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But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (Micah 4:4)

Since our church school closed at the end of 2010, I haven’t held any kind of job. I wasn’t paid for teaching and that was fine. When I returned to El Refugio in 2008 I was blissfully single and not thinking about a wife and certainly not a family. My pittance of a Social Security retirement stipend went into the bank and my expenses were so miniscule that I was saving money almost every month. Whether I was renting a room or a small house I had all the comforts I needed. I bought a TV, a refrigerator, a small propane gas stove, and a microwave. I had my computer, TV, and land line phone for less than $60 a month and that was $20 or $30 more than my rent. I could always find a woman or teenager who would hand-wash my clothes for $5. Food was cheap. The microbus ride to Chalchuapa to shop in the not-so-super-but-adequate market was a quarter each way. I had no car. Didn’t need gasoline, car insurance, or repairs and service. I enjoyed helping individuals and families who were in need and supporting my church with service beyond teaching English and rational thought to kindergarten through sixth grade kids and teaching theory to the docents. In my off hours from our half-day school I visited the sparse service and event attenders, the sick, and the dying. I attended their funerals once they passed. In the early morning I could still jog five kilometers before showering and making my breakfast. In the evenings I would visit with church members or make new friends in the community. I was very active and adapted easily to life in rural El Salvador.

During those years I spent some time learning the courtship procedure according to the culture. I passed more than a few evening at the homes of available women, mostly mothers, but not seriously thinking of starting a relationship in my seventies. I was Hermano (brother) Roger (joyfully mispronounced as “Royer”) and content to sleep alone at night. I was not in a position to be Roger Brown the Kountry King and womanizer par excellence. There was much I had to absorb by osmosis because few would lay out the rules or explain why so many females had children starting in their mid-teens and those children had multiple fathers. It was not for me to judge but certainly went against everything I’d been taught from childhood about family structure.

I was rather astonished at being, how shall I put it, accepted as a perspective beau at my age. The lesson was that although I was old but healthy I was a gringo. Gringo in these parts means “a guy who has more money than 99.9% of the men here in town”. I was keen enough not to let myself get involved with any woman whose concentration was on what my wallet could provide rather than my company and simple conversation. 

As a teacher, I visited my students’ homes as a means of communicating who I was and what I wanted to do for their kids. I also got to know who was really into education and their children’s futures. Most of the homes were without an adult male. There were usually multiple children. Siblings, cousins, and sibling/cousins where a fellow had children by two sisters. All new to me. The mothers did what they could for money. Some cut, carried and sold firewood. Some washed clothes for women who had jobs outside the home. Some sold whatever in the markets of nearby towns. Some worked in the fields sowing, cultivating, and harvesting vegetables, coffee or sugar cane in their season. Others had “husbands” who were in and out of the family’s life and often shared with other “wives”.

Mothers and/or older siblings always accompany their children to school and pick them up afterwards. I rarely saw a father. I engaged the moms in whatever conversation my Spanish permitted to get to know them as people. I did the same when I taught special education and bilingual fourth grade classes in the U.S. I believe in the child-parent-teacher circular relationship in which we are all participants in the child’s development. But I soon found myself singling out women who from appearances and small talk were amiable and made me feel comfortable. I watched them relate to their children and how their children related to me during class hours and outside of class. I learned to see how subtly a woman or even a young child could con me into a dime for a snack (which might be breakfast for the child) or a dollar to take a child to the local clinic before it was all free. Mothers know that kids are cute and a hug will melt a gringo’s heart. This gringo had spent enough time in Mexico and Central America to know how that worked.

But at one house about a mile and a quarter from the church and school, down the highway and up a steep hillside dirt road, lived a woman who impressed me before I had the presence of mind to approach her. Every morning she brought a young boy and a tiny preschool girl to school. Every Noon she was their to take them home. Every afternoon she brought them back for our afternoon program for integral child development. And later she’d be back to pick them up.

