10 Facts about Corruption in Honduras
Honduras, officially known as The Republic of Honduras, is a small country in Central America bordering the Caribbean Sea. The Latin American country has had a rocky political climate since the 1980s and is full of corruption across all levels of government. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Honduras that everyone should know.

10 Facts About Corruption in Honduras

  1. Many Hondurans are fleeing to the United States. At least 350,000 Hondurans have attempted to migrate to the U.S. in the last 10 years to escape the danger, but Honduras has among the highest denial rates for asylum seekers to the United States. The U.S. denies approximately 78 percent of Hondurans legally seeking refuge.
  2. Political corruption is an important factor. Political corruption plays a part in why many Hondurans live in fear or decide to flee the country. Many experts say that political corruption is a big factor as to why there are so many Hondurans fleeing to the U.S. The country has a history of police brutality and one of the highest murder rates in the world.
  3. Politicians are funneling money from nonprofits to fund their campaigns. Univision reported that at least 53 nonprofits are missing funds that politicians are allegedly using to fund political campaigns or buy important votes. The nonprofits raised more than $70 million since 2009 and at least 176 politicians are part of this scandal. This includes President Juan Orlando Hernández who is the President of Honduras.
  4. The presidential election in 2017 caused protests. The Honduras presidential election of 2017 became the cause of protests across the country. When Honduras elected President Juan Orlando Hernández for his second term, many believed the results were fraudulent. Some protests were peaceful, but others took to blockading roads and burning tires. Honduras’ security forces used tear gas and live ammunition against the protesters. This results in the deaths of at least 30 people.
  5. Honduras has the most unequal distribution of wealth in Latin America. Some consider Honduras to be the sixth most unequal country in the world, due in part to policies such as a tax reform that the country implemented in 2013 that seemed to target the poor. Around 64.5 percent of Hondurans live in poverty and 42.6 percent live in extreme poverty. In 2014, the richest 20 percent of those living in Honduras had an 8 percent increase in their wealth, while the poorest 20 percent saw their wealth decrease 7.4 percent.
  6. The public health budget in Honduras suffers as a result of corruption. Studies show that in recent years, 49 percent of the public health budget mysteriously redirected to other unknown causes. The 2018 health budget underspent by the equivalent of about $33 million while hospitals remain in dire need of the funding.
  7. Historically, Honduras has severely misused aid from the United States. The intention of U.S. foreign aid to Honduras was to help President Juan Orlando Hernández in his war on drugs in the region but instead, he used it to fund security and police forces. According to human rights organizations, these security forces in Honduras have been associated with serious human rights violations in the past years.
  8. The U.S. cut funding to Honduras in 2019. In 2018, a slew of immigrants from Central America came together in a caravan of an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people headed for the United States. As a result of the region’s failure to stop the caravan, the U.S. dramatically cut funding to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The U.S. cut over $500 million in aid.
  9. An organization called the Organization of American States (OAS) fights to diminish corruption in the Honduran government. The goal of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras is to support Hondurans in fighting against corruption among those in power. Since April 19, 2016, this group has supported investigations into those accused of corruption. In addition, it worked to restore justice by recovering goods or profits unethically gained and give a voice back to the citizens of Honduras.
  10. The mission within the OAS has made impressive strides toward ending corruption in Honduras. Within six months of the creation of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH), it proposed a law called the Law on Clean Politics. The law specified that political leaders be responsible for their finances and that citizens participating in drug trafficking not contribute to political campaigns. This law passed in late 2016.

These 10 facts about corruption in Honduras are evidence that the political climate in the region is rough. However, the security forces loyal to the President of Honduras weakened because the United States cut the funding. Additionally, groups like MACCIH are still working hard to combat corruption and impunity among the Honduran government. Protests continue despite the threat of violence. Also, Honduran activists continue to make their voices heard with the help of the Organization of American States.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Wikimedia

Politics in Liberia
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, a ranking that is largely due to the corrupt practices of its politicians. Economic mismanagement and various other corrupt practices plaguing politics in Liberia have sparked protests in the country as its residents become increasingly upset with a failure to tackle the situation. In order to understand the rise in civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, it is important to understand certain aspects of politics in Liberia that have collectively brought about its corrupt practices.

