Archives 2006-2008

Agreement of Constitution for the Social Coordination for Human Rights

The Salvadoran population in its majority is marginalized socially and economically; El Salvador’s economy is stalled and concentration of wealth is increasing, salaries are low and unemployment is rising, we lack our own currency and inflation is on a rampage and we have a very serious financial deficit.  In this reality thousands of people, mostly women, have been fired from textile factories, maquiladoras, and workers in the public sector have had similar luck.

This situation is made worse by a constant rise in the cost of living: an increase in fuel costs, electricity and potable water, as well as public transportation and basic goods, medicines and health services in general. 

The historical violation of social, economic and cultural rights has deepened; the affected population finds social protest to be the only way to demand better life conditions and respect for their own human rights. 

The targeting of our environment and transgressions against our historic and cultural values reveal that the actual ruling sector considers our country to be a motherland with no borders other than their own interests.  The scarcity of water, clean air, and topsoil as well as the contamination of our rivers doesn’t seem  to be a worry for those who make the country’s decisions.  Subcultures and Machismo are promoted, and there is no interest taken to build an informed and critical population. 

The country is in the midst of a reversal of civil rights; in the rural as well as urban areas leaders, men and women, are being arbitrarily captured and held, principally young people; the nucleus of personal and civil liberties is being violated on a daily basis.  Moreover, political rights are gravely at risk: political electoral campaigns run permanently generate an environment of uncertainty and insecurity.  We are conditioned to vote out of fear.  There is an irreverent manipulation of ideological freedom and personal autonomy.  This is a new way of violating the purity of electoral processes. 

El Salvador is today one of the most insecure countries of Latin America.  In the first 6 months of 2006 the National Civilian Police force recorded  1830 homicides, 92 more than in the same period of the previous year.  The occurrence of arbitrary and extra-judicial assassinations is indisputable, and the responsible authorities do not investigate the cases in depth; in this reality the victims are most often women, children and youth.  In the last 3 years the criminality directed towards women has risen, according to a study of the press in 2003 77 assassinations of women were recorded, which subsequently rose to 190 cases in 2005.  The levels of violence against women have risen without a corresponding consideration on the part of security programs that considers them as subjects of aggression and crime.   

The “combat against delinquency” that is based on campaigns of law and order, begun in July of 2003 with the Strong Hand Plan, is shown to be ephemeral and unsustainable, with an impact that is almost exclusively symbolic and geared toward the media.  The insistence on this plan despite the daily proof of its inefficiency to contain social violence has created protest out of certain sectors toward the authorities against the state of violence and criminality, and demanding real and effective solutions to the problem. 

Each passing day shows clear evidence that there is no willingness from the government to take adequate measures to confront this reality; its insistence in exclusively repressive measures and legal reforms, agains the growing criminality, adds an additional ingredient of uncertainty and this fear has taken the population captive, especially the poorest sectors who, again, are the most deeply affected.   

This reality is aggravated by the non-functioning institutions of the State and its laws; the disrespect for the separation of powers, a fundamental pillar of democracy which has been kidnapped by the a sense of factitious presidential power, thus annulling the rule of law.  The Legislative Assembly (Congress), the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Human Services, the controlling body of the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal respond without a doubt to the orientation given by the Executive Branch, and the Executive, in turn, responds to the interests of a small group that controls the economy and the market, actively receiving benefits from trade agreements, globalization, and the so-called trade openness.

The Judicial Branch presents a double scenario: Some local and federal circuit judges as well as Supreme Court Justices make an effort to fulfill their duty and are guided by the Constitution and national Law, while others act with complacency and connivance toward growing authoritarianism and violation of the Constitution and international human rights treaties; those who uphold the constitution are becoming the object of disrespect, threats and exclusion.  Judicial independence is one of the checks and balances must under fire from the Executive power.  

We call attention to the role that some of the media is playing, putting aside ethical principles of journalism and using practices such as the manipulation of information and deficiency in investigative journalism, thusly denying the public the possibility of having information and options to create a correct analysis of the national reality and therefore the right to the truth.

