Remittances sent back home by migrants who have managed to enter the United States, Canada or European countries are often crucially important in supporting families in low-income countries. Nowhere is this as clear as it is in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America: El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In Guatemala remittances generally account for 14 per cent of the country’s GDP; in Honduras and El Salvador, the equivalent figure is 20 per cent.
Whilst the business world (in the form of CentralAmericaData.com) reported record increases in remittances sent to Central American countries for January and February this year – see table below – and forecast a good year for remittances in 2020, at that time the effects of the pandemic had not been foreseen. This dramatic effect, however, is illustrated by the figures for April 2020 compared with April 2019 – see the table below.
At the level of the family and the household, remittances are often vitally significant for the household economy which in many cases is precarious at best. Unemployment and a lack of opportunities added to a high level of violence in these three countries have stimulated a decades long wave of emigration to richer countries where jobs are more numerous and salaries are higher. In the last two years the phenomenon of migrant caravans from these countries, and especially Honduras, has grown largely as a result of a slightly new balance of forces in which the threats of violence to the family have increased in significance. The economic motive, however, is still highly significant, as are the remittances which improved economic earnings in the rich countries can sustain.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, caused problems not just for the earners, but also for the recipients of the remittances. Despite these problems, in July CentralAmericaData.com was reporting an increase in remittances to El Salvador of around 10 per cent in the month of June (compared with June 2019), which it believed was due to the ending of the lockdown in the United States and the consequent reduction in unemployment there. This in turn was an enabling factor allowing “a major effort on the part of Salvadorans living abroad to support their families.”
Remarkably too in Guatemala the Bank of Guatemala reported that “in the first seven months of 2020 the country received remittances totalling $5,959 million (USD), a sum 2 per cent greater than the equivalent figure for 2019.”
For the first six months of 2020, on the other hand, remittances to Honduras were down by 4 per cent on the equivalent period for 2019. La Prensa (Honduras) explained: “the majority of these resources come from family members in the United States which has seen employment fall by 13.3 per cent by June following a 4.4 per cent decline in March.”
How remittances progress in the remainder of the year will depend on factors such as the advance or retreat of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Northern Triangle, its advance or retreat in the United States (and other rich countries) and the effects of these factors and policies pursued by governments on levels of unemployment in the rich countries.
‘Remesas en El Salvador: Tendencia se revierte’,07.20
‘Honduras recibe menos remesas’,07.20
‘Remesas: Envíos récord en Julio de 2020’, 08.20
Central Reserve Bank as given in El Economista ‘Recepción de remesas en El Salvador cayó 40% en abril’ by Javier Orellano, 15 May 2020.
El Economista (09.07.20) ‘Las remesas enviadas a Guatemala se recuperan un 15.1% en el último mes’.
El Economista (04.05.20) ‘Prevén drástico descenso en remesas para el Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica’.
By Anita Pleumarom (Tourism Investigation & Monitoring Team) and Chee Yoke Ling (Third World Network)
Reproduced here by kind permission of Anita Pleumarom, Chee Yoke Ling and the Third World Network – www.twn.my
The United Nations committed a substantial error when it proclaimed 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Despite its pronouncements of tourism being a positive force for economic development and poverty eradication, tourism is inept at meeting the challenge of implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Like no other industry, tourism promotes – and glamorizes – a hyper-mobile and hyper-consumeristic lifestyle, rendering sustainability elusive. In fact, most tourism development is fraught with negatives including gross inequalities, human rights violations, cultural erosion, environmental degradation and climate instability (1).
Recent research is particularly alarming in terms of tourism’s contribution to climate change, primarily due to the high energy use for transport such as air travel. Based on a new global tourism emissions model, global tourism is set to emit some 300 gigatonnes of CO2 between 2015 and 2100, which is 30 percent of the global carbon budget for sustainable development (2). It is preposterous to allocate so much of this budget to tourism, instead of meeting the acute energy needs of billions of people around the world. Meanwhile, tourism alternatives such as ‘green’ or ‘eco’-tourism can also be problematic. Not only do they usually depend on long-haul flights that drive climate change, they also tend to penetrate fragile ecosystems and Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral lands, triggering both biodiversity loss and culture loss.
Tourism as a major source of financial leakage is well documented (3). Since it is frequently large foreign companies that either initiate or take over commercially successful tourism projects, the domestic retention and distribution of tourism benefits has a very poor record; profits are generally repatriated to corporate headquarters and shareholders abroad. A particular characteristic of tourism in this age of neoliberal globalisation is that it is closely intertwined with the finance and real estate industries. Ground evidence shows that vast tracts of public land are being privatized and acquired by foreign investors for luxury tourism – plus tourism-related residential, commercial and mega-infrastructure developments (e.g. ‘aerotropolis’, or airport cities) – resulting in displacement and disempowerment of local people. The radically de-regulated business environment spawns price hikes and speculation, posing high risks to local economies, ways of life and community social structures.
The nature and conceptualisation of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) does not allow for it to adequately deal with the unsustainable and unjust patterns of tourism. Originally formed as a business organisation, the UNWTO remains industry-controlled and industry-oriented, and its critics do not regard it as a responsible UN agency acting for the common good. In synchrony with the global tourism and travel industry, it continues to aggressively campaign for further tourism growth despite the fact that much of contemporary tourism is antithetical to sustainable development and most of the tourism-related goods and services are luxuries that can only be enjoyed by the world’s minority. Even if some improvements can be achieved in tourism through better regulation and management as well as increased incentives for ecologically sustainable activities (alleged ‘eco’-tourism among them), it is clear that the gains made will be negligible in the context of the continued growth of the tourism industry at large, as forecast and aspired by the UNWTO. Instead of down-scaling the inflated tourism sector and effectively engaging in harm avoidance, the UNWTO sends a wrong message to the public: that ‘sustainable (eco)tourism’ is the solution and needs to grow without barriers for the benefit of us all.