10 Facts About Politics in Liberia

  1. Previous Leadership: Liberia’s citizens previously revered their previous president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but the people eventually accused her of nepotism. Despite taking an oath to tackle corruption in 2005, the country did not effectively deal with its corrupt politics during her time as president. Approximately 20 ministers experienced accusations of corruption during this time, but the country did not take action to convict them of any wrongdoing or investigate the claims against them.
  2. Liberia’s New President: George Weah is currently the president of Liberia; people originally expected that his administration would help the Liberian people overcome the persistent problem of corruption within their politics. However, during his relatively short period as president, inflation rates dramatically increased and economic growth has shrunk.
  3. A Shift in Power: The election that Weah won followed a period of war within Liberia. Liberia elected its previous president during a significant time of war, and the most recent election in 2017 was the first democratic transfer of power that the country observed in many years.
  4. Continued Corruption: The previous election in 2017 took place not only in a time of war but in a time that would have been fairly definitive for politics in Liberia. The continuation of corruption undermined the country’s newfound hope in the democratic transition of power. The state institutions remained weak as a result of the corrupt politics in Liberia and it remained clear that personal relationships within politics still heavily dictated the decision-making process.
  5. The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission: The country has made attempts in the past to tackle corruption but unfortunately has not been widely successful. Liberia implemented the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission in 2008 but it only led to two prosecutions between 2008 and 2017.
  6. Wage Discrepancies: Citizens in the nation typically earn less than $2 a day. The corrupt politics in Liberia ensure that its politicians receive compensation on a much larger scale. Legislators often pay themselves as much as $200,000 a year despite the persistent poverty that overtakes its citizens. Because of this, politics in Liberia tend to lean toward a means of personal promotion rather than true public service.
  7. Ebola’s Impact: The economy in the country took a large blow following an Ebola outbreak. While the outbreak was widespread and already difficult to assess and handle effectively, the politics in Liberia seemed to do more harm than good in the wake of the crisis. Its corrupt practices continued the growth of distrust in the government and politicians were unable to adopt a concerted effort to properly tackle and solve the crisis or stop the spreading.
  8. Lack of Protectionist Policies: Liberia, unfortunately, does not have a protectionist policy or law in place for whistleblowing accounts. As a result, authorities have arrested government employees that have pushed for greater transparency within the country’s politics. President Weah recently fired Konah Karmo who served as head of the secretariat for the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. As a replacement, Weah appointed a loyalist in order to further his own personal goals which sparked discontent and criticism from his constituents.
  9. Citizens Take Action: On a more uplifting note, citizens remain actively concerned and are attempting to tackle corruption and questionable politics in Liberia. Approximately two-thirds of the eligible population within the country can vote and this movement has allowed more women and first-time voters to become more involved with the political processes or, at the very least, the protests of corrupt practices.
  10. The Media vs. the Government: The relationship between the media and government has become increasingly tense in recent years as a result of the corrupt politics in Liberia. This relationship has grown so strained that the press union has recently brought attention to the intimidation and stifling practices that the press often face. Personal attacks of journalists and closures of local newspapers have taken place, further solidifying the corrupt politics in Liberia and making the situation more difficult to tackle and solve.

Liberia’s poverty and low economic growth closely link with its political practices. Despite a seemingly calm, democratic transition of power taking place just a few years ago, it seems that the current administration within the country has continued its corrupt practices rather than solving the problem internally. Liberian citizens are now taking a stance against these corrupt practices and attempting to influence their politicians to change their ways. The country can only make economic progress once it addresses its corrupt politics; once a leader comes into power that prioritizes truly challenging corruption or the current president changes his ways, the country will be on the road to progress and increased transparency.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Factors of the Political Crisis in Peru
The political crisis in Peru is an ongoing event that first came about in 2017 and still needs to resolve. Corruption within the country’s government spearheaded discontent among Peruvians and planted the seed for the continued crisis in Peru. The crisis itself has become more complex as it has developed over the years. Thus, the process of a resolution has seemingly become just as difficult to navigate. Here are a few factors that helped create the crisis and continue to perpetuate the political issues surrounding it.

The New President

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won his political position by a very slim margin in a race against Keiko Fujimori in the 2016 election. His political party was only able to secure a small portion of seats within Peru’s Congress. Naturally, it faced strong opposition in many different facets. President Kuczynski’s political opponents and opposers portrayed him as a lobbyist that served as a political threat to Peru’s government. As a result, there were some questions surrounding his presidency and its legitimacy from the very beginning.

The Opposing Party

The political alliance behind Keiko Fujimori is the Popular Force Party. Following her electoral defeat, the Popular Force Party slowly began to pick away at its opposition using an obstructionist strategy. The party continuously targeted cabinet members of their opposition in hopes of ousting them and succeeded in several instances, warping the political landscape of Peru and deepening its government corruption. This strategy ultimately led to a dismantling of the cabinet and a continuous shuffling of members.

Suspicion of Corruption

Under the suspicion of corrupt government practices, the Peruvian Congress ousted President Kuczynski with a vote of no-confidence very early on in September 2017. This vote followed a sort of dare from the President. It forced out his second education minister and gave him a limited time span of three days to swear in a new Cabinet. Following the vote that ousted him, Congress tried the President in a congressional impeachment hearing in December 2017. This happened when he testified on a matter of suspected corruption. The particular incident that the hearing discussed was his involvement in receiving payments from one of his businesses from Odebrecht, a well-known Brazilian construction firm.

The vote following the deliberation of Congress did not result in his impeachment. However, a new scandal arose. It became publicly known that the President negotiated with former President Alberto Fujimori’s son to keep his position in power. These rumors of negotiations between the two sparked unrest and distrust among Peruvian citizens because of the public view of Fujimori. In exchange for the safety of his position, Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori for crimes against humanity and corruption, despite his 25-year prison sentence that the public largely supported.

