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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Partner profile - Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango-CCR


Street mural in San Jose las Flores

A new feature of the program, this year Compadres will be working with the Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango-CCR. Our contact with the CCR is Nelson Orellana, the Popular Education Director for the organization. We met Nelson on our last trip to El Salvador. He is a principal in one of the schools in San Jose Las Flores and is involved in a variety of community initiatives in the Chalatenango region. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry written after our first visit to Nelson's community:

San Jose Las Flores has a thriving school community headed by Nelson, a true education innovator. Their first schools were built from the rubble of crumbling buildings. Nelson started teaching with a third grade education. His students used charcoal to write on rocks. By the end of the war, a group of teachers were able to upgrade their education and become certified. Now there is a branch of UCA, the Jesuit University in San Jose Las Flores. Over 300 students have signed up to take courses at this satellite school. Teachers now receive training in the community. This community has had a long-lasting connection with the Sisters of Ascension in Spain and from the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts through the Sister Cities Program. Linkages with groups outside the country work very well to assist the Salvadoran people to develop strong, vital communities. This is part of the social and economic rebuilding that needs to take place throughout the country. While communities like San Jose Las Flores receive a good deal of help from international donors, there is no question that the local people are the ones in control.

Nelson will be arranging part of our schedule for this year. This is very exciting - all this will be new and will finally allow us to work closely with educators in El Salvador. We will be hearing some of the specifics of what this part of the program will look like in January. I plan to blog this information as it comes out. The material that is being prepared will be uniquely fashioned to the work we want to do in the Compadres project.

Here is a little information on the CCR:

The Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango-CCR was founded in June of 1987 during the armed conflict in El Salvador, as an answer to the need to repopulate the communities of the North-eastern part of Chalatenango that had been destroyed by the armed conflict. Thanks to the work of the CCR the people who were exiled in the refugee camp in Mesa Grande Honduras, refugee camps inside the country and in other countries were able to repopulate the communities devastated by the war. With the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, the CCR reoriented its work to organize and facilitate the reconstruction of the communities, and advocate that the Peace Accords be met and the process of democratization of the country move forward. Today the CCR works with 100 communities in 22 of the 33 municipalities of Chalatenango, promoting community organization and development through popularly elected community boards, legal representatives of their communities.

I believe that there is great potential here for collaboration. In my next entry, I will write about Teachers Without Borders - another new partner for Compadres.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Partner profile - CRIPDES





Greetings and Merry Christmas to everyone. We are just months away from the next trip to El Salvador. I think it is time to start blogging again in preparation for the next trip.

While I have been sending out Facebook messages on a regular basis, it is time to start writing something more specific to the trip.

Today, some information on CRIPDES, our hosts in El Salvador. This is an excerpt from my 2005 journal entry on our Development and Peace trip:


Our first full day was spent with two organizations, CRIPDES and CORDES. CRIPDES is our sponsoring organization. They had hired Roberto as our interpreter for the trip and we met him at the CRIPDES offices. Roberto and Miguel became our good friends and our best sources of information. Much of what we know about the lives of Salvadorans came from their stories.

We were introduced to Marta Lorena Araujo, President of CRIPDES, and Janet of CORDES.


Janet and Lorena at our first meeting at CRIPDES


CRIPDES started July 14, 1984 as an organization to support the people of El Salvador during the war. Originally, they worked with displaced people. CRIDPES works in 300 communities in El Salvador to support these communities in the establishment of basic services like health care, clean drinkable water, basic education and electricity. This reconstruction process began in earnest in 1986 when CRIPDES began to assist rural communities to relocate from refugee bases in Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

The repatriation process is one of the early achievements of CRIPDES. In this they worked without government assistance. Support did come from the international community for the building of homes, roads, water infrastructure, education and health care. This rebuilding process continues to this day.

While the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, the struggle continues. The people of El Salvador continue to struggle for basic human rights, access to clean drinking water and good quality education. In the rural communities the provision of good quality health care continues to be a very real concern. Families struggle to make ends meet. The minimum wage provides a worker a salary of $154.00 (US) per month. CRIPDES and other social organizations estimate that the cost of living is closer to $625.00 a month. Prices continue to rise for basic services like water and transportation; wages are not keeping up with these increases. It is becoming increasingly difficult for families to survive.



our first meeting with CRIPDES in 2005, the start of a great friendship.

Here is a description of CRIPDES from the US - El Salvador Sister Cities web site

CRIPDES, our Sister Organization in El Salvador
Sister Cities is proud to work directly with the Association for the Development of El Salvador (CRIPDES) the largest rural organization in the country and a leader in the Salvadoran social movement.
Formerly the Christian Committee of the Displaced, CRIPDES was founded in 1984 to support people displaced by the Salvadoran civil war as they returned to their homes. CRIPDES organized and accompanied re-populations, strengthened local organizations so that people could stay in their communities, and called for a negotiated solution to the war.

