Tinkering with ‘sustainable or eco-tourism’ hides the real face of tourism

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.

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References:

(1) Third World Network, ‘Global Tourism Growth: Remedy of Ruin?’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302.htm

(2) Sustainability Leaders Interview: Paul Peeters on Tourism, Aviation and Climate Change, 8 June 2016, http://sustainability-leaders.com/interview-paul-peeters-on-tourism-aviation-climate-change/

(3) Pleumarom, A., ‘Tourism – a driver of inequality and displacement’, TWR, Sept./Oct 2015, http://www.twn.my/title2/resurgence/2015/301-302/cover01.htm

This article can be downloaded from Third World Network’s website at: www.twn.my/tour.htm

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 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 full report as well as single chapters of it can be downloaded at: https://www.2030spotlight.org/

Migrants’ stories: Why they flee

Anthony W. Fontes, American University School of International Service

File 20190408 2924 16ojp3p.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A man hugs his family before leaving for the U.S. border with a migrant caravan from San Salvador, El Salvador, Jan. 16, 2019. AP/Salvador Melendez


Massive influxes of Central American families seeking asylum in the United States are overwhelming U.S. immigration facilities.

The crisis along the U.S. southern border led directly to the forced resignation on April 7 of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whom President Donald Trump believed ineffectively managed the situation.

As Trump promises to “shut down the border” and “punish” the governments of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for failing to stem the exodus from their countries, the question of why so many families are making the difficult and dangerous journey north appears more urgent than ever.

I have spent much of the last decade conducting on-the-ground fieldwork in this region, and along the migration paths through Mexico, seeking answers to this question.

The region’s extreme poverty and violent impunity are central factors driving this migration.

Yet every migrant’s story is unique. Some simply seek the chance to earn enough money to ensure a better future for themselves or their children. Others flee persecution at the hands of gangs, organized crime or corrupt state officials. For others, insecurity and poverty are so intertwined that drawing them apart becomes impossible.

Santos Isabel Escobar weeps beside the coffin of her 18-year-old son, Eddy Fernando Cabrera, who was executed with four other young people in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Jan. 11, 2019.
AP/Fernando Antonio

‘Falling deeper into debt’

Extreme poverty and inequality haunt the region. Today, about half of all Central Americans – and two-thirds of the rural populations of Guatemala and Honduras – survive below the international poverty line.

Meanwhile, throughout the 21st century, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have consistently counted among the most murderous nations in the world.

Many Central American migrants are simply desperate to find work that pays enough to feed their families. U.S. asylum law provides no relief for these “economic refugees.”

I met Roberto Quijones in a migrant shelter in the Mexican state of Tabasco, about 25 mile north of the Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, in late 2017. We spoke as he soaked his blistered feet and tried to mend his busted shoes with duct tape.

Roberto is from a rural town in northwestern El Salvador near the border with Honduras and Guatemala, and had been out of work for two years. For more than a year, he and his wife and their 2-year-old daughter had been living with an aunt. Their welcome had worn thin.

“She’s family,” Roberto said, “but you know you get to a moment when not paying rent isn’t possible anymore. Even if they are family.”

And even for those who can find work, extremely low wages cannot cover families’ basic needs, destroying hope for a better future.

“I can make 200 lempiras, a day working” – the equivalent of US$10 – said Marvin Otoniel Castillo, a father of three from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We spoke in late 2016 beneath a bridge in Veracruz, Mexico, waiting to hop a train to continue northwards.

“So your whole life is falling deeper into debt,” Marvin continued. “That’s why I came. So I could send my oldest child to school so he wouldn’t have to live like his father.”

A woman sells live baby chicks in central San Salvador, El Salvador. Nearly 1 in 3 Salvadorans lives in poverty.
AP/Rebecca Blackwell

Running for their lives

Other migrants have been targeted by criminal organizations that operate with stunning impunity in Central America.

Criminal organizations derive much of their power from their deep links with government agents; it’s sometimes impossible to identify where the state ends and the underworld begins. Such connections also make understanding who is responsible for any given murder difficult.

Transnational gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, play an important role in this violence. Estimates of how much they contribute to overall crime rates vary between countries and are hampered by extremely low prosecution rates and a lack of reliable data.

However, gangs are responsible for the region’s most widespread and brutal extortion rackets, which create deep psychological and economic strife for poor Central Americans while also causing countless murders.

The upshot is that many Central Americans trying to enter the United States are literally running for their lives.