Release of Former Dictator

The release of former dictator Fujimori sparked intense indignation and dissatisfaction among Peruvians. Arguably, this was the pivotal point marking the beginning of the political crisis in Peru. The courts overturned the pardon that President Kuczynski performed and he eventually resigned, consequently pushing Vice President Vizcarra into the presidency. He wasted no time in pushing an anti-corruption campaign in an attempt to quell protests and civil discord among Peruvians. However, the Popular Force Party still attempts to block these proposed anti-corruption reforms.

Dismantling of Congress

The past few years have been key in determining the political state of Peru, and it remains a delicate one. As of October 2019, President Vizcarra dissolved Congress after facing opposition. This dismantling of Congress has plunged Peru into a constitutional crisis which it must address immediately. The political crisis in Peru does not affect just corruption levels or prominent figures defeating their opposition. Instead, it affects Peruvians in ways they may not even be fully aware of. It primarily stifles public policy progression due to legislative gridlock. This means that no anti-corruption reforms or efforts can come to fruition because of the persistent corruption stalling and dismantling Peru’s politics. Direct legislation cannot pass because of this. For instance, there are necessary reconstruction efforts to address damages from detrimental coastal flooding that occurred in 2017. The Peruvian economy originally experienced a boom following its democratic transition. However, the growth has slowed substantially in the midst of this crisis.

Solving the Political Crisis

Although the situation may seem bleak, it is not an unfixable issue. The political crisis in Peru requires cooperation mainly from its primary political parties. The days of ousting the opposition in a never-ending battle for power must end. In addition, a united front must form against corruption. However, this may not be easy. Such a united front would require the major political parties in Peru. The parties have to abstain from their corrupt practices long enough to negotiate a new way of governance. This will help avoid the power struggles that have brought political turmoil upon the nation. The international community must provide support for Peruvians in this time of crisis. Additionally, it should help to rebuild the once successful democratic institution that existed within Peru. It can accomplish this largely by acting as mediators between parties and pushing for compromise and cooperation.

The government has not completely ignored the political crisis in Peru. Rather, the country has made a decent amount of progress in the past two decades by strengthening its economy, lowering its poverty rates and decreasing the amount of income inequality present. The strengthening of the political institutions and the laws surrounding them will ultimately help Peru the most. Once Peru’s institutions are able to regain legitimacy and close the loopholes that allow political corruption to thrive, the country will hopefully be able to feel a sense of normalcy. Domestic and international actors’ aid in tackling corruption head-on will combat the political crisis in Peru. In addition, forming a sense of unity should help the country attain stability.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Listen Up to Fight Poverty! Three Podcasts about Poverty
Podcasting is growing more than ever around the globe. In 2019, 51 percent of the U.S. population listened to a podcast. Latinx communities are the fastest growing communities of podcast growth. Experts have cited countries such as Peru, Mexico, Chile and Argentina as having the highest podcast listener growth. Meanwhile, more than half of South Korea listens to podcasts.

All around the world, there are people, companies and organizations venturing into the waters of podcasting. Podcasts can be an interesting, new and engaging way to learn about how the world is fighting global poverty. This media can be a very convenient way to learn about poverty as consumers can listen to it while doing other tasks such as chores, driving and even brushing their teeth. Here are three top podcasts about global poverty.

3 Top Podcasts About Global Poverty

  1. World Bank Development Podcast – The World Bank is one of the world’s largest sources of development assistance and knowledge. The World Bank emerged in 1944 to reconstruct WWII war-torn Europe and works in over 100 countries today. It seeks to fight global poverty by partnering with developing countries and providing these countries with the financial boost needed to reduce poverty. The World Bank aims to help people help themselves and their environment by sharing knowledge and providing financial and technical assistance. The World Bank has 189 member countries, staff in over 170 countries and offices in over 130 locations. Some of its successes include expanding access in Haiti to primary education to 240,000 children, 50 percent of which were girls. The Development Podcast, a new podcast from The World Bank, just launched at the end of January 2020. The podcast discusses some of the biggest challenges facing the global community and some of the solutions that people are developing. The podcast seeks to get the on-the-ground perspective alongside a larger umbrella holistic view. Issues it has discussed so far include obesity and the best and worst places to start a business around the globe. Each podcast is around 25 minutes. One can listen to this podcast while getting ready in the morning or on the daily commute to work or school.
  2. From Poverty to Power – Anthropologist and activist-researcher Maria Faciolince and Duncan Green, Strategic Adviser at Oxfam GB and professor at the London School of Economics, run this controversial podcast about poverty. The podcast explores the latest thinking around development and discusses issues of poverty, politics, hope and justice. The podcast has discussed topics such as decolonizing academia and democracy.
  3. Build Relationships Break Poverty – Children’s HopeChest owns this podcast. This organization aims to create a more sustainable approach to child sponsorship. It does this by building upon existing resources in communities, creating community-to-community relationships and giving children a choice on who will be their child sponsor. The podcast challenges the Western perception of international poverty by elevating the voices of local leaders and processing how people can help to alleviate poverty without harming those living in vulnerable communities. The podcast believes that building two-way relationships will break the cycle of poverty. The podcast discusses a variety of topics related to poverty such as how music can unlock the potential of children living in poverty and human profile pieces.