This reality, generated without a doubt by the economic system, provokes a force that expels the Salvadoran population from its home, obliging them to emígrate, principally to the United Status, where they send home remittances to their family members still living in the country.  This incurs high human costs taken on by the immigrant population, victim  of physical and psychological aggressions, as well as the disintegration of Salvadoran families, discrimination in the U.S. and other effects of a process of transculturation.   

Family remittances have kept the Salvadoran economy from plummeting completely; that is, to keep the economy functioning thousands of Salvadoran men and women must leave the country, and many must die along the way. 

The country is in the midst of a very delicate moment.  Now 15 years alter signing the Peace Accord and an official transition, the accords themselves have not been satisfactorily fulfilled for the majority of the population.  What we have now is an electoral representative democracy that does nothing to combat the structural causes that were at the base of the war; on the contrary the hegemonic block of th ruling party, business elite and conservative sectors has been reinforced and maintains ideological, political and economic dominance, enforcing an exclusive and oppressive system.

 

CRIPDES San Vicente held its monthly Scholarship Student Program Assembly the 25th of August. 

Currently there are 19 scholarship students participating in the program, from the communities of San Bartolo, Guajoyo, Las Anonas, La Ceiba, amongst others. 

Sister Cities, through the support of the Philadelphia and Austin Committees, supports 14 of these scholarship students, with a yearly stipend of approximately 310 dollars to cover matriculation fees, monthly tuition, school supplies, transportation, and other costs incurred during studies. 

The scholarship program supports youth from rural CRIPDES communities, who often do not have schools within their own communities, and most walk long distances to catch the bus, so they can study junior high and high school.  Without scholarships, these students would often not be able to study, since the costs associated with education in El Salvador are prohibitively high for many rural campesino families.  

This year, CRIPDES is designing a university scholarship program, with the goal of continuing to support academic opportunities for rural youth.  Currently, many young people graduate from junior high or high school, and then because of lack of employment and educational opportunities, decide they must leave their communities.  Most young people go to work in maquilas in San Salvador, or migrate to the United States. 

This year CRIPDES San Vicente, with support from the SHARE foundation, has four university scholarship students, including CRIPDES regional organizers.  The goals of the university scholarship program are to offer continued academic opportunities for rural leaders to strengthen their communities and the CRIPDES organizing base in San Vicente.  In light of CRIPDES´ important role in community organizing, and most recently in protecting local leaders from arrest in La Sabana on August 24th, it is clear that developing youth leadership within CRIPDES communities is a top priority for the region’s future.

Please contact Sister Cities for more information on the CRIPDES San Vicente Scholarship Program, or with questions. 

This hand-picked and processed coffee from along the cool pine-shaded slopes of the Chalatenango province of El Salvador, near the Honduras border. It arrives to your cup through a special collaboration between the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Madison-based Just Coffee and the farming families of the Ereguán Coffee Collective.


Shared Values

The producers of Café Chacón have organized a cooperative of coffee growers and processors who are building community based on an economic model of mutual solidarity. When you drink Café Chacón you join with them in building this solidarity. Café Chacón is carefully grown without the use of pesticides on family-sized plots 1000 meters above sea level. These conditions assure premium taste, an equitable economy for coffee growers, and ecological sustainability. 

A History of Struggle

The northern region of Chalatenango was the center of heavy conflict during El Salvador´s 12-year civil war (1980-1992). The people of the region were forced to flee to the mountains to avoid death squad patrols—all but abandoning their villages during the war. Many saw their homes and crops destroyed by the army.

The armed conflict ended in 1992, when Peace Accords were signed. Since then, communities have been faced with rebuilding their homes and readjusting to civilian life. In the years following the war, many people returned to what was familiar to them: cultivating and harvesting coffee.

