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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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Three countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—received more than 90 per cent of the deportations from the United States. Many of these deportees were members of the 18th Street and Salvatrucha gangs who had arrived in the United States as children but had never secured legal residency or citizenship; they had joined the gangs as a way to feel included in a receiving country that often actively impeded their integration. On being sent back to countries of origin that they barely knew, deportees reproduced the structures and behaviour patterns that had provided them with support and security in the United States. They swiftly founded local clikas, or chapters, of their gang in their communities of origin; in turn, these clikas rapidly attracted local youths and either supplanted or absorbed pandillas [local gangs].
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The rampant violence that afflicts the Northern Triangle, must be understood as a permutation of both preceding civil wars and US imperialism...The United States bears responsibility for instilling right-wing forces with a virulent anticommunism through both mobile and School of the Americas training programs...Sara Diamond argues, “Anticommunism became the American Right’s dominant motif not just because it justified the enforcement of US dominion internationally but also because it wove together disparate threads of right-wing ideology.” The Reagan foreign policy doctrine conveyed a project to “roll back revolution” and to undo gains made by struggles for decolonization. Reagan's wars in Central America followed a 100-year tradition of US military intervention. Starting in the 19th century, the US military invaded Nicaragua 3 times (1894, 1896, 1910) and occupied the nation for 20 years (1912-1933). The US sent troops to Honduras 5 times from 1903 to 1924. In Guatemala, the CIA overthrew its democratically elected president Jacobo Arbenz in 1954, laying the conditions for 30 years of civil war, and the massacre of 200,000 mostly indigenous people. In tandem with US militarization,...fruit companies restructured the region's economies toward monoculture. [Instituted was] a near-permanent open door for corporate intervention in matters of national sovereignty.
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"The Central America region, especially El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, known as the CA-4 group, have very high levels of corruption similar to those in sub-Saharan Africa," said the executive director of the Seattle International Foundation, Arturo Aguilar. "Given these disturbing trends, it’s no wonder people have very little trust in government. In fact, 65 percent of respondents think their government is run by and for a few private interests," the body said in their report.
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An estimated 250,000 Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) will have another year to work legally in the United States, until Jan. 4, 2021. But Monday’s agreement between the U.S. and El Salvador also called for a new law enforcement partnership to identify air passengers linked to terrorism or to narcotics, weapons or currency smuggling. Under its provisions, the United States will send U.S. law enforcement officials to help “mentor” their police, border security and immigration counterparts in El Salvador. Critics who successfully sued the government to win an injunction over the rollbacks in Temporary Protected Status said the administration was using vulnerable immigrants to achieve its border security goals. “This suggests that the government is using the program that protects tens of thousands of people as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with other countries,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, senior counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
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U.S. immigration authorities apprehended 76,020 minors, most of them from Central America, traveling without their parents in the fiscal year that ended in September — 52 percent more than during the last fiscal year, according to United States Customs and Border Protection. Mexico, under pressure from the Trump administration, stepped up immigration enforcement and detained about 40,500 underage migrants traveling north without their parents in the same period. That's a total of 115,000.
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In the tiny Central American nation, which has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, the traumatic experience of having a miscarriage or the death of a newborn baby can often be compounded by serious jail time. In a region wrestling with alarming rates of gender-based violence, El Salvador stands out for its relentless persecution of women suspected of having abortions or killing their newborn babies. Since 2000, at least 129 women have been imprisoned following pregnancy- or birth-related complications in El Salvador, a country of approximately 6.5 million people and one of a handful in Latin America where abortion is totally banned, even when the woman’s life is at risk. Some of these women have been charged with aggravated homicide and sentenced to as many as 40 years. (Having an abortion, on the other hand, carries a maximum sentence of eight years.) By contrast, the maximum sentence for men charged with femicide, or killing a woman because of her gender, is 35 years.
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Although mostly centered on migration, talk of Latin American foreign policy has increased as the presidential primaries near. Presidential hopefuls have ripped into President Donald Trump’s immigration policy, especially focusing on his “zero tolerance” policy. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has called it “dead wrong” and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro has vowed to decriminalize migration and admit climate refugees who ask for asylum. But the truth is that even in a crowded pool of candidates fighting for the 2020 nomination, many have failed to address how they would work with Latin American countries to address the root causes that push Latin American and Caribbean migrants to seek a better life in the United States. As candidates gear up for the fourth presidential debate...here is what some Democratic presidential hopefuls (and former contenders) have said about Latin American foreign policy so far.
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Outgoing Department of Homeland Security head Kevin McAleenan plans to announce during a trip to Central America this week the reinstatement of foreign aid that President Trump previously demanded be withheld, according to government documents obtained by the Washington Examiner. McAleenan, the acting secretary of DHS, is slated to formally announce the United States is reinstating roughly $150 million in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The forthcoming aid is primarily through Defense and State Department programs that support newly signed agreements McAleenan has recently entered with leaders from each of the three countries. The deals focus on addressing surges in recent years in the number of people from countries other than Mexico arriving at the southern border, as well as the underlying causes prompting hundreds of thousands to leave since last October.
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Hundreds of migrants from Africa, the Caribbean and Central America found themselves corralled in a migrant detention facility in southern Mexico on Sunday after a futile attempt to head north as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States. Just before dusk, after having trudged more than 20 miles north, they were surrounded by hundreds of National Guard agents and police who persuaded the exhausted migrants to board vans back to Tapachula. Children cried, and women complained angrily about waiting months for papers. It was unclear if any would be deported.

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