Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sugar Cane Burning, Pesticide Use and Organizing in the Bajo Lempa Make the International News!

Dear SHARE Friends and Community,

As many of you know, years of chemical pesticides and sugar cane burning in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador have put the health and lives of thousands of families at risk.  Renal failure is a serious problem that has taken the lives of countless community leaders and friends and until very recently, this situation wasn't national news in El Salvador, despite community organizing against chemical pesticides and alarming rates of dialysis and death.  The Bajo Lempa is one of the areas most devastatingly affected by flooding on an almost yearly basis; a two-decades effort for prevention and mitigation projects has finally resulted in concrete actions on the part of the government, but the struggle continues.

Given this situation, we're excited to share with you all this great in-depth article on Al-Jazeera English about the situation in the Bajo Lempa.  While the article is focused on one of the many community-based organizations working for environmental protection, advocacy for public works, healthcare rights, education, and organic agriculture, it does a great talking about the general situation in an area where SHARE has worked for many, many years: with the Women's Cattle Cooperative and CRIPDES San Vicente.

Following is a short excerpt; please read Climate: Putting People Over Money for more!

A movement with teeth
Alonzo Sosa with the environmental unit of the Mayor's office of the Municipality of Tecoluca is part of the Movement for the Defence of Life and Natural Resources.

"We started this movement two and a half years ago because of the rampant health problems people in our communities were experiencing due to the unsafe farming practises of the industrial farmers, like the sugarcane producers," Sosa told Al Jazeera.

"The chemicals they use, contaminating our water, overuse of land and widespread kidney failure, this is all very serious. So now, we are pushing for better farming practises, trying to eliminate these chemicals and burning, because it damages our biodiversity."

According to Sosa, "It's not just environmental units in local governments that will solve this crisis. We need local governments, journalists, communities, everyone. The only requirement to join our movement is for you to care for the environment and our resources."

Needless to say, the larger producers of sugarcane in El Salvador have not met the movement's requests with open arms.

"The bigger producers are carrying out these atrocious practises, because they are only interested in their own capital and profit," Sosa added, "We are in a constant struggle with the cane operators who desire perpetual expansion."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Public Opinion Poll in El Salvador

The University of Technology in El Salvador has conducted its public opinion poll through the Center of Investigations covering political, economic, and social aspects (February 4-6, 2011)

According to the opinion polls taken this month in El Salvador, about 70% of the population agrees that the most typical forms of crime are juvenile delinquency, theft, and extortion. However, even though a large portion of the population believes the country is dominated by crime (82.3%), only 30% of the population has ever been a victim of such crimes. Another pressing issue for the Salvadoran community is their economic situation. 58% of families have at least one person of age that is currently unemployed, and of those 58%, 58% have not held a job in over a year. Most Salvadorans agree that crime and their economic status are the most difficult situations they currently facing.
When dealing with these crimes, the Salvadoran community chooses to trust more in the Armed Forces for protection that the PNC alone. 60% of the population agrees that either the Armed Forces alone, or the Armed Forces patrolling along side of the PNC is more favorable to the PNC patrolling on their own. This shows that the Salvadoran community is responding well to suggestions made by President Mauricio Funes.
As to who Salvadorans will vote for in upcoming elections, 70% of the population agrees that Mauricio Funes is popular due to his style of governing. However, when asked whether he is taking the country in the right direction, almost half say yes and the other half say he is not. When looking at who the population will potentially vote for during the elections for mayor and other representatives, there is about a 10% difference in favor of FMLN over ARENA.

To read this opinion poll and for more information, please visit the Center of Investigations for the Public Opinion of El Salvador

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Social Panorama of Latin America

Cesar Villalona, a prestigious international economist, gives us a breakdown of the reports done by CEPAL (Economic Commission for Latin American, of the United Nations) covering the social panorama in Latin America for 2010. 

The report discusses the changing rates of poverty in Latin America, the factors leading to these changes, and the economic effects these changes are having. The growing inequality between countries is one of the biggest findings in this report. As one will notice, graph 1.2 (p. 4) shows the variation in the cost of food increase, which has been relatively low for El Salvador, and relatively high in countries like Bolivia and Chile. However, when we compare the rates of poverty change from 2002 to 2009 on graph 1.3 (p. 9), countries like Chile, Bolivia, but especially those of Argentina and Venezuela have been able to decrease their poverty levels by large percentages. In 2002, Argentina's poverty rates were about 45%, whereas now in 2009 they are at a low of only about 11%. 
El Salvador, on the other hand, has only decreased its poverty rates by 1% (48.9% in 2002 to 47.9% in 2009); the lowest change in all of Latina America! So we can see that, even though the cost of food has not increased dramatically in El Salvador, the rates of poverty are also not changing, but are in fact staying relatively high in comparison to other countries. 

To read the report and for more information please click HERE

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Action Alert: Support Anti-Mining Activists

Our allies in the Cabañas environmental movement as well as the National Roundtable Against Metallic Mining (the Mesa) are very concerned about a recent wave of death threats and crimes against members of El Salvador’s anti-mining movement as well as other violent crimes recently committed in Cabañas.  Similar crimes in 2009 that went uninvestigated, including robberies, kidnappings, and death threats against members of Radio Victoria, ADES, ASIC, and the CAC – all active organizations in Cabañas’ mining resistance –were a prelude to the murders of three activists, Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos. Please read more in-depth reports here and here.

Therefore, our allies are extremely concerned that the on-going state of impunity not only encourages the recent threats and crimes but could lead to more violence and murders in the near future.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Drew Theological Seminary in El Salvador

For the first few weeks of 2011, SHARE received a delegation from the Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, New Jersey. Nine students and two professors spent two weeks learning about communities express their faith here in El Salvador.  Listed below are some of their favorite quotes taken from the various individuals and groups we met with while they were here.

"We cannot do this without people in our community."
-Radio Victoria talking about continuing their work despite recieving death threats

"People are not looking for the American dream, they are fleeing the Central American nightmare."
-Dean Brackley S.J. about immigration