In recent weeks, Salvadoran news site El Faro has had some interesting coverage of the tense relationship between President Mauricio Funes and the leadership of the country’s armed forces. More than twenty years after its end, the civil war continues to shape El Salvador’s political climate, with the country’s first leftist government unable to exert full control over the military.
In January 2012, President Funes ordered the army to cease honoring members
of the armed forces who have been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. This move, he insisted, was necessary in order for the country to recognize the atrocities committed during its armed conflict. In a symbolic gesture Funes gave the speech at El Mozote, site of a brutal 1981 massacre that left some 1,000 people dead.
Rather than following the instructions of the president -- the commander-in-chief, according to the constitution -- the army created a special committee
to “analyze and interpret” the order. Nearly two years later, it has not reached a conclusion, and the military continues to celebrate the legacies of controversial figures like Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Monterrosa and Major Jose Armando Azmitia Melara, who commanded the troops responsible for the El Mozote killings.
Just last month, the army had a ceremony in the town of Joateca
, located just twenty minutes from El Mozote, bringing together some 200 troops to commemorate a battle in which Monterroza and Azmitia are remembered as heroes. One of the units involved, the Third Brigade of San Miguel, is even known as the “Domingo Monterrosa Brigade.”
On top of their resistance to Funes’ order, the armed forces have put pressure on the administration to increase military spending, as El Faro noted in a recent editorial
The irony of this is that Funes is one of the most military-friendly presidents in El Salvador’s post-war history. In addition to appointing military figures like General David Munguia Payes to top cabinet posts, he has approved budgets allotting record amounts
to the army, and its ranks havegrown by some 60 percent
under his administration. If, in spite of this, the Salvadoran armed forces feel entitled to push back against the president’s orders, it may be worth asking whether they represent a threat to the health of democracy in the Central American country.
November 4, 2013
Women at the Natonal Assembly cheering!
On October 15th, TheAlliance of Rural Womenconvened for theThird National Assembly, at the National University of El Salvador. Various organizations of women working for gender equality through education compose the Rural Women Alliance, including: the CCR, CRIPDES, CORDES, National Network of Women Leading Change (RMPC) , Research Institute for the Training and Development of Women (IMU) , Salvadoran Women’s Movement (MSM), Mélida Anaya Montes Association Movement (Las Mélidas), and AMSATI, a women’s agricultural organization withinCONFRAS, the Confederation of Federations of Agricultural Cooperatives from the Salvadoran Agricultural Reform.
The assembly conveyed the power that rural women are gaining as they organize their communities and advocate for policies that will improve the lives of rural families. Rural women confront various threats in their communities, such as machismo, domestic violence, lack of opportunities to obtain jobs in the public sector, the lack of education regarding women’s rights and laws, as well as the complete lack of educational opportunities generally.
At the first Assembly in 2011, the women discussed the politics of gender equality and the importance of creating a space for female organization. In the second Assembly in 2012, the women presented specific policy demands to various government officials who signed commitments assuring positive change. However, the objective of this year’s assembly was to encourage women to embody an articulate front, and to demand answers from government officials who promised to facilitate dialogue between women and the Legislative Assembly. The absence of these government officials at the Third Assembly was a symbol of their failure to follow through on their commitments. Juanita, the women’s coordinator from the CCR, insists that the next step is to “transform these demands into real changes and to implement new public policy which is in favor of rural women”.
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, Alliance of Rural Women
, dignified housing
, food sovereignty
, National Assembly
, Women's Rights
Update on Women´s Attention Centers: A Life Free of Violence
October 30, 2013
On November 25th, 2010, The Special Law for a Life Free of Violence against Women passed, guaranteeing that unlike in the past, the thousands of femicide cases, physical abuse, harassment in the workplace, communities, and schools, would be addressed, not pushed aside as “cultural issues”. Prior to the passage of the law, El Salvador ranked highest for intentional female homicide in the world: 13.9 for every 100,000 women.