Actually, steering tourism policy and practice towards more sustainability requires first and foremost correcting the unjust economic structures and power relations that drive tourism development. It is also necessary to put in place laws and regulations that effectively protect local citizens and communities from harmful tourism, including mechanisms that require travel and tourism businesses to compensate for social losses and to clean up the damage they created. Clear transparent, accessible processes for accountability are needed, which empower people(s) to monitor and hold governments, financial institutions, development agencies and the private sector engaging in tourism accountable for their actions.
Rather than aiming at further tourism expansion, other more sustainable economic activities should be developed, particularly in small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) that heavily rely on tourism – which not only must contend with the volatility of tourism (e.g. due to international financial/economic crises, acts of violence, extreme weather events, natural disasters and pandemics), but also are endangered by tourism-induced climate change. This is a major undertaking that the international community must assist with, for the transition of those economies and health of their populations.
The article is based on a chapter entitled ‘Corporate capture subverts production and consumption transformation’ by Chee Yoke Ling, published in Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2016: Report by the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 11 July 2016, pp.94-100
The following article illustrates the cynical
greenwash deployed by governments in their relationship with environmental
protection. In this case, the government of Guatemala is shown to be the cheating
‘greenwasher’. (Both articles were originally sourced from the Spanish News
Agency EFE and appeared in El Economista. We are grateful to Lucy Goodman for
her translation and summary on behalf of The Violence of Development website.)
El Economista, 20/09/19
words: single-use plastics; Guatemala; repeal on change of government.
September the Government of Guatemala announced the prohibition of the use and distribution
of single-use plastic bags and other plastic items in order to contribute to the
protection of the environment and gave a two-year deadline for adapting to this
Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources published the government
agreement in the official daily newspaper (Diario de Centro America), announcing
the restriction that also applies to plastic straws, plates, cups, containers
and plastic or polystyrene food packaging.
movement does not restrict or limit any municipal initiatives with the same
purpose, as within several constituencies in the country, similar measures have
already been in place for a while. The Ministry of Environment and Natural
Resources will be verifying, inspecting and monitoring compliance with this
legislation itself, and wall train legal persons to apply the corresponding sanctions
only exempt plastic items will be those “for medical or therapeutic
purposes”, as well as imported items that are “factory sealed with
plastic material or expanded polystyrene”.
a photo of a turtle tangled in plastic, the then-president Jimmy Morales celebrated
on social media this decision in which “Guatemala says no to plastic” and affirmed
that this changes the country for future generations to come. “It’s time to
change our form of consumption, for our nation and the future of our children”
in a press conference, the president reiterated his pleasure with this
decision, that there are other products available for use, and that there are
two years to accomplish the transition and find the right substitutes.
about the loss of jobs in the plastics sector, Morales advocated seeing the benefits
and asked for it not to get “dramatic” and “to find a solution
to the issues”.
Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters Association, formed of 60 manufacturers
and export companies states on the website that the sector creates some 10,000
jobs directly and 60,000 indirectly, and the plastics industry is the “industry
of export, indirectly the most important in the country”. The principle export
destinations of these products are Central America, the Caribbean, the United
States and Mexico.
comment: it is rumoured that President Morales knew that the measure would be
repealed by any right-wing successor to the presidency. Enter stage right:
President Elect Giammattei.]
President-elect of Guatemala to
repeal the agreement to ban plastic.
new President Alejandro Giammattei announced on Wednesday that he would repeal
the agreement that prohibits the use and distribution of single-use plastic
bags, among other products.
usage is not prohibited; there are other more important things to do. We must
focus on culture, education, environmental awareness” declared Giammattei to
the press after he left a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce.
had warned that he would look into this agreement because in his view there is
a “much deeper” problem.
comment: indeed there is; it is the deep corruption within Guatemalan state
politics and the Chamber of Commerce.]
commercial sectors have spoken out against plastics prohibition because they
consider the real problem of contamination is in the management and control of
solid waste, while the Plastics Commission of the Guatemalan Exporters
Association states that 10,000 direct and 60,000 indirect jobs are at risk.
At the height of the
migrant caravan crisis (which has not gone away) in November 2018, the daily
Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica produced an article of ‘Stories of
forced displacement due to violence’ written by Ricardo Flores. There were six
personal stories in the article and ENCA member Jill Powis translated them for
the ENCA Newsletter (no.75) which for reasons of space could only include four
of them. All of them are included here on The Violence of Development website.
We are grateful to Jill for her translations.
Nelson was disappeared and then murdered for
refusing to leave his home. The first warning came in 2014 from a neighbour, a
woman who had links with members of the Barrio 18 (18th Street)
gang. She told him that he had to close
down his business, which supported his family of seven, on the grounds that
“he was selling the same product as her.” After that came more
warnings, including death threats, to make him leave, together with his whole
family. It was October 2015 when they decided to leave, to stay with relatives,
but Nelson, a fictitious name to protect his [family] identity, decided to stay
“to guard the house.” His
relatives believe that he was killed because, before he was threatened, he
worked for a community organisation running violence prevention schemes to
improve life within the community.