After the Peace Accords were signed in 1992, CRIPDES became the Association of Rural Communities for the Development of El Salvador. Its current mission is to strengthen and develop organizing in rural communities as they struggle for an economically, politically, and socially just society. Day-to-day, CRIPDES supports community organizing of the rural population, popular education and mobilization for political advocacy.

Today, CRIPDES is made up of 300 rural communities organized through seven regional organizations. National and regional leaders are elected democratically from among community members. All the sister communities of Sister Cites are organized through CRIPDES.

We are again working with CRIPDES to prepare for this year's trip. I have been in regular correspondence with Miguel



Miguel - our main contact in El Salvador - I work with Miguel to set the schedule for the trip.

Miguel has seen our project develop over the past three years, he is very well situated to respond to the developing nature of the Compadres program. He works closely with the communities we will be visiting.

Next entry - Nelson and San Jose Las Flores

Monday, December 20, 2010

Compadres 2011 - Join Us!



The next trip to El Salvador is being planned. We have a group committed to taking part in this year's experience, but we would like to include more people.

Do you need to be a teacher to go on this trip? No, we are all about developing community, so we will not exclude anyone who wants to be part of this experience.

Who will we be working with in El Salvador? We have several great partners - starting with CRIPDES,the largest rural organization in the country and a leader in the Salvadoran social movement. Its current mission is to strengthen and develop organizing in rural communities as they struggle for an economically, politically, and socially just society.

We will also be working with Teachers Without Borders on a specially designed program that incorporates elements of their Certificate of Teaching Mastery program with the Millennium Development Ambassador program. A draft of this new program will be available this January.

Who else will you be working with?

Will we be working with any local organizations? Yes, we will be working with Nelson Orellana, the Secretary of Popular Education, for The Association of Communities for the Development of Chalatenango-CCR. Nelson is also principal of one of the schools in San Jose Las Flores and will be designing much of our program for this year. The CCR was founded in June of 1987 during the armed conflict in El Salvador, as an answer to the need to repopulate the communities of the North-eastern part of Chalatenango that had been destroyed by the armed conflict. Thanks to the work of the CCR the people who were exiled in the refugee camp in Mesa Grande Honduras, refugee camps inside the country and in other countries were able to repopulate the communities devastated by the war. With the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992, the CCR reoriented its work to organize and facilitate the reconstruction of the communities, and advocate that the Peace Accords be met and the process of democratization of the country move forward.

What are some of the elements of the program?

Apart from the work we will be doing in Chalatenango, we will be doing the following:

Visits to historic sites in Sal Salvador - Visit to Divine Providence church were Monseñor Romero was killed; Monseñor Romero's House; the memorial to civilian victims of the military repression and the war at Parque Cuscatlan; UCA (Jesuit University). museun.

Visit to the beach - El Salvador is quickly becoming a great tourist destination. We will spend one day at the beach on the Costa del Sol area.

We will also visit the offices of CRIPDES Equipo Maiz and other organizations involved in social justice and popular education work.

How much will the trip cost? Costs are approximately $2100.00 including transportation, accommodation, translation and group facilitation. Participants are responsible for their own lunch and dinner.

If I am interested, what do I do? Please send an e-mail to Paul McGuire at mcswa1@gmail.com
The first deposit of $500.00 is due at the end of January. We will hold one final information meeting in mid-January for those who are interested in the program.

When are we going? We are planning on a 14-day trip starting on July 3rd.

If you would like more information before we meet please e-mail me or call at 613-218-9615.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Compadres Schedule for 2011 - update



Nelson at his school in San Jose Las Flores



I would like to welcome people from the public board who have expressed interest in the Compadres program. I am in the process of working on the schedule for this summer. I have attached a copy here. You will see that this is an early draft - there is much that still needs to be firmed up.

You will see that the focus of the program is on Chalatenango Province and the community of San Jose Las Flores. We will be working with teachers groups and focusing on popular education.

A few things to notice in this early version of the schedule:

1) Equipo Maiz is a very well known and respected group that works on popular education methods - we will be spending time with them to learn something of their methods before we leave for Chalatenango.

2) Nelson, mentioned in the schedule is a young education leader in San Jose Las Flores. He is beginning to play a prominent role in popular education initiatives in Chalatenango. His school is linked to Holy Trinity High School in the Ottawa Catholic Board.

3) We are now working with Teachers Without Borders - we plan to use some of their programs with teachers and popular educators in Chalatenango. Please see http://www.teacherswithoutborders.org/ for more information. Their Millennium Ambassadors Program is particularly interesting.

4) We continue to look for ways to provide additional qualification credit for the Compadres experience for teachers who take part in the program. There will be more information on these initiatives in the near future.

