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THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SHOULD NOT SUPPORT ELECTIONS RUN BY A COUP GOVERNMENT!


On October 29th, an agreement was reached between the de facto regime in Honduras and the elected president Manuel Zelaya, for the restoration of democracy. But the ink was barely dry on the accord when leaders of the coup regime indicated that they had no intention of honoring it.

The elections in Honduras are coming up on November 28th, and the majority of the campaign period has already passed, under conditions of dictatorship that made free election campaigning impossible. Elections under the coup regime will serve to further legitimize the coup government.

Thomas Shannon, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, has told CNN that the US plans to recognize the November elections whether or not Zelaya is restored. By recognizing the November elections, the Obama administration will legitimize the coup government, setting a dangerous precedent for emerging democracies all over the world.

Please Call the White House and the State Department:
White House: 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414
State Department (ask for Tom Shannon): 202-647-4000


Talking points:
I am very concerned about the current US position on Honduras. The US must join the international community and insist that the coup regime step down, that they implement the recently signed accords and return President Zelaya to office.  Without President Zelaya in office, the US should NOT recognize the November 29 election. This is a grave issue for human rights and democracy all over the world. Thank you.

Send this message to the White House and State Department as a fax:
If you would like to have a fax sent in your name, but don't have access to a fax machine, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include your name, city and state.


Thank You For Taking Action!

 


As many of you have heard, heavy rains as a result of Hurricane Ida that hit Nicaragua recently caused flooding throughout El Salvador.  Many CRIPDES communities, especially in the area of La Libertad and the communities of Las Anonas and Chilama, have been affected by the rains.  CRIPDES is working to help those affected in these – and all – the communities. 

If you are able and interested in helping, you can send a check to Sister Cities, along with an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. stating the amount you will be sending.  Sister Cities will then be able to transfer the money to CRIPDES immediatly, so that the organization and the communities will have access to emergency funds. 

Below is an article with a brief update of the situation here, and more updates and analysis from CRIPDES will be available in the coming days.  Thanks for your solidarity and support.

--El Salvador Staff and Volunteers

President Funes Decrees a National Emergency

Translated from Diario CoLatino, Nov. 9, 2009

The President of the Republic, Mauricio Funes, decreed last night a National Emergency, due to the downpours and floods caused by the intense rains Saturday and Sunday, which primarily effected the Departments of San Vicente and San Salvador the flooding left numerous damages and 124 people died.

All of the Government Ministry’s economic and human resources are assisting the victims and the zones at highest risk, and the President of the Republic authorized a special part of the Ministry’s budget to immediately address the most urgent emergencies.

The President also called on the Ministries of Health and Defense, including the National Civil Police, to attend all of those affected by the climatic phenomenon. 

“This emergency will bring attention to the grave housing and food situation generated by the disaster”, assured President Funes.

In his message, he assured that all the strength of the central government have been called upon to attend to the emergency and called on the Salvadoran people to work in solidarity with those affected.

For those who are still in zones at risk, the President urges them to seek refuge in housing that that is available to people in at-risk areas. In the following days, the government will evaluate the damages from the hurricane, with the help of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) and the United Nations.

In just four hours, 355 mm of rain fell, an amount equivalent to one month of precipitation in normal rainy periods.  The only comparison to the past weekend’s rainfall is what fell during Hurricane Mitch in 1998.  During four days, Hurricane Mitch left almost 400 mm of rain. 

Funes indicated that the tragedy that occurred because the previous government did not focus on mitigation projects in high risk areas.

The President assured that this will no longer happen, and that the government will not leave those affected alone without help.

“The Government will not rest in these hours of vigil”, says the dignitary, while he sent his condolences to the victims of the hurricane.

From ContraPunto, translated by Sister Cities

A community struggles to maintain its historical walls that are not just simple adobe structure. These walls show their own history and the history of the country. The parish wanted to knock down these walls, but the people said no.
Siting on a plastic chair, Elba Escalante, 68 years old, stands guard at the entrance to the church in Cinquera, Cabanas, a town that during the war, disapeared from the map because of the devestating force of arial bombing, but later resurged like a Pheonix. Behind her, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, asasinated by death squads in 1980, observes all from the mural painted in his honor on the side of the temple.