Prior to Nelson’s death, the family had sought
protection from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office (Procuraduría para la
Defensa de los Derechos Humanos – PDDH), but this opened a case file only
after his murder. The PDDH informed the
police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalía), and all that
happened was that some family members who gave evidence were named as key
witnesses in the legal process.
note below] lodged an application for protective measures for Nelson’s
family with the Constitutional Court on 9 June 2017. The application was accepted four months
later, but by this time they were already out of the country. They had lost
their jobs, their homes, the right to freedom of movement and the young people
were forced to abandon their studies.
This is the story of a family 35 strong,
including children and adolescents, who were victims of threats, physical
attacks, sexual abuse and rape by gang members – all for being relatives of
members of the armed forces. The gang attacked the family on various dates and
different places. The threats became so
bad that they were forced to leave the town.
The family moved to relatives living in an area
of the country without gangs. However, there they suffered violence again, but
this time from the state. Police officers carried out an operation in the
community, shooting “to intimidate”. A bullet hit a woman from the
family, killing her instantly. This forced them to move again.
The family reported all the attacks by the gang
to the authorities. The police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office solely
designated them as key witnesses in the legal process so that they could
testify – there was no progress on the cases. One of the victims of the forced
displacement also filed a complaint with the General Inspectorate of the
National Civil Police about his mother’s death at the hands of the officers who
carried out the operation. The local police’s official version was that the
woman died “in the context of a confrontation with gang members.”
This was the only one of the six cases where the
Constitutional Court issued a final judgment in favour of a family displaced by
the violence in El Salvador, following a
an application for protection measures filed by Cristosal. However, the measures ordered by the Court
benefited only a few members of the family, with the rest leaving the country
under the international protection system.
Margarita and Luisa (not their real names) were
threatened with rape if they did not leave the community. The two women, mother
and daughter, had a food business which involved visiting various apartments.
The threats began when some gang members came to live in the area.
In response to the threats, which were also
directed at Margarita’s husband and another daughter, the family decided to
move, but when they settled down in another place, they again suffered
extortion from another gang.
When the family reported the gang to the
Anti-Extortion Unit of the National Civil Police, it stated that its response
would be limited to arresting the suspects and starting legal proceedings
against them “because it does not have enough officers to provide the
family with protection.”
Sofia was held captive and raped by a gang for
being the daughter of a policeman. When the teenager disappeared, her father
went to the police, but they failed to respond immediately. When they finally
found her, the police accused Sofía (not her real name) of being a member of
The Public Prosecutor’s Office offered
protection measures, but only for Sofia, a minor; and so the family, five
people in total, preferred to move, where they remained in hiding. Despite not
leaving the house, the gang members managed to find them and continued to issue
them with death threats. This meant that
they were forced to move house again until they got help to leave El Salvador.
In view of the poor response by state institutions, the
Constitutional Court accepted the application for protection measures for all
five members of the family, but by this time they had already left the country.
A large family requested international
protection measures in the wake of the murder of a young woman and her sister,
as well as the kidnapping of a baby girl who was only months old. The
investigation of the case produced evidence that the crimes were committed by
gang members with the aim of “getting the baby.” The other members of
the family were threatened so that they would leave, and so after the funeral
for the two women, the family abandoned their belongings, homes and jobs.
Cristosal concluded that the State does not have
the capacity to protect a large family.
Victoria, her adult daughter and two children
lived in a house where they had a family business. One afternoon, an armed gang
came to the store. Victoria (not her real name) was shot dead at the scene, while
her daughter suffered bullet wounds to various organs. Her relatives had to
take her from the hospital because the gang continued to look for her and they
feared that she would be found. When she recovered, three months later, she
decided to move with the two children to a house belonging to another relative.
However, an informer from the gang found her and warned them to leave the area
“if she did not want to have any problems”.
As a result of this fresh threat, the woman was
forced to move again with her children to another relative in another region of
the country. Unlike the other cases, this family did not want to take advantage
of the government shelter system, but instead wanted measures that would allow
them to be protected by the authorities in the place where they had relocated.
Cristosal presented their request to the
Constitutional Court and it was accepted on 11 July 2018, when it ordered
The trial for Victoria’s murder resulted in the
conviction of those responsible, who are currently awaiting sentencing.
Note: Cristosal works
to advance human rights in Central America through rights-based research,
learning, and programming. They accompany victims of violence to provide
protection when they need it most, repair the lingering effects of human rights
violations, and build human rights frameworks to create conditions where peace
is possible. https://www.cristosal.org/
Por Ricardo Flores, La
Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador
28 Noviembre 2018
los relatos que seis familias desplazadas por la violencia le contaron a
Cristosal, la organización que documenta y atiende los casos y que ayer
presentó un sistema de monitoreo del problema. Estas historias llegaron hasta
la Sala de lo Constitucional de la Corte Suprema.
desaparecido y luego asesinado por negarse a abandonar su casa. La primera
advertencia le llegó en 2014 de una vecina que tenía vínculos con pandilleros
del Barrio 18, quien le dijo que debía cerrar el negocio del que sobrevivía la
familia, conformada por siete personas. La queja de la mujer era que
“vendían el mismo producto que ella”. Tras esa intimidación, llegaron
más avisos que contenían amenazas de muerte para que se fuera del lugar junto
con toda la familia. Corría octubre de 2015 cuando decidieron huir hacia donde
otros parientes, pero Nelson, nombre ficticio para proteger su identidad, decidió
quedarse “para resguardar la vivienda”. Los parientes creen que fue
asesinado porque antes de ser amenazado trabajaba en una organización
comunitaria que tenía proyectos para prevención de violencia para mejorar las
condiciones de vida en la comunidad.
