El Salvador

Untethering

Everyone seems to agree that the economies of Latin America are experiencing a nice little recovery. The IMF, for example, just raised its forecasts for the region and is now projecting 4.1% GDP growth for the region, with 4.2% growth for Mexico and 5.5% for Brazil. Oh boy, numbers.

But here’s something interesting.

In an analysis of the region’s sovereign debt prospects (PDF), Fitch Ratings divides the region’s economies into three “camps.” One camp includes countries like Venezuela, Argentina, and Ecuador, whose recovery will be slower than that of the rest of the world for reasons that should surprise no one (high inflation, weak institutions, poor fiscal discipline, if you must know).

In a second camp are countries like Chile, Peru, and Brazil, whose good fiscal discipline, low political risk, and safe investment environments mean their economies will be growing like weeds this year and next.

Then we have the middle camp, which is basically countries that cast their development lot with the United States: Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador. And here’s the interesting part. Fitch projects this group will see only a moderately-paced recovery specifically because they’re tied to the US.

Meanwhile, Fitch says the Chile/Peru/Brazil group is doing particularly well partly because it does more business with China.

So I ask you: At what other point in recent history has easy access and close ties to the US economy been seen as a disadvantage?

(Original image courtesy H. Langos via Wikimedia Commons.)

Also posted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Economy, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela | Tagged | Leave a comment

El Faro‘s long, weird interview with a man who was involved in the 1980 killing of El Salvadoran Archbishop Romero has been translated into English. “How we killed Archbishop Romero” reveals that an ex-president’s son was the trigger-man. [link]

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Martyr’s anniversary

Wednesday is the 30th anniversary of the assassination of El Salvadoran Bishop Óscar Romero by right-wing thugs. They shot him to death while he was saying mass. Tim’s El Salvador Blog has been doing a bang-up job during the last week or so blogging on the upcoming anniversary.

Of particular note is a recent post on a lengthy article published on ElFaro.net interviewing Álvaro Saravia, one of the very few people involved in Romero’s killing who is still alive. The article is kind of intense:

That’s how I was expecting to find one of the murders of Bishop Romero: Fat, tan, wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Instead I found a gaunt old man, thin, with scarred and withered skin. His face was hidden behind a grizzled beard, and there was a rancid odor about him. He looked so small.

“And why do you want to talk now?

“For my children. Even they look at me like I’m Hitler.”

Álvaro Saravia denies being the trigger man and blames the son of a former president. Then for some reason, since the story was published on ElFaro.net, the site has been down. Huh. Tim was good enough to grab the content from the Google cache and drop it into a PDF. It’s 24 pages of good stuff.

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A legislative coalition in El Salvador is proposing mandatory Bible reading in school as part of a series of measures to combat rising crime among young people. [link]

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Funes has vetoed a law that would have doubled the maximum penalty for minor offenders in El Salvador to 15 years, according to La Página. “President Funes decided to veto the increase in penalty for minors ‘for considerations of unconstitutionality’ and because it violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

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El Salvador could get sued before the World Trade Organization for subsidizing exports. The country currently gives a subsidy of 6%, which is against WTO rules. Nevertheless, many smaller WTO countries – especially in Central America – have subsidized exports for years, getting repeated exemptions from the WTO on this rule.

Also posted in Side notes, Trade | Leave a comment

Find something else to cry into

Now comes with less of what you bought it for.

Down near the bottom of the list of things you want during a recession is smaller beers with lower alcohol content. Unfortunately for Salvadoreans, that’s exactly what they’re getting, as domestic beer company Industrias La Constancia (ILC) reduces the size and punch of it’s beverages.

They say it’s supposed to “lower costs.” The Morenita, for example, has been cut down to 7.6 ounces and 4.4% alcohol. Too bad the price hasn’t been cut down as well. If I were a drinking man (which I am) and a resident of El Salvador (which I am not) I would be switching to liquor.

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Two massacres

Scene of the crime (via La Prensa Gráfica)

Two massacres are unsettling a tenuous calm in El Salvador. The first took place about a week ago. A group of gunman wearing black ski masks and armed with an M-16, a 9mm handgun, and a .22 caliber handgun appeared at a swimming hole where about a dozen gang members were bathing. They opened fire, killing seven of them. President Funes insisted that the attack was an example of gang-on-gang violence.