5) We are now exploring ways to get the word out to teachers in the public board. It is obvious to me that I will need to hold an information session for public board teachers in January. I will provide more details on this meeting once I have heard from more teachers.

6) Finally, we are a small group right now - please talk to your friends and colleagues about Compadres. The ideal group size is eight people. We currently are at three people (confirmed). I am very confident the group will increase in size, but I could use some help promoting this experience.

Thanks

Paul

DELEGATION OF Ontario Teachers - COMPADRES 3 – 16 July 2011. (with focus on Chalatenango CCR)

Sunday, July 3
Pick up at the airport transport to La Amistad guest house Hostel: Avenida Izalco No. 218, Colonia Centro America, San Salvador (503) 2226- 0437
Flight Arrival:

Day Two: Monday, July 4
Orientation Meeting with Miguel
Meeting with Equipo MAIZ. Equipo Maíz : Carlos Garcia. T-shirts and posters and music available at their store.
CRIPDES. Meeting with CRIPDES
Meeting with CORDES ?
Lunch at any place.

Day Three: Tuesday, July 5
Visits to the historical places in San Salvador : Visit to Divine Providence church were Monseñor Romero killed,Visit to Monseñor Romero litle House,Visit The memorial to civilian victims of the military repression and the war at Parque Cuscatlan, Visit to UCA museun.
3:30 PM Return

Day Four: Wednesday, July 6
8 AM. Drive out to Chalatenango Province to get to San Jose Las Flores community. It is a two and a half hours drive.
9:30 AM. Meeting At CCR in Chalatenango City with Nelson and his education team fron the teachers association.
keep going to San Jose Las Flores: Lunch at the community Restaurant set up by the women of the community.
We will rest a little in the Pastoral Center where we will stay.
3 P.M. Meeting with the community Directorate where they will speak to us about the history of the community and its development and their present struggle against the Canadian mining companies. Visit around the community projects such as: a bakery, seamstresses, etc.
Dinner and time for rest.

Day Five: Tursday, July 7
From here until Wednesday 13, The teachers association will suggests the program or itinerary for each day.

Day Six: Friday, July 8

Day Seven:Saturday, July 9


Day Eight: Sunday, July 10
Breakfast
Mass at the chapel of the community
Visit to the Sumpul River Ecological Project
Visit the local Swimming pool, and the famous Sumpul River, so bring your bathing suits.
Return Pastoral Center

Day Nine: Monday, July 11

Day Ten: Tuesday, July 12

Day Eleven: Wednesday, July 13

Day Twelve: Tursday, July 14
7: 30 AM. Breakfast
8:30 AM. Leave for San Salvador and we will stop at Chalatenango City for some handicrafts sold by local artisans organized by CORDES.
Return to Casa La Amistad

Day Thirteen: Friday, July 15
8 AM. Drive to the Costa del Sol – beach

Saturday, July 16
Airport
Participants depart for Canada

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Starting a new year for Compadres


Now that summer is almost over and we are returning to school, it is time to start thinking about our next trip to El Salvador.

At this point, we have 20 people who have signed up for the experience. This is a good number. I am now looking for ways to keep people engaged so we don't have the drop off of interest that we experienced last year.

There are several new ventures. We will be working with Teachers Without Borders this year. They run two programs that could be a great fit with the work we are doing.

I just enrolled myself in the Certificate of Teaching Mastery program. I really hope that we will be able to find a way to offer credit to our teachers this year. This program may help.

If not, no matter. TWB offers some really interesting programs that I think we finally give us the tools to structure the professional dialogue we want to have with Salvadoran educators.

We are also working on a partnership with ASCORCAN here is Ottawa. We hope to promote their speakers program to our teachers and possibly to some of our students as well! We are also hoping to develop a popular education workshop with them some time this winter.

More to come, I will try to use the blog to chronicle the preparation work we are doing this fall.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

El Salvador Journal Final: Our friend Damian

We finished our time in El Salvador with a conference – Encuentro Du Solidaridad y Hermandad – Solidarity and Brotherhood Sisterhood Encounter.  I was struck here as in other places how present the memory of Oscar Romero is in this country.  He has been dead for 25 years but he truly lives in the people.  This conference was organized by CRIPDES and CORDES and we saw many of the people who we had worked with over the past two weeks.  Jorge, our organizer from Ottawa was there.  People for the Laura Lopez community were there.  Lorena, the president of CRIPDES was one of the guest speakers. 

The conference stared with the rallying quote from Romero. “It is very hard for the people to understand the path of liberation.  If you want the violence to stop we have to go to the root of the problem – it is social injustice.”  We are still trying to live this.

What a great way to sum up our experience here in El Salvador.  The conference was infused with the spirit of solidarity.  The conference leaders talked about building alternatives.  We had seen evidence of this in the stories of all the people we had encountered.

