Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pictures from coup d'etat in Honduras

A wounded protester lies on the street.

General Romeo Vásquez, mastermind of the coup d'etat, states, "No one is above the law."

A soldier stands ready to fire.

The military goes after the press.

Vehicles aim water with chemicals at the population who is resisting.

Protesters confront the military to fight for democracy.

A soldier holds an anti-coup protester at gunpoint.

The police are guarded by shields while protesters aren't armed.

An anti-coup protestor picks up a can of tear-gas aimed at him and throws it back.

A wounded woman is being transported by the military.

Anti-coup protesters and the military face each other.

Two soldiers stop a photographer.

Soldiers chase after two young women holding their country's flag
Soldiers keep a man pinned to the ground at gunpoint.

Protesters build barricades near the presidential house.

Protesters against the coup throw rocks at the Honduran military.

Soldiers clash with anti-coup protesters.

A wounded woman is led to safety.
The new "president" of Honduras, Roberto Micheletti.

A Zelaya supporter sings the national anthem outside the presidential house.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator
*Photos from AP.

El Salvador's response to Honduran coup

In the wake of the coup d'etat in Honduras, Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes announced his support for and recognition of Manuel "Mel" Zelaya as the democratically-elected president of Honduras. Funes reiterated his support while attending a meeting for the System for Central American Integration, whose attendees included Guatemalan President Alvaro Colóm, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Honduran Chancellor Patricia Rodas. Funes stated that he is seeking support for the diplomatic isolation of the coup's leaders. As a result of the meeting, SICA participating countries have removed Honduran ambassadors; however, the Salvadoran Chancellery clarified that El Salvador will not close the Honduran Embassy. The Salvadoran government, along with Honduras' other neighboring countries, has halted commerce along the country's border with Honduras for 48 hours.

In a press conference on Sunday, FMLN party leaders condemned the coup d'etat in Honduras. Sigfrido Reyes, the FMLN's communications secretary and vice-president of the Legislative Assembly, defended Manuel Zelaya, stating, "President Zelaya was not asking to continue to be in power, rather he was asking for a citizen consultation to ask the Honduran people if they wanted to have a fourth ballot box in the November elections."

Many suspect that Mauricio Funes and his new government is watching the Honduran coup with a strong sense of unease. Funes is the first leftist president in the history of El Salvador, and the former ruling party, ARENA, and other conservative parties continue to control the National Civil Police and the Legislative Assembly.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

*Photo from Diario CoLatino.

Coup d'etat in Honduras

On Sunday, June 29, the Honduran military awakened the Honduran president, Mel Zelaya, and forced him on a plane to Costa Rica in an illegal coup d'etat. The coup occurred on the day that Hondurans were to vote to hold a Constitutional Assembly in November which could allow Mr. Zelaya to run for a second term. The coup was led by General Romeo Vásquez, a graduate of the infamous School of the Americas, who opposed the vote for the Constitutional Assembly, and is supported by the Honduran Congress and the Supreme Court.

The coup in Honduras echoes Central America's violent history of military coups. As phone lines are cut and national TV channels are taken off the air, Hondurans are taking to the streets to denounce the military's actions and are calling for international support. There are reports that demonstrators have been beaten, arbitrarily detained, and assassinated by the Honduran military.

Demonstrations against the coup in Honduras have taken place across the United States. Yesterday, demonstrators gathered in front of the White House and the Honduran Embassy to demand that the US Government not recognize the Honduran coup government and that the United States cut off all aid to Honduras until Mr. Zelaya returns to office. President Obama stated, "We are very clear about the fact that President Zelaya is the democratically-elected president." He added, "It would be a terrible precedent if we start moving backwards into the era in which we are seeing military coups as a means of political transition rather than democratic elections....we don't want to go back to a dark past."


The SHARE Foundation urges you to:
  • Call the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111.
  • Send an email to President Obama at http://www.whitehouse.gov/CONTACT.
  • Call the State Department comment line at (202) 647-4000.
Sample message:

President Obama, I urge you to suspend all aid to the Honduran coup government. President Zelaya is supported by Honduras' poor majority, including members of labor and social movements, tens of thousands of whom have come out in the streets to support his return.

Give your name, city and state.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

*Photos from El País and AP.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Gang intervention leader arrested by FBI on suspicious charges

Alex Sánchez, Director of the US office of the gang intervention organization Homies Unidos, was arrested today by the FBI on federal racketeering charges. Sánchez is a well-respected leader of the gang intervention movement in both the United States in El Salvador, and many organizations and community leaders have come to his defense.