Start listening to these three podcasts about global poverty and see how integrating podcasts into a daily routine can be easy and informative. These three podcasts about global poverty are uncovering and disseminating information about poverty to listeners all over the world.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Pixabay

 

corruption in Liberia
Political issues have riddled Liberia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, since its declaration of independence from the United States in 1847. Despite its abundance in natural resources, Liberia continues to face the consequences of poverty, including corruption within its government institutions, epidemic outbreaks and violence. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Liberia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Liberia

  1. Corruption Perception Index: According to Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index, Liberia ranks 91 out of the 183 countries and territories analyzed, with a score of 3.2 on the zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) scale. This is a tremendous improvement since the index score for Liberia in 2005, which put the country at 137 out of 158 countries and territories that Transparency International assessed. One can credit this to the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program that emerged in 2005, which strictly adhered to practices of transparency and accountability, as well as working to embrace the role of international help in fighting corruption.
  2. Illegal Forestry: Money that came in to fuel weaponry supplies for the 14-year Liberian Civil War came from the illegal forestry of Liberia’s wilderness, which contributed to the lengthy duration of the war. The outcome resulted in 250,000 casualties and mass deforestation. However, over time, the government has taken necessary action to eradicate this practice such as enforcing reformed forest laws and canceling wartime contracts.
  3. Police Corruption: The Liberian National Police stands at 4,417 police officers, which is twice the size of its army. People have perceived the Liberian police institution as being corrupt due to a lack of professionalism, accountability and abuse of power. This is due to countless accounts from victims about police enforcing senseless brutality and partaking in bribery dealings. The United Nations Mission in Liberia has been working to address the need for better police governing by targeting poor police conduct and pursuing cases against high-ranking personnel in these security institutions.
  4. Female Genital Mutilation: As with most Western African countries, Liberia has not fallen short of falling into the practice of performing female genital mutilation on young girls. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put a one-year ban on female genitalia mutilation. However, this ban has since come to an end and the government has not renewed it. The ban only condemned female genitalia mutilation to those under the age of 18, however, which means adults who gave consent could still receive it. The inauguration of the new president, George Weah, largely overshadowed this proving that Liberia still does not see women’s rights as a top priority.
  5. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Liberia elected its first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2006 and she remained in office until 2018. Despite being a female in a government position of leadership, she did not strictly advocate for women’s rights during her presidency and did not consider herself a feminist. More so, just as with many other presidents before her, she was under suspicion for corruption and nepotism, such as when she elected her three sons into high-ranking government positions. This ultimately lead to her stepping down as president.
  6. Education Fraud: Education fraud has long been a serious issue in Liberia. Much of Liberia’s student population has taken shortcuts through bribery offerings in order to receive credentials for a degree. Socio-economic and political development may stall if there are no educated young people entering the Liberian workforce, as it will create a workforce that does not have the work ethic or skillset to uphold a stable democracy. In the efforts to uphold accountability, authorities are subjecting people guilty of such crimes to lawful punishment.
  7. The Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Bill: The LGBT community has been in a long battle against the Liberian government for human rights, but in 2012, things continued to escalate when the government passed the Anti-Same-Sex Marriage bill, which punishes people engaging in same-sex marriage and sentences offenders with up to five years in prison. Liberia has done little to outlaw the poor political treatment of LGBT people.
  8. The United Nations Mission in Liberia: The United Nations Mission in Liberia deployed in 2003 to provide Liberia with aid in security assistance and human rights advocacy, as the Liberian government and its people worked to strengthen their democracy, fully intending to leave in the future once Liberia was strong enough to stand on its own. However, according to the Secretary-General’s progress report in 2018, although the Liberian government has shown vast improvements in planning and enacting political affairs, it still requires aid to ensure that such institutions receive sufficient funds to keep them functioning effectively.
  9. Liberia’s GDP: Despite continuing economic stresses, Liberia’s GDP growth has taken a positive turn in the last couple of years. GDP growth increased by 0.7 percent in 2018 over a the span of a year due to major contributions from the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries to the economy. GDP rates should reach 4.8 percent in 2020, along with decreased inflation rates of 9.5 percent in 2020. The Liberian government’s continued corruption elimination tactics have been a major factor in decreasing crime and encouraging its people to work and actively engage in their country’s economic sustainability.
  10. The Domestic Resource Mobilization Initiative: Under the Domestic Resource Mobilization initiative, Liberia and the United States Agency for International Development have united to increase the number of institutions, which will help increase taxpayer education and facilitate positive engagement in Domestic Resource Mobilization affairs. In exchange, the Liberian government will distribute profits that it gains from this program to a multitude of agencies to put them towards education, health and sanitation, thus putting a steady end to corruption within Liberian communities.

