Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Things to be grateful for - Norman Quijano is not the president of El Salvador

d'Aubuisson in ARENA legislative offices (2004)
San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano has announced that San Antonio Abad will be renamed this week in honor of ARENA party founder Major Roberto d'Aubuisson. The road stretches from Los Héroes in front of the Universidad de El Salvador to 75 avenida norte.

I thought that it was idiotic that the FMLN had renamed a street after Hugo Chavez a few years ago, but this just seems so much worse. Yes, he presided over the Constituent Assembly that wrote the country's Constitution and he was influential in supporting the end to the civil war, but that in no way makes up for why he has been referred to as Blowtorch Bob.

It looks like El Salvador's right-wing is getting ahead of any decision from the Vatican on beatifying the man d'Aubuisson had assassinated - Monsenor Oscar Romero - and from the US and Spain on extradition officials implicated in the 1989 Jesuit murders.

The Salvadoran civil war is alive and well.

Myth of the Caudillo Mayor in Guatemala

Iván Morales Carrera (@ivancarrera) recently presented the results of his research on municipal level elections in Guatemala to faculty and students at the Francisco Marroquin. In his work, he debunks the myth that Guatemala is full of mayors who sort of rule over their little fiefdoms until such time they decide to retire from public life. Instead, their is much greater turnover at the municipal level than what is commonly thought and that the examples of long serving mayors (Arnoldo Medrano, Tono Coro, and Rubelio Recinos) are more the exception than the rule. Therefore, efforts in Congress to impose term limits on mayors are misplaced. What we actually observe are dynamics similar to national-level presidential elections - the runner-up in the previous election defeats the incumbent.

You can read Ivan's entire article here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Eight killed at graduation party in shooting in El Salvador

According to Reuters
Suspected gang members in El Salvador shot dead seven men and a woman early on Tuesday during a middle school graduation party in Pacific seaport town of Acajutla, police said.
At least four suspected members of local street gangs known as Maras broke into a house in Acajutla, about 52 miles (84 km) southwest of the capital San Salvador, and opened fire on the group without warning, police said.
"This is the most serious incident reported this year," the country's police chief Mauricio Ramirez told reporters.
Among the seven dead men was Cristian Romero, a gang member wanted for murder, authorities said.
The killers wore masks and bulletproof vests, and were armed with guns such as M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles, police said.
Seven victims are believed to have been gang members while the eighth victim, a woman, was the owner of the establishment. (See also Contrapunto)

A scary escalation.

Monday, November 24, 2014

There aren't many positives in Mister Donut for Mayor but check it out

A terrific article on Mister Donut for Mayor (and other things) in El Salvador from Jennie Erin Smith in The New Yorker. Here are a few highlights:
Only the nation’s endocrinologists are happy. 
more than ten per cent of Salvadorans now have diabetes, one of the highest rates in Latin America
Middle-class Salvadorans, who drive around their dicey capital from one pocket of safety to another, treat the restaurants as the public parks they never had.
Guards with double-barrelled shotguns stalk the perimeters of many restaurants, a standard courtesy in a region where homicide rates are almost ten times what they are in the United States. 
It may be true that the chains have profited from El Salvador’s afflictions. It’s also true, as even Korn concedes, that they’ve injected a measure of happiness into a society with little to be happy about. 
During the campaigns for this year’s Presidential election, Mister Donut ads exhorted customers to vote for neither the left-wing ruling-party candidate nor his right-wing rival but a dark horse, Chocolate Doughnut. 
There aren't many positives in Mister Donut for Mayor but check it out.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Northeastern Pennsylvania

I was asked to write-up a brief overview on Ethnic & Cultural Diversity in Northeastern Pennsylvania for a round table discussion scheduled for an event at the University of Scranton on Monday. I was only asked to prepare a five-to-ten minutes so it is not very in-depth. Anyway, I thought that I would share it here.