Sánchez immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when he was a child and joined the infamous Mara Salvatrucha gang in Los Angeles when he was a teenager. After several arrests, Sánchez was deported to El Salvador, where he lived on the streets and feared retaliation from gangs and death squads who saw him as a rival. Sánchez returned to the United States in 1995 and won an asylum case in 2002. In 1998, Alex Sánchez co-founded Homies Unidos, an organization that supports gang violence prevention and intervention. Of América blog has a list of links to stories detailing how Mr. Sánchez has repeatedly been subject to abuse, harassment, and unlawful deportation by the LAPD.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the indictment includes the names of 24 leaders, members, and associates of MS-13, part of the Mara Salvatrucha gang. The alleged crimes include seven murders, eight conspiracies to commit murder, and gun and narcotic offenses. All of these alleged crimes are supposed to have transpired after Alex Sánchez returned to the United States and became an anti-gang leader. The FBI arrested Mr. Sánchez in his home, as his wife and children watched.

CISPES released a letter of support today for Alex Sánchez.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Salvadoran woman dies in DC Metro crash

In a sad reminder of how Salvadorans are touched by what happens in the United States everyday, yesterday the Prensa Gráfica announced that a 40 year-old Salvadoran woman, Ana Fernández, died in the tragic Metro crash in Washington, DC on Monday. Fernández, orginally from San Alejo in the department of La Unión, had been living in the United States for twenty years, and had just succeeded in bringing her eldest son to live with her in the United States. Ana Fernández leaves behind her loving husband of four years, Óscar Martínez, six children, her parents, and her five brothers and sisters. Fernández's husband gave an interview to a local news station, stating, "She was the center of our family, I don't know how to read or write."

SHARE sends its condolences to all of the victims of Monday's crash and their families across borders.

*Photo from La Prensa Gráfica.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Funes uncovers "ghost positions" during ARENA administration

Twelve days after his inauguration, President Mauricio Funes announced that he had found corruption in public institutions. In the years during the Saca presidency (2004-2009), several ARENA government employees received pay from the National Registry for jobs they were not doing. Additionally, Funes found many abuses of public spending, such as the former director as well as the sub director of the Instituto Seguro Social (health care system) each having four vehicles at the expense of the state.

The director of the National Registry has to date reported 29 of these “ghost positions” – positions where people received money without ever working. Some payments began as early as 2002 and they continue until the last day the ARENA government had power, May 31, 2009. These “ghost positions” and wasteful spending cost the Salvadoran government around $700,000 annually.

A “ghost position” that has been gaining publicity is that of an ARENA deputy, who is also a doctor. The National Registry paid the deputy to be a gynecologist though never actually serving as one. Without doing work, this deputy received $954 every month.

President Funes has addressed this situation by ordering an investigation to uncover the “ghost positions.” He named Carlos Cáceres, the minister of the Treasury, to head the investigation, though Funes has yet to disclose further details about the particular functions and logistics of the commission.

The president is also planning to make an executive decree which would place restrictions on the use of vehicles by the state, the purchase of goods and services, and the filling of these vacant positions. This decree is projected to save $75 million – $35 in human resources and $40 in goods and services – by eliminating “ghost positions” and creating an inter-institutional purchase of goods and services to buy necessary items at the most competitive price possible.

- Leslie O'Bray, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Vanda Pignato, El Salvador's First Lady

As Mauricio Funes enters his 18th day as the first-ever leftist president of El Salvador, Funes' wife, Vanda Guiomar Pignato, continues to quietly shape her role as the first lady. Vanda, a native Brazilian and current Salvadoran citizen, had an incredible influence over her husband's presidential campaign and will no doubt have a strong influence over his presidency.

Vanda grew up in Sao Paulo and, while attending law school, joined the international movement in solidarity with the FMLN during the Salvadoran Civil War. Vanda's strong interest in politics led her to join Brazil's Workers' Party, the political party of current Brazilian President Lula da Silva. One year after the signing of the Peace Accords, Vanda moved to El Salvador in the early 1990s to represent the Workers' Party in Central America. She later became the director of the Center for Brazilian Studies at the Brazilian Embassy in San Salvador. On Inauguration Day, Funes named his wife the Minister of Social Inclusion.

Funes has often remarked that he hopes to model his government after that of Lula da Silva's. Vanda will likely have a hand in making this possible, given her friendship with Lula and her years of experience with the Workers' Party. Either way, Vanda will certainly be a strong political force guiding the future of El Salvador.

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Video of Inauguration Day

Also, here is a great photo album from Cuscatlan Stadium in San Salvador, where FMLN supporters gathered to celebrate the occasion.

- Leslie O'Bray, Grassroots Education and Advocacy Intern

Monday, June 1, 2009

Funes sworn in as President of El Salvador

Today, El Salvador celebrated the inauguration of the country's first leftist president, Mauricio Funes. Stay tuned for more information!

- Sara Skinner, US Grassroots Coordinator