She dressed as all the country women dressed. She wore no makeup. Her hair was obviously long and rolled into the traditional bun. Her arms and legs were well muscled and her shoulders were strong. She walked so gracefully, not like a runway model, but like a proud, positive woman. She had a beautiful smile that never seemed to leave her face. I knew nothing about her and it would have been unthinkable to expect someone else to answer my questions about who she was and what was her social status.

I noted she was always the first to volunteer for fiestas, meetings, and whatever the church, school, and afternoon program needed done. In a while I decided to visit her home and bring some toys for her kids. That was always my custom. She had a daughter in the public school and a son about to enter the high school. He was the “man of the house”. They all belonged to a little Pentecostal church nearby while our church was Baptist. At the house I’d be offered water. There was no refrigerator for milk or soda. There was no snack bowl. We talked and the kids played with the toys I’d bring. She knew all about me and the women I’d been seeing. She even knew I was engaged to one (who later broke up with me).

The two younger kids and I played while Margarita and I talked. She had some kind of knowing smile on her face that made me wonder what was up. When I needed someone to wash my clothes I asked her if she was interested. I pointed out that she wouldn’t have to walk all the way home and back on wash days. Before long she was visiting me and I was visiting her.

One day we were talking on the sofa and I teasingly asked her what she would do if a man asked her to marry him. She said she’d take good care of him. I had to think of what that might mean. Words in one culture don’t necessarily mean the same in another I’d learned. I hadn’t really thought about all the ramifications of marrying a woman with four kids. By then she’d told me about their four fathers and why they weren’t with her. She was honest and I appreciated that. She had told me about her conversion from her father’s Catholicism to becoming an evangelical. 

I went to her church several times. There were rarely ten people including the pastor. Margarita always wore long skirts and a white kerchief on her head. I always felt welcome but it was very conservative for a liberal Baptist. Sometimes we’d go to my service in the morning and hers in the afternoon.

In all this time she never asked me for anything. That made a big impression on me. I never once thought that maybe she was just smarter than some of the other women and felt it was wiser to live as they had been living believing that would draw me closer to her and we’d eventually be married and she’d have all of me…and mine.

Women in Central America had approached me on my mission trips to ask me to take their child back to the U.S. when I left or to send clothing or cash when I got home. They were adept at using their kids to butter me up, show me affection, call me papi or tío. Never with Margarita. In fact it bothered me that four-year old Adrianita never seemed comfortable when I’d pick her up. She didn’t cling like other kids. She’d just look towards her mother as if to say, “Uh, how long do I have to do this?” Neither of us pushed her towards accepting me as other than her teacher.

We were married in a civil ceremony according to Salvadoran law in May of 2010. We had a church ceremony six months later. It took us a while to find a house big enough to accommodate six but we finally found one. We stayed there a while until the landlord wanted to sell the house. So we moved to another house but we weren’t really happy there. My dog Duke went to live with my brother-in-law and allegedly ran away. Older son Juan was made to find a job and support himself while daughter Maria moved in with her boyfriend and his family. She’s married now and we have a granddaughter almost a year old. Juan was murdered by gangs while on his job with the town. We’ve now found a perfect house for us with a big yard and both kids have their own room. Luís is now 14 and will enter 9th grade in January. He keeps to himself for the most part but recently has been invited to quinceañera parties and has even participated in some fútbol games. He really loves the sport. Adriana has been and is my princess. She’s taken dancing and ballet lessons and at 12 loves clothes and music videos. I enjoy spoiling her. She’s got a little fluffy dog named Buffy (pronounced “Boofy”) with whom she plays a lot and cares for. I’m trying to get her interested in a free English language program I downloaded for her yesterday.

Margarita works too hard. She takes care of me in ways I never imagined a woman could or would. I love her more each day God gives me. She’s up before I can even wake myself and is still going strong when I’m yawning and craving the solace of our bed and her liniment massages of my aching legs.