Despite the challenges that these 10 facts about corruption in Liberia express, the country is on the path to eliminating corruption. With the help of Liberia’s people and continued ethical improvements within Liberia’s government system, there is still hope that the country will be able to climb out of poverty once and for all.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: United Nations

10 Facts About Corruption in Nigeria 
People most commonly define corruption
as the “abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” and government officials and citizens feel its effects on an everyday basis. It is a growing political issue around the globe, but developing countries like Nigeria often struggle deeply to control or combat corruption. The most reliable source that measures corruption is the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. Nigeria often ranks in the bottom quartile of this index, with the scale being zero (most corrupt) to 100 (cleanest). Below are 10 facts about corruption in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Corruption in Nigeria

  1. Nigeria has two main political parties: the All Progressive Congress party (ADC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). These parties are almost identical in platforms but still oppose one another. Each party often increases corruption in Nigeria by utilizing misappropriated public funds to run opposing campaigns.
  2. A survey from 2013 showed that over 75 percent of journalists admitted to accepting financial gifts from politicians. These bribes often lead to editors and journalists manipulating stories and coverage to create media corruption in Nigeria. Despite this, the country still maintains an almost completely free press.
  3. Corruption in Nigeria has neither improved nor declined in score over the past several years. Typically, the country’s score varies from 25-28 any given year. Although there has not been a sharp increase or decrease, Nigeria still ranks below the average of 32 for the sub-Saharan African region.
  4. Former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke used a $115 million bribe to secure an election victory for the PDP in 2015. The ADP and PDP collectively spent almost $2 billion on his campaign in the same year. This spending came from public funds and contributed to higher electoral corruption in Nigeria.
  5. Entrepreneurs generate 50 percent of the GDP in Nigeria but often face extortion and racketeering from police forces. Federal legislators have diverted $433 billion to vague projects in the past several years. This hurts small businesses in the country and allows corruption in the government to continue.
  6. Before the 2015 elections, the removal and distribution of $236 billion to 24 state governors occurred without explanation. Nigeria originally opened the fund to provide inexpensive loans to small businesses in the country. As of 2018, there is evidence to suggest that this money has been almost completely embezzled throughout the years.
  7. Nigeria has conducted a fixed exchange rate for its currency, the naira, in hopes of preventing further inflation from corruption. The naira is currently one of the lower performing currencies in the world largely due to continuing corruption in Nigeria. This new rate has caused prices of imported goods to double and inflation to spike.
  8. The Buhari administration has proposed a budget with plans for investing in agriculture and mining while battling corrupt business practices. However, projects like these often consume large quantities of public funds. This appropriation of funds to industrial projects often leads to higher levels of corruption in Nigeria.
  9. Between 2011 and 2015, over $3.6 billion disappeared from Nigerian public coffers. Unfortunately, this stolen sum resulted in a loss of potential roads, schools and homes planned for construction. This includes a loss of 500 kilometers of potential roads and around 200 potential schools that required only one-third of the stolen funds.
  10. Corruption in Nigeria affects poorer families most severely. These high levels of corruption could cost individuals $1,000 per person by 2030 if the country does not address it. Further, the levels of inequality continue to increase in the country due to corruption

The country still has many steps to take in order to successfully defeat corruption and continue developing. A presidential advisory committee has recently established to combat corruption in Nigeria. Nigeria also now legally requires banks to issue universal identification numbers to individuals. This process works by tracking multiple accounts owned by an individual and identifies missing or misappropriated funds. Citizens must speak out against corruption and governments must be held accountable in order to fully combat the issue. Additionally, governments must strengthen their institutions and close loopholes that allow for corruption in Nigeria to continue. For now, Nigeria is taking action in hopes of at least decreasing corruption in the coming years.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

violence in el salvador
The Republic of El Salvador is a country in Central America situated between Honduras and Guatemala. It is the smallest and most densely populated coastal country in Central America, with 6.4 million people residing within approximately 8,000 square miles. Here are eight facts about violence in El Salvador.