ORMUSA (Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace), a longtime SHAREpartner, recognized the severity of the violent situation women faced on a daily basis and decided to take action. “Women need to know that there are spaces for them to denounce these crimes,” explains Silvia Juarez of ORMUSA. Although the femicide rate has only dropped slightly, the number of court cases and convictions concerning violence against women have increased. According to Juarez, this is because women are slowly learning their rights, denouncing these crimes, and most importantly, standing up for themselves.
Pamphlet explaining the importance of reporting crimes and describing the purpose of the Attention Centers.
Raising awareness of this law does not only meaneducating the victims,but also ensuring that those that make up the justice system, ie., police officers, judges, social workers, etc, handle these cases appropriately. With the support of The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael and the Rachael and Ben Vaughan Foundation SHARE has supported ORMUSA in training police officers, social workers, and medical personnel in responding to women who are victims of violent crimes.
“We have been training police officers, building attention centers, and promotinggender equal policies for quite some time now. And finally we are seeing some results,” explains Juarez. Six Women’s Attention Centers have been constructed in different PNC (National Civilian Police) units throughout the country. But ORMUSA will not stop there. They plan on having ten centers in place before the end of the year. And plan to have twelve centers by the end of 2014.
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Tags: Attention Centers
, Break the Silence
, Cultural Issues
, Educating Victims
, Gender Equality
, Human Rights
, Violence Free
, Women's Rights
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The Latest on Tutela Legal: Attorney General Intervenes, Archbishop Changing Discourse
October 28, 2013
“Historic memory is not private property.”
Just over three weeks have passed since Monsignor José Luis Alas Escobar, Archbishop of San Salvador issued a decree to close Tutela Legal, the Archdiocese’s renowned human rights legal aid office, and every week the situation becomes more complex. The Archbishop continues to change his discourse about the reasons for the closure. Victims’ access to the office’s archives, which include documentation of over 50,000 cases of human rights violations, including 80% of the cases in the 1993 Truth Commission report, remains questionable.
In the most shocking intervention since the initial bombshell of Tutela’s closure, on Friday October 18th, representatives of the Attorney General’s Office forcefully entered the Archdiocese declaring their intent to seize the archives. The media began to announce the presence of the representatives of the Attorney General’s Office in Tutela Legal around four in the afternoon, and members of human rights organizations gathered outside the Archdiocese to verify the proceedings.
David Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman immediately requested entrance for his representatives, but both the Attorney General and the Archdiocese denied their entry. A police unit, however, was allowed in. Members of human rights organizations asked Monsignor Urrutia why representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman’s office were not allowed in and he simply lifted his hands, as if washing them of responsibility. Representatives of FESPAD reported that around 8:30 in the evening, two trucks and a lab vehicle with the back end covered belonging to the Attorney General’s office and a car with its license plates covered exited the Archdiocese. Covering license plates was a tactic commonly used by death squads in the 1980s.
“The Archbishop and the Attorney General have massacred the Salvadoran people all over again.”
Afterwards in the news, Attorney General Luis Martinez assured the public that the intent of the visit to the Archdiocese was to ensure the safety of the files in active investigations, and that by law the Attorney General’s Office represents the victims. The Archbishop emphasized that the representatives of the Attorney General’s Office had only been allowed to do a superficial revision of the archives, that the church will guard the archives as carefully as the sacred act of confession, and the Attorney General’s Office would simply help guard the archives.
Nevertheless, members of Salvadoran human rights organizations distrust the actions of the Attorney General, given the systemic impunity in the justice system, and the past unwillingness to investigate grave human rights violations from during the armed conflict. In early September, when the Attorney General announced that the office would investigate the El Mozote Massacre, they never contacted members of Tutela Legal who represented the case, or the human rights committee in El Mozote. The sudden interest in these files thus is a break with past actions. Human Rights Omsbudsman David Morales expressed his concern for any process enacted without consulting the victims and removal of any files without a careful inventory of the archives enacted by experts.
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