I don’t ride my bike as much as I used to before my hernia surgery. I just don’t have the energy nor desire to ride and work out. I spend my time between my laptop, our vegetable and flower gardens, our chickens, and playing with Adriana’s puppy. More often I find myself sitting on a plastic chair in the shade of the güisquil ramada talking to our two miniature chickens or Buffy while peering through the bushes at people passing by on the street. It is so peaceful. Everything growing is green except for the red, pink, purple, orange, and yellow flowers. The tomatoes are red. The sky is light blue. Despite my increasingly expensive battle with a government that doesn’t want educated foreigners as citizens, I am somewhat at peace. Micah was right. I may not have a grape-vine or a fig tree but I have what flourishes here in El Salvador. His prophecy works for me.

 

 

I’m Feeling Like a New Father These Days

10-01-02-buffy

At 80 I’ve been feeling like a new father now that Adriana has a puppy. Buffy is a smart little dog. She understands a sharp NO when she pulls the screen filter I put in the shower drain so I wouldn’t lose my ring now that my weight is down. Likewise when she stops licking my hand and starts nipping at it in puppy play and I say NO, she stops. I’ve been trying to teach Margarita and Adriana to mimic me rather than talk in a sweet high voice like you talk to a baby. Buffy’s been responding to “Good girl!” when she goes outside to do her business. But she’s been seen digging near and under the back gate. Nobody bothered to give her the NO. Rather they just filled in the excavation with the soft dirt or put a large rock in it which then hindered the legal opening of the gate. They think differently here.

I’m not ready to leave Buffy alone in the house. I remember the damage Duke the Wonder Dog did in our first house when left alone. Buffy is much smaller than Duke and she’s more tranquil. She loves to run and chase her ball. She’s content to chew on her rubber duck and a stuffed doll that Adriana gave her. But I’ll feel better once I’m sure she can handle being alone in the house in the morning when the kids are in school and Margarita is visiting her mother or off praying somewhere.

Therefore my biking schedule is in tatters. It’s been shady, cool and relatively comfortable to ride at 7:00 or 8:00 until 11:00 or so when the sun was low. But now the sun is to the south and it gets hotter more quickly. By the time I get home from a later-than-normal start I am exhausted. Now the dry season begins. That means fewer or no clouds to block the sun. No dark rain clouds at all to let the breeze hide the temperature. So if I can’t get out early, I tend not to go out at all. I don’t think I burn quite as many calories pulling weeds or cutting branches from the bushes. I do get to walk Buffy as a break from the computer.

I confess that I enjoy being home with Buffy. We play together little bits at a time. I relish her affection and marvel at her exploits as she investigates her new home and outdoor environment. If I watch TV from my recliner, she’ll try to climb up with her little tail wagging. I have to pick her up. She’ll get on my chest and lick my chin. Then she’ll do an about-face and make herself comfortable between my legs. Sometimes I have to wake her up after a movie is over so I can get up. 

I think the best part of being at home is when Adriana comes home from school. Buffy is so happy and so is my daughter. She picks her pup up and caresses her like a baby. She’ll have such a smile on her face that I want to cry. I am sure that Buffy has strengthened the bond between us and I am happy.

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The Hammock

My memory not being what it used to be isn’t much help in telling me when I got my hammock. I spent a lot of time in Mexico in the eighties and it was either a gift or something I picked up from a hammock maker. It’s made of cloth not much wider than a sneaker’s shoe lace with knots at the joints to keep it sturdy. There are alternating ribbons of green and white. I’m sure I chose those colors to honor the Boston Celtics. They wouldn’t have had scarlet and black for Rutgers. That would have been my first choice. Besides, hammocks are for the yard in the summer shade over green grass and under ovine white clouds. I estimate the hammock to be about thirty years old. In California I had no place to use it so it was packed away as part of my retirement trousseau if I should live so long.