8 Facts About Violence in El Salvador

  1. From the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, chronic political and economic instability plagued the country. The coalition of socioeconomic inequality and societal unrest culminated in a brutal 12-year civil war. The right-wing military-led government sought to quell the left-wing guerrilla fighters, who had been instigated by a rigged election that saw General Carlos Romero, an anti-communist, take power in 1977. Protests burst throughout El Salvador to express the people’s anger with Romero’s election, and in response, the military slew thousands.
  2. With growing tensions between the government and its people in 1980, civil war broke out when a left-wing military coup deposed Romero. The Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador took power and quickly formed a military dictatorship. The Junta began killing peaceful demonstrators, assassinating socialist leaders and even killed archbishop Oscar Romero. The Junta then found allyship in the U.S., which was eager to suppress the possible spread of communism. Nearly $1 billion funneled into the Revolutionary Government Juta, by then-president Ronald Regan.
  3. Throughout the civil war, thousands fled the violence in El Salvador. Many displaced people found their way to Los Angeles, California. In LA, some of the children of the Salvadorian immigrants encountered gangs; this began the development of one of the most violent gangs to populate LA: MS-13. However, in the 1990s, the U.S. began to mass deport criminals from the country, sending LA’s MS-13 problem back to El Salvador. Gang members arrived in a country still wounded from civil war and unstable to its very core. Weak governance and poverty allowed MS-13 to infiltrate, gain power and flourish. As of 2017, an estimated 60,000 active gang members populate El Salvador, outnumbering the 52,000 police and military officers. The gang also found many sympathizers in El Salvador who rely on income from the gang’s activity.
  4. In 2018, the homicide rate in El Salvador was 50.3 per 100,000 people. However, these numbers are dropping and have been for the past three years with 60.8 per 100,000 in 2017 compared to 103 per 100,000 in 2015. This drop is important and shows progression within the country, although it did not move the country away from its ranking as the second deadliest country in the world not engaged in war.
  5. From 2012 to 2013, the murder rate in El Salvador cut in half after MS-13 and the Barrio 18 gangs entered a temporary cease-fire. In 2012, homicides in El Salvador occurred up to 14 times a day. In an attempt at peace, the Catholic Church and the Salvadorian government stepped in to arrange a truce between the two rival gangs. The truce lasted only around a year before the country plunged back into a gang war. However, in April of 2016, another attempt for a truce occurred between the gangs and government, but the government instead decided to intensify its anti-gang efforts and crack down on gang activity within prisons.
  6. Imprisonment of gang members only bolstered the problem of gang violence in El Salvador. By containing gang members within four walls with nothing but time on their hands, El Salvador breathed a new level of organization into gangs. Gangs use prisons not only as a place to plan and to make connections but also to recruit. To protect themselves from violence, new inmates often align themselves with gangs who, in return, ask them to steal, cheat and kill to earn their protection. Then once on the outside, the cycle only continues as honest work is hard to come by for convicts, so they turn back to the gangs.
  7. In the 1990s, the U.S. poured billions of dollars into the Colombian government to fight the country’s drug cartels in an attempt to stop the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S. However, the problem merely shifted to Mexico, who reacted with a forceful crackdown on the drug trade within the country. The cartel then moved again, finding a home in El Salvador and other Central American countries. With the gangs’ control, the country quickly fell into the grasp of the Colombian cartels, who recruited gangs to act as drug runners.
  8. Fighting violence by fighting corruption seems to have become the effort of the new Salvadorian government, run by President Nayib Bukele. Bukele is working to solve El Salvador’s gang and crime issues from the inside out. Previous administrations attempted to corral violence through militaristic force. Bukele, however, is focusing on addressing institutional problems that fostered a society that creates and accepts gang members and gang violence. In 2019, he launched mass arrests of gang members, business people, lawyers and police officers who were known to be corrupted or to have committed violent acts. There are also plans to strengthen border security in El Salvador to quell the importing and exporting of drugs.

Violence in El Salvador grew from the culmination of political unrest, poverty and socioeconomic inequality. Shook to its very core by the brutal civil war of the 1980s and 1990s, El Salvador found little time to recover. However, through the work of President Nayib Bukele and organizations like the Integrated Community Development Program run by the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, the country has a chance of getting its self back on track. The Integrated Community Development Program works to bring food security, community-centered economic stability and disaster risk reduction to the Salvadorian people so that they will not have to turn back to the gangs and cartels. The hope is that this will create a country where people can develop and stand on their own and foster a level of stability that El Salvador has lacked for decades.

Emma Hodge

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Reconciliation in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia
In August 2019, Nuon Chea, one of the leaders responsible for the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, passed away at the age of 93. His death resurfaced reports of the atrocities experienced in Cambodia between 1975-79, under the rule of the infamous dictator Pol Pot. Yet, Nuon Chea did not undergo prosecution for his crimes until 2018 — 40 years after he committed them.

Due to its scale and recency, one cannot write off the Khmer Rouge as an atrocity of the past. The pursuit of peace and justice for over 2 million victims of the Khmer Rouge continues today. Friends of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Cambodia is a group that has continued to push for peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia — despite a government, population and international community that wants to forget.

A Community Frozen in Time

In the Anlong Veng region of Cambodia, which housed regime leaders as late as 1998, others still venerate Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and other mass murderers as national heroes. The regime may have fallen 40 years ago, but families who enforced the regime’s brutality on their fellow Cambodians are still unaware of their wrongful actions. Some citizens simply have misinformation or claim to have supported the regime for the promise of security after decades of poverty. Other families followed strict orders on death threats and see themselves as victims — despite committing genocide.

Understanding the perspective of the citizens’ support to the regime is key to longterm peace. R2P member Pou Sovachana advocates for knowledge of the ex-cadre perspectives to yield reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Friends of R2P’s Dr. Bradley Murg, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), emphasized in an interview the need to break Anlong Veng members out of their bubble. For decades, “governments have left them to their own devices, afraid to open that box” of reconciliation, Dr. Murg shared. Most were “isolated and genuinely believe that their side was right.” Scarred from the Khmer Rouge’s inadequate leadership and raised with educational “curriculum centered on hatred, anger and revenge,” ex-cadre members need therapy — not prison.

