Amnesty International Says El Salvador Abortion Law Kills Women

September 26, 2014

by AQ Online

In a report released on Thursday, Amnesty International stated that El Salvador’s total ban on abortion is killing women and infringing upon human rights progress. Enacted in 1998, the law makes any form of abortion illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, when the mother’s life is in danger, or when the fetus has serious defects.

The report was compiled after nearly two years of infield research and interviews with women and children who have been affected by the law, as well as with health care professionals and social workers. It details the effects of the abortion ban, including the number of women that have died as a result, and misappropriated charges of abortion in cases of miscarriages.

According to the report, El Salvador has a lethal combination of high rates of teen pregnancy and clandestine abortions, lack of maternal education, and a paternalistic society that discriminates against women and girls. In fact, with 23 percent of teenage girls getting pregnant at least once between the ages of 15-19, El Salvador has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the region and suicide is the cause of death for over half (57 percent) of pregnant teenage girls.

Despite over 74 percent of Salvadorans in favor of selective abortion, those women and girls found guilty of abortion face two to eight years in prison, and those accused of aggravated homicide as a result of an abortion can face up to 50 years. “The ban on abortion reflects the low position of women in society and discrimination and violence against women in El Salvador,” said Erika Guevara, the Americas director at Amnesty International.

Four other Latin American countries currently have a full ban on abortion, including Chile, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.


Tags: El Salvador, Amnesty International, Abortion

The Political Relevance of Gangs in El Salvador

June 4, 2014

by Carlos E. Ponce

The approach adopted by former President Mauricio Funes’ administration to combat crime is probably the least popular crime control strategy in Central America’s northern triangle. Salvadorans first learned details of the strategy in March 2012, when news reports suggested that the government of El Salvador had negotiated a drop in homicides with gang leaders who, as a result, were being relocated from the maximum security penitentiary in Zacatecoluca to different, less secure facilities.

Authorities have, since then, offered various explanations for the massive relocation of criminals to less restrictive correctional environments—sometimes accompanied by special concessions, like flat screen TVs and conjugal visits, or benefits to gang members’ families living on the outside.

Funes and his security cabinet deny that the state negotiated with gangs, and say that they merely facilitated a truce between gangs.  However, Luis Martínez, El Salvador’s attorney general, recently revealed that a criminal investigation launched by his office indicates that the government paid gangs to reduce homicides. Moreover, recordings leaked to the press and opposition politicians by a hacker that allegedly feature prosecutors interrogating former public safety officials about government-gang negotiations, expose even more benefits provided to gangs by authorities as part of the negotiation—both inside and outside correctional institutions.

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Tags: El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, El Salvador Gangs

Dos Interpretaciones a la Visita de Sánchez Cerén a Venezuela

May 7, 2014

by Julio Rank Wright

Luego de pasar por la elección más reñida en la historia reciente de El Salvador, el país espera que en menos de un mes Mauricio Funes,  el primer presidente del  partido de izquierda Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), deje el poder y le pase la banda presidencial al primer presidente excombatiente del FMLN, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

El país está literalmente dividido—después de una elección cuya diferencia fue de apenas 0.22 por ciento—y se encuentra en un ambiente de expectativa, en ocasiones tenso y nervioso. Ante una realidad como esa, sumada a un panorama económico desalentador y un aumento en la delincuencia, el presidente electo se verá obligado a colaborar con la oposición política al menos hasta las elecciones legislativas del 2015. Es por eso que la reciente visita de Sánchez Cerén a Venezuela ha generado reacciones encontradas.

Yo le doy dos posibles lecturas a la visita de Sánchez Cerén a Venezuela el pasado 1 de mayo: la primera es optimista y la segunda es un poco más apegada a la realidad. Hace dos meses, en las vísperas de la elección presidencial de El Salvador, el presidente venezolano Nicolás Maduro fue el primero en felicitar a Sánchez Cerén, aun cuando a El Salvador se le agotaban los recursos legales para afirmar quien había ganado la elección presidencial con los márgenes de diferencia más estrechos de las últimas décadas.

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Tags: Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvador, Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela

El Salvador's (Close) Presidential Election: What's Next?

March 17, 2014

by Julio Rank Wright

El Salvador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced a winner of the March 9 presidential runoff a week after the election, leaving half of the country overjoyed and the other half in despair.

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, of the governing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (Farabundo Marti Liberation Front—FMLN), won by a mere 0.22 percent of the general vote—equivalent to just over 6,000 votes. The final results (50.11 percent for the FMLN and 49.89 percent for the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista, or Nationalist Republican Alliance—ARENA) exemplify a nation divided in two.

