El Salvador

El Salvador: Bitcoin flop, pseudo-war on gangs

A year ago, El Salvador's baseball cap-donning president Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first that has been a flop. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 government bonus offered as an incentive to download a dedicated 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 volatility. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason—in addition to the country's overall financial struggles—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, according to local media, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners.

El Salvador: warning for post-Roe US

The June 24 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 (Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto-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 public hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (DW, May 11)

'Massive' human rights violations in El Salvador

Amnesty International reported June 2 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. (Jurist, Jurist)

El Salvador: state of emergency over gang violence

El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency March 27 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.

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans last month elected Xiomara Castro of the left-populist LIBRE Party to be the country's first woman president, defeating Nasry Asfura of the conservative National Party. Taking office next month, Castro is to replace the National Party's President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose term has been plagued by scandal and accusations of ties to narco-trafficking. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro seems poised to revive his program—and take it much further.  "Never again will the power be abused in this country," she declared upon her victory. She has proclaimed herself a "democratic socialist," and pledges to govern through a new model of "participatory democracy," placing a series of reforms before the voters through referenda or "consultas."

Feminist, humanitarian groups raided in El Salvador

Agents of El Salvador's Fiscalía, backed up by police troops, raided seven non-governmental organizations Nov. 22, 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 Mélidas, a long-standing women's rights organization, and PRO-VIDA, a humanitarian group that works in areas of healthcare, ecology, and strengthening of democratic institutions. Also targeted were the Coordinator of Communal Projects of El Salvador (PROCOMES), the Salvadoran Foundation for Democracy & Social Development (FUNDASPAD), the Helping Hand Foundation (Una Mano Amiga), the Association of Tecleña Women (AMTSV), and the Environmental Association of Santa Ana (FUNDASAN).

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 to 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.

Anti-Bitcoin protests shake El Salvador

Protests have repeatedly erupted in El Salvador over the past week 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."

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