That includes Pedro, whose uncle and two brothers were gunned down on a crowded Guatemala City street in 2015 because, he believed, his cousin had stolen from a drug-trafficking organization. Like others I’ve interviewed who are fleeing violent persecution, he requested anonymity to protect himself and family still living in Guatemala.

Pedro said he moved with his wife and two daughters to another part of the city to escape detection. But then police discovered his 13-year-old daughter’s body in an alleyway.

Her assailants had raped her, burned her with cigarettes and knifed her to death. Pedro said that no one would tell him who did it, but he fled with his family to ensure their safety.

Or Alejandra, from a mid-size city west of the Guatemalan capital, who told me she was in her final year of a nurse training program and spending Christmas holidays with family when she witnessed her uncle gunned down in his front yard while he strung up party lights.

The uncle, she said, had refused to pay extortion money to a criminal group run by active and former police officers. The next day, Alejandra received threatening messages on Facebook. She didn’t want to leave the country, but moved in with a friend in another town and tried to lie low.

A few weeks later, Alejandra claimed, the group sent a kid with a handgun to kill her. She escaped by throwing herself from her motorbike. That’s when she decided to give up her career and flee Guatemala.

Central American migrants being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after requesting asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2019.
REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The price of staying

For financial or personal reasons, many Central Americans are unable or unwilling to flee in the face of such threats. That can exact a steep price.

One evening in late 2018, a woman named Sofia said that members of MS-13 caught her when she was walking home from work in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. She’d moved to the city months before with her 12-year-old daughter, because her husband, Pablo, had fled the country to escape the gang’s threats.

Pablo had worked driving a produce truck, but then MS-13 killed his boss for refusing to pay extortion. Gang extortion is believed to be a leading cause of murder in Honduras and though the majority of the country’s extortion victims are poor, they pay about $200 million a year to protect themselves.

MS-13 told Pablo he was next.

The family’s funds were just enough to get Pablo out of Honduras. Maybe, they hoped, if he was gone the gang would leave the family alone. Once in the States, he could send money home.

The plan didn’t work. Four gang members forced Sofia into a car, drove her to the countryside, beat her and raped her repeatedly. “This is what will happen to your daughter,” they shouted at her over and over again, “if you don’t pay us what your husband owes.”

Ethics and survival

The images and stories of Central Americans caged at the border awaiting processing expose how the U.S. immigration system was never designed to deal with this many people fleeing these kinds of problems.

In the hopes of getting better treatment at the border, some migrants have resorted to pretending to be part of family units, or lying about their age.

This kind of “gaming the system” may be ethically questionable, but viewed from the perspective of survival, it makes perfect sense.

Such strategies speak most of all of collective desperation, begging a question posed by many of the Central American migrants I have met over the years: “If you were me, what would you do?”

Anthony W. Fontes, Assistant Professor of Human Security, American University School of International Service

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tourism Recovery in Nicaragua, January 2020

It isn’t often that you will find the UK Daily Mail cited in this website, unless the citation is given for its racism, intolerance and bigotry; but in this case we reproduce a report from Nicanotes which in its turn cites a list of the Daily Mail’s ‘must-see’ tourist destinations.

Taken from Nicanotes (https://afgj.org/nicanotes/), a weekly production by the Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ)

9 January 2020

Daily Mail Includes Nicaragua in List of 12 New Key Destinations for 2020

Nicaragua was included in an exclusive list of 12 new key tourist destinations around the world, published on December 28 [2019] by the British newspaper Daily Mail. Nicaragua was listed along with Chicago (USA), Japan, Dubai, Galway (Ireland), Chile, Israel and Australia. Nigel Tisdall, writer of the article, describes Nicaragua as “a captivating mix of volcanoes, jungle and beach, with a relaxed atmosphere and excellent coffee.” It also highlights Granada, for “its architecture” and “the possibility of sailing among its forested islands.” Recently other British media, such as Travel Weekly Magazine, Marie Claire Magazines UK, Selling Travel, Travel Trade Gazette, Wanderlust, have recognized Nicaragua as a must-see destination for 2020. The print version of the Daily Mail has 2.5 million readers daily, and its digital version reaches 26.8 million unique users monthly, making it one of the most read websites in the English-speaking world. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 3/1/20)

Increase in Tourism from Costa Rica

For Nicaragua’s commerce, service and transportation, the month of December [2019] was very good with the considerable increase in the arrival of tourists from Costa Rica. In the Masaya handicraft market, the arrival of hundreds of Costa Rican tourists was visible. In the case of transportation, the companies that provide this service from San José report that passenger traffic increased by 40%. Enrique Quiñonez, president of the Chamber of Tourist Transport of Nicaragua confirmed that they had to put into circulation more buses to meet the demand. (Taken from Informe Pastran, 6/1/20)

Stories from the Migrant Caravans from the Northern Triangle Countries

[English] [Español]

By Ricardo Flores, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador

28 November 2018

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.