Helping Cambodia Embrace its History

Besides working with ex-members of the Khmer Rouge, Friends of Responsibility to Protect is working to promote justice among Cambodians. Unable to understand their past, many Cambodians live in denial of their history. Tourists almost exclusively visit the Khmer Rouge history museum in Cambodia’s capital city, Dr. Murg noted.

The genocide directly impacted the nation’s population over the age of 40, many of whom still struggle with untreated PTSD. Parents began to raise their children in the shadow of atrocity without an explanation. Ultimately, continued ignorance is detrimental to Cambodia. Both Dr. Murg and his colleague, Professor Sovachana Pou — who works at the CICP and is a Khmer Rouge survivor himself — agree that work is still necessary to help the Cambodian population heal from the past. This is why R2P promotes education and acknowledgment about the atrocities among the younger generation. Its work includes field trips with students to Anlong Veng and stories of ex-Khmer Rouge perpetrators in local newspapers; an effort to encourage mutual understanding.

Finishing Justice

People must recognize Friends of R2P’s work for reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the context of delayed criminal justice. Dr. Murg explained how, due to the political dynamics of the U.S. and Cambodia, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders did not receive charges for their crimes. The sentencing of Nuon Chea by a U.N. court in 2018 – 40 years after the crimes – exemplifies the uneven justice delivered to the Khmer Rouge perpetrators. Even the head of the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot, never received a sentence – and died of natural causes in his home in 1998.

In an effort to fix its past mistakes, Cambodia established a court in the first part of the 21st century to bring justice to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pou reminded the Borgen Project that legal justice is only the first step to the real justice that needs to be felt in the hearts of Cambodians. The peace between mainstream Cambodians and ex-Khmer Rouge members, like those living in Anlong Veng, is the next step in the journey to justice. This is why the Anlong Veng Peace Center and Friends of R2P are promoting education, historic preservation and communication between ex-Khmer Rouge members and the families of victims.

While 2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s fall from power, reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia continues.

What is most hopeful, however, is the willingness for reconciliation among Khmer Rouge victims. People like Sovachana Pou, who narrowly escaped Cambodia and saw the deaths of their family, have offered forgiveness for the sake of rebuilding Cambodia. The key is to recognize that there are victims on both sides of the Khmer Rouge. Friends of Responsibility to Protect’s work is beautifully acknowledging the stories of all Cambodians to rebuild social trust.

Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan
Presidential candidate Julián Castro has introduced many policies that he would implement during his presidency revolving around protecting indigenous communities, policing and education reform. One of the most pressing policies that Castro proposed revolves around immigration. With a three-part plan, Julián Castro is attempting to create an immigration policy that focuses on reforming the system altogether. However, one of the more ambitious parts of the plan deals with something he has coined as a 21st Century Marshall Plan for Central America. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan could be a major step in solving immigration issues in both the United States and Central America.

Meet Julián Castro

Castro is no stranger to the world of politics. At a young age, he watched his mother run for San Antonio’s city council as the first woman of Mexican descent to do so. He learned the values of hard work and dedication from both his mother and his grandmother, who was an immigrant from Mexico that started her family with a fourth-grade education and a job as a housekeeper.

However, Julián Castro’s political career did not start when he decided to run in the 2020 presidential election. At age 26, he entered the San Antonio city council. Not only did he make history as the youngest councilman elected in the city, but he began his path to public service that would result in him becoming mayor of San Antonio in 2009 and then the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 2014. Along the way, he even became the first Latino to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

The Original Marshall Plan

In 1948, Europe had severly damaged infrastructure. World War II caused strain to Europe’s economies and disrupted agricultural production. To alleviate this issue, George C. Marshall created a plan to give roughly $15 billion to European countries. These countries used the money to rebuild cities and various economic industries for four years. In the process, these European countries and the U.S. created trade opportunities and development programs. The plan created substantial results across the continent. Industrial and agricultural production increased by over 37 percent and the overall balance of trade and economic stability improved as well.

The Marshall Plan differed from other aid programs during the time because it was a joint effort between many nations. The United States created the funding and programs that could benefit Europe, and the nations committed to implementing these programs. This plan benefitted Europe’s economic growth and reestablished the United States’ influence in the region after the war.

The Marshall Plan was also a way to test various programs concerning development and relief efforts. For example, the Economic Cooperation Administration’s model, designed to provide financial assistance to these European nations, was a model to create the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Overall, the 20th century Marshall Plan was a major step in development programs that helped Europe drastically.

A Plan for Central America

In an NPR podcast, Castro describes the importance of working to rebuild Central America for multiple reasons. For one, it helps create stronger relationships with the U.S.’s neighbors to the south. By creating an alliance with these countries, the U.S. can continue being an economic competitor with China, which is on track to pass the U.S. in becoming the largest economy in the world by 2030.

Along with the economic benefits of strengthening a region with potential trade partnership, the second major reason for assisting Central America is immigration issues. Castro states that “…if we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause…and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America.”