The runoff result was a surprise to all. The first round election had given the FMLN a ten percentage point advantage over ARENA. How was ARENA able to cut the difference by so much in just three weeks? What implications does the result have for the FMLN, and what will governing El Salvador look like in the next presidential term?

El Salvador's recent presidential election represented the last possibility for ALBA expansion in the short term, since Cerén, a former leftist guerrilla, campaigned on possible ALBA adhesion.

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Tags: El Salvador, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, ARENA, FMLN

Negotiations with the FARC and other Regional Efforts to Achieve Peace

June 11, 2013

by Sabrina Karim

The peace negotiations in Cuba between the Fuerzas Armada Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) and the Colombian government, set to reconvene today, are not the only peace agreements being conducted in Latin America. 

One year ago, the two main drug gangs in El Salvador, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, agreed a halt to hostilities in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church

And just over a week ago, the two main rival gangs in Honduras negotiated a similar pact, though not specifically a truce, again mediated by the Catholic Church. The Mara Salvatrucha and Mara 18 said they would commit to zero crime and zero violence on the streets

Such mediations are not considered typical peace agreements in the traditional sense of international relations, but perhaps they should be. While policymakers and scholars argue that there is a conceptual difference between insurgency groups, rebel groups, organized crime, and terrorism, these peace agreements between different gangs suggest that such distinctions may inhibit sound policy.  In fact, the peace agreement negotiated by the Catholic Church and the gangs in El Salvador does not look too different from the negotiations in Colombia.

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Tags: Colombia, El Salvador, gang truce, peace negotiations

El Salvador’s New Push to Reduce Extortion

June 10, 2013

by Julio Rank Wright

In the first days of his last year as president, El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes was forced to make some changes in the country’s security cabinet. Following a ruling by the Supreme Court declaring the former security and justice minister’s term unconstitutional, Funes selected Ricardo Perdomo as the new security and justice minister.

Perdomo, a civilian who was the former director of the State Intelligence Agency, is a politically-savvy and experienced professional with a lot of political experience. In his first week, Perdomo fired the director of the penitentiary system, and the vice minister of security resigned precipitously.

It’s unclear what Perdomo’s tenure will represent for El Salvador’s unprecedented gang truce, which has helped reduce homicide rates significantly but left extortion rates barely altered. What is clear is that the discourse, at least, seems more coherent now that the security cabinet is led by Perdomo.

In the mix of resignations, police commissioner reassignments, new appointments and a waning presidency, Funes seems to be making a last effort to tackle the country’s insecurity. On June 6, Funes and Perdomo announced the creation of a new anti-extortion unit. The specialized unit will be comprised of 500 police officers and 500 military personnel and will be specially trained and equipped to reduce extortions.

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Tags: El Salvador, extortion, Mauricio Funes, Ricardo Perdomo

Apuestas Estratégicas para el 2014 en El Salvador

May 6, 2013

by Julio Rank Wright

En el año 2000 la mayoría de los salvadoreños teníamos una idea, al menos vaga, sobre cual debería de ser la apuesta estratégica del país. El entonces presidente Francisco Flores y su gabinete nos hablaban sobre la viabilidad de convertir a El Salvador en un centro financiero y en un centro logístico de calidad mundial. El segundo aspecto fue incluso exacerbado con la inversión en la construcción de un nuevo puerto marítimo moderno en el departamento de La Unión durante la administración de Antonio Saca.

La apuesta fue concentrarse en la prestación de servicios y promover políticas públicas y leyes que facilitaran el proceso de transformación del país en ese centro financiero y logístico. Sin embargo, al parecer se nos olvidó que uno de los hubs logísticos más importantes del mundo y uno de los centros financieros de mayor trayectoria en el hemisferio occidental se encontraban a la vuelta de la esquina: Panamá.

El país amigo del istmo lo estaba haciendo bien, muy bien. Luego El Salvador cayó en una vorágine de violencia e inseguridad ciudadana que todos conocemos. La inversión se redujo debido a los crecientes índices de violencia. Al menos esa fue siempre la versión oficial. Para muchos difícil de aceptar o comprender cuando los países vecinos de Guatemala y Honduras, ambos con niveles de violencia similares o superiores, crecían dos o tres veces más que El Salvador.

Si en efecto, nos equivocamos, pues no hay mejor remedio que aceptarlo y rectificar. Sin embargo, lo más relevante que conviene rescatar es que a finales de los 90 y principios de milenio existía una propuesta de visión país. Esa visión es la que hoy día El Salvador carece. La semana pasada se realizó el XIII Encuentro Nacional de la Empresa Privada (ENADE) organizado por la Asociación Nacional de la Empresa Privada (ANEP). Durante el encuentro los líderes empresariales solicitaron favorecer la visión de largo plazo. En dicho encuentro la principal cámara empresarial del país hizo entrega a cada uno de los candidatos presidenciales de la propuesta que habría preparado la gremial.