When I was ready to leave that hellish state to hopefully live out my life in El Salvador I optimistically included the hammock among the few precious items I just couldn’t bear to leave behind. For the first fifteen months here I either stayed with friends or rented a room. When I finally found a small cottage for rent I knew the time had come for me to initiate my keepsake. There was an iron grille over a back window and a shade tree a convenient distance away. It was the dry season, the perfect time to think about afternoon siestas after my classes.

I had to wash the hammock after years of storage and dust collecting. It glistened in the tropic sunlight and I felt a rush as I hung it. It was just the right height. I sat upon the welcoming web and gently pushed off to make sure it would hold my weight and not dump me on the ground. It was good. I brought my legs on board and adjusted my body so that my head was higher than my feet. Perfect. It wasn’t long before the breeze was my source of motion and I was lulled to sleep.

There were many afternoons like this. I would have visitors and invite them to enjoy my wonderful hammock. One child especially loved to have me push her while she smiled and laughed as if it were a ride at Disneyland. Until…

One afternoon she was rocking herself on the hammock when suddenly she hit the ground. The window grille was cemented to the brick wall of the house. They don’t use a very strong ratio of cement, sand, and water to their cement here to save money. The cement gave way and the corner of the grille came loose along with the cement that surrounded the mounting and down came the child and the hammock. She was scared but not hurt. I was thankful for that but sad at losing the use of the hammock. Tying it to the other side of the grille would undoubtedly result in the same end. What to do?

Having a rented house with occasional visits from the aging landlord to check his property, I contacted a friend who among his other professions was a mason. He came at his earliest convenience and repaired the damage to the house. But I was afraid to hang the hammock again.

So the hammock went back into storage. By 2010 Margarita and I married and rented a larger house with a covered patio…but no place to hang a hammock. In 2013 we had to move again and our new location also had no place to hang it. We found a better place in 2015 with a large yard but we used most of that for a vegetable garden and chicken pens. Margarita decided to grow a local gourd and built a ramada out of long bamboo poles. That created a decent shaded area and uprights from which I could hang the hammock.

Finally, after having my hernia surgery I can be truly a retired gentleman farmer. I have brass hooks on sturdy plates which I’ve screwed into the bamboo. I had to reinstall them a few times to get the hammock at the right height. It was ready for testing. Oh, oh! My creaky old knees wouldn’t let me slowly squat to put my weight on it. I asked Margarita to test it. Lo and behold it stretched to within a couple of inches of the cement septic tank cover.

So this morning I found the right height and reinstalled the hammock hopefully for the last time. I didn’t sit on it but pressed it down with my hands putting all my weight on it. It was just right. But one of the ribbons had broken. I imagine being cloth it aged and weakened. I tied a knot and pressed it again. It seems just fine. I had to move a hanging plant to allow it to move to and fro as a good hammock should. Now I need to go outside and offer it my body.

We went outside to take photographs of the hammock and me in it. The first part went just fine. Adriana and Margarita held the hammock open and I took the picture.

03-28 01 Adriana holding the hammock.

Adriana holding the hammock open for its photo.

 

Then I got myself on to the hammock for Adriana to take my picture. I reviewed with her how to do it and she positioned herself for the magic moment. But the ribbons started to rip one by one and suddenly I was on the ground with Margarita behind me her arms under my armpits.

03-28 02 Roger as the hammock ribbons broke and  I hit the ground.

Roger the moment the hammock hit the ground.

 

 I told Adriana to take the photo. I had a big smile on my face…so I thought. What I didn’t know was that she took the perfect picture. She wasn’t sure she was pushing the right button and there was no picture on the screen. While she was blah-blahing to her mother the camera shut off and I had to show her again how to turn it on. She kept talking and by the time she was ready the camera was off. She didn’t know she had taken a third photo.

03-28 03 Margarita giving me moral support.

Margarita giving me moral support when I needed physical support to get up.

 

By now I’m confused and telling her to push the correct button. But it got to be to much of stupidity and I decided to hell with it. I got up and threw the hammock in the garbage. So much for the thirty-year wait.