1

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.

Cristosal [see 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.

2

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.

3

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.”

4

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 gang.

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.

5

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.

6

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 protective measures.

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/

Guatemala offers El Salvador a port on the Atlantic Coast.

Shortly after the inauguration of Alejandro Giammattei as the new Guatemalan President, he met with President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador and offered a deal of potentially great benefit to El Salvador: namely a port on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala. Lucy Goodman translated articles about the deal from La Prensa Gráfica (by Melissa Pacheco, 28.01.20) and El Economista (29.01.20), and Martin Mowforth summarised and commented upon these for The Violence of Development website.

Key words: El Salvador – Guatemala integration; Atlantic port; security cooperation; domestic flights.

El Salvador and Guatemala plan to eliminate the border initially for the passage of persons and later for freight. They have also re-defined flights between the two countries as ‘domestic flights’.

Anuncio. En conferencia de prensa, los presidentes hicieron diversos anuncios entre ellos la eliminación de las fronteras para el tránsito de personas y mercaderías.
(Melissa Pacheco) The presidents share the announcements between themselves about the removal of the border for the transit of people and goods.

The Guatemalan president offered a concession to create a public-private partnership as the means to enable completion of a Salvadoran port on the Atlantic coast. Land from the Santo Tomás de Castilla National Port Company (Empornac) will be ceded to El Salvador for this purpose. The area to be ceded is known as El Arenal (or The Quicksand) and currently serves as a depot for containers. Last year (2019) Empornac carried out technical studies to determine the feasibility of constructing a pier to accommodate dredgers and cruise ships there.

“We have offered El Salvador something unprecedented in the history of Central American integration and today I want to announce it publicly because we’re going to explore, as soon as possible, the possibility of El Salvador having a port in the Guatemalan Atlantic. We will deliver this Project as a public-private partnership so that El Salvador can develop it. It is an offer that we have made to El Salvador, we consider it to be the right thing to do,” Giammattei announced at a press conference that took place at the Presidential House.

He added that he had spoken with the authorities of SICA (Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana / Central American Integration System) in order to receive the support of the institution in the implementation of the project. He also announced that he made a firm pledge to officially de-categorise flights between Guatemala and El Salvador to ‘domestic’. This comes as part of the initiatives to improve integration in the region.

The Guatemalan Minister of Economics, Antonio Malouf, confirmed that a legal-technical analysis for ceding the land of Empornac will be carried out.

“Basically, it would be our entry to the Atlantic. Our goods will have the power to go from the Atlantic and enter from the Atlantic. I believe what we’re doing is making a real union that is going to spread to other countries in Central America that will want to unite and do similar,” declared the Salvadoran President.

Apart from the possible construction of the Salvadoran port on the Guatemalan coast and the re-categorisation of flights, the leaders announced that in one month they hope to have removed the border for the passage of people and within three or four months the barriers for goods between the two countries.

“We have to sign papers where we can eliminate the customs on goods respecting that goods entering El Salvador and destined for Guatemala have already paid taxes in El Salvador and do not have to pay them in Guatemala and those that have entered Guatemala destined for El Salvador do not have to pay them in El Salvador. We believe it will take us about three months,” the Guatemalan president declared to the media.

The elimination of the borders for the passage of people also requires the implementation of a bi-national arrangement on security. “If someone passes from Guatemala to El Salvador evading an arrest warrant, they will not be evading anything because we are going to have the same approaches in both countries,” Bukele stated.

Giammattei referred to their intention to apply similar security sanctions, one of which was to standardise the criminal codes in both countries. In the language he used to explain this part of the agreement, Giammattei betrayed his profoundly hateful and hardline understanding of crime in society. “Standardising the penalties, the sanctions, the punishments, so that when they spray ‘Baygon’ here the cockroaches do not go there because they think that there they will find it easier, and when they spray ‘Baygon’ the cockroaches won’t come here, as the law will be the same for the two countries,” said the new president.

Moreover, he said that they had been monitoring Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan (PCT), the main commitment of the Salvadoran Government to improve security conditions, and he (Giammattei) did not rule out implementing some of the same sanctions in Guatemala.