One story that must be told is that of our hosts Damian and Carolina Alegria.  Their story is transcribed below from e-mails  sent back to the family each night after Damian related part of this incredible history.  The e-mail took three nights to send:

I should tell you about our host Damian.  During the war he, as a young
engineer, worked in communications and did ciphers; that is coded messages. 
He worked as part of a secret group of insurgents in the capitol who worked
against the government.  He had been accepted in the military wing of the
FMLN after being in the party for over a year.  He joined after witnessing
the aftermath of a massacre in San Salvador.

Damian’s work was very dangerous, one of his associates simply disappeared one day on the way to make contact with someone in the city.  He was a good friend of this man.  He was never found, but the man’s family adopted Damian to be their new son.  They
still introduce Damian as their son.

Eventually Damian was captured and put in jail.  He was tortured, but he was
very smart.  He convinced his jailers that he was a petty criminal and they
stopped torturing him.  He was able to get a message out to his friends and
the guards were bribed and he was let free.  He was then smuggled out of the
country to Nicaragua.  There he recovered from the effects of the torture.

Once he returned from Nicaragua, Damian became a political
officer in the mountains where he worked with the soldiers and families who
 were displaced from their homes.  The insurgents were responsible for dealing with large number of refugees displaced from their homes by the army.  Damian especially had difficulty convincing young Salvadorans to remain with their families.  Many of them wanted to become guerillas to fight against the army.

Damian was eventually reassigned to San Salvador where he worked to smuggle wounded combatants into local hospitals. He met Carolina who was tending wounded insurgents.  Carolina originally had planned to become a nun, but decided to work for the guerillas once she realized her entire family was involved in efforts to defeat the army.

Eventually, Damian was captured for a second time.  He was not allowed to sleep for five days.  He was not allowed to have any water, but he drank from the prison toilet to keep himself going.  Based on his knowledge of European capitols, he was able to convince the military that he was actually a Russian spy and they actually released him.  The army thought that the rebels would kill him as a traitor.
He was taken back and after three months of  interrogation he was again
working in the mountains

In the afternoon we heard the end of Damian´s story.  He went back to the
mountains where he staged a raid to convince his compatriots that there were
many on their side, this is hard to do in the mountains.  He instructed all
his people to go into town and explode a grenade at 8:00 PM.  They did this
and made a huge demonstration of their strength.  This helped the guerillas
not to lose heart.

Later he took part in the great offensive in the city.  It failed, but the
world started to take note of what was going on.  Soon after, he was
captured again.  This time he was tortured badly, but he refused to talk. 
Eventually he was sent to prison where he and his compatriots took over a
wing of the prison.  He was let go a third time and returned to the
mountains.

There he became the press liaison and he was responsible for giving press
conferences.  At one point, the military announced that he had been killed. 
He actually heard this on the news.  This was done to discourage the
guerillas.  After some time he was able to call a press conference to
announce that he was very much alive.

As the war slowed down, all the guerillas feared that they would be killed
before the war would end.  Others believed that the struggle would go on for
a long time.  To encourage an end to the war the guerillas began to destroy
their own weapons as a sign of peace.  They also convinced many  government soldiers to raise their arms during battle as a sign that they did not want to fight.
This was a sign that they should be left alone.

Eventually the war ended and Damian and his wife were able to return to the
city where they were helped to start a guesthouse.  They have since moved
to a bigger house where they now live.  Damian continues to work for the people of El Salvador.  He is currently working on a national radio project designed to send out a message to the populace free of interference from government sources.

Damian and Carolina


This has been an inspiring journey.  I have learned a great deal about the ability of people to struggle against injustice.  They continue to work and they do not lose heart.  I realize that we need to be compatriots with these people.  Their struggles are our struggles and we must work in solidarity with them to make sure they see a day when there is a fair measure of justice in their land.  They have so much to teach us.  I hope we all listen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

El Salvador Journal XX UNES Community:Empowering Women



Visits to UNES communities reinforced what we heard from Dago.  We visited Armenia where there are a collection of cooperatives working to grow local produce.  At our first community, we were greeted with a table overflowing with local produce. 

This is the table that greeted us in Armenia.  On the table we find bananas – they grow four different varieties, cocoa, and bananas.














We had a great lunch of beans, tortillas, and local greens all cooked on local stoves that are very efficient in their use of fuel.  Development and Peace has supported the development of these stoves.









Our lunch was cooked on these stoves.  The funding for the stoves comes from Development and Peace.
The woman in the picture was our host and is frying up some of the delicious local greens.

These communities are learning what grows well in their adopted homes.  Over the past decade, these co-ops have established themselves firmly on the land.  The woman in the picture above is typical of the people you meet in this area.  When the co-op was threatened with the loss of their soccer field by a corrupt local mayor, she took him to court.  It turns out that the land didn’t even belong to him!  The court decided in favor of the co-op and the soccer field belongs to the community.