But these growers have come a long way since the days of toasting coffee alongside their daily tortillas. Their cooperative buys coffee from local growers, dries the beans using solar technology, roasts them to perfection, and sells the finished product throughout El Salvador.  

Café Chacón is an export quality micro-roast that brings the best of this growers co-op direct to you, through solidarity relationships with MOFGA and U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities.

To order contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Download a PDF of the Café Juan Chacón label  

November 1, 2006

ARDM-Cinquera Monthly Update #1

 

 

Introduction: 

  This document should be the first in a series of monthly updates on the work of the Association for Reconstruction and Municipal Development (ARDM) and the social, political, economic and cultural panorama in Cinquera.  The ARDM, with support from U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities local staff, has decided to share in this format news about its activities as well as reflections, reactions and analysis.  These updates are written first and foremost to share with Cinquera’s Sister City of Chicago, but should also be suitable for general distribution.  Information was presented to me in an informal and open style, a veritable barrage of activities and alliances that were persistently and patiently mapped out over the course of 90 minutes of talking and furious note-taking.  It was such an energizing and invigorating break from the formality that often obscures the exciting nature of all the good work going on the author has decided to present the information below in much that same format.

 

-           Jesse Kates-Chinoy,

 Sister Cities E.S. Staff

 

Community Organizing Structures:

  The ARDM works constantly to support community organizing structures, with a specific focus on strengthening Community Councils (“Directivas Comunales”), in 7 rural communities that make up the Municipality of Cinquera.  An important mechanism of this work is supporting the legalization of Directivas in each community into an Association for Community Development.  The acronym is ADESCO in Spanish.  These ADESCOs are the legally recognized authority in the communities, and have power to find funding and support for community projects, as well as be the legal reference points for governmental organizations and other institutions that come into the community, making them a crucial structure for community autonomy and democracy.

 

  Each month the ARDM organizer responsible for working with ADESCOs, Pantaleon Carmelo Noyola (known widely just by his nickname: “Lito”), visits each community and meets with the Directivas and helps them work toward carrying out their work plans.  As past president of the ARDM and current project organizer Rosa Alvarenga said: “We don’t solve problems for the communities, rather we try to make sure that they have the organizational capability to create their own solutions.”

 

  This past month (October), Lito prepared and carried out the monthly meetings with each ADESCO, as well as community assemblies in 2 communities to elect new ADESCOs, as the previous term was up: the communities of El Guiligüiste and San Benito. 

 

  The immediate challenge for Lito and the ARDM in each of these communities is to promote internal unity and cooperation to elect these representative structures.  In the community of San Benito, there has been an historic divide between 2 or 3 large family groups.  These families are not originally from Cinquera, rather they immigrated after the war and the initial repopulation from the eastern provinces of San Miguel and Morazan.  They consequently don’t have the history of organizing and unity that is prevalent in other parts of Cinquera, and the first job of the ARDM is to talk about the need for organizing and working together.  “I went to visit each family,” said Lito, “and we talked about the problems that they have in the community: delinquency, alcoholism and the beginnings of marijuana abuse.  I explained that only they could solve their problems, and only if they got organized….”  Lito seems pretty sure that these weeks of work talking to households and residents paid off, as the general assembly in October was attended by 90 participants who wanted to be members of the community association (ADESCO) and in the end they elected a 7-member Community Council made up of representatives from each of the different family groups.

 

  Another assembly of note this month took place in the community of El Guiligüiste.  The ADESCO of El Guiligüiste successfully found donors to build a drinking water system in the community, including laying the pipes and faucets and buying a pump and digging a well, and the Mayor’s Office of Cinquera will pay for the electricity to run it.  To be able to turn on the system the ARDM is working with the community to create a Water Committee, which would administer the system, make sure it collects only just enough money to continue maintenance, and is timed so that all households have access to water.  It is just one of those things that couldn’t happen if the community wasn’t organized to run their own public services, and Lito has been holding workshops and meetings on how to elect a representative committee to effectively run the community water system.

