Intensive Training opportunity through Let Girls Lead – Honduras

 

We are pleased to share a new opportunity in Honduras through Let Girls Lead. Let Girls Lead is requesting applications from leaders ages 16-60 to participate in an intensive training program that will strengthen capacity to implement strategies to improve health policy advocacy, human rights, and the social and economic well-being of adolescents. Let Girls Lead is looking for leaders who work in the following areas: human rights, sustainable development, sexual and reproductive health, youth development, micro-credit, public policy advocacy, lobbying, media, education, leadership, gender and other related areas.

The deadline to apply is June 5, 2015. For more information and to download an information sheet and the selection criteria, visit the website of Let Girls Lead: http://www.letgirlslead.org/, or contact the Let Girls Lead Country Representative in Honduras, Vanessa Siliezar at letgirlsleadhonduras@gmail.org.

The Humanitarian “Cold War” Crisis at Our Doorstep

 

Written by Mauricio Vivero, CEO of the Seattle International Foundation. Originally published on the Huffington Post Impact blog.

Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea has some U.S. policymakers dusting off the Cold War playbook. Looking at Russia’s occupation of parts of Ukraine and the slew of speeches flung back-and-forth between the White House and the Kremlin, they recall a not-so-distant history when the problems of countries and regions were understood not on their own terms, but rather through the narrow lens of superpower rivalry. Some of the rhetoric we hear today has echoes of that perspective.

For some observers, our neighbors in Central America in particular, this comes as no surprise. Seeing Central America through a narrow lens has been a longstanding problem that continues to this day. At one time, the U.S. government saw every issue in the region as part of a proxy battle with the Soviets. U.S. involvement in Central America’s internal affairs — including covert operations, CIA-engineered coups, and cozy relations with repressive governments — was justified by the need to prevent the spread of communism in our hemisphere.

But the end of the Cold War didn’t stop U.S. policymakers from seeing Central America through a narrow lens; the focus merely shifted away from communism and toward the drug war.

Today’s U.S. policy in the region has one focus: to stop drug-trafficking organizations that State Department and Pentagon officials alike consider a matter of national security because they stimulate drug abuse and violence in the United States, undermine democracies in the region, and can potentially finance terrorists. During the past decade, the United States has militarized the war on drugs, not only training law enforcement agents in Latin American nations, but also involving their militaries and pouring money into radars, planes and ships. At $20 billion dollars, it is the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War.

Read the rest of the article on the Huffington Post here.

DPLF works on judicial independence and transparency in Central America and Panama

 

The Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) is working hard to monitor and evaluate judicial independence of Central America.

Judicial independence and transparency do not go hand-in-hand in Central America. This is the first conclusion we can draw from the most recent DPLF study: “Law vs Reality. Independence and judicial transparency in Central America and Panama”. The second conclusion is that there is a considerable gap between policy and its effectiveness, which is most notacible in regards to judicial independence: although there is a legal framework to guarantee it, this guarantee is not met in practice. There are various reasons for this, among others, the lack of mechanisms to enforce the rules and the existence of a political culture of disrespect for the law.

This study has an empirical base which affirms the best bases for judicial independence in the region. This research was conducted in the six Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) according to a methodology of indicators and a thematic guide that allowed comparisons with homogenous criteria and showed the persistence of common problems, such as the politicization of the system and the appointment process, and the excessive power of the Supreme Court that threatens internal independence and limits transparency and accountability.

One of the main contributions of this study is that it breaks down the elements that make up both external and internal judicial independence, and identifies – for each country –the barriers that limit their full capacity.

Read the full report here. (comparative report, conlcusions, recommendations and methodologies)

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Voz Electoral: the voice that informed and brought you closer to citizenship

 

Written by: Fernando Santos, Journalist, Guazapa Radio 92.1 F.M. “The Voice of Progress”

Guazapa Radio, as an alternative medium of communication in El Salvador that is “committed to be the voice of the voiceless”, as once said by the Archishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, has once again served its audience through the special program “Voz Electoral” (or “Electoral Voice”) which was produced and broadcasted during the first and second round of the presidential elections.

This program was possible thanks to the collaboration of a team of more than 20 young people, who are very enthusiastic and aware of the social responsibility of community media. Voz Electoral informed the population of the northern regions of San Salvador and southwest municipalities of Chalatenango about the details of the 2014 presidential elections.

The elections were held in two rounds. The law governed by the Electoral Code, Article 216, establishes that if the winner does not receive 50% of the votes, there has to be a second round, with the top two candidates who received the highest number of valid votes in the running.

The first presidential elections held by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) were on February 2, 2014. Salvadorans went to the polls to choose their president among five candidates; four right-wing candidates and one left-wing (Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional FMLN).

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Youth of Guazapa committed to democracy in El Salvador

By Journalist Jessica Guzman, Fundación Comunicándonos and VOCES Digital Newspaper

(El Salvador 01/31/2014)

The municipality Guazapa within San Salvador, El Salvador, with a population of more than twenty six thousand, holds a pillar and an important tool for its development: youth and Radio Guazapa. Both lead progress within their community, and have demonstrated this during the presidential elections that the country will witness on February 2.

El Salvador will face the 2014 presidential elections, and one of the sectors most committed to its country’s democracy is the youth of Guazapa.

Speaking about the youth of the municipality, is speaking about Radio Guazapa, the Association Yo Activo Guazapa and Interactive Media Center, all projects and social organizations supported by the Foundation Comunicandonos, Seattle International Foundation, and Digital Newspaper VOCES, all committed to investing in young people as agents of change.

Radio Guazapa created a program “Voz Electoral” (or Electoral Voice in English) before the elections, with the intention of creating awareness among the public on the importance of participating in this democratic event and avoiding a low voter turn out at all costs.

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Understanding the Honduran Elections

 

By: Seattle International Foundation

The results are now final, after several recounts by the electoral court and independent groups the National Party Candidate, Juan Orlando Hernandez, won the Honduran presidency with 35 percent of the vote. Xiomara Castro, Libre party candidate came second with 27.4 percent of the vote.

To many outsiders this election would be a critical point for Honduras. After all, private interests deposed Castro’s husband, President Manuel Zelaya in a 2009 coup and threw the country into disarray amid growing corruption and unemployment. The longtime U.S. ally currently has the world’s highest homicide rate and has become the midpoint for all cocaine shipments headed to the global north.

Local and international observers described the situation as tense running up to the election. Many Libre party supporters were threatened and intimidated. However, the day of the election voting was massive and relatively peaceful. Few reports came in after hours of harassment and fights that resulted in a three casualties.

While Castro’s party was very popular with the urban poor and working middle class, Hernandez’s party operation was impressive. His headquarters included a calling center that dialed out to voters nationwide. It was also the only party with enough resources to deploy campaign buses in rural areas and shuttle people to get out the vote. Hernadez also promised 10,000 lempira bonuses and gave voters blue cachureco “discount cards” that could be used in pharmacies and even fast food chains.

In a country where currently 70 percent of the employed population earns less than the minimum wage. (This figure has grown exponentially from 28 percent in 2008 to 43 percent today.) With vast shortages in community drugstores, the cachureco cards struck a chord.

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UN names new head to anti-impunity commission in Guatemala amid challenges

 

The UN named Ivan Velasquez to take the helm of the International Commission against impunity in Guatemala.  Created in 2006 with a treaty-level agreement between then President Oscar Berger (2004-2008) and the United Nations, the goal of the committee is to support offices like the public ministry, to strengthen the judicial sector and combat corrupt parallel structures working within the government apparatus.  One of its key cases was investigating the death of lawyer Rodrigo Rosenberg, which nearly brought down the government of the former President Alvaro Colom (2008-2012)

Ivan Velasquez is a Colombian prosecutor with decades of experience investigating human rights violations and crimes committed by the paramilitaries.  According to analysts from Insight Crime, Velasquez is a recognized anti-impunity crusader who continued his plight amid intimidation from elites and as colleagues were murdered; “a proven track record in taking on not only criminal elements, but also their allies in the state — which will be critical to success in Guatemala, where corruption is one of the main elements fuelling impunity.”

His naming comes at a volatile time in Guatemala where legislators and officials have been maneuvering to get the unpopular commission expelled before the end of its mandate in 2015.

Prior to the creation of CICIG, Guatemala had a 98 percent impunity rate. The commission and purging of the public ministry under Attorney General Claudia Paz has reduced that figure dramatically by over 23 percent.

Velasquez is expected to take the helm in October.

Gang truce in El Salvador translates peace model to Honduras

 

With an estimated 64,000 identified gang members, El Salvador’s street gangs – Mara Salvatrucha and their rival Barrio 18 – operate like armies. At its peak, in 2009, the gangs were responsible for a homicide rate that reached 14 deaths per day. In March 2012, however, the country’s two most violent gangs suddenly declared a truce. The truce is backed by the Catholic Church and the Organization of American States (OAS). A year later, the truce in El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the Americas, is crumbling. A recent report shows a spike in homicide rate. The unprecedented truce helped bring murders down to an average of five per day from twelve before the agreement. However, killings have been on the rise since late May, with 103 murders in the first week of July alone. The level of dispersion of violence has stayed the same, and the decrease in homicides did not occur in all municipalities. In fact, in some areas the rates have increased.

Several Salvadoran municipalities have taken social reinsertion measures in order to promote a culture of peace. The Program of Temporary Support and Income (PATI) give at-risk youth, men and women financial incentive of $100 per month in exchange for a six-hour day of labor in their communities. The mayor of Ilopango and Quezaltepeque – the two municipalities most recently declared free of violence – affirmed that this program will benefit 67,400 people – including ex-gang members – in 36 municipalities around the country. Another municipality, Apopa, has declared zero homicides since the truce began.  In addition, President Mauricio Funes said $18 million would be spent creating cooperatives in the country’s peace zones; another $4.3 million will be invested in giving gang members access to education and $9.3 million to provide health care, and a final $798,000 will be spent on violence prevention measures.

The gang truce model has been adapted to other regions in the Northern Triangle. Honduras, with the highest murder rate in the world, is home to tens of thousands of transnational gang members, and nearly 40 percent of the cocaine consumed globally passes through its borders. Recently, the MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs declared a cease fire as a part of a ‘peace process’. MS13 and Barrio 18 leaders claim that these efforts are in attempt to “halt the spiraling drug violence and criminality they [gangs] have brought to the region” in exchange for rehabilitation programs and jobs provided by the government.

The Seattle International Foundation supports organizations in the region such as Organization for Youth Empowerment in Honduras, and Fundacion de la Comunicacion para el Desarrollo  in El Salvador providing leadership development opportunities for at-risk youth in response to high levels of organized crime and lack of educational and economic opportunities.

The Seattle International Foundation (SIF) is working with corporations, foundations, governments, and individuals to alleviate poverty in Central America. Since 2008, SIF has invested more than $7 million in organizations working for positive social change throughout the region. For more information about SIF, visit www.seaif.org

U.S. Immigration reform and its effects on Central American migration

By: Oriel María Siu,  Professor of latin Studies at the University of Puget Sound

The recent visit of Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra to Washington State opened the limited debate on immigration reform in the U.S. While the U.S. Congress, the mainstream media, and pro-immigration reform organizations co-opted by the Democratic Party that promotes an excessively conditioned reform to policies of immigration, Father Solalinde reminds us of a stark and grim reality: migration from south to north in the Americas will continue. Thousands of people, as is the case of an Occupied America –as historian Rudy Acuña would call it–, continue waging daily route elevations despite more walls, more militarization of the Mexico-US border, and implementing more laws to punish the immigrant once in American soil. The reform will not solve the underlying problem, and as Father Solalinde metaphrases: this reform is like putting a band aid on the Titanic before it sank. Other than helping a few (after years of waiting, many expenses, more criminalization and deportations of undocumented people, and diverse conditions), the ship will eventually sink. This, if we do not fix the problem that created that hole, will happen. This problem is systemic.

The social conditions in Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico will continue to cause massive emigration. More than a century of economic plunder by the United States, war policies, and now the intrusion of neoliberal economic policies in these southern regions, have left these countries in deplorable conditions, forcing people to seek survival in the north. We are not coming to the US as tourists. People do not risk their lives in the Mexican death trains, risking kidnapping, rape and extortion because they want to. Nor do they cross the genocidal Mexico-US border, its deserts, and other death traps because it is amusing. The migrant exposes his/her life because everything has been denied in their home country, thus removing the possibility for a dignified life. This sentence is historic, although we have seen it flare up at alarming scale in the last two decades.

Poor migrants, as Father Solalinde reminds us, are evidence that the neoliberal economic system is in crisis. A US immigration reform will only help a few illegal immigrants (estimated to be between 3.5 and 6 million), while the flow expelled from the southern countries will continue to emigrate. We will still come to the United States and our rights will not be on the agenda. We need to raise our voices and work on proposals that go beyond the crumbs offered by the American political system.

Kerry attends OAS summit in Guatemala; drug policy tops agenda

 

The Organization of American States (OAS) held the 43rd general assembly from June 4-6 in Antigua, Guatemala.

One of the most important issues on the agenda is reevaluating alternative strategies to the current US-backed war on drugs.

Prior to the beginning of the annual event, the OAS published a groundbreaking report advocating for decriminalizing some drug use. This is a move that was first proposed last year by Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina himself.

Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based organization that advocates for reassessing the US’ stance on preventing narcotics trafficking said the report “presents four possibilities for how drug policy could evolve in the Americas, most of which break from the current U.S.-led approach. The report is the first of its kind, providing a thoughtful and detailed visualization of alternatives to the existing drug prohibition regime.”

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About the blog:
This blog was created to support the Central America Network and encourage dialogue around relevant research, news and poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
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