Previo a la
muerte de Nelson, la familia había acudido a la Procuraduría para la Defensa de
los Derechos Humanos en busca de protección, pero la institución abrió un
expediente del caso hasta después del homicidio. El acompañamiento de la PDDH
los llevó a la Policía y la Fiscalía, donde la respuesta fue que algunos
miembros de la familia que sirvieron como testigos recibieron nombres claves en
decidió presentar el 9 de junio de 2017 un amparo ante la Sala de lo
Constitucional. Cuatro meses después, la sala admitió la demanda y ordenó
medidas de protección para la familia de Nelson. Sin embargo, el grupo ya
estaba fuera del país. Los sobrevivientes perdieron el empleo, el desarraigo a
su patrimonio familiar, el derecho al libre tránsito y los jóvenes abandonaron
internacional sostuvo que es “urgente” ese reconocimiento por lo
crítico que se ha vuelto esta problemática en El Salvador.
Esta es la
historia de una familia conformada por 35 personas, entre niños y adolescentes,
que fueron víctimas de amenazas, agresiones físicas, abuso sexual y violación
de parte de pandilleros. Todo por ser parientes de miembros de la Fuerza
Armada. La pandilla cometió ataques contra la familia en distintos lugares y
fechas. Las amenazas se agravaron hasta exigirles que abandonaran el municipio.
buscó apoyo en otros parientes que residían en zonas del país sin presencia de
pandilleros. Cuando lo lograron sufrieron nuevamente violencia, pero esa vez de
parte del Estado: ocurrió cuando policías realizaron un operativo en esa
comunidad con disparos “para intimidar”. Una bala impactó a una mujer
de la familia, lo que le ocasionó la muerte inmediatamente. Eso los obligó a un
La familia puso
la denuncia de todas las agresiones y ataques que sufrió de parte de los
pandilleros. La Policía y la Fiscalía se limitaron a asignarles nombres claves
en los procesos para que atestiguaran; sin embargo, los casos no prosperaron.
Una de las víctimas del desplazamiento forzoso también interpuso ante la
Inspectoría General de la Policía Nacional Civil una denuncia por la muerte de
su madre a manos de los agentes que realizaron el operativo. La versión oficial
de la policía de la zona fue que la mujer murió “en el marco de
enfrentamiento contra pandilleros”.
Este ha sido el
único de los seis casos en que la Sala de lo Constitucional emitió sentencia
definitiva a favor de una familia desplazada por la violencia en El Salvador,
después del amparo interpuesto por Cristosal, aunque el beneficio de las
mediadas de protección dictadas por el tribunal superior solo fue para unos
pocos miembros de la familia, pues la mayoría salió del país bajo el sistema de
A Margarita y
Luisa (nombres cambiados) las amenazaron con violarlas si no se iban de la comunidad.
Las dos mujeres, madre e hija, pasaban en su negocio de comida en unos
apartamentos. La amenaza inició cuando unos pandilleros llegaron a vivir al
advertencia, que incluía al esposo de Margarita y a otra hija, la familia
decidió cambiar de domicilio, pero al establecerse en otro sitio, volvieron a
sufrir extorsión de otra estructura de pandilleros.
familia le contó a los miembros de la Unidad Antiextorsiones de la Policía
Nacional Civil lo que los pandilleros les exigían, la respuesta fue que las
acciones estaban limitadas a las capturas de los denunciados y abrir un juicio
“porque no cuentan con personal suficiente para brindar protección a la
privada de libertad y violada por un grupo de pandilleros por ser hija de un
agente. El policía buscó ayuda de la PNC cuando la adolescente desapareció,
pero no obtuvo respuesta positiva de inmediato. Cuando finalmente la
encontraron, los agentes acusaron a Sofía (nombre cambiado) de ser parte de la
ofreció medidas de protección solo para la menor, pero la familia, cinco
personas en total, prefirió desplazarse a otro sitio, donde permanecía en
confinamiento. A pesar de no salir de la casa, los pandilleros los ubicaron y
volvieron a amenazarlos con la muerte, por lo que volvieron a movilizarse hasta
obtener ayuda para salir de El Salvador.
La Sala de lo
Constitucional admitió el amparo del caso debido a la pobre respuesta de parte
de las instituciones del Estado, y otorgó medidas de protección para los cinco
miembros del grupo familiar; pero ya estaban fuera del país.
numerosa solicitó medidas de protección internacional a raíz del asesinato de
una joven y su hermana. Además del secuestro de una niña que tenía solo meses
de edad. La investigación del caso arrojó evidencia que los hechos fueron
cometidos por pandilleros con el objetivo de “quedarse con la niña”.
Los demás miembros de la familia fueron amenazados para que abandonaran el
lugar, por lo que después de enterrar a las dos mujeres, dejaron sus
pertenencias, vivienda y sus fuentes de empleo.
comprobó que el Estado no tiene la capacidad para proteger a una familia
Victoria, su hija
adulta y dos niños vivían en una casa donde tenían un negocio familiar. Un día
por la tarde, pandilleros llegaron a la tienda a disparar. Victoria (nombre
cambiado) falleció en el lugar, mientras que su hija resultó con lesiones de
bala en algunos órganos. Familiares tuvieron que sacar del hospital a la herida
porque pandilleros continuaban buscándola y temían que fuera ubicada. Pasaron
así durante tres meses, hasta que logró recuperarse. Luego decidió desplazarse
con los dos niños por sus propios medios hacia una casa de otro pariente. Sin
embargo, un palabrero de la pandilla la ubicó y les advirtió que salieran de la
zona “si no quería tener problemas”.
advertencia provocó que la mujer se desplazara otra vez junto a sus hijos a
otro sector del país con otro pariente. A diferencia de los otros casos, esta
familia no quería ingresar al sistema de albergue gubernamental, sino que una
medida que les permitiera la protección de las autoridades en el sitio en que
se había reubicado.
Esa petición fue
planteada por Cristosal ante la Sala de lo Constitucional en un amparo que
terminó admitiendo el 11 de julio de 2018, cuando ordenó medidas de protección.
judicial por el homicidio de Victoria culminó con la sentencia de los
responsables. El proceso en la sala sigue pendiente de una sentencia
In recent months both El Salvador and Costa Rica have begun
to take steps towards reducing air pollution from vehicles. As all visitors to
the region are well aware, there are many locations and times of day in the
region’s cities where and when the air is unbreathable due to excessive vehicle
Costa Rica’s President Carlos Alvarado has signed decrees to
incentivise electric and zero emission vehicles and to promote mobility by
other modes of transport. The First Lady, Claudia Dobles, who is leading the
initiative, said, “We are incentivising zero-emission technologies with the aim
of achieving our goal of decarbonisation whilst at the same time enabling the
population to make use of more sustainable and efficient transport.”
The Costa Rican decrees also promote actions such as the
provision of shower facilities at work for those who travel to work by bicycle.
Bus and train travel are also promoted along with car-sharing, the use of
hybrid vehicles and increased recharging locations for electric vehicles.
In El Salvador, the National Council of Environmental
Sustainability and Vulnerability (CONASAV by its Spanish initials) has
presented a series of reforms to the Land Transport Law. In essence the reforms
aim to reduce atmospheric pollution in the country.
After establishing that current levels of air pollution have
reached dangerous levels, the CONASAV reforms focus particularly on the reduction
of emissions by public transport and allow the police force to confiscate
vehicles which exceed specific thresholds of pollutant emissions. The reforms
also recommend the replacement of public service vehicles that are over 20
years old and that this new measure should be implemented within three years.
The World Health Organisation has placed El Salvador among
the Latin American countries with the highest levels of atmospheric
contamination and has associated these levels especially with public transport.
Panamá is also looking for strategies to lower vehicle
emissions and the Guatemalan Union of Car Importers is now seeking legislation
to lower the age of imported vehicles. In Guatemala more than 2 million
vehicles are older than 2008. The Union’s proposals would limit the age of
imported cars to 10 years, 15 years for trucks and SUVs and 20 years for
commercial vehicles such as tractors. The appropriate legislation, however, is not
yet very far up the political agenda in Guatemala, where some of the buses on
the streets are over 30 years old. Many of these are imported from the United
States and are sometimes referred to as ‘zombie clunkers’ having been modified
after import. Often the modifications reduce the effects of safety features.
Far from addressing
the dangers of exporting clunkers, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
under the Trump administration hopes to freeze
fuel efficiency standards at 2020 levels. The UK also plays a role in the
used vehicle market. According to the Centre for Remanufacturing and Reuse, 50%
of British heavy vehicles reaching end-of-life are reused or resold in other
countries after refurbishment.
Economista, 7 November 2018, ‘Costa Rica emite decretos para incentivar uso
de vehículos eléctricos’.
Prensa Gráfica, 8 January 2019, ‘Proponen que PNC pueda remitir
vehículos por contaminación de aire’.
Sebastián Rodríguez, 25 February 2019, ‘Costa Rica launches
‘unprecedented’ push for zero emissions by 2050’, Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Martha Pskowski, 24 January 2019, ‘Zombie clunkers: has your local
bus been resurrected in Guatemala?’ The
Fien Van Den Steen, 6 July 2018, ‘Guatemala, the end of using cars
until the end?’ Global Fleet.
Nayib Bukele who assumed power as President of El Salvador on 1st
June 2019 has appointed more women to his government’s cabinet than have ever
been appointed before in El Salvador’s history. Amongst these he has appointed
an ex-mayor, an ex-guerrilla fighter, an expert on drug trafficking and a
former union member with the Social Security Institute.
Bukele made almost daily announcements on Twitter in the weeks running
up to his inauguration. He has now appointed seven women to top ministry posts
where two previous Presidents (Francisco Flores, 1999-2004, and Salvador
Sánchez Cerén, 2014-2019) had each appointed three women to cabinet positions.
Those appointed by Bukele are as follows.
Karla Hananía de Varela
Alexandra Hill Tinoco
Ana Orellana Bendek
Morena Ileana Valdez Vigil
Navarrate (María Chichilco)
Suecy Callejas Estrada
Irma Michelle Martha Ninette Sol Schweikert
Additionally, Egriselda López has been nominated as El Salvador’s
Ambassador to the United Nations.
Karla Hananía de Varela.
Karla Hananía de Varela.
Minister of Education. Consultant to UNICEF 1992 – 2010. A member of the Advisory Committee to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Wants to have internet in all schools.
Alexandra Hill Tinoco.
