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El Salvador, prizing water over gold, bans all metal mining
29 March 2017 - Lawmakers in El Salvador voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to prohibit all mining for gold and other metals, making the country the first in the world to impose a nationwide ban on metal mining, environmental activists said. 'It's a wonderful moment for the first country to evaluate the costs and benefits of metallic mining and say no,' said Andres McKinley, a mining and water specialist at Central American University in San Salvador. (more)

Salvadoran farmers stake their bets on sustainable development
12 September 2014 - Peasant farmers from one of El Salvador's most fragile coastal areas are implementing a model of sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and offers people education and security as keys to give the wetland region a boost. The Mangrove Association has been carrying out the plan in the southern part of the eastern department of Usulután, in a region known as Bajo Lempa, for 14 years. A total of 86 farming and fishing communities on Jiquilisco bay are involved in the project. (more)

El Salvador considers world-first mining ban
3 October 2013 - El Salvador could become the first country to ban mining for precious metals in order to protect freshwater supplies. Community organizations, church groups, and environmentalists have come together to campaign against a cyanide leach gold mine proposed by Canada-based Pacific Rim in the northern department of Cabañas. Some 62 per cent of Salvadorans back a bill to ban the industry altogether. (more)

Can a gang truce in El Salvador open the door to lasting peace?
24 October 2012 - For years El Salvador battled gangs with prison sentences and an iron fist. But a gang truce brokered in March has lasted longer than anyone expected, with homicide rates plummeting. The streets of El Salvador's toughest barrios are quieter than they have been in years -- a disquieting tranquillity, residents say, because it has come from a truce no one believed possible between two of the country's most violent rival gangs. Hopes are growing that the pact will last. (more)

El Salvador's gang truce cuts murder rate
15 July 2012 - In March, rival gangs surprised El Salvadore by releasing a joint statement declaring an end to violence and pledging to freeze recruitment of new adolescent members, especially in poor neighbourhoods and around schools. Since then, the change has been dramatic. Authorities say that the unprecedented truce has cut the homicide rate in half in just four months. Murder rates are down, and on 14 April the country recorded its first day in three years without a single murder. The government has lauded the truce and is trying to help its long-term success by working with business leaders to offer work and rehabilitation programmes for gang members. (more)

El Salvador gangs say permanent truce possible
20 June 2012 - Leaders of El Salvador's Mara street gangs said Tuesday that they are ready to start negotiations with the government toward a permanent peace pact following the success of a three-month-old temporary truce that has lowered the Central American country's murder rate dramatically. Former leftist guerrilla commander Raul Mijango and Roman Catholic Bishop Fabio Colindres mediated a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha and the Mara 18 gangs in March that has helped lower homicide rates in El Salvador. (more)

El Salvador women put their faith in agroecology
16 May 2012 - In Los Lagartos, El Salvador (population 5,000), the women work in their family gardens, where they grow vegetables with organic compost that they produce. They also use it in their plots of corn and beans, staples of the Salvadoran diet, and on fruit trees in the forest. The compost is helping to change planting techniques in favour of the environment. And the women plan to start selling their organic fertilizer, to earn funds for the project. These women are part of an agroecology programme, which aims achieve food sovereignty and develop energy forests to help mitigate the impact of climate change. (more)

El Salvador bans public-area smoking
22 July 2011 - El Salvador's congress has overriden a veto by President Mauricio Funes and approved a ban on smoking in closed public spaces. The law explicitly bans smoking in work places, public transport and public areas where children gather. It also bans the sale of single cigarettes and requires warning messages on cigarette packs. (more)

El Salvador: US President Obama visit dispels fears over ties
19 March 2011 - President Mauricio Funes said Saturday he is gratified that Barack Obama is including his small country in a tour of Latin America, saying the visit dispels fears relations would suffer under El Salvador's first leftist government. Funes has charted a moderate course in El Salvador, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba but also making ties with Washington a priority. (more)