 

 

Alliances and Local Coalition Building:

  The ARDM has been coordinating its community organizing work in Cinquera with similar organizations in surrounding municipalities: Tejutepeque, Jutiapa, Tenancingo, and Suchitoto.  With support from different NGOs including CORDES and Swiss Worker Aid, the ARDM is part of 2 “micro-regions”.  These coalitions bring together the work of legalizing ADESCOs, and supporting youth groups, womens groups, and other structures in each of the communities.  They work together on shared issues in their municipalities, such as access to potable water, health services, and education.  Another main component of this work of coordination is that of environmental protection, as the Cinquera forest extends into all five of those aforementioned municipalities.  Manuel Reynado, the ARDM President and youth organizer, as well as Lito get small salaries (stipends) for their organizing work from these projects. 

 

Defense of Public Services and the Local Health Clinic:

  The ARDM has helped to organize and still leads what is called in Cinquera the “Support Committee for the Health Clinic”.  This is interesting:  In the years following the repopulation of Cinquera the government Ministry of Health was forced to again recognize the local health clinic, for which they supplied the salary for 1 doctor and 1 nurse, to cover the health needs of the entire municipality (the urban center and the 7 surrounding communities.)  As the population of the municipality grew, it became more and more evident that the clinic needed more materials and more medical staff.  The community started to raise money on its own to pay stipends to more medical staff, wnile putting pressure on the government, specifically directed toward the Ministry of Health, to recognize the new workers and take on paying their salaries.  Today the clinic has 9 paid staff, and the community, through its “Support Committee for the Health Clinic” is still raising money and covers the “salaries” (100 dollars/month) of the registrar and the pharmacist. 

 

  In 2002 the President declared that “Health services are free!” and he prohibited the local health clinics from charging for services.  However, the Ministry of Health refused to increase the public budget for health services.  In effect, the President got to declare health as “free”, while the lack in resources had to be picked up by the public clinics and hospitals themselves, who in turn began to secretly charge patients for services to cover the cost of doctors and nurses salaries, and medicines.

 

  In light of these situations, the Support Committee for the Health Clinic in Cinquera raises money selling food, snacks, organizing trips and raffles.  This money is what keeps the health clinic functioning.  At the same time, the Committee believes that fundraising should only be a temporary measure, and their main focus is to struggle to get the Ministry of Health to recognize the community-paid staff by committing to pay them salaries.  As it stands right now, the Ministry of Health claims that they are the employers of the 2 community paid staff (while refusing to pay them salaries), and has tried to force them to take government discounts on their stipends and be responsible for up to 6,000 dollars of losses from clinic property.

 

  The Support Committee recognizes the need for another doctor or nurse in the clinic, but has decided that they cannot pay another salary, due not only to fundraising limitations but also because, as Manuel Reynado put it: “We refuse to validate the attitude of the Ministry of Health that washes its hands of all responsibility when the community shows that we care for each other…”  He went on to say that “our job now is to organize and to fight to make sure that the government can’t shift blame, and takes responsibility for providing services for its citizens.”

 

  Of particular note is that the ARDM at our meeting identified this issue as one that they want support from Chicago on in the upcoming year, in the form of political support in putting pressure on the government and ministry of health, and exploring what other ways their sister city can accompany this struggle.

 

Youth Organizing:

  The ARDM continues to run a Scholarship Program with financial support from certain Basque cities.  Through this program there are a total of 16 young people from Cinquera who receive economic support that is half donation and half no-interest loan to be paid back to the program itself to continue to give scholarships to other students. 

 

  The ARDM has been instrumental in setting up Municipal and Micro-Regional youth committees, which are doing leadership trainings for young people from the communities and promoting youth for leadership roles in ADESCOs and other organizing structures.

 

  In Cinquera the ARDM is supporting and organizing an adolescent theatre group called “Los Radiola”.  Kids ages mostly 9-12 have been learning street theatre techniques and putting on plays about issues ranging from forest conservation to free trade to domestic violence.

