Some links from El Salvador

My apartment in Residencial San Luis (1997)

Nina Lakhani sheds light on the violence carried out by the country’s security forces in ‘We fear soldiers more than gangsters’: El Salvador’s ‘iron fist’ policy turns deadly.

But the street gangs are not the only factions involved in the violence. State security forces have laid virtual siege to gang-controlled communities where being a young male is enough to get you arrested, tortured or killed.

The government’s promise to apply a mano dura (“iron fist”) policy against gangs seems to have become a shoot-to-kill policy under which anyone living in a gang-controlled neighbourhood risks falling victim to extrajudicial violence.

While some of the victims have been gang members, others have nothing to do with organised crime. 

The AP reports that the Catholic Church is seeking a ban (not my word, their word) on mining.

Archbishop Jose Luis Escobar Alas said Monday that the country’s mining law is so obsolete that it makes El Salvador especially vulnerable to exploitation.

Reuters says that authorities arrested 22 fishermen.

El Salvadoran officials have arrested 22 fishermen accused of working for Mexican drug traffickers and seized an unspecified amount of money, vehicles, boats and weapons, authorities said on Monday.

Federal police said in a statement that the fishermen had carried out “drug trafficking logistics” under the orders of Francesco Monroy, a former Guatemalan military man accused of moving cocaine for Mexico’s Sinaloa and Gulf cartels.

Monroy was captured and extradited to the United States in 2016.

Reuters also reports that the US has released $98 million to El Salvador.

The funds, which were approved by the U.S. Congress in 2015, will be used to prioritize security and development strategies in 50 impoverished areas of the Central American country, which is plagued by drug gangs.

The money will also be earmarked to strengthen government institutions such as the attorney general’s office, which leads the country’s fight against corruption, Salvadoran Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez told a news conference.

“These additional funds support the country in addressing the root causes of irregular migration, such as insecurity, lack of economic and educational opportunities, and family disintegration,” said U.S. ambassador Jean Manes.

Finally, Geoff Thale from the Washington Office on Latin America looks for some positive takeaways from his recent trip to El Salvador following weeks of bad news.

And yet, I saw real signs of hope. The stories of the families, of people who had seen their parents, or spouses, or siblings, dragged away from them, never to be seen again, were deeply moving, and terribly painful. Their resilience, their determination to find out what happened to those they loved and give them a proper resting place, was inspiring. Nearly 300 people, many of them campesinos who had traveled several hours to come to the city, attended the forum. When the moderator asked who besides the eight speakers had had family members disappeared, nearly the entire audience raised their hands. The gravity with which they sat and received the testimonies of the speakers—four Salvadoran and four Salvadoran-Americans, was a testament both to their own pain, and to their hope and their commitment.

Beyond the inspiration and the commitment of the families, the trip brought hope because El Salvador’s president agreed in principle to establish the commission that the family members were seeking. The group—a dozen people from the Mauricio Aquino Foundation, Rep. McGovern and his legislative director, and me—met with President Sánchez Cerén for nearly an hour. Four of the family members told their personal stories, and asked the president to respond, and a representative of the Due Process of Law Foundation explained the details of the proposal. The president expressed his interest in the proposal and asked us to attend a meeting with a range of government officials to discuss the details of the proposal and the experiences of other countries.