There are plenty of locals who walk the streets selling hammocks. With a little luck I’ll find one I like someday and try it again. Meanwhile, I’ll just have to sit in the shade on a plastic lawn chair.

 

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 790 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Diagnosing El Salvador’s Snowden Syndrome

In the U.S we’ve heard a lot about whistle blowers and how they’re being dealt with. Heroes or traitors? Here is El Salvador’s version of the Edward Snowden affair.

Diagnosing El Salvador’s Snowden Syndrome

This is a story about El Salvador‘s Edward Snowdens, a group of police officers under investigation for leaking confidential documents, even as authorities refuse to investigate the head of the country’s powerful Texis Cartel.

Recently, journalists from two Salvadoran media outlets had access to a judicial proceeding for which the Attorney General had requested absolute confidentiality. The two outlets — El Diario de Hoy and Diario 1 — published details about the leaked case: criminal accusations against four police officers, former agents of the Police Intelligence Center (CIP) that Attorney General Luis Martinez accused of “disclosure of facts, actions, or secret documents by an official employee.”

15-10-29-ElSalvador-Chepe-Snowden  Chepe Diablo

This is a story of how the Attorney General chose to prosecute police who investigated members of the Texis Cartel, a Salvadoran drug trafficking organization, before prosecuting the head of this criminal group, businessman Jose Adan Salazar Umaña, alias “Chepe Diablo.” For the policemen, the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has asked for prison sentences. For Chepe Diablo — who the Obama administration designated an international drug kingpin in 2014 — freedom and exoneration. Something similar happened with Edward Snowden, the former employee of the US National Security Agency who leaked information about that agency’s abuses. In that case, Washington initially decided to pursue him before those officials that were responsible for, among other things, spying on their fellow citizens.

This story was translated, edited for clarity, and reprinted with permission from Revista Factum. See the original Spanish version here.

Last August, El Salvador’s Attorney General’s Office rejected the idea of prosecuting Chepe Diablo for money laundering. After performing an analysis of the available information in reference to the document 22-UIF-2015, the resolution was issued ordering the file to be closed…reads a letter signed on August 24 by Tovias Armando Menjivar, head of the FGR’s Financial Investigation Unit.

Tovias and the FGR made the decision after asking Salvadoran financial institutions about Salazar Umaña, Wilfredo Guerra Umaña, and the business Gumarsal, who have all been linked to the Texis Cartel by journalistic investigations.

Eleven months before Tovias Menjivar signed the letter of exoneration, one of his subordinates, Mario Antonio Huezo Cortez, signed an order to open investigations into Salazar Umaña in order “to determine the existence of the crime of money laundering,” according to a document dated September 23, 2014 and annexed to the file 47-2014-1/EGU, which was opened by the Tenth Court of Instruction of San Salvador.

In that memo, prosecutor Huezo Cortez states the case of Salazar Umaña has “facts that infer the occurrence of activities related to money laundering.”

Moreover, in annexes to criminal proceeding 47-2014-1/EGU, in September 2014 prosecutors assure that, “thanks to the audits conducted, it was identified they moved via bank accounts or accounting records large amounts of money whose origins were unjustified. That is, we have capital from unknown sources… The explanations provided by the audited persons are illogical, for the unreasonable or unlawful purposes of the operations of those mentioned, which were distorted by tax authorities.” (In addition to Guerra Umaña and Gumarsal, the other person audited is the mayor of the municipality of Metapan, Juan Samayoa.)

Curiously, Huezo Cortez and the other prosecutors concluded there was sufficient merit to discuss money laundering charges “after reviewing” the financial accounts of Salazar Umaña. However, the conclusion reached by Tovias Menjivar, head of the UIF, after reviewing the same accounts a year later is that there are no signs of money laundering.

In July 2014, the US newspaper El Nuevo Herald published an investigation that cited “high level sources” from the Superintendent of the Salvadoran Financial System. It asserted Salazar Umaña had infiltrated this state institution to conceal his financial transactions through credit unions.