But on Saturday, there was another massacre, in an area north of San Salvador. This time five gunmen wearing black ski masks entered a restaurant, with both M-16s and 9mm weapons. They separated out the men from the women, took them into a separate room, and checked them for tattoos (the sign of gang membership). When they found no tattoos, they said it didn’t matter, that someone had to die that night, and opened fire on the group.

Five were killed, six wounded.

While the police continue to blame the gangs, others are floating the theory that the massacres were incidents of social cleansing – that is, vigilante killings carried out by organized groups intended to eliminate mara members. Such vigilante groups are historically very dangerous and very hard to control.

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TACA and Avianca merge

El Salvador’s Grupo TACA and Colombia’s Avianca have completed a “strategic” merger. TACA has hubs in El Salvador, Costa Rica and Lima, Perú, while Avianca mainly flies out of Bogatá, Colombia. In a statement, the companies blather on quite a bit about synergy, which I hope means that they’ll be consolidating operations to make it cheaper and easier to travel in Latin America.

The new Avianca-TACA Limited conglomerate controls 13 carriers in 10 Latin American countries, serving a combined 75 Latin American cities with 129 aircraft. It is now the largest air travel conglomerate in the region.

Also posted in Colombia, Costa Rica, Economy, Peru | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Gang documentary wins award

The documentary film La Vida Loca, on El Salvador’s youth gangs, has won a critics award in France for best documentary film. The film’s director, Christian Poveda, was murdered last year while he was finishing the documentary. The government has made several arrests in connection with the crime, but no one has been convicted yet. There are a few clips from the documentary on YouTube. Here’s one with decent English subtitles.

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  • DAILY LINKS

    • The Nation has a long, wonky, wonderful article on Mexican maize cultivation, the effects of NAFTA, and the dangers of genetically-modified seeds. Author Peter Canby backs up his excellent writing with piles and piles of meticulous research. Not to be missed. [link, via SM] (Image from Joel Penner.)

    • Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas ended his hunger strike yesterday after 134 days. Farinas decided to end his strike after the Cuban government said it would release political prisoners rounded up in the "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003. Get well soon. [link]

    • The Uruguayan selection, which has made it to the quarter finals of the World Cup, just received a shipment of half a ton of fine cuts of beef for the mother of all asados in preparation for a contest against Ghana on Friday: "450 kilos of lomo, 200 of entrecot, 75 of vacío, 75 of colita de cuadril, 150 of ojo de bife and 50 kg of picaña." [link]

    • Hitmen have assassinated the PRI candidate for governor of Tamaulipas State, Rodolfo Torre Cantú. Torre was gunned down along with six others at about 10:30 this morning on a highway on the way to a campaign event. Drug mafias are assumed to be responsible. [link]

    • From the days when coups were something of a regional sport, new documents detail a famous British ballerina's role in a plot to topple the government of Panama. The plan was to use her yacht to gather men and arms, then "land somewhere and collect in the hills." It didn't work. [link]

    • Mexico's Attorney General's Office has posted on its web site irrefutable evidence that gold-plated AR-15s and diamond-studded pistol grips are not nearly as cool-looking as they sound. The deadly knick-knack collection is said to belong to Valencia Cartel leader El Lobo. [link]

    • Two Brazilian ranchers were sentenced to 30 years in prison apiece for ordering the killing of an environmentalist nun: "Prosecutors said the pair offered to pay a gunman $25,000 to kill the 73-year-old [Dorothy] Stang because she had prevented them from stealing a piece of land that the government had granted to a group of poor farmers." [link]


    • This video of a kidnapping and car chase in Mexico is notable mainly for the bad-assitude of the TV journalists who were on this like white on rice. Well done, gentlemen.

    • The Economist takes a peak at the Mockus phenomenon in Colombia: "His moustacheless beard gives him the air of a Baltic pastor... He is financing his campaign with a bank overdraft. His supporters rely on Facebook and make their own posters; street vendors sell unofficial campaign T-shirts." [link]

    • Some cruise lines will cease traveling to Antarctica after this cruise season, as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil goes into effect next year. The ban came after a 2007 incident when a Gap Adventures ship got punctured by ice and sank, causing a mess. [link]