Struggles continue for access to water, health care and adequate education, but these people are fighters and are convinced that they have the ability to improve things for their communities. 

The women here have been trained in leadership skills through an institute that is funded by Development and Peace.  Women from the institute have been involved in reconstruction efforts – a major earthquake had previously devastated the community.  They have learned to look for high-risk areas in their villages.  Housing techniques that secure homes from earthquakes have been developed and implemented by the people. 

They continue to fight for access to water.  Another woman we met has worked very effectively to pressure the local government to develop a fair price for water.  She showed us her account book where she keeps a regular tally of the water rates.  She has challenged local water officials to justify the rates they charge.  This is very important in a country where the water meter readers can’t read!

These women have also been able to get the local mayor to agree that the forests and community lands all belong to the people.  This is extremely important.  Forestland contains runoff and guarantees that water will remain in the community.

When people are trained in their rights they can pressure the government to follow through on their commitments.  This is where we see the realization of what Dago spoke to us about.  Access to essential rights can only be guaranteed when you have a population that clearly understands their basic human rights.  This is where Development and Peace funding can be very effective.

There is a great story about the power of these women to mobilize.  At one time, the offal produced by a local pig farm polluted the local river.  The women had to wash their clothes in water that was very polluted by the farm.

They demanded that the farm move away from their community.  To back up these demands, the women actually occupied the farm.  This was necessary; all their petitions to health officials and local mayors had failed.  Three hundred women were involved in this occupation.  They would not allow the pigs to be fed until their demands were met. 

After the intervention of the bishop of Sonsonate, the owners agreed to move the pigs out.  They had ninety days to move them all out or the pigs would go to the women.  Teams of women were stationed at the farm to monitor the progress of the move.  On May 7 of this year all the pigs were moved. 


This is a great example of what women can do when they are mobilized.  Women from this group are now touring the country to let others know what is possible.  There is great hope for these communities.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal XVIIII UNES "a pessimist is an optimist well informed"



We next visited UNES.  They are focusing on ecological projects, specifically water.  We visited their community projects too, but we started with a discussion with Dago Gutierrez. Their legal counsel, writer and poet.  We spent a wonderful morning with him, he is a true philosopher.

He started by reflecting on time as a resource. When do the poor have time to reflect, to talk, to read to think?  They only have time to exist.  Time itself is a political issue – the poor have no time to live, the rich have the time to build and to destroy.  When we reflect on time, we need to see that all things are connected in a great circle.  When the circle no longer repeats itself in the great cycle of time we find ourselves in danger, we are finished.

He spoke about other conflicts we find in this day.  There is the conflict between the market and nature.  We have to distinguish what has a price – that is the market, and what has clear value; that belongs to nature.  We run into trouble when we place a price on what we need to live – water has great value because it sustains life.  Now we want to place a price on what is freely given by nature. 



If water is a right that means that access to the resource must be universal.  It cannot be turned into a commodity.  Who protects these rights?  This is the job of the state.  The state is the only entity that can protect public rights.  Now however, we have a conflict.  There is now a struggle between the public and private realms.  Today the market regulates the state.  This is contrary to the great political tradition of Locke, Montesque and Bonaparte where the state was the champion of the citizens’ rights.

Water is now a source of conflict.  Dago talked about huge resources of water stored in Paraguay.  The Unites States now has an interest in this country and has established a military presence there. 

Dago also spoke about the dominance of the money class.  In United States and Canada this class controls and the state still offers some protection for people against their operation of power.  In El Salvador, the state is weak and offers little protection.  In El Salvador – we heard this everywhere – the state operates for the dominant families.  There is little health care and education beyond elementary school.  The dominant families do not govern for the benefit of the people.  They continue to operate for their own welfare.  Large banks and multinational corporations – like pharmaceuticals – receive their exclusive attention.



There is much of Gustavo Gutierrez in what Dago spoke about.  In the Open Veins of Latin America, Gutierrez speaks about the tradition of exploitation that stretches back to the Spanish conquest.  Dago continues the narrative of Open Veins. 

Dago finished by telling us that, “a pessimist is an optimist well informed.”  We were assured that we are on the right path and that there is a close connection between Development and Peace and the activists of El Salvador.  We are becoming well-informed optimists.


posters from UNES office in San Salvador



Sunday, August 1, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal XVIII Local Solutions

Local solutions.  The community we visited is a great story of success.  These people are members of what they call ‘a pastoral indigenous people’.  In this area, over 80% of the people are landless.  Interesting – these people are the original owners of the land and the majority remain disposed.  

In 1983, a small group of people in the Sonsonate area began to learn about co-ops.  They went to “United Hands”, a training centre for indigenous people in Mexico.  The delegation that returned asked the people – what do you want – they responded, “we need land for corn…” Prosperity would come with a return to the old ways.  As they would say, “the land belongs to those who love it.”  This was the motivation for the long road ahead.

The community worked with the help of groups like FUNPROCOOP and Caritas to develop the expertise in new areas like animal husbandry.  This was a real challenge for these people, they had no traditional knowledge in this area, but they accepted the challenge and after some early failures they now have a herd of 35 cattle.

The community now has 42 acres, purchased from a local landowner.  Each individual received ¾ of an acre for their own use.  They produce an unbelievable 
variety of products including cheese, whipped cream, cottage cheese, corn, beans, coriander, bananas and many other foods.  These people work with passion and dedication as they say, “we were born with a principal and the principal is that we are in solidarity with those (the landless) around us.”

Local women prepare the communal lunch for the teshicalt  we shared a meal with the community




                                                                            My lunch washed down with coconut milk.

Our tour guide picks a small yucca plant


Friday, July 23, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal XVII FUNPROCOOP

Lunch preparation in FUNPROCOOP co-op community

This is the next edition of the El Salvador Journal 2005.  I will be posting the remaining chapters of the journal in the next few weeks.  As we move into the fall, I will be posting to the blog on a weekly basis to keep future participants in the Compadres program well supplied with information on the Compadres program.

We next visited FUNPROCOOP, another one of our partners.  They brought us up to the province of Sonsonate to one of the two indigenous communities that still exist in El Salvador.

Something very interesting about the native people of El Salvador.  Unlike Guatemala and Mexico, the native heritage of El Salvador is not nearly as evident.  There is good reason for this.  In 1936, over 30,000 indigenous people were killed after a failed upraising. You don’t find any evident native presence anywhere in the country except in the faces of the people.  In Sonsonate we felt this presence.

We visited Chaletengo in Sonsonate.  There was an indigenous co-op community in this area and we were to spend the afternoon with them.  We visited them on a community workday where all members of the co-op worked on common projects for the day. This is called ‘Teshicalt’.  This is one of the 60 communities that FUNPROCOOP works with.  There is a real emphasis on the use of organic pesticides and fertilizers, local seeds, and traditional agricultural know-how. 













FUNPROCOOP indigenous community


In Chalatengo there is an agricultural college that trains people in the traditional methods.  The knowledge of the ages is passed on to 50 participants at a time.  These methods are allowing people to produce an amazing variety of crops.  At the co-op, we were told that they could plant over 30 varieties of corn and 20 different types of beans.  The co-ops are concentrating on what they are good at for local distribution.  This makes sense.  I asked why they don’t plant tomatoes for export as the ambassador suggested.  They told me it costs over $6000.00 an acre to plant tomatoes – corn and beans are free, the people collect their own seeds.

The work of FUNPROCOOP is rooted in activism.  To work with local people in an oppressive atmosphere means that you become radicalized.  They work for communities threatened with removal by big dam projects.  They have occupied the legislative assembly to protest neo-liberal policies of the government.  The next day, the pictures of the group’s leaders appeared in the right-wing paper.  Activists are now called ‘terrorists’ just like the 70’s when they were called ‘communists’.  They receive death threats just like the activists of the past.  The crisis in this country deepens.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Compadres Snapshot - Oscar Romero

Compadres Snapshot – Oscar Romero
..."Let it be known that no one can any longer kill the voice of justice"...
   (Archbishop Oscar Romero)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Compadres Snapshot July 6, 2009

Compadres Snapshot – July 6 2009

Day Five: Monday, July 6

8 AM. Drive out to San Vicente province to the Lower Lempa river region.
10 AM. Meeting with Mauricio Orellana Regional Cordinator for CORDES in that region. He will give us a tour of all the administration facilities and the rest of business initiatives they have there, at the Solidarity Plaza. Visit to Heros de la Sabana museum
Lunch there at their Restaurant Chinchontepec at the same Plaza.
In the afternoon visit the Cashew tree project
Accommodations at  Lempa Mar Hostel  in La Pita Community.

From Compadres web site www.compadres-elsalvador-canada.ca




Meeting with high school students in Bajo Lempa was a wonderful experience.  For over an hour we asked them about their lives and struggles, but we mainly focused on their hopes.  I record them all here, one thing is very obvious, they want to be a part of the change that is coming to El Salvador.

Excerpt from Compadres Journal 2008



Compadres group with high school students in Bajo Lempa

Saturday, June 12, 2010

RALLY 4 MINING JUSTICE Parliament Hill, Ottawa June 15, 2010 4:30pm


Tell Government to Watch and pass Bill C-300!

JOIN US on Parliament Hill June 15, 4:30pm

SHOW the people of El Salvador they are not alone in their sovereign decision

REQUEST Pacific Rim to drop its illegitimate lawsuit

DEMAND JUSTICE FOR ALL PEOPLE affected by mining in-justice

TELL Government to pass Bill C-300!