Central America is a region where large numbers leave to seek asylum from violence and corrupt governmental institutions. By 2015, nearly 3.4 million people born in Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) were living in the U.S., with over half being undocumented immigrants.

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan

Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan would firstly target some of the root causes of violence in the Northern Triangle such as transnational criminal organizations and illicit networks. According to Castro, an increase in law enforcement programs would help eliminate criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking. Also, this plan would require a heavier focus on anti-corruption and government transparency practices. With the cooperation of leaders in Central America and the United States’ resources, the high rates of violence in the region can decrease and create safer environments and sustainable governments less susceptible to corruption.

His policy also provides more funding for programs designed to prevent violence at local levels, create jobs and support health and nutrition across Central America. By stimulating economic development through more sustainable jobs, it allows people to stay and grow their communities rather than leaving them to find better success in the United States.

The final major point that this candidate emphasizes is the importance of prioritizing diplomatic relations with Latin American countries. To ease the instability in this region, all nations have to become part of this plan. Cooperation between these nations and the United States will ultimately be the major stepping stone to creating safe and sustainable communities.

This major foreign policy proposal would only be one component of his push to tackle immigration, but his message stands clear throughout his campaign. Julián Castro’s Marshall Plan intends to put people first, and for millions of people living in Central America, that is something they can begin hoping for in 2020.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

Buttigieg's Foreign Policy
The youngest of the Democratic candidates running for office in the 2020 election, people widely know and consider candidate Pete Buttigieg for his professional and academic credentials. People commonly refer to Buttigieg as “Mayor Pete” due to his current occupation as South Bend, Indiana’s mayor, but he also speaks eight languages, including Norwegian, Maltese and Arabic. Buttigieg received his Bachelor’s Degree from Harvard University in 2003, and soon after completed his postgraduate education as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. Between 2009 and 2017, he also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserves. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has also set him apart as a champion for foreign policy.

Following his speech at the University of Indiana, where he discussed his foreign policy with an emphasis on national security, TIME Magazine referred to Buttigieg as the potential “foreign policy candidate in 2020.” Notably, while most other presidential candidates have only vaguely touched upon their foreign agenda, Buttigieg’s foreign policy has made up a key aspect of his campaign.

Indeed, Buttigieg advocates for organization and forward-thinking; the country’s decisions today will lead the nation and the world in the decades of tomorrow. In his words, “we need a strategy… Not just to deal with individual threats, rivalries, and opportunities, but to manage global trends that will define the balance of this half-century in which my generation will live the majority of our lives.”

This article outlines three key aspects one should know about Pete Buttigieg’s Foreign Policy, with respect to potential effects on global poverty trends and the developing world.

End the Endless War

Buttigieg criticizes the post-9/11 legislation that allows the president to use what they deem necessary military force against any organization who assisted with the terrorist attacks. Specifically, he points out that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) needs major correcting. A former naval intelligence officer himself, he detailed that this blank check that deployed him to Afghanistan needs changing: troops should only enter into conflict with the government’s complete understanding of the issue at hand and the possible consequences of military involvement.

According to Buttigieg, promoting a government that brings power to Congress once again in taking votes on war and peace would ensure a more careful government in its military decisions. This would especially be the case when U.S. involvement concerns vulnerable and severely impoverished countries, like Afghanistan.

Reverse Authoritarianism

Given the severity of conditions in North Korea, Buttigieg assures that he would not take any interactions with the regime lightly. Moreover, he is a clear believer in the liberal international order, which emphasizes democracy and leadership by the U.S. and its allies, as a way to greater ensure peace, prosperity and consequently lower global poverty rates.

Buttigieg believes reversing authoritarianism would require the unapologetic promotion of liberal order ideals. He also claims that the U.S. has lacked a proper foreign policy since the last presidential election, and incorporating the liberal international order and applying it in communications and relations with Russia or North Korea would bring structure to the U.S. foreign agenda.

Rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal

Buttigieg has highlighted that as president, he would make nuclear proliferation and rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, a priority in his foreign policy. The Obama administration first established the agreement in 2015 and worked to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful in exchange for lifted sanctions by Germany and the U.N. Security Council, including the U.S. While the Iran Nuclear Deal and its consequences remain controversial domestically, Buttigieg’s vow to rejoin falls in line with the liberal international order, which stresses international cooperation and alliance, in addition to democracy.

Furthermore, there has been a reported economic crisis in Iran following the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and implemented sanctions. According to Hassan Tajik, director of the Iranian group for the development of international trade, “one of the main problems is the reduction of people’s purchasing and financial capacity, which has brought the population to the edge of poverty.” Rejoining the deal begs the question of a potential change in impoverished conditions in Iran.

While Buttigieg’s speech may not be a Buttigieg Doctrine, he outlines clear priorities in a speech about foreign policy, which may deem him more foreign policy-oriented among the Democratic candidates. Buttigieg’s foreign policy has yet to disclose his complete stances on a range of foreign policy-related issues, but his speech has indicated his desire to involve the U.S. with international affairs in a cooperative, yet cautious manner. As demonstrated, doing so can have a major impact on global poverty trends.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr