Central America
antibitcoin

El Salvador: Bitcoin flop, pseudo-war on gangs

A year ago, El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 bonus offered as an incentive to download the Bitcoin app, only to delete it once they received the money. The lack of enthusiasm may have protected people from losses due to Bitcoin’s dive. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason is a crackdown on gang violence by the self-described “dictatorial” president that has seen more than 52,000 alleged gang members rounded up since March. Instead of catching criminals, innocent people are being arrested to meet quotas. The majority of those detained may not even have links to gangs, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
roe

El Salvador: warning for post-Roe US

The US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes six weeks after a court in El Salvador sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in termination of her pregnancy, according to a local advocacy group that was assisting in her defense. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (ACDATEE) denounced the sentence and said it would appeal the conviction. The woman, identified only as “Esme,” was held in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care at a hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (Photo: Debra Sweet/WikiMedia via Jurist)

Central America
salvador

‘Massive’ human rights violations in El Salvador

Amnesty International reported that authorities in El Salvador have committed “massive” human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, due process violations and torture, under cover of an ongoing state of emergency. Amnesty found that 35,000 individuals have been illegally detained without due process since President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency in response to gang violence in March, suspending constitutional guarantees. At least 1,190 minors are among the detained, and more than 18 detainees have died in custody. The National Assembly has twice extended the so-called “regime of exception” by 30-day intervals. The day after Amnesty issued the report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged El Salvador’s government to comply with international human rights obligations in implementing security measures. (Photo: Presidencia de El Salvador)

Central America
salvador

El Salvador: state of emergency over gang violence

El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency at the request of President Nayib Bukele, in response to a sharp increase in the number of killings by criminal gangs. The emergency regimen seeks to dismantle criminal structures by prohibiting associations and disrupting their communications. It also extends the “administrative detention” period, and suspends certain constitutional freedoms. The declaration invokes Article 29 of El Salvador’s Constitution, which allows for the suspension of constitutional guarantees in times of “serious disturbance of public order.” This includes the right to freedom of association and presumption of innocence. The state of emergency will remain in effect for 30 days, in conformity with Article 30, after which it may be renewed. (Map: University of Texas)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.  It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Central America
Mélidas

Feminist, humanitarian groups raided in El Salvador

Agents of El Salvador’s FiscalĂ­a, backed up by police troops, raided seven non-governmental organizations, ostensibly on the grounds of investigating “corruption.” The Salvadoran popular movement describes the raids as the latest in an escalating campaign of political persecution by President Nayib Bukele against voices critical of the regime. Among the groups targeted were Las MĂ©lidas, a long-standing women’s rights organization, and PRO-VIDA, a humanitarian association that works in areas of healthcare, ecology, and strengthening of democratic institutions. In a statement following the raids, a representative of Las MĂ©lidas condemned them as “unjustified” and meant to “criminalize” the group’s initiatives, which include literacy, violence prevention, sexual health campaigns, and other programs serving the country’s most marginalized women. (Photo via Twitter)

Watching the Shadows
anti-bitcoin

Podcast: rage against the technocracy

In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
antibitcoin

Anti-Bitcoin protests shake El Salvador

Protests repeatedly erupted in El Salvador as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. “This is a currency that’s not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers,” one protester told Reuters. “This is a currency that’s ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources.” (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
salvador

El Salvador: government deal with maras revealed

Details of an investigation into negotiations between the government of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and violent gangs, which involved trading fewer murders and electoral support for improved prison conditions, were revealed by El Faro, an online news site. The talks were carried out by a special unit created by attorney general RaĂșl Melara, who was ousted in May. Officials apparently conducted discussions with Mara Salvatrucha, Barrio 18 Revolucionarios, and Barrio 18 Sureños, which the government considers terrorist groups. El Faro published audio files and text messages documenting what took place over at least a year beginning in 2019. Gang violence has been a main driver of migration from El Salvador. The US State Department recently accused several Bukele officials of corruption, which has cooled efforts to engage bilaterally on migration strategy. (Map: University of Texas)

North America
detrumpification

Podcast: for total de-Trumpification

In Episode 62 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg grimly notes that, even with 400,000 Americans dead to COVID-19, the worst potentialities of the Trump presidency were not realized. Trump never (quite) established a dictatorship, and we didn’t (quite) go over the edge into civil war. The critical task now for the country’s progressive forces is to push for a maximal and thoroughgoing detrumpification—akin to the denazification of Germany after World War II. We may truly hope that the Capitol insurrection will prove to have been the last gasp of Trumpism. However, it may have been his Beerhall Putsch—and, as last time, there could be a second act. The more thoroughly Trumpism is reversed, the more likely it will be defeated and broken politically—especially given its glorification of “winning” and denigration of “weakness.” The risk of sparking a backlash is not to be dismissed, but the greater risk is that of appeasement. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Mike Maguire/WikiMedia)

Central America
el-salvador-jesuit-priests-murder

Ex-Salvador military officer goes on trial in Spain

A former Salvador military commander, Inocente Montano, went on trial in Spain, accused of ordering the murder of six Spanish Jesuit priests in 1989. Two Salvadoran women were also killed in the incident. Montano was formerly held in the US, but was extradited to Spain in 2017. Ex-colonel Montano was vice-minister of public security in El Salvador during its civil war from 1979-1992. Montano commanded troops believed to be responsible for at least 1,169 human rights violations. Additionally, prosecutors believe Montano was part of the paramilitary group La Tandona that carried out extrajudicial executions. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek legislative approval for the practice. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)