On September 17, 2015, six days before Huezo Cortez asked to definitively dismiss the money laundering case against “Chepe Diablo,” his boss, Attorney General Luis Martinez, replied evasively to questions from Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica about the Salazar Umaña case. Martinez hinted that it was an open case against Salazar Umaña for money laundering. Yet the UIF’s chief called for the dismissal of the investigation a few days after the attorney general’s conversation with the newspaper.

Factum magazine asked the attorney general’s press office for an interview with Tovias Menjivar to explain the decision. (See tweet below) There was no response.

 

This chronicle of double standards, misleading statements, and truncated investigations is, however, only part of this story. The Texis Cartel, Chepe Diablo, Attorney General Martinez and his prosecutors are also protagonists in another chapter. That chapter has to do with the police who opened the criminal prosecution against the drug trafficking organization.

The Investigation Begins

(The following paragraphs are adapted from a story written by the author in November 2012 about the first capture of Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez, a member of the Texis Cartel, in February 2011.)

“Take care of the boy and sell everything we have,” the man said to his spouse via cell phone. It was the voice of a “scared” and “resigned” man, an agent assigned to the Police Intelligence Center told me on February 17, 2011. It was after 3:30pm on that day when Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez, alias “El Burro,” grabbed the phone to alert his wife that he was under arrest, and that the police were taking digital fingerprints to confirm he was the same person wanted by the FBI for various crimes related to the theft of vehicles and their illegal sale in California and Texas.

The operation had begun in one of Herrera Hernandez’s houses in western El Salvador with a monitoring unit that had located the green Toyota pick-up truck with plates P235-804, property of El Burro, parked in front of a building with a white façade, red doors, and exposed brick. Four police intelligence agents were waiting around 50 meters from the building.

The operation lasted nearly the entire morning. The CIP agents detained El Burro in a side street near Zapotitan. They told him they had to bring him to the PNC laboratory to confirm his fingerprints.

Herrera Hernandez had been a fugitive from US law enforcement since June 19, 2003, when prosecutors in Texas accused him of heading a criminal group that moved stolen cars between Texas and California. In 2005, El Burro was convicted in absentia on eight charges of interstate automobile theft. According to one of the witnesses in this trial (criminal proceeding 4:03-cr-00230-1), Herrera was “the leader of the organization.” It was because of this arrest warrant issued by the court for the southern district of Texas on July 14, 2003 that the CIP detained El Burro in Zapotitan.

Just before 3:00pm on February 17, 2011, the CIP police received from US police a document with the fingerprints of the man the Texas court wanted. The prints were the same. But, in the end, the arrest warrant, according to US agents, was not legally valid. El Burro was free.

The brief capture was registered in at least two of the proceedings police intelligence have for Roberto Herrera Hernandez since 2008, when the director of the National Civil Police (PNC) was Commissioner Jose Luis Tobar Prieto.

Texis Cartel and Persecution (Against the Police)

On May 16, 2011, digital newspaper El Faro published a thorough investigation that cites three intelligence reports from high-level officials from the PNC and the administration of former President Mauricio Funes revealing the existence of the Texis Cartel, of which Roberto Antonio Herrera Hernandez and Jose Adan Salazar Umaña were alleged members.

While inaugurating a journalist forum organized by El Faro, Funes confirmed his administration investigated this drug trafficking structure in the northwest of the country, and that these and other drug traffickers had infiltrated the Salvadoran government.

In a report published in 2012, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said two important drug trafficking structures exist in El Salvador: the Texis Cartel in the northwest, and Los Perrones in the east. The report says both structures have state protection, echoing what Funes had said.

Various police chiefs, judges, congressmen, and lawyers are named in El Faro’s report. This includes Police Commissioners Douglas Omar Garcia Funes and Victor Rodriguez Peraza, and Congressman Reynaldo Cardoza (who was investigated for money laundering after a publication on the excessive growth of his assets). Other journalistic investigations have added more names, like Commissioner Hector Raymundo Mendoza Cordero and Congressman Cordero Rivera Wilver Monge, also arrested and currently on trial for laundering drug money.