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Tags: El Salvador, 2014 elections

El huevo de la seguridad pública salvadoreña

February 20, 2013

by Carlos E. Ponce

Las cifras policiales oficiales indican que durante los últimos meses la cantidad de asesinatos registrados en El Salvador ha disminuido en aproximadamente 50 por ciento. Esto es especialmente significativo considerando que un informe elaborado por Naciones Unidas, publicado el año pasado, ubica a dicho país como el segundo más violento del mundo.  No obstante, atrás del aparente logro se identifican elementos que pronostican una crisis en el aparato de seguridad gubernamental del país centroamericano.

La reducción en homicidios antes mencionada se deriva de una brumosa iniciativa que implicó negociar el cese de hostilidades entre las principales pandillas rivales que operan en El Salvador, pacto desarrollado bajo condiciones desconocidas y mantenidas en total secreto por el Estado. El decremento, por lo tanto, no es el resultado del fortalecimiento del sistema de justicia penal o de la ejecución de una estrategia integral implementada para controlar la criminalidad, sino que está en función de la buena voluntad de las estructuras delictuales por mantener un acuerdo ajeno a la institucionalidad estatal.

Contrario a la interpretación ordinaria que provocaría una reducción tan acentuada en la incidencia de homicidios, la fuerza policial salvadoreña está en su peor momento. El Gobierno, en medio de una crisis fiscal, mantiene al personal policial trabajando en condiciones precarias, según consta en diferentes reportajes periodísticos publicados el año pasado, con equipo e instalaciones deterioradas. La falta de liquidez del Ejecutivo también lo ha llevado a retrasar varios meses el pago de los salarios complementarios devengados por policías, quienes denunciaron públicamente la situación a finales del 2012.

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Tags: El Salvador, Gang Violence, Crime and Security

El Salvador's Prison System Needs Reform

December 17, 2012

by Julio Rank Wright

Latin America’s prison system is in crisis. Human Rights Watch has called the Latin American penitentiary system “underfunded, overcrowded and often controlled by criminals inside their walls.” In March 2012, a prison fire killed over 350 inmates in Honduras. The same week, a series of prison riots in three Mexican penitentiaries resulted in 48 fatalities. Later in the year, images of black smoke and tanks moving through the streets of Caracas after a prison riot circled the world.

These tragedies have drawn renewed interest to the growing crisis facing the region’s prison system. Within the context of Central America, the Sistema de Integracion Centroamericano (Central American Integration System—SICA) has listed the improvement, expansion and modernization of the region’s prison system as a strategic objective of the Central American Security Strategy. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has already committed funds to update a diagnostic document detailing the state of the region’s penitentiary system.

 El Salvador is no exception to the hemispheric trend of prison violence and overcrowding. Since the two main rival gangs announced a truce in March 2012, El Salvador has increased its awareness of the conditions and challenges that the penitentiary system faces.  In June 2012, El Salvador’s Dirección de Centros Penales (Directorate of the Penitentiary System) confirmed that the prison system was operating at 317 percent of its capacity.

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Tags: El Salvador, prison reform

El Salvador: May Moderation Win as FMLN and ARENA Prepare for 2014 Election

October 12, 2012

by Julio Rank Wright

El Salvador is facing multiple threats to democracy. High crime, a slow economy and persistent poverty join more modern issues such as urban governance, reduced competitiveness and stagnant productivity. While these challenges disappoint members of the electorate, consistent political bickering is also a turn-off to a base of voters that desperately cries for moderation.

Political elites, who at times seem trapped in a time warp circa the Cold War, often refer to each other as mata vacas (cow killers) and escuadroneros (death squad members) in direct reference to terms used during the country’s civil war.

Political moderation in El Salvador doesn’t have a strong track record; whenever emerging figures have embraced it, regardless of party, their political careers are cut short.

For instance, in 2003 Evelyn Jacir de Lovo ran for mayor of San Salvador on behalf of the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Nationalist Republican Alliance—ARENA) party. Jacir de Lovo had served as education minister under the administration of former President Francisco Flores (1999-2004) and had been historically close to Catholic groups working with refugees in the 1980s. Her platform emphasized the need to bring ARENA from the Right to a more centrist position. She failed.

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Tags: ARENA, El Salvador, El Salvador 2014 election



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