 

  The Youth Local Radio project continues, and October saw the completion of a small broadcasting studio (an extra brick room walled off in the ARDM courtyard).  The radio still plays from 5-7 pm each day over public speakers throughout the urban center, and the young people have daily music and informational programming.

 

  The Oral History Project nears a close in October as well.  All the interviews and systematizing of the information has been done, and the Radiola theatre group is putting together presentations to give the oral history back to the community.  Theater presentations and the presentation of the official oral history document are scheduled for November. 

 

Environmental Tourism Services:

  The ARDM continues to work on providing services to promote the eco-tourism attractions of the Cinquera forest, and in October they made serious progress on 4 separate initiatives:

 

-  Family initiatives for tourism:  the ARDM is working with families in El Tule and San Benito who are developing certain infrastructure (trails, ropes course, etc) on their land within the forest.

 

- A community restaurant is being built on land that has been bought by the ARDM within Cinquera’s urban center.  It will be run by the community women’s group.

 

- A youth craft workshop is being re-invigorated with the training of kids ages 14-16 in wood carving and other selected crafts.

 

- The Ecological Park in the forest is being improved, including more trails, a new lookout tower, and adolescents and youth being trained as local community guides to take groups up into the forest.

 

As well, the group of forest rangers, (“Guardarecursos”) continues to make daily patrols as a preventative measure to poachers coming into the forest.

 

9th Annual Ecological Forum:

  The ARDM held on October 27th its 9th annual Ecological Forum.  Every year the ARDM together with the Cinquera Mayors Office organizes a forum to discuss how the community of Cinquera, and specifically its 110 families that are patchwork owners of the forest itself, are going to coexist in positive ways with their natural resources.  There were at least 200 people at the forum, including landowners, children from the local schools, and farmers.  The participants divided into 5 working groups:  Alternatives for rural tourism, Reduction and treatment of solid garbage in Cinquera, The impacts of the new forestry laws for the Cinquera forest, Creation of an environmental management plan, and Alternatives for agricultural development. 

 

  There was vigorous and excited participation in each of these discussion groups, and new proposals were made.  The ARDM, Mayors Office and CORDES have put together a follow-up committee to plan the implementation of some of these proposals.  The progress made in their implementation will be presented at the 10th forum (next year) as a way to motivate participants, so they can see that their ideas are really being put into action. 

 

December 4, 2006

ARDM-Cinquera Monthly Update #2

 

 

Introduction: 

  This is the second in the series of monthly updates on the work of the Association for Reconstruction and Municipal Development (ARDM) and the social, political, economic and cultural panorama in Cinquera.  The ARDM, with support from U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities local staff, has decided to share in this format news about its activities as well as reflections, reactions and analysis.  These updates are written first and foremost to share with Cinquera’s Sister City of Chicago, but should also be suitable for general distribution.  Information was presented to me in an informal and open style, this time accompanied by Flor and Virginia, the 2 young women selected by the ARDM to carry out the institutional communications project, putting information together to give out to solidarity relationships and local communities.

 

 

-           Jesse Kates-Chinoy,

 Sister Cities E.S. Staff

 

 

Youth Organizing

 

The youth from the Cabañas micro-region have come together and they have identified leadership and skills training as a necessary component to strengthen the youth organizing in their communities.  They have carried out an inter-community workshop on leadership training with 43 youth leaders, who will each replicate the workshop in their community with the Community Council (directiva communal) and youth committee.

 

The ARDM youth organizer (Manuel Reynado) continues to work with the youth organizing in the community of San Benito (municipality of Cinquera), who are putting together their soccer team, and were able to successfully fundraise to buy uniforms for themelves.

 

The youth from the community of San Nicolas (Municipality of Cinquera) are organizing a mini intra-community (boys and girls) soccer tournament running from December 1st-31st.  The ARDM chipped in some prize money for the winning team, and for the youth committee.