Philadelphia based documentary filmmaker Jamie Moffett will be screening his work Return to El Salvador(www.returntoelsalvador.com) to Canadian Parliamentarians and Ambassadors on June 15th 2010 at the behest of MP John McKay sponsor of Bill C-300, a Corporate Accountability Bill, which is invested in the film's message.

One aspect of the film outlines the disappearance of prominent mining activist Marcelo Rivera. Marcelo's kidnapping, torture and murder signifies a shift in El Salvador. No longer are people being disappeared solely for political reasons, but now social leaders who would dare to stand up for the environment. Investigating further, his crew found more and more signs in this mysterious disappearance pointing towards the Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining Company.

Pacific Rim, a Canadian mining company is currently pursuing an unjust lawsuit against the government of El Salvador. In 2009, the people and the Government of El Salvador decided they didn't want gold mining extraction on their land. Immediately afterward, through chapter 10 of CAFTA, Pacific Rim filled a lawsuit against the Salvadorian state for a loss of investment and future profits for over 100 million dollars.

This is why we need to pass Bill C-300, it represents the best chance we have to assure that Canadian extractive companies follow human rights and environmental best practices when they operate overseas. It assures that government financial and political support will not be provided to companies that breach human rights and environmental standards.

RALLY FOR MINING JUSTICE endorsed by:

Association for Social Economic Development (ADES), El Salvador

Amanecer Ranchero FM 89.1

Amnesty International, Business and Human Rights Program

Barrio Nuevo

Breaking the Silence

Canadians Against Mining in El Salvador (CAMES)

Cafe Justicia,

Center for Alternative Mining Development Policy in La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA

Christian Hispanic Community of Emmanuel United Church

Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine / Committee for Human Rights in Latin America (CDHAL)

CLASP (Caribbean & Latin America Support Project - New Paltz, NY)

Council of Canadians

Education In Action

Emmanuel United Church

FMLN Ottawa-Gatineau

Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)

Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement Ottawa (IPSMO)

Kingston Central American Solidarity Committee

Latin American Solidarity Network

Magazine Vision Latina

Mining Watch Canada

OPIRG

Ottawa-Gatineau Coalition against mining in El Salvador

Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), Social Justice Fund

Punto de Encuentro, CKCU FM 93.1

Rights Action

Salvadorian Canadian Association of Ottawa and National Capital Region (ASCORCAN)

Salvadorian Women’s Association of Ottawa-Gatineau

Salvaide

Swedish - Salvadorian Friendship Association of Stockholm (Sweden's capital)

Territorio Libre

Radio Victoria, Cabanas, El Salvador

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

El Salvador 2005 Journal XVI Meeting with the Ambassador

The Development and Peace delegation outside the offices of the Canadian Embassy. Note the official-looking clothing for our visit!



The next day we finally met the Canadian Ambassador. We had been trying to arrange this visit for days. Just before a planned trip to the beach, we heard that this was the day for our meeting. We had been told that it was important to dress professionally for this encounter. No time for that. We arrived with beach towels and flippers to be ushered in to meet with the Canadian Ambassador, Gwyneth Ann Kutz.

This was a very interesting meeting. We had a good opportunity to present the philosophy and work of Development and Peace. We talked about the groups we had met with and discussed what we had learned in our meetings. All this information was new to the ambassador. In her time in El Salvador I don’t think there had been much of an opportunity for her to work with small NGO’s like Equipo Maiz and CRIPDES. This is really too bad, these groups are coming up with technical solutions for many of the problems that the Salvadoran people are experiencing.

The ambassador talked about the frustration the Canadian Government was having developing water projects in El Salvador. She noted that donors shy away from water projects because the issue of ownership is such a difficult one. People don’t want to pay for water, she said, and it is difficult to make them understand that they must pay. She also mentioned that the Canadian Aid agency, CIDA had to work through ANDA, the very corrupt Salvadoran water agency.

She also talked about the need to diversify agricultural production. She mentioned that tomatoes and coriander could be marketed while corn and beans should be bought from producers to the North.

It was very interesting to hear her opinions. She was very open with us and we appreciated her frankness. What we found curious was that there was very little understanding of the good work that is being done by local groups on water projects and crop diversification. It is more than a little frustrating that these small groups face funding challenges when they offer good local solutions to the problems faced by the Salvadoran people.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Compadres Trip Flyer 2011


Join COMPADRES in El Salvador
Summer 2011

Collective of Ontario Teachers Moving for Peace, Action, Development, and
Relationship in El Salvador

Unite with us for the third trip in forging sustainable links between Ontario Teachers and communities in El Salvador