Minister of Foreign Relations. Formerly Executive Director of the Anti Drugs Foundation of El Salvador (FUNDASALVA). Expert consultant to the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on the Control of the Abuse of Drugs (CICAD). Wants to strengthen relations with the United States and does not want to deal with ‘undemocratic governments’.
Ana Orellana Bendek.
Health. Doctor of Medicine from the Evangelical University of El Salvador.
Member of the Medical Workers’ Union of the Salvadoran Institute of Social
Security. She has promised to review the funding of hospitals.
Morena Ileana Valdez Vigil.
Tourism. Has experience in the promotion of exports, investments, marketing and
communications. Wants to promote El Salvador like the Dominican Republic.
María Ofelia Navarrate (María Chichilco).
for Local Development. Teacher of Social Sciences and Mathematics. Member of
the guerrilla, 1980 – 1992. FMLN Deputy in the Legislative Assembly, 1997 –
2000. Vice Governor of Chalatenango. Vice Minister of Government in the FUNES
administration, 2009 – 2014.
Suecy Callejas Estrada.
Culture. A former ballerina. Formerly Culture Secretary in San Salvador City
Hall, during which she was mentioned in a corruption case involving audiovisual
productions associated with President Bukele.
Irma Michelle Martha Ninette Sol Schweikert.
Housing. Formerly councillor and mayor of Nueva Cuscatlán. In 2003 involved in
a people trafficking prosecution, but not convicted.
Ambassador to the United Nations. A career diplomat with experience in international
relations and human rights. She has so far laid much emphasis on getting the UN
to strengthen the rights of Salvadoran immigrants in other countries.
El Economistarecently published an article based on the
findings of a report entitled ‘The Future of Central America: Challenges for a
Sustainable Development’. The report was produced by a collaboration between
the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Latin American Centre for
Competition and Sustainable Development (CLACDS, by its Spanish initials) of
the INCAE Business School. Short extracts from the article are translated below.
The recent hardening of the United States’ immigration policies is
putting at risk a significant ‘escape valve’ for the economies of the Northern
Triangle of Central America: namely remittances.
“An important factor for these societies [El Salvador, Honduras and
Guatemala] is the fact that there is an escape valve for social and
demographic problems, and a source of income,” said the Dean of the INCAE
Business School, Alberto Trejos, to El Economista, regarding migration
The report points out that there are at least 3 million migrants from
the Northern Triangle in the United States and that their remittances represent
20 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of El Salvador and Honduras and
12 per cent of the GDP of Guatemala. Our societies in the region
According to the report, in 2017 Salvadoran migrants in the United
States accounted for 23 per cent of total population of El Salvador, and the
respective proportions of Honduras and Guatemala were 8 per cent and 6 per
The report warns that the hardening of immigration policies in the
United States could have a substantial impact on remittances and, through them,
on the economies of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The report’s estimates indicate that remittances could decline by 7.6
per cent per annum due to recent and proposed immigration policies changes and
that the elimination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Honduran and
Salvadoran citizens [illegally residing in the USA] could imply a
further reduction in remittances of 6 per cent per annum in the medium term. It
also estimates that a further 7 per cent of migrants who currently reside in
the USA could decide to return to their country of origin.
Those migrants would return with savings of around 3 per cent of their
country’s GDP which would generate a temporary positive effect which would be
converted into an additional demand for jobs. For these jobs to be filled would
require that the economies of the Northern Triangle countries would have to
grow by one percentage point more than is expected or predicted.
For the INCAE Dean, remittances are an important escape valve, but the
current remarkable migration has negative consequences due to the flight of
humans who are at their most productive ages. “We have to stop thinking of the
phenomenal migration from the perspective of remittances, even though it
appears to represent the inflow of money. But we have to admit that this money
flows in because we cannot provide alternative prospects to young people so
that they might stay.”
“At the same time that this money flows in, the productive capacity of
these people disappears. Society loses the income that these people would have
generated, we lose the contributions of the skills of these migrants and that
leaves us with a society that is demographically and economically different.”
For the INCAE Dean, the conditions which prompt people to migrate “are
not a good thing,” and although migration may generate some positive effects on
the economy, it cannot be called a good thing. Trejos warned that a mass return
of migrants at this time would necessitate “a very disruptive adjustment.”
A 13th September report in the Salvadoran daily
newspaper La Prensa Gráfica described
yet another motive behind the exodus of people from Honduras: namely drought.
This illustrates well the thesis in the article ‘How Climate Change Forces
Central American Farmers to Migrate’ – also
uploaded to this website this month, September 2019 – that drought and the
unreliability of climate are forcing many rural farmers to consider the
possibility of migration as a way out of their predicament.
Several Honduran departments have been declared as emergency
zones due to the scarcity of water. Some of these zones have not had any
rainfall for ten months and over 50 per cent of basic grains like corn and
beans have been lost, according to official sources.
In the eastern department of Olancho 1,000 head of cattle
have died due to the drought. Farmers with some capital behind them can
purchase alternative feeds for their cattle such as the waste products of
African palm oil which are rich in protein. But for the majority the grass is
simply not growing due to the drought. Some sources are suggesting that this
climate trend means that in the medium and long terms farmers must adapt to
raising a much smaller number of cattle on their land.
The drought has also affected urban areas such as the
capital city Tegucigalpa, and residents are having to purchase tanks of water
for activities such as washing as well as drinking. Clearly in such
circumstances the poor are more likely to be adversely affected by the drought.
As if Hondurans don’t have enough to contend with: a
narco-state run by organised crime; security forces whose main modus operandi
is violence against the people they are supposed to be protecting; a gang
culture and protection racket which pervade so many of the activities of
Honduran society and economy; a system of production which displaces Hondurans
from their land for the benefit of transnational corporations and local elites;
and a complete lack of opportunities for Hondurans. Add climate change to the
mix, and who could be surprised that so many Hondurans try to escape their
country of birth to find opportunities elsewhere in the world?
The following article is taken from ‘Towards Freedom’,
an organisation that takes “a progressive perspective on world events” –
https://towardfreedom.org/ We are
grateful to Toward Freedom and Edgardo Ayala for permission to reproduce the
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador (IPS) – As
he milks his cow, Salvadoran Gilberto Gómez laments that poor harvests, due to
excessive rain or drought, practically forced his three children to leave the
country and undertake the risky journey, as undocumented migrants, to the
Gómez, 67, lives in La Colmena, in the municipality of
Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western Salvadoran department of Santa Ana.
The small hamlet is located in the so-called Dry
Corridor of Central America, a vast area that crosses much of the isthmus, but
whose extreme weather especially affects crops in Guatemala, Honduras and El
“They became disillusioned, seeing that almost every
year we lost a good part of our crops, and they decided they had to leave,
because they didn’t see how they could build a future here,” Gómez told IPS, as
he untied the cow’s hind legs after milking.
He said that his eldest son, Santos Giovanni, for
example, also grew corn and beans on a plot of land the same size as his own,
“but sometimes he didn’t get anything, either because it rained a lot, or
because of drought.”
The year his children left, in 2015, Santos Giovanni
lost two-thirds of the crop to an unusually extreme drought.
“It’s impossible to go on like this,” lamented Gómez,
who says that of the 15 families in La Colmena, many have shrunk due to
migration because of problems similar to those of his son.
The Dry Corridor, particularly in these three nations,
has experienced the most severe droughts of the last 10 years, leaving more than
3.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
warned as early as 2016.
Now Gómez’s daughter, Ana Elsa, 28, and his two sons,
Santos Giovanni, 31, and Luis Armando, 17, all live in Los Angeles, California.
“Sometimes they call us, and tell us they’re okay,
that they have jobs,” he said.
The case of the Gómez family illustrates the
phenomenon of migration and its link with climate change and its impact on
harvests, and thus on food insecurity among Central American peasant families.
La Colmena, which lacks piped water and electricity,
benefited a few years ago from a project to harvest rainwater, which villagers
filter to drink, as well as reservoirs to water livestock.
However, their crops are still vulnerable to the
onslaught of heavy rains and increasingly unpredictable and intense droughts.
In addition to the violence and poverty, climate
change is the third cause of the exodus of Central Americans, especially from
Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, according to the new Atlas of Migration
in Northern Central America.
Between 2000 and 2012, the report says, there was an
increase of nearly 59 percent in the number of people migrating from these
three countries, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle of Central
America. In Guatemala, 77 percent of the people living in rural areas are poor,
and in Honduras the proportion is 82 percent.
In recent months, waves of citizens from Honduras and
El Salvador have embarked on the long journey on foot to the United States,
with the idea that it would be safer if they traveled in large groups.
Travelling as an undocumented migrant to the United
States carries a series of risks: they can fall prey to criminal gangs,
especially when crossing Mexico, or die on the long treks through the desert.
Another report published by FAO in December, ‘Mesoamerica in Transit’,
states that of the nearly 30 million international migrants from Latin America,
some four million come from the Northern Triangle and another 11 million from
The study adds that among the main factors driving
migration in El Salvador are poverty in the departments of Ahuachapán, Cabañas,
San Vicente and Sonsonate; environmental vulnerability in Chalatenango,
Cuscatlán, La Libertad and San Salvador; and soaring violence in La Paz,
Morazán and San Salvador.
And according to the report, Honduran migration is
strongly linked to the lack of opportunities, and to high levels of poverty and
violence in the northwest of the country and to environmental vulnerability in
With respect to Guatemala, the report indicates that
although in this country migration patterns are not so strongly linked to
specific characteristics of different territories, migration is higher in
municipalities where the percentage of the population without secondary
education is larger.
In Mexico, migration is linked to poverty in the south
and violence in the west, northwest and northeast, while environmental
vulnerability problems seem to be cross-cutting.
“The report shows a compelling and comprehensive view
of the phenomenon: the decision to migrate is the individual’s, but it is
conditioned by their surroundings,” Luiz Carlos Beduschi, FAO Rural Development
Officer, told IPS from Santiago, Chile, the U.N. organisation’s regional
He added that understanding what is happening in the
field is fundamental to understanding migratory dynamics as a whole.
The study, published Dec. 18, makes a “multi-causal
analysis; the decision to stay or migrate is conditioned by a set of factors,
including climate, especially in the Dry Corridor of Central America,” Beduschi
For the FAO expert, it is necessary to promote
policies that offer rural producers “better opportunities for them and their
families in their places of origin.”
It is a question, he said, “of guaranteeing that they
have the necessary conditions to freely decide whether to stay at home or to
migrate elsewhere,” and keeping rural areas from expelling the local population
as a result of poverty, violence, climate change and lack of opportunities.
In the case of El Salvador, while there is government
awareness of the impacts of climate change on crops and the risk it poses to
food security, little has been done to promote public policies to confront the
phenomenon, activist Luis González told IPS.
“There are national plans and strategies to confront
climate change, to address the water issue, among other questions, but the
problem is implementation: it looks nice on paper, but little is done, and much
of this is due to lack of resources,” added González, a member of the
Roundtable for Food Sovereignty, a conglomerate of social organisations
fighting for this objective.
Meanwhile, in La Colmena, Gómez has given his wife,
Teodora, the fresh milk they will use to make cheese.
They are happy that they have the cow, bought with the
money their daughter sent from Los Angeles, and they are hopeful that the
weather won’t spoil the coming harvest.
“With this cheese we earn enough for a small meal,” he
Summary by Martin
Mowforth from report by El Economista
2 October 2019
Key words: recycling;
incentives; plastics; Bay of Panamá.
On 2 October, El Economista
reported that the government of Panamá was looking for ways of incentivising
recycling. Speaking at an international symposium on sustainability organised
by the Industrial Union of Panamá, the Environment Minister Milciades
Concepción said that recycling by industry is practically nil: “Here we can’t
set up recycling plants because there are no incentives,” he declared.
According to official figures the Bay of Panamá receives
175,000 tonnes of waste each year, much of which is composed of plastics. The
Director of Urban and Household Hygiene Pedro Castillo said that “on recycling
we are years behind.”
Cerro Patacón is the main landfill dump for the city of
Panamá and the 150 informal recyclers who work there find the collection of
plastic material to be less attractive than the collection of other materials
because of the low demand for plastics.
United Nations Environment Programme calculates that in Latin America only 10
per cent of all waste material generated is recycled, and that this rate is
lower in areas of poverty. UNEP also estimates that each year 8 million tonnes
of plastic reach the sea, and that if this continues, by 2050 there will be
more plastics in the oceans than fish.
A half-yearly comment and update on political developments in El
Salvador by the El Salvador Network (ESNET), a UK-based solidarity network.
We are grateful to ESNET for
permission to reproduce their latest Update (November 2019) in our website.
Key words: ARENA; FMLN; GANA; Nayib
Bukele; gang violence; corruption; Archbishop Oscar Romero.
The former Marxist guerrilla army (the FMLN) demobilised, as Peace
Accords were signed, in 1992 to bring the 12 year long civil war to an end in
El Salvador. There was space for the FMLN to organise politically, and contest
elections locally and nationally. This finally resulted in the first ever Left
Presidency from 2009 – 2014. President Mauricio Funes is now in exile in Nicaragua
after being charged with large scale corruption. Previous right wing (ARENA)
Presidents have also been charged, conveniently died or been imprisoned for
even greater corruption offences.
The second FMLN term, 2014 to May 2019, of President Salvador Sánchez
Cerén, saw little social progress as the FMLN tried a variety of tactics to
tackle massive gang related violence, which has forced many into exile and
resulted in many murders each day. Against this violent background it was clear
that the historic opportunity so many had fought for – and many had died for –
had not achieved a lot. Programmes to give out free school uniforms, and fund
co-operatives to grow maize seed for food sustainability were a good start, but
there was never a radical transformation of society. Ten years of the FMLN in government
left them exhausted by the gang wars, mired in many accounts of favouritism,
ineffectiveness, nepotism and worse.
In the February 2019 Presidential Election, the FMLN candidate came a
distant third, with ARENA (extreme right wing) second and a clear first round
victory with well over the necessary 50% for Nayib Bukele, formally of
the GANA centre right party.
An initial wave of euphoria that here was something new politically to
move El Salvador beyond the 2 party paralysis of the post-civil war period has
given way to a more nuanced reflection. Bukele has allied himself with Trump
and against Cuba and Venezuela and has recently expelled Venezuelan diplomats.
Some of his more left wing supporters hope this is to keep onside with the US
in order to be left alone to initiate some social and economic progress.
Announcing that all teachers will move to ‘flexible’ (in effect zero hours)
contracts shows the economic direction of travel of Bukele.
Who is Nayib Bukele?
Son of a wealthy family and working originally in the family business,
Bukele (now 38) worked as a PR specialist on the 2009 FMLN Presidential
election campaign for Mauricio Funes, and subsequently joined the party. He was
quickly elected Mayor of a small town, and then of the capital city, San
Salvador. He proved to be dynamic, controversial, slick, a maverick who never
fitted well in the FMLN. He was expelled from the FMLN for a number of acts
against party rules, and then became candidate for President of the GANA centre
right party in 2019.
Bukele is a figure similar to Macron in France – a young dynamic
outsider who has shaken the political mould – with no clear ideology, but
clearly of the centre / right. Above all he is a ‘self-brand’, adept in using
social media. He has had some early successes against the gangs, reducing the
daily murder toll. El Salvador recently hosted the Latin American surfing
championships, and Bukele encouraged all the surfers to go back home and tell
everyone how wonderful El Salvador is for surfing, and how they should all come
and stay a while! It seems that attacks on trade unions, public sector social
programmes and the alternative press show that Bukele is going all out to
attract US private sector investors.
Meanwhile Archbishop Oscar Romero (murdered while saying mass by a
death squad in 1980) has been finally officially canonized by the Argentinian
Pope Francis as ‘San Romero de las Americas’. The ceremony in Rome was a
national celebration of Romero and his legacy – which is still disputed, since
the right have tried to reclaim Romero as one of their own. March 2020 will mark the 40th
anniversary of the assassination of Romero, which will be commemorated widely
in El Salvador, and around the world, including here in the UK.