Elba and the rest of her companeros from the “Christian Community Cristiana Aida Escalante” have peacefully taken over this temple. There is a plastic cord around the outside of the church to prevent access to the building, and from that cord hang posters with messages about the temple and quotes from Archbishop Romero: "Without Christ, temples have no use, no matter how beautiful they are ".
 
The members of this religious community fear that the priest who serves the town, Emilio Rivas, will try to tear down the front and side walls of the temple, as he attempted, unsuccessfully, on October 13th. He considers these structures to be useless, although for the population they have a great symbolic significance.
 
Cinquera, while under the control of the geurillas, was reduced to nothing during El Salvador's civil war.  500-pound bombs rained down and destroyed the community completely; some unexploded bombs today stand guard in front of the church, as a silent witness to the war's atrocities.

Only the bell tower of the church survived, punctured by shrapnel fire. Some sections of the front and north walls of the church also survived, and were later restored  by the population.

The punctured bell tower and semi destroyed walls of the original church are the only buildings remaining of the era of the civil war in Cinquera. They serve as evidence of the military conflict that all of El Salvador experienced from 1980 and 1992, which according to estimates left some 70,000 people dead.

For the majority of the population, these walls should be preserved because they are part of the cultural and historical heritage of the people. The new generations should know this history, so that it will never happen. 
 
 But the priest believes that the walls are just something old that would be dangerous if they were to collapse.

That is how on October 13th at about 7:30 am, Father Rivas arrived with about 100 men armed with spades, sticks, hoes and shovels, with a firm determination to knock down those historic walls, the only traces of the days of war. For part of the community the walls are like a museum: they give a testimony to the present and future generations about how painful the war was.

But people were opposed, in the midst of commotion. Holding hands, they formed a human chain and prevented those adobe walls from falling down because of someone's senselessness.

Since then, Elba and her friends arrive every day to guard the perimeter of the chruch. They are not going to let the priest attempt a new offensive of picks and hoes.

"It was so difficult for us to rebuild everything, and these walls are part of our history, and we will not allow anyone to come and destroy them," says Elba, as she smokes a cigarette.

She was among the group of seven families who  repopulated Cinquera in February of 1991, when the war had not yet ended.
"When we arrived, this was a ghost town; I could not even recognize my house, because there were no houses," says Elba. "There were just snakes coiled in the trees".

Her daughter, Aida Escalante- from whome comes the name of the Christian community- was a young catechist who was 17 when she was brutally murdered by the death squads in 1980.

Nothing that smells of Romero .

The priest's desire to tear down the walls of the temple is not only because the walls are old, say residents of Cinquera, that's just the justification.

The background is more shadowy:  he is a conservative, right wing, who has insisted since coming to town in January of 2009, of wanting want to erase icons from the past civil war that still permeate all parts of the church: posters of Archbishop Romero and Rotilio Grande, another priest that was murdered, fotographs of combatants and  civilians who were killed in the conflict in the Cinquera zone, photographs of the priests from the Central American University (UCA) who were massacred in 1989, and so on.
 
These images are an important reference for the majority of the population, who lived close to the town's revolutionary past.

There is, therefore, a frontal collision between the conservative vision of the priest and the majority of the population, on the left, who are followers of liberation theology and of Archbishop Romero.

"Since the day he came he began to directly attack  the community," says Amilcar Lobo, a member of the Christian Community.

 Lobo says says that the Father Rivas arrived prejudiced by the Parish, which began in 2007, also from a conservative perspective. "He said the church had to look pretty, indirectly saying that he did not like the focus that had given the community had given the church," Wolf tells.

Things heated up further last Easter. Rivas covers Cinquera but does not live there, so he sent the Mexican-born Preist Clemente Velasquez, who villagers say showed an attitude that was even more aggressive than Rivas.
 
 The Mexican priest changed the traditional Holy Week stations of the cross, which had been arranged by members of the Christian Community, giving them to members of the Charismatic Congregation in the town, who support the Priest because they too are right wing, said Marina Alvarenga.

"He said that we should not follow dead leaders, referring to Archbishop Romero," she adds. "One day he told us to forget the past and the historic “garbage” that we follow. "He said that Romero was not a martyr, that the best we can do is pray that God forgives our sins because Romero died because he was political".

On the Sunday following Holy Week, Father Rivas returned to Cinquera. He said during Mass that the church was private property, and that those who were creating disorder were going to be brought to the police, according to those who denounced it.

Counterpoint tried unsuccessfully to interview the Father Rivas over the phone.

"They are lazy"

All of this was heating up the atmosphere that led to what happened on Tuesday October 13th, when the priest arrived with a small army of workers who wanted to demolish the walls of the main and Northern walls of the church.

Rodolfo Sosa, the Mayor of Cinquera with the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena) party, also participated. He is an ally of Father Rivas, by political affinity, and actually accompanied the priest in an attempt to tear down the walls, as shown in a home video filmed during the activity.

 Counterpoint saw Sosa across the park in front of the church, sitting in a double cab pickup. What were you doing there with the father on that day of craziness?, We ask.

"My role was to support, the father asked me to," he says. "I did not bring these people with picks, that was the Father," he adds.


The mayor adds: "They (the people from the Christian Community) are not truly faithful, they are some bums who take advantage of the temple in order to preach  guerrilla doctrine against the ARENA party.

This party ruled El Salvador for 20 years with neoliberal policies that impoverished the population. But they lost the presidential election last March, and the former guerrillas of the FMLN are now the ruling party.

The mayor added that those who have taken over the temple are interested in maintaining the church "with things from the war" because they take advantage of it financially: the foreigners who come to the town bring them donations, etc..  "They are accustomed to reading messages and notes written by Archbishop Romero." Says the former policeman turned mayor after winning the mayor's office last January by 22 votes. "They are not Christians, they are from the FMLN party.
Is it true that you won the mayor's position by 22 votes, from people that you brought in from elsewhere?, we asked him

"God knows that's not true, I did not bring a single vote from another town," he replies.
 
Reason Triumphs

The day that Father Rivas attempted to tear down the walls Rivas, he carried an official document under his arm which supported him. It was a report from the now defunct National Council for Arts and Culture (Concultura) from July 16th of this year, which approved the destruction of the structures identified.

The document was the result of a process that began with technical inspections by staff of Concultura, which were requested on June 22nd, 2009 by the Catholic Church, who own the church in Cinquera.

The document, in effect, endorsed the demolition of the adobe structures identified. It was based on an inspection by technicians: the walls had already been interlaced with materials that were incompatible with the original and, also posed a risk that they would collapse.

The report from Concultura came out in the moment of transition between the previous ARENA government and the new government of Mauricio Funes from FMLN, who took office on June 1st.
 

But now the new Department of Culture, a new entity that emerged from the ashes of Concultura, has taken up the case with a new approach. Breny Basin, the Minister of Culture, visited Cinquera on October 19th and agreed to a public review the decision.

"We did not know of the conflict with the parish. We cannot ignore this situation, the reasonable demand of the community, and we did not know enough about this when the  decision was made," said Sonia Baires, the new Director of Cultural Heritage.
 
 "We will review the resolution so that it focuses on sustaining these structures," he says.

"The walls have an intangible symbolic value that the community wants to preserve," he adds.

Back in Cinquera, Elba weeps as she looks at the photo of her daughter on a mural made of newspapers  located on one of the newer interior walls of the temple.

After having failed in all of his attempts to remove the symbols of the historical memory of the people, Father Rivas has said, according to community members, that he will never come back to give mass at Cinquera.

Elba can be relieved, for the moment.


by U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities

The ARENA party, recently ousted from the Executive Branch after almost 20 years controlling the Presidency, finds itself in the midst of internal divisions. On October 12th, the day after its General Assembly, 12 ARENA representatives to the Legislative Assembly announced their discontent with ARENA leadership and stated that they no longer feel represented by the party.

According to the newspaper El Faro: “12 Congressional Representatives have announced they will vote “differently” from the party even though they won’t actually leave. They are all Representatives connected to ex-president Antonio Saca and […] René Figueroa.” Since Alfredo Cristiani was renamed President of ARENA at the October 12th assembly, it is apparent that the disagreements spring from the divisions between the Cristiani school and Saca school within the party.

This division has created new opportunities within the Legislative Assembly for the FMLN. While the FMLN has the largest number of representatives in the Legislative Assembly (35), a coalition of the three right wing parties still forms a majority. However, when almost half (12 of 25) of its representatives voting against the party, ARENA can no longer block the initiatives presented by the left. That is why on November 6th, the Legislative Assembly approved the 2010 national budget, described as “reinforcement for social programs,” that had been presented by the Funes government. Without those 12 key ARENA dissidents, a national budget with an emphasis on social spending never would have made it through.

The divisions have also allowed for the restructuring of the directing committee of the Legislative Assembly. Previously, the presidency of the assembly had been given to Ciro Cruz Zepeda, of the right-wing PCN party. Now there will be a rotating presidency, where Cruz Zepeda will be president for 15 months and Sigfrido Reyes from the FMLN will be president for 15 months.

While these divisions have produced obvious advantages for the left, social movement leaders and party representatives are skeptical about how long they will last. As Rosa Centeno Valle, president of CRIPDES says, “the divisions within ARENA are bringing benefits to our country now, but we know that at any moment these 12 representatives could change their position, reunite with their party, and reform the right-wing block in the Legislative Assembly.”


For more information:

2010 Budget Approved” Diario CoLatino. 6 November 2009. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20091106/portada/73412/

COENA with a Confrontational Discourse” Diario CoLatino. 12 October 2009. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20091012/nacionales/72434/

12 Representatives of the ARENA Party Rebel against the Leadership” El Faro. http://www.elfaro.net/secciones/Noticias/20091012/noticias2_20091012.asp#

Representatives Disagree with the new COENA” Diario CoLatino. 12 October 2009. http://www.diariocolatino.com/es/20091012/nacionales/72435/

San Salvador, November 9, 2009

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Official reports reveal that, as a result of Hurricane Ida, 124 Salvadorans have died due to massive flooding and mudslides. In various municipalities of El Salvador, more than 10,000 people have been evacuated, 60 people have disappeared, and thousands of people have sought refuge in temporary shelters.

Various departments have been affected, including La Paz, La Libertad, Cuscatlan, and San Salvador. More than twenty bridges have collapsed and road destruction has isolated many Salvadorans.

The municipality of Verapaz in the department of San Vicente is one of the most affected. The town is the home of over seven thousand people and is located 71 kilometers away from San Salvador on the outskirts of the volcano Chinchontepec. The municipality suffered a mud slide that destroyed 100 homes, damaged 100 others, crushed cars of all sizes, and buried 12 people. Fifty others are missing.

On November 8, 2009, the president of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, declared a nation-wide state of emergency. It is estimated that between Saturday night and Sunday morning, 335 millimeters of rain fell, an incredible amount when compared to the 400 millimeters that fell in four days during the devastating Hurricane Mitch of 1998.

As of now, we have acquired preliminary data concerning the zones in which CRIPDES works:

Sistered communities affected:

Chilama: roughly four houses were flooded, one was completely destroyed, the casa comunal and community church were damaged, along with the road.

El Charcon: The river came up very high in the community, but there was not a lot of damage to houses or crops. The water did almost reach the Casa Comunal.

Las Anonas: Roughly 6 houses closest to the river filled up with water, and the road inside the community flooded. The biggest damage has been the large amount of crops that have been destroyed.

Agua Caliente: does not have access to potable water because the water pipes were damaged when the Quetzalapa River overflowed. There were also many manzanas of beans and corn that were washed away. No houses were damaged and all the people in the community are safe.

Cinquera: did not suffer damages, although the bridge on the road that leads to Cinquera, over the Quetzalapa River, has broken in half, and 150 meters of road was washed away by the water.

Department of La Libertad:

Municipality of La Libertad: With the support of the allied organization CORDES, CRIPDES has detected that there are 26 affected communities with a combined population of 4,238 people, 1,067 families, 1,473 men, 1,613 women, 78 pregnant women, 460 boys, and 314 girls.

Department of San Salvador:

Municipality of Aguilares: Five affected communities with 68 families, 350 people, 178 women, and 175 men.

Municipality of El Paisnal: Three affected communities, 17 families, 85 people, 45 women, and 42 men.

Department of La Paz:

Municipality of San Juan Pepezontes: Sixty affected families, 305 people, 159 women, and 156 men. We believe that these numbers will grow, as we have not yet acquired all of the data.

Municipality of Zacatecoluca: Ninety-one affected families, 455 people, 237 women, and 235 men.

Department of San Vicente:

Municipality of Guadalupe: Eight people have died, and there is no water or electricity. We do not yet have complete information on the affected population.

The affected Salvadoran population is in need of food, clothing, bedding, water, hygiene kits, medicine, and shelter. We are calling out to our friends and supporters to assist us in our efforts to help the hurricane victims and work to rebuild their lives.

Sincerely,

Rosa María Centeno Valle
CRIPDES President

www.Cripdes.net

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