 

The Cinquera (town center) youth group is getting ready to coordinate the day of the Cinquera patron saint festival assigned to the young people.  They are organizing a serenade of the elderly women at 5:00am, a greased pig contest, and other festivities, along with the youth theatre presentation in the evening.

 

The Cinquera youth theatre group “Los Radiola” continues to put together original plays and scripts and present them around town as well as other venues.  Their plays include: “Eva” which is about gender relations and women´s social and political participation, “The tied up donkey” which is about CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, “The Cinquera Forest” which is about local environmental conservation and how it fits into the larger political and economic system, and “Cipitin” which is a children’s play.  They have presented their work at the Womens Forum in Cinquera, the Native Seed Interchange in neighboring Tejutepeque, the United Nations Development Program (UNPD) fair in San Salvador, the Community Organization Day in Tejutepeque.

 

The Youth Radio Project continues:  They have finished building their new “studio” (a brick alcove behind the ARDM office with egg-cartons pasted all over the inside walls for sound absorption.)  They have continued with their daily programming (5:00-7:00pm every day), and are getting better at putting shows together, as well as informational advertisements.

 

Historical Memory and Community Mobilization:

People from the community of Cinquera participated in the commemoration of the anniversary of the assassination of the 6 Jesuit priests at the Central American University, UCA.  2 bussloads of people from the community (120 people) made the trip into San Salvador for the all night vigil.

 

The community of cinquera also participated in neighboring Copapayo at the community-run anniversary of the Copapayo Massacre, on November 4th and 5th.  (see attachment)

 

Native Seed Interchange:

The ARDM helped to organize a native seed interchange with the surrounding communities and municipalities.  This event marks the 1 year anniversary of the native seed project they started, helping people to conserve their corn and bean seeds, especially native varieties, instead of buying genetically altered seeds, or “Bettered Hybrid Seeds”, sold by the Cristiani Burkard corporation.  Yes, almost all farmers in El Salvador are forced to buy seeds from ex-president Cristiani, who sold the national seed company to himself and sells hybrid seeds that cannot be saved for the next year harvest, forcing people to buy from him again and again and again.  The ARDM supported 20 local farmers in developing and conserving native varieties, and organized an interchange where they could share with other native varieties from surrounding towns.  The ARDM is buying native seed from these first 20 producers to give to 30 new producers this coming agricultural season, and helping to train the producers on techniques of how to select the best seeds to save year after year.

 

Community Organizing Structures

The new Directiva Comunal set up in San Benito (remember last month’s update?) is working well.  They have managed to bring the community together well, and are working together on community security issues.

 

The ARDM community organizer, Lito, was successful in helping the community of El Guiligüiste (say Willy-Wee-Stay) put together it’s Water Project Administration Committee, a necessary (and difficult) step in assuring international and municipal support for its potable water project. 

 

Land Purchase Project

The ARDM is still trying to secure support for its Land Purchase Program, to buy land from individual owners in the Cinquera forest.  Their goal is to buy at least the 200 contiguous hectares necessary for the government to recognize the area as a nationally protected forest.  Right now, though the forest extends far beyond that minimum, it is made up of the family plots of 114 separate owners, making it impossible for the government to legally recognize it.  The ARDM hopes to buy enough land to procure that protection.  They are prioritizing the purchase of land in Copapayo, families who otherwise would soon need to put that land into intensive agricultural production to have food to eat, and thus severely damage the forest.

 

Patron Saint Festival

From December 5th-10th is the Patron Saint Festival in Cinquera.  The community will be in festivities all week, including firecrackers each night, a big dance party, mass at the church, soccer tournaments, serenades, clowns, and other surprises.  This author’s particular favourite will be watching the ARDM soccer team get thoroughly clobbered in the local tournament.  They are organizers, not athletes!  But its all in good fun.

 

Sister Cities Strategic Planning Process

The ARDM will be organizing a community discussion of the first set of questions in the Sister Cities Strategic Planning process on December 15th.  They look forward to talking with the Chicago committee about their conclusions sometime in January.