportunity to promote a petition in response to the presentation given by Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Minister, Marisol Argueta, at the American Enterprise Institute where she asked for U.S. intervention in the Salvadoran elections. SHARE’s petition, with all of the signatures, will be sent to President Saca to implore him to ensure that public employees do not use their positions to influence public opinion on who should win the elections, to ask Argueta to explain her statements, and to respect the sovereignty of the Salvadoran people. SHARE DC gathered 91 signatures for the petition at the festival, 20 people signed up for SHARE’s E-news, and 10 people took home SHARE’s 2009 Presidential Election Delegation flyer. SHARE DC also supported CIP’s campaign to promote investment in potable water in El Salvador, as well as, CISPES’ biking event. Most importantly, SHARE DC was able to speak Salvadorans living in the metro DC to show them that SHARE Foundation is walking in solidarity with their brothers and sisters back home.

b) Cutumay Camones Concert,

On Saturday October 4, SHARE DC had a table at the Cutumay Camones Concert. The band formed in May 1982 in El Salvador, taking the name of a town located in the Santa Ana Department, which was famous for a battle that took place a few days after the FMLN offensive in January 10, 1981. Currently, with most of their members living in the US, Cutumay Camones’ mission is to recover, through its music, the Salvadoran traditions and heritage.

The event was held in the Wesley United Methodist Church in Washington DC and was attended by a multitude of Salvadorans. The concert was organized by the Day Laborers National Network, Metro D.C. , Manuel Zapata Humanitarian Center and Salvadoran Cultural Association MILPA.

In just a few hours, from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. SHARE DC was able to collect 44 signatures for the petition to protest the Foreign Affairs Minister’s statements, and has since gathered a total of 400.

In addition, SHARE DC handed out grassroots and advocacy materials, promoted the electoral delegations and networked with representatives of several Salvadoran organizations.

SHARE DC will keep reaching out to the Salvadoran community at future events in order to strengthen relations with organizations in the area and get Salvadoran-Americans involved in SHARE’s work.

c) Stop the Raids and Deportations: Emergency Response Protest of the Recent Raids in California

On Friday, October 10, 2008, SHARE DC participated in an emergency protest of ICE in response to the recent raids and detainment of over 1,157 undocumented immigrants. The protest took place in front of ICE National Headquarters and was sponsored by DC Alliance for Immigrant Justice, Metro DC Interfaith Sanctuary Network, Casa de Maryland, CISPES, DC Jobs with Justice, DC Students for a Democratic Society, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, and the Washington Peace Center. Over fifty people showed up with signs and banners and marched in a circle in front of the building as ICE employees left for the day. After the march, the group held a press conference in front of the building where representatives of each sponsoring organization spoke out against the racist, xenophobic attacks. Jean Stokan, former SHARE staff member, was the final speaker at the press conference. SHARE DC brought one of the SHARE DC interns, Lars Joon Flydal, to participate in the protest. Univisión televised portions of the protest and the press conference.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Say no to US intervention in the Salvadoran elections - Sign the petition!

The Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marisol Arqueta, is already lobbying the US to intervene in the upcoming Salvadoran elections.

In her speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), last September 18th, she stated that "Losing El Salvador (if the opposition wins) will be a lose-lose situation for the national security of both El Salvador and the United States". She exhorted the US to "do more" and to "pay close attention".

Please sign the petition asking President Saca:
  • To ensure that public employees do not use their positions to influence public opinion on who should win the elections;
  • To ask the Foreign Affairs Minister to explain her statements;
  • To respect the sovereignty of the Salvadoran people to choose their leaders freely.
To read or listen to the Minister's speech, please visit the AEIs website and click on "Events", then "Event Materials", "Past Events", and "The perils of populism: Hot spots in Latin America".
SHARE Foundation is collecting signatures that we will send to President Saca. If you want to sign SHARE Foundation's petition, please contact the SHARE Foundation and list your name, city, and state at or call us at 202-319-5542 by Friday, October 10, 2008.

Para la carta en Español, visitenos en nuestro sitio de web (

Lead contamination hurts the poor

In the small community of Sitio del Niño, the inhabitants are living in a contaminated environment. The source of this contamination stems from the battery production of the company, Baterías de El Salvador (Record). Lead from the battery production has polluted the water, the air, and the surrounding environment of the community. Thus, the health security in the community is highly threatened.

Water is a vital necessity for daily life, and is crucial for health and sanitation. Tests of the water carried out by the department of environment indicate that the level of lead in the water was three times above the permitted level by international standards. Unfortunately, the lead from the fabric has spread out through the whole ecosystem. This means that soil, vegetation, and houses are infected by lead. Researchers from the University of El Salvador measured that soils and houses located in a 700 perimeter from the fabric contained levels of lead from ten to fiftheen times higher than the permitted level.

The health impact of this contamiation is serious. The department of health informs that 120 children have proven high levels of lead in their blood. The total number of affected people is not verified, but estimates tell that the majority of the 1500 people in the community are affected. The health consequences varies between people, but children seems to be most vulnerable to the contamination. Children suffers from headache, pain in the stomach, nausea, among others. More long-term consequences are belated learning abilities, anemia, and even death.

This is specifically hard for the poor due to several factors. They cannot afford remedies preventing them from the contamination, like water in bottles. It is not feasible for everyone to purchase health services. The government does not prioritize the community although the situation for the people is grave and they have proven results carried out by the departments.

Water can only be obtained from wells, due to the lack of potable water in the area. Boiling this water does not remove particles from metals like lead. Consequently, the people are forced to use this water in their daily life because water bottles are normally too expensive for them. This means that they will have contaminated water through their food, their washing, etc.

Even if an increasing number of people has received treatment for their injuries caused by contamination, this is not an opportunity easily accesible for everyone. Not everyone can afford it.

Despite the fact that the fabric was shut down a year ago, the inhabitants are still living in their environmentally degraded community. The government has not launched any measures to move the people out of the area. There are actually large areas of unused land in the country, but nothing happens. In addition to the lead contamination, there are also a large portion of toxic waste dumped by the fabric. None of these toxics have been removed by the authorities.

The battery company's leadership consisted of several members from the influential Lacayo family, which is currently escaping persecution from Interpol. The former finance minister Miguel Lacayo served as the director of the company, but the arm of the judiciary has in a strange manner managed to miss him. The case is now moving slowly forward in the judicial system. The judge has now prolonged the investigation of the case with six months.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

12 year old Theresa Reflects on her SHARE Delegation

Looking out at the dim city lights announcing that we were close to landing in San Salvador, I felt a surge of excitement. This would be my first trip out of the country: my first time in a nation where the language was different from my own, where I was told we would encounter shocking poverty, the kindest of people, and extreme weather, where the population had been scarred by the brutality of war and violence. Was I afraid? Uncertain? Some of each, truthfully, but primarily thrilled to have the chance to immerse myself in a different lifestyle; so much looking forward to meeting the people, practicing my Spanish, and just having an adventure. And what a wonderful adventure it was!
Our time in Nueva Trinidad was, in my opinion, the best half of the trip by far. From the moment the stuffy van pulled into the village center, greeted by a crowd of smiling people, I could feel that these people were special. The second day in the village we took a hike up to see an area that was threatened by mining. Though armed only with the meager vocabulary I had acquired in my elementary and middle school Spanish classes, my sister and I were able to strike up a small conversation with some of the girls. Mostly it was us just asking them what their favorite color or animal was, or if they played soccer, or telling them about our pets at home, but it we found that the unpretentiousness of our exchange didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what we were saying (we could have been talking gibberish for all we knew) or that we were Americans or for that matter that we just seemed so different. We were just talking, and listening. And from that simple interaction we became friends.
Also in the village we participated in visits with the elderly. It was interesting yet so heartwrenching to hear their stories: of their families, of the violence they had witnessed, of their struggle to resettle in Chalatenango after the war and the present hardships that they faced every day. On Sunday during the procession of Corpus Christi in Arcatao, I found myself another friend― a fearless young 8-year-old, Cecilia, who had attached herself to our group like a barnacle and followed us throughout the day. Again, I was in a situation where I knew barely a phrase or two in the native tongue, yet communicated so much with this girl that I found tears in my eyes when she finally had to leave.
If I have learned about or witnessed one important thing during this trip it is the power and strength and beauty of the human spirit, discovered within ourselves there and in the Salvadoran people. On our delegation I felt so content in such an entirely different place because the people made it so; with their bright smiles and deep understanding, their overly generous accommodations and hospitality, their kindness to total strangers. Just talking, even if neither side could understand the other, bridged the cultural barrier immediately. What amazed me too was just their unimpaired joy. These people, who had experienced so many horrors, had so much hope for the future, were so organized and strong! Their joy and optimistic outlook on life inspired me. Even my just smiling at a frowning toddler in the church caused him to shriek with laughter and begin chortling. One smile lead to another among the children― within five seconds of my breaking a grin they would all be beaming back at me.
While talking with some people upon our return, I encountered the query of, “Did you do any mission work, like build houses or anything?” Besides a small water testing procedure, I realized, no, we hadn’t done much physical labor. One important thing about this delegation, I had recognized, that made it as great as any mission trip, was that the purpose of our trip was not to do, but to be. In our venture we had not built a school or worked in a clinic, offered our solutions to their problems or acted as the helpers. We had met people, and listened to their stories, just to be fellow humans alongside each other. And I think that is what created a bond just as powerful as if we had provided physical assistance.
Definitely this interaction was the most dynamic element of our time in El Salvador. From Cecilia’s curious questioning about what everything, from a butterfly to the month of November, was in English, to the tearful goodbyes at 4 am to our bus driver Santos at the airport, I feel like we connected and shared with these people so much. My memories of the time in and the people of Nueva Trinidad will always be in my heart, until the next time I visit El Salvador when our friendships will be renewed in joy!