El Salvador gets first Cuban ambassador since 1960s
19 October 2009 - The first Cuban ambassador to El Salvador since the early 1960s has presented his credentials, the government of President Mauricio Funes said Sunday. Funes re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba after taking office in June, almost a half-century after ties were broken at the height of the Cold War. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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Mayors at El Salvador congress enjoy presentation on Maharishi's programmes to alleviate violence and rehabilitate criminal offenders
4 December 2009 - A large congress of mayors in San Salvador, El Salvador, 23-24 November, featured a presentation on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's programmes to improve every area of society. The presentation was given by Dr Pedro Ojeda, representing the Latin American Institute of Science, Technology, and Public Policy, who had been invited to address the congress. Mayors expressed particular interest in programmes for alleviating violence and rehabilitating criminal offenders, problems that plague the nation. (more)

Peace-creating group for El Salvador
20 July 2007 - Five hundred public school students will learn the Transcendental Meditation Technique as a step towards halting violence and promoting invincibility in El Salvador. (more)

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Gang warfare in El Salvador pushes death rate to record
21 January 2016 - Gang warfare that has made the Central American country of El Salvador one of the most violent in the world. Last year was the most violent on record, with a 70 percent increase in murders from the previous year and a surge in attacks by street gangs, said a civil servant. The number of homicides reached an estimated 6,650 in 2015, from 3,912 the year before, Miguel Fortin Magana, director until Dec. 31 of the National Forensics Institute of El Salvador, told Reuters. The current level of violence is even higher than the average annual loss of life during the 1980-92 civil war. (more)

El Salvador: 125 killings in 3 days as gang violence soars
19 August 2015 - At least 125 people have been killed in El Salvador in the last three days, authorities said Wednesday as a wave of violence continues to plague the Central American nation. Justice and Public Security Minister Benito Lara said the country of 6 million people is confronting 'a very complicated situation.' (more)

Homicides in El Salvador reach record as gang violence grows
9 April 2015 - El Salvador had more homicides in March than any other single month in a decade, a dark milestone that some attribute to the collapse of a gang truce and one that could mark a trend of greater violence to come. Gang-on-gang violence, as well as attacks on police and Salvadorans in general is spiking in what authorities say is an attempt by gangs to pressure the government to negotiate issues raised as part of a 2-year truce that fell apart in 2014. Others see it as a reaction to the new government's iron-fist approach to the country's two major gangs. The truce, negotiated under previous President Mauricio Funes, is credited for a drop in homicides from an average of 14 per day to five over 16 months. Critics of the truce said that gangs were manipulating the homicide count by burying their victims to hide them, although there were no solid numbers to prove that. But Salvadorans in gang-controlled areas said the truce enabled gangs to boost their power and increasingly prey on everyday citizens through extortion and terror. (more)

Sexual violence rampant among El Salvador gangs
6 November 2014 - In a country terrorized by gangsters, it is left to the dead to break the silence on sexual violence. Rather, to the bodies of women and girls pulled from clandestine graves. They attest to the abuse committed by members of street gangs. Those who gather statistics say there are no reliable numbers on sexual violence in El Salvador. Threats prevent many from reporting attacks. Others who have grown up amid rampant abuse may not even recognize rape as a crime. Still others flee the country for safety rather than seek justice from a system that more often delivers impunity. US immigration attorneys say there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women and girls from Central America seeking asylum in the United States after having been kidnapped and raped. 'We are seeing an exponential increase,' said Lindsay Toczylowski, a lawyer with Catholic Charities in Los Angeles. The official numbers show just 239 women and girls among the murdered so far this year, about a tenth of the number of men, with 201 others reported missing. But the statistics don't begin to tell the story. 'All of the gang members victimize women. All of the cliques behave this way,' said Silvia Juarez, a lawyer with the Gender Violence Observatory. 'If there are 60,000 or 70,000 gangsters, imagine how many women they have abused.' El Salvador's 6 million people also suffer the second highest per capita homicide rate in the world after neighbouring Honduras. (more)

Success of Salvador gang truce: Stronger gangs
7 September 2014 - In communities across El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha and their arch rivals, the 18th Street Gang, are de facto rulers. A truce declared two years ago briefly tapered their bloody gang war, but the ceasefire had an unintended consequence: It gave the gangs breathing room to grow even stronger. Now, violence is on the rise again. This wasn't what was expected when gang leaders reached a truce in March 2012. Observers hailed the agreement as the start of a new era of peace for El Salvador, a model to be followed by other countries. Last year, the two bands agreed to make the town of Ilopango one of the country's first 'violence-free zones'. Mass graves still are dug up in Ilopango, filled with young people who were killed even during the truce. Restaurants and other businesses pay extortions. Residents who cross enemy gang territory risk getting killed. Spreading fear and ruling with near impunity, the gangs are one of the top reasons behind the record exodus of unaccompanied minors who have overwhelmed United States Border Patrol agents since last October. Mauricio Arriaza, San Salvador's municipal police chief, said he doubts that even the highly touted reduction in violence was real. 'We're sure, without a doubt, that the gangs continued assassinating and burying their victims in unmarked graves,' he said. Israel Ticas, a forensic investigator who excavates mass graves, said the true results of the truce are still being uncovered. (more)

US pressures El Salvador to buy Monsanto's GMO seeds
10 June 2014 - As one of the preconditions to authorizing close to $300 million in aid, the United States is pressuring El Salvador to purchase genetically modified seeds from Monsanto instead of non-GM seeds from local farmers. According to Sustainable Pulse, a website covering developments related to genetically modified organisms and sustainable agriculture, the US will reportedly withhold $277 million in aid through the Millennium Challenge Compact if El Salvador refuses to purchase GM seeds from the biotech company Monsanto. The website states that the stalled aid package was originally put on hold in late 2013, when it was revealed that Millennium Challenge Corporation would not deliver funds to the country unless 'specific' economic and environmental reforms were made. Apparently, one of those is related to the purchase of GMO seeds. Speaking with Verdad Digital, however, the president of the El Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technologies (CESTA) criticized the US negotiating position and said the country should back away from its demand. (more)

El Salvador: Official says Salvadoran gangs buying automatic rifles
27 April 2014 - A Salvadoran official says the country's street gangs are arming themselves with high-powered rifles and that some members have tried to join the army to get military training. Public Safety Minister Ricardo Perdomo says the main Mara street gangs are buying the automatic rifles in the black market in Honduras and Guatemala, and from the Zetas drug cartel. Perdomo told TCS television network Friday that authorities recently arrested a person in downtown San Salvador who sold gang members 15 M-16 rifles. Perdomo said army recruiters recently detained 26 gang members who tried to join the military. They said it was part of a plan to get military training and then steal military uniforms and weapons. (more)

El Salvador murders surge as gang truce fades
3 April 2014 - The number of murders in the small Central American country of El Salvador rose 44 per cent in the first three months of 2014 compared with the same period last year, leaving a two-year-old truce still in force between violent gangs hanging by a thread. There were 794 murders from January to end of March, up from 551 over the same period last year, El Salvador's Institute of Legal Medicine said on Thursday. It attributed the rise to increasingly tough police tactics against the violent street gangs that have run riot in the country for years. More aggressive policing has squeezed the gangs' revenue sources, so they are increasingly battling each other for income. The rise in murders comes two years after a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and rival Barrio 18. The armistice, brokered by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States, at first lowered the murder rate, the world's highest in 2011 at 66 per 100,000 inhabitants. But by the following year, the truce, which never received a great deal of public support, appeared to be crumbling and the murder rate shot up. (more)

Western envoys express concern over El Salvador crisis
11 July 2012 - The US and British ambassadors to El Salvador raised concern on Tuesday about a deepening political crisis in the Central American country that has pitted the Supreme Court against Congress. The crisis centres on a decision last month by El Salvador's top court to annul the election by Congress of 20 new judges. The court's decision prompted the ruling leftist party of President Mauricio Funes, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which controls Congress, to refuse to accept the ruling. That has led to media speculation that El Salvador may be vulnerable to a possible coup. 'It's very dangerous,' said Jorge Daboub, president of a national business association. He compared the ruling party's dispute with the judiciary to attempts to consolidate political power by other leftist parties in countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. (more)

Riots and overcrowding continue to plague Central American prisons
8 January 2007 - Riots erupted in a maximum-security prison in western El Salvador, leaving at least 20 inmates dead, officials said. The prison, with a listed capacity of 1,800 people, houses more than 2,000 prisoners. Central American jails have long struggled with overcrowding and deadly riots that are often sparked by fights between rival gangs. (more)


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