According to several studies, approximately 41 million foreign-born immigrants were residing in the United States as of 2012. Mexican-born immigrants comprised approximately 28 percent of that total. Significant populations also came from India, China, the Philippines, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cuba and South Korea. In terms of Pennsylvania, like many states, we have a long history of immigration. Foreign-born immigrants comprise roughly 5.9 percent of the Commonwealth’s population. Recently, the Latino population has grown from 2 percent to 5.9 percent and the Asian population from 1.1 percent to 2.8 percent from 1990 to 2011.

In terms of undocumented immigrants, the estimated number has decreased from a high of 12.2 million or so in 2007 to between 10 and 11 million today. That decrease was caused in large part by growing opportunities in Mexico, increased security on our southern border, record-level deportations, and a significant slowdown in the US economy, particularly in the housing, restaurant and service sectors. While the number of Mexicans coming to the US has decreased rather significantly, we have witnessed a significant increase in undocumented migrants coming from the Northern Triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where people are fleeing violence caused by drug traffickers, gangs, organized crime, and petty street crime and the lack of economic opportunity. Many young people and families are going north to the United States to reunite with family members that have been here for years. In many ways we believe this is the same pattern that happened with earlier immigrant groups.

When it comes to Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties, an estimated 25,000 foreign-born individuals live here. The foreign born population in Lackawanna County has grown from 2.3 percent in 2000 to 4.6 percent in 2012 while the in Luzerne County, the foreign born population has grown from 1.9 percent to 4.8 percent. There has been a strong increase in the Latino population in the area, as well as increases in the Russian and Indian populations. As of 2012, Scranton also counted some 170 Bhutanese families from South Asia. 

According to the 2010 census, Lackawanna County’s Scranton’s population is approximately 80 percent white, 10 percent Latino, 5 percent black, and 3 percent Asian. In Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, approximately 79 percent is white, 11 percent black, and 11 percent Latino.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pan-American Post on Guatemala happenings

The Pan-American Post has two updates from Guatemala in yesterday's news roundup.
Despite concerns over corruption and civil society groups’ objections to recent judicial nominations in Guatemala, the country’s Constitutional Court upheld the appointments in a 3-2 ruling yesterday afternoon. Prensa Libre reports that the new Supreme Court and appellate court judges -- who were reportedly chosen as a result of backroom deal between the ruling Patriot Party (PP) and the opposition Renewed Democratic Liberty Party (LIDER) -- will assume their offices in five days’ time. In an interview with El Periodico, human rights advocate Helen Mack of the Fundacion Myrna Mack told the paper that the decision represents proof of the lack of judicial independence in the country. As a next step, Mack endorsed a proposal by the UN-backed Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) to hold a series of technical conferences to put together an agenda for justice reform.
Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition has a brief interview with former Guatemalan Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz, who describes some of the risks she faced in her job. Out of concern for her safety, Paz y Paz claims that she traveled with a seven-member security detail in Guatemala. Asked about why she has moved to the U.S. after leaving office, the ex-prosecutor said her family “needed to be away for a little bit.”
Following the overturning of the Efrain Rios Montt genocide and crimes against humanity convictions, I held open the slight possibility that the technical ruling could be a step forward for Guatemala's courts. 

One did not just want Rios Montt found guilty simply because we "knew" he was guilty. We wanted him found guilty on those charges if the evidence supported that conclusion. We wanted the trial to be conducted fairly even though that option was not made available to those massacred. And we wanted the trial itself to contribute to the strengthening of the rule of law in Guatemala. 

Unfortunately, the legal reasoning behind the overturning of the conviction was flimsy. The prosecutor was pushed out early and the selection process for her replacement was questionable. And now after the Guatemalan people and the entire world have seen the the questionable selections of Supreme and Appellate court judges, whatever wishful thinking one might have clung to has now disappeared. 2014 has been a rough year for the rule of law in Guatemala.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Education for Justice: Torture

Here I am discussing the annual theme that my Education for Justice program at the University of Scranton selected to highlight this year. You'll have to forgive me but I didn't get much heads up on what they wanted me to discuss as I was actually there to speak briefly about my research on Central America.