Why?
  • “Because there is nothing more genuine and honest than being involved in communities taking charge of their own lives.” Maureen Bourke, Gr 12 religion teacher, Holy Trinity H.S.
  • “Because it’s a total rush seeing that social justice and economic sustainability is about survival and not just trendy catchphrases.” Wayne Ng, social worker, Student Services
  • Because you love adventure and learning outside of the box
  • Because you want to learn about meaningful partnerships with grassroots development agencies such as Development and Peace, Salvaide, CRIPDES, etc..
  • Because your sense of social justice and analysis of the critical issues affecting people in the North and the South matters
  • Because you want to share with teachers involved in social change in El Salvador
  • Because you want to witness El Salvadoran social movements as…

  • Communities attempting to protect their own land from Canadian mining ventures
• Workers defending their rights in maquila and agro-export plantations
• Farmers collectivizing over the impact of biotechnology on food security
• Peasants (campesinos) struggling to recuperate land
• Women struggling to fully participate in their society
  • Because you want to apply such experiences to the social teachings of the Church

Tentative dates: First week in July (depends on flight availability)
Time commitment: 1 pre-trip orientation session, 1 formation day
Length of trip and approximate costs: 12 days, $2200.00, all inclusive

Find out more: Paul McGuire, 613-218-9615, paul.mcguire@ottawacatholicschools.ca

Join us on Facebook – go to

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28878058470#!/pages/Compadres-El-Salvador-Canada/172458377507

or go to our web site – www.compadres-elsalvador-canada.ca



Saturday, May 29, 2010

CANADIAN MINING COMPANY PACIFIC RIM COMES UNDER FIRE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS

CANADIAN MINING COMPANY PACIFIC RIM COMES UNDER FIRE FROM ENVIRONMENTAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
Simultaneous demonstrations held in advance of World Bank hearing;
Lawsuit against El Salvador under U.S. trade agreement draws sharp criticism

In advance of a hotly-contested case that will be heard at the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) of the World Bank on May 31, a broad coalition of environmental, human rights, and trade organizations held vibrant demonstrations in Washington, DC, Boston, New York, Seattle, and Portland to expose the suspicious conduct of Vancouver, BC-based mining company Pacific Rim.

Representatives of the company appeared in the form of giant headless suits, skeletons on stilts, and the Grim Reaper. Protestors chanted the names of three prominent anti-mining activists, Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos, who have been murdered in the last year, held up oversized photos of neon-orange rivers contaminated by the cyanide used in gold extraction and handed out bottles of cloudy, discolored water to passersby.

The proposed El Dorado mine has faced overwhelming opposition from local communities since its proposal, primarily due to the grave environmental risks; the company sought to use 2 tons of cyanide per day and 20-26 gallons of water per second in an country with very limited access to water. At the rally in DC, rural organizer Vidalina Morales explained, "Most people in our towns are subsistence farmers who get by on the little that they can grow. If our lands are destroyed and our water is contaminated, we cannot survive."

Beth Geglia of NISGUA, the Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala explained, "In the cases of Guatemala and Hondruas, gold mining has threatened the liveliness of small farmers and has caused water contamination. Technical studies release last week on the marlin mine owned by Goldcorp show higher levels of metals in the blood of those who live closest to the mine."

The Salvadoran government chose not to grant Pacific Rim's application for exploitation permits, as the company had failed to meet requirements. In response, the company opened a subsidiary in Reno, NV in order to file a lawsuit for hundreds of millions under the foreign investor rights provisions of CAFTA, the U.S.- Central American Free Trade Agreement, making this the first environmental case under the widely-opposed trade deal.

Manuel Pérez-Rocha, from the institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC-based think tank, which recently published a study, "Mining for Profits in International Tribunals," said, "This case is exemplary of the proliferation of foreign investors that want to use the provisions of the free trade agreements to threaten countries that attempt to protect the human rights of their citizens. IPS awarded the prestigious Letelier-Moffit Human Rights award to the National Coalition against Metallic Mining in El Salvador in October of 2009 for their work to pass a national ban on mining in El Salvador; Marcelo Rivera, Ramiro Rivera and Dora Alicia Sorto Recinos were all members.

Miguel Rivera, the brother of Marcelo Rivera who was kidnapped and tortured on June 18 2009, spoke out in Washington. The violence is a direct result of the free trade agreements" which "limit the government's ability to defend the life of its residents and put economic rights above people's right to live."

Lisa Fuller, program director for CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, agreed, saying "It is outrageous that U.S. trade policy gives private companies the right to privately sue a sovereign nation for upholding desperately-needed environmental protections." She reminded the crowd that President Obama promised to "severely restrict" these same rules during his Presidential campaign. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, which promotes fair trade and economic democracy, anticipates that foreign investor protections will be a top issue in the upcoming negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the first for President Obama.

In simultaneous actions in Seattle and Portland, constituents called on Representatives and Senators to end the trade model currently enshrined in NAFTA. In New York and Boston, actions at the Canadian consulates faulted the government for near-absence of regulation of the mining industry, fostering the impunity of companies that notoriously abuse human rights and the environment.