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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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The Forever Foundation led an "Inverse Caravan" to ratify the willingness of its participants to stay in this Central American nation. It moved from the country's western border to downtown San Salvador. The Inverse Caravan organizers highlighted that migration flows would decrease if there were greater educational opportunities for young people. More specifically, they asked the Bukele administration, corporations, and social organizations to work together to increase the levels of employment and education in El Salvador. "If we want young people to stay in the country, then let's join forces to support development projects and making young people become replicators of their experience in their communities," the Forever Foundation Chairman Alejandro Gutman said.
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The National Assembly voted (63 out of 84) to approve reforms to the Judicial Careers Law to forcibly retire judicial employees who are older than 60 years of age or who have more than 30 years of service. This decision is also having negative repercussions on cases of major national and international interest like the case of the El Mozote Massacre, whose judge is among those unconstitutionally ousted by changes to the law. In response to the decision by the legislative body, the Judge of San Francisco Gotera, Jorge Guzmán, has announced his resignation as the judge overseeing the case of the El Mozote Massacre, indicating that he will not return to office unless the reforms to the Judicial Careers Law are repealed. The Association in Defense of Human Rights of El Mozote also lamented the recent reforms given that Judge Guzmán “is the only person who has accumulated enough evidence to move forward the case of the El Mozote Massacre."
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The United States seeks to push an Anti-Corruption Task Force in Central America, without Central American support, indicates Eric Olson, director of Policies and Strategic Initiatives of the Seattle International Foundation, quoted by El Periódico de Guatemala. This was echoed by National Security Officer for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, and the special envoy for the Northern Triangle, Ricardo Zúñiga. The officials spoke of working in the region with actors from civil society, private companies and key representatives, to combat corruption as a central part of what Washington wants to do to move towards a Central America that protects human dignity in each country. The US proposes to investigate cases against politicians, officials and members of organized crime who have collaborated or committed crimes in the United States. The news article also quotes the Guatemalan ambassador in Washington, DC, Alfonso Quiñónez, and indicates that he is aware of this situation.
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On Tuesday, September 7, said law came into effect, despite its unpopularity. In a survey conducted by the Central American University (UCA) in August, 95.9% of the population believed that the adoption of bitcoin should be voluntary. This study also revealed that more than half of the population, 54.3%, believed that the prices of basic foodstuffs would increase with the introduction of bitcoin as legal tender. In addition, different social organizations expressed their concern over the fact that bitcoin is an extremely volatile cryptocurrency.
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Source: CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador)

In an unprecedented event in Salvadoran history, approximately ten thousand people packed the streets of the capital city of San Salvador on September 15, El Salvador’s bicentennial anniversary, to raise their voices against the actions of the Bukele administration and his allies in other branches of government.

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As Congress prepares to vote on a massive military spending bill - the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) - we need strong collective action to end U.S. complicity in state repression and human rights abuses in Central America. Thankfully, progressive leader Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) has heard these demands and introduced an amendment to the NDAA that would withhold U.S. military training and equipment for security forces in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. We need as many US reps as possible to co-sponsor this amendment.
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Nayib Bukele, the forty-year-old President of El Salvador, has been in office since 2019 and has a reputation for what is referred to as “millennial authoritarianism.” He often wears a baseball cap backward on his head, he once pronounced himself the “coolest President in the world,” and he recently made Bitcoin a legal national currency. He tends to find ways to get what he wants. In February of last year, he coerced support for a security-budget loan by surrounding the Salvadoran legislature with snipers and invading it with armed soldiers. This May, with several of his executive orders being challenged as unconstitutional, and a number of his ministries under financial investigation, he replaced the attorney general and all five judges of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, the nation’s highest, with political allies. The newly appointed judges then voided El Salvador’s ban on Presidential second terms. But, on August 31st, Bukele made an announcement that many consider to be of a different order. Late that evening, the legislature, which his party dominates, passed a law forcing all judges over the age of sixty, or those with more than thirty years of service, to retire immediately—effectively allowing Bukele to replace a third of the country’s judges. Carlos Dada, the founding editor of El Faro, a prestigious Salvadoran online investigative-journalism outlet, told me that Bukele has “grabbed all power,” adding that “he has the military and the police in his pocket. The President takes care of them—they take care of the President. He now controls the courts. arena and the F.M.L.N.”—the two main opposition parties—“have been destroyed, and he has an absolute majority in congress. He no longer has any opposition except the N.G.O.s and journalists.”
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Social movement organizations in El Salvador are on high alert following a Supreme Court ruling on Sept 3 that would enable President Bukele to seek a consecutive term in office, despite multiple and explicit prohibitions in the Constitution against consecutive presidential reelection, including Article 88 which requires “alternance” in the exercise of the presidency. Though the ruling does not come as a shock, as the president’s intentions to remain in office were already clear, it affirms fears that El Salvador’s postwar democracy has entered free fall and that Bukele is successfully clearing the road of any legal challenges to his consolidation of power.
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The trauma experienced by Central American minors before, during, and after their unaccompanied journeys to the United States puts them at high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems, creating further obstacles to their success in school and broader integration into U.S. society. New research into results from the CLALS Pilot Project Household Contexts and School Integration of Resettled Migrant Youth, which included interviews and qualitative surveys (including a validated PHQ-9 Modified for Teens and the Child PTSD Symptom Scale, CPSS), revealed that about one-third of unaccompanied minors from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala show symptoms of moderate to severe PTSD — significantly higher than the general population....Many of the youths suffered deeply from separation from parents who preceded them in traveling to the United States, sometimes blaming them for problems and abuses they suffered back home, but they generally fared better than those whose parents had not emigrated.

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