Relatos del desplazamiento forzoso por la violencia

[English] [Español]

Por Ricardo Flores, La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador

28 Noviembre 2018

Estos son 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.

1

Nelson fue 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 el proceso.

Cristosal 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 sus estudios.

El Salvador debe de reconocer el desplazamiento forzado: Médicos del Mundo

La organización internacional sostuvo que es “urgente” ese reconocimiento por lo crítico que se ha vuelto esta problemática en El Salvador.

2

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.

La familia 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 nuevo desplazamiento.

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 protección internacional.

418 niños sufrieron desplazamiento forzado en El Salvador en los últimos 3 años

Organizaciones, como Cristosal, piden a la CIDH que intervenga y solicite a los países del Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica una mejor atención a las víctimas.

Noticias de El Salvador / La Prensa Gráfica / 19 Oct

3

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 lugar.

Ante la 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.

Cuando la 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 familia”.

4

Sofía fue 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 pandilla.

La Fiscalía 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.

Cristosal registra un incremento del 53% de víctimas de desplazamientos forzados

Las víctimas de desplazamientos forzado atendidas por la ONG incrementaron un 53% entre 2016 y 2017. Cristosal reitera que el Estado sigue sin reconocer el problema.

Noticias de El Salvador / La Prensa Gráfica / 25 Apr

5

Una familia 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.

Cristosal comprobó que el Estado no tiene la capacidad para proteger a una familia numerosa.

6

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”.

Esa nueva 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.

El proceso judicial por el homicidio de Victoria culminó con la sentencia de los responsables. El proceso en la sala sigue pendiente de una sentencia definitiva.

Guatemalan Government bans plastics; then repeals ban.

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

Gobierno de Guatemala prohíbe el uso de plástico
Guatemalan government prohibits the use of plastics

Key words: single-use plastics; Guatemala; repeal on change of government.

In 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 measure.

The 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.

This 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 for non-compliance.

The 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”.

Showing 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” he proclaimed.

Subsequently, 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.

Questioned 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”.

The 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.

[Editorial 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.

https://www.eleconomista.net/export/sites/prensagrafica/img/2019/10/09/guatemalax_alejandro_giammattei.jpg_1130814359.jpg
President Elect of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei. EFE

Guatemala’s 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.

“Plastic 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.

Giammattei had warned that he would look into this agreement because in his view there is a “much deeper” problem.

[Editorial comment: indeed there is; it is the deep corruption within Guatemalan state politics and the Chamber of Commerce.]

Various 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.

Combatting Vehicle Pollution in Central America

A brief summary compiled by Martin Mowforth

April 2019

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 emissions.

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.

Sources:

  • El Economista, 7 November 2018, ‘Costa Rica emite decretos para incentivar uso de vehículos eléctricos’.
  • La 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 Guardian.
  • Fien Van Den Steen, 6 July 2018, ‘Guatemala, the end of using cars until the end?’ Global Fleet.

Guatemalan Congress Weakens NGOs

Key words: Guatemala; non-governmental organisations (GOs); human rights defenders; social activists; Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Early this month (February 2020) the Guatemalan Congress moved to limit the work of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Human rights defenders and social activists criticised the Guatemalan Congress for passing a law that could be used by governments to arbitrarily control non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The ‘Law of Non-Governmental Organisations for Development’ establishes that NGOs will not be able to use foreign donations or financing to carry out activities that “alter” public order.

“If an NGO uses foreign donations or financing to alter public order, it will be immediately cancelled … its executives will be charged under criminal and civil legislation,” the new law states.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also expressed its reservations regarding what happened in Congress.

“The reform of the NGO law could affect the freedom of association, assembly, and expression, as well as democratic spaces for organised civil society,” the OHCHR said and added that “it is important to adopt laws and policies that guarantee spaces for democratic participation.”

In 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concern about the NGO bill as it introduces controls that could be used to arbitrarily limit social organisations.

The NGO law is based on proposals that lawmakers of the previous legislature made to avoid the fight against corruption promoted by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.

With the new law, the government can “arbitrarily cancel uncomfortable organisations,” said Justice Now (JusticiaYa), an NGO which was born amidst the anti-corruption fight in 2015.​​​​​​​

The leftist party Winaq, whose most notable member is the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, said the NGO law is “a blow to freedom of social organisation and harmful to the majority.”​​​​​​​

Sources:

  • La Prensa Gráfica (El Salvador) 12 February 2020.
  • Impunity Watch

New Salvadoran President appoints more women than ever before

A summary by Martin Mowforth

June 2019

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.

Ministry Appointee
Education Karla Hananía de Varela
Foreign Ministry Alexandra Hill Tinoco
Health Ana Orellana Bendek
Tourism Morena Ileana Valdez Vigil
Local Development María Ofelia Navarrate (María Chichilco)
Culture Suecy Callejas Estrada
Housing 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.

Minister of 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.

Minister of 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).

Minister 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

Minister of 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

Minister of Housing. Formerly councillor and mayor of Nueva Cuscatlán. In 2003 involved in a people trafficking prosecution, but not convicted.

Egriselda López.

Salvadoran 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.

Transport initiatives in Costa Rica

Despite our efforts to point out that Costa Rica is not as environmentally friendly or as labour friendly as its legislation would suggest,  the Costa Rican government is clearly making some real attempts to move towards its pledge to decarbonise the country. The country’s transport system is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, so meeting this goal will not be an easy task, but the following summary indicates some important first steps made towards the goal.

By Martin Mowforth

Rail reactivation

In November 2019, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy together with the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (ICF by its Spanish initials) initiated a feasibility study into the reconstruction of 131 km of railroad between the central province of Alajuela and the Pacific Central province of Puntarenas. Such a rail line could be used to transport passengers and freight.

$550,000 (USD) have been invested in the initiative. Elizabeth Briceño, President of ICF, said: “We are sure that this will contribute to the economic reactivation of the zone and will generate employment.” The funds will be used for the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, market analyses, risk analysis, environmental studies, and design, administrative and budget evaluations.

The studies are expected to take seven months. The Planning Minister, Pilar Garrido, linked the project entitled ‘Railroad Reactivation to the Pacific’ with other possible rail initiatives such as the ‘Limón Electrified Freight Train (Caribbean Zone)’ with the aim of connecting by rail six of the country’s seven provinces.

Electric cars

The IONIQ model of electric cars has a range of 375 km from one single battery charge which takes up to 54 minutes. In Costa Rica, the model has been marketed for two years and 400 sales have already been achieved. This is a level of acceptance which Jerry Campos, regional manager of Hyundai, says is greater than expectations.

By the end of 2019 Costa Rica had 34 fast charging points for electric cars in operation. They are part of a network of charging stations (called ‘electrolineras’) that the government plans to expand in future years.

Of course we need to remember that not everything about electric vehicles is environmentally friendly or even socially friendly. Nevertheless, it can be said that if Costa Rica manages to change its fleet of vehicles from petrol to electric over the course of the next decade, then there is little doubt that it will be further along the path of phasing out fossil fuels than most other countries in the world. But that’s a big ‘if’.

In February this year, El Salvador also introduced its first completely electric car to the public, again with plans for later expansion. It is being marketed there by Grupo Q which is hoping to sell five units within two months of its introduction. Currently there is only one charging point in El Salvador. At the price of $39,800 (USD) the car is unfortunately out of the range of the vast majority of the country’s population.

Electric buses

More recently (March 2020) the government of Costa Rica has announced a pilot plan to introduce electric buses as one aspect of their plan to decarbonise the country’s economy. Three autobuses have been donated to Costa Rica by the German Cooperation Agency GTZ, and the Costa Rican government has extended the scheme to include a total of 15 electric buses by the end of this year.

Currently the idea is that they will be tested out in different parts of the country, and data will be collected on their serviceability, their usage and their profitability. The eventual aim is to turn the whole public transport fleet in the country over to electric buses. Claudia Dobles, the First Lady of the country, said: “This is a clear signal that the sector wants to modernise and provide an improved service to its users.”

The pilot plan requires the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity to provide the necessary accompanying technical electrical infrastructure. Additionally, the National Learning Institute is to provide training for drivers and mechanics; and a special tariff will be charged for electric bus users.

A group of transport businesses are involved in the plan and each participating business is expected to purchase at least one of the 12 new buses. The transport businesses have been pressuring the government to promote policies for the implementation of bus-only lanes and favourable financial credit lines for green initiatives such as bus renewals and operating costs.

The National Decarbonisation Plan presented by President Carlos Alvarado’s government in February 2019 envisages the elimination of the use of fossil fuels in Costa Rica by the year 2050.

Remittances to and migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle

El Economista recently 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.

Key words: remittances; migration; Northern Triangle countries; Temporary Protected Status (TPS);

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 and remittances.

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 cent.

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.”

El Economista: eleconomista.net

INCAE: www.incae.edu