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El Salvador: News & Updates

El Salvador is the smallest and most densely populated country in Central America. The US-backed civil war, which erupted after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980, lasted 12 years (1980-92), killing 70,000 people and forcing 20% of the nation’s five million people to seek refuge in the US.

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News Article
Just days after the United Nations urged governments around the world to release vulnerable prisoners to ease overcrowding, President Bukele of El Salvador is doing the opposite. While Chile, Colombia and Nicaragua have announced they will move thousands of prisoners into house arrest, El Salvador is aiming to lock up more. El Salvador has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world: 2.1 murders per day in March 2020. That average will go up in April since 24 people were killed on just one day, April 24. In response, the president has authorized the police and army to use lethal force to curb the violence. He is mixing members of rival gangs in prison cells and ordering 24/7 lockdown, saying that gangs are “taking advantage of the pandemic.” The security minister said that prisoners will: “not receive sunlight, they will be in total confinement 24 hours a day in [El Salvador’s] seven maximum security prisons.”
News Article
"This country has been inhaling tear gas since 2009," said Bertha Oliva, coordinator of the Honduran human rights group the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (COFADEH). Repressive measures to arbitrarily detain citizens and control their movements could become normalised in the long term, particularly if these abuses happen without resistance from citizens or civil society, according to Tiziano Breda, Central America analyst for NGO the International Crisis Group. "Where there's no check, the government will implement these kinds of initiatives even when the crisis has passed," Breda said.
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As Pope Francis wrote five years in Laudato Si’ (#139), the range of these issues, from deforestation to migration and overcrowded cities, suggests that “we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis, which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”
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Several years ago, Camila Díaz left her native El Salvador and went to the United States, looking for a place where she would be safer as a transgender woman. But she failed to find a sympathetic ear. Deported back to San Salvador, the nation's capital, she was killed just over a year later. Díaz, 30, was one of 138 Salvadorans deported from the United States who have been killed upon returning to their country since 2013, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. Mónica Linares, an activist with the rights group Arcoiris Trans (Rainbow Trans) said the group had demanded authorities investigate her killing.
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Fearing for his life, a thin, curly-haired 25-year-old fled to the United States-Mexico border and requested asylum. After nine days in custody, he was put on a plane in McAllen, Texas, and sent to Guatemala. American authorities explained that he would wait there for an “initial screening,” the first step in the U.S. asylum process, and eventually return to stand before a U.S. judge, he said. But it wasn't true. The U.S. government sent him here to apply for Guatemalan asylum under a new Trump administration policy that puts migrants into this Central American country's bare bones asylum system with few resources and fewer options. From the program's start in November through last week, the U.S. government shipped 683 asylum-seekers to Guatemala. That is more than double the number of asylum-seekers processed by Guatemala in all of 2018. But only 14, or about 2% of the foreigners actually pursued asylum here.
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Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ, associate director for faculty and staff spirituality at USF, explained that the Jesuits had spoken against the kidnapping, torture and murder of civilians, many of them poor, at the hands of El Salvador’s military regime during the country’s civil war. Because the Jesuits spoke up, they were targeted as enemies. “With this memorial, we honor the martyrs in El Salvador, and we reaffirm our Jesuit mission to struggle against injustice and seek the truth,” said Fr. Godfrey.
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The Valle del Angel development is not the first or only one of its kind. The encroachment of urban mega-developments as a mechanism of capitalist expansion is a disturbing trend in El Salvador and in the region. In addition to other industries like mining/natural resource extraction, agribusiness, and hydroelectric projects, urban real estate development is on the uptick as a means of “accumulation through dispossession" and the ongoing transfer of wealth from the working class to elites. (All of which are among the root causes of destabilization and displacement we’re seeing across Central America.)

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