Attorney General Luis Martinez ordered the arrest of Roberto Herrera for trafficking vehicles between El Salvador and Guatemala. But he never went after Chepe Diablo, the man that assistant prosecutors say they had sufficient evidence for money laundering. He is also the man the UN described as the leader of the Texis Cartel, and who the White House designated an international drug kingpin.

SEE ALSO: Texis Cartel News and Profile

Instead, Luis Martinez went after some of the officers involved in the 2011 operation, when the Salvadoran police first captured El Burro and began untangling the web of the Texis Cartel’s operations. These police officers were not accused of corruption, but leaking classified information.

On October 15, prior to the preliminary hearing against the police officers scheduled for the end of the month, El Diario de Hoy entitled an article: “Four Officers Tried for Manipulating Information,” even though the charge is for leaking documents.

Based on the testimonies of unidentified agents, the article states that the CIP wrote up a document that mentions Burro Herrera, Misael Cisneros (alias “Medio Million,” also linked to the Texis Cartel), and unidentified police chiefs.

The article — which has several sections citing the court documents that were supposed to be sealed — concludes: “Public security authorities have taken no punitive action against any of the four accused officers, although the prosecution has presented a range of evidence implicating them, sources consulted by El Diario de Hoy explained.”

That is to say, El Diario de Hoy wrote an article about police officers accused of leaking information — not manipulating, this crime does not exist — to an “electronic news outlet” that was not identified by name. And to create this article the newspaper relies on a document a judge had ordered sealed, implying it was leaked to journalists, and also quotes unidentified police sources. Similar articles appeared in La Pagina and Diario 1. But these publications said little to nothing about the legal accusations against the Texis Cartel.

The electronic media outlet that published the first and most comprehensive investigation into the Texis Cartel is El Faro. Revista Factum contacted Oscar Martinez, editor of El Faro’s Sala Negra section, when the text was published to discuss their research.

The article by El Diario de Hoy mentions El Faro without naming it, and by doing so questions the investigation into the Texis Cartel. I’m not interested in learning about your sources, just to hear your comments on the investigative process…

The investigation was a four-month process that involved three full-time reporters. This is not the first time a subject has given rise to a discussion about whether or not it was merely a leak by people within police intelligence. I think that interested parties often assess the text without reading it thoroughly. This text is based on three different reports, and I must say that not all come from the police. The first is from the year 2000, and the reports were produced during three different administrations and under five different police chiefs.

Apart from that there are active sources, including one linked to the police, that talk about how they protected shipments on orders from people whose names they do give. The investigation into the Texis Cartel was not just based on reports, although these were a cornerstone of the investigation. Following up, because several materials were published after, there are several actors speaking “on the record” regarding the publication, as former Interior Minister Rene Figueroa eventually did. It is an investigation that strongly demonstrates something that later convictions confirmed: the state has believed, for over 15 years, that a group exists which dominates the route called El Caminito to conduct various crimes, mostly related to drug trafficking and money laundering. They — and three administrations — have believed this, but have been unable to arrest those who are considered to be the leaders of this criminal group.

I’ll add something else. Journalists constantly receive leaks. Our job is to sort through them and try to determine what is true and what isn’t. That is what we did with the Texis Cartel.

What do you think of the case against the CIP policemen? To pursue investigators and not Chepe Diablo?

Regarding the proceedings against the police, which I’ve kept tabs on via the media, it seems to me some people within the police and Attorney General’s Office have an interest in conducting a witch hunt for those responsible for the leaks. To me this makes little sense. And I get the impression they did not put the same zeal into pursuing those the state has believed for over a decade are directing a criminal group that has managed to infiltrate the police at a very high level. As well as [infiltration in] the political realm, mainly in the western part of the country but also on a national level.

And what of news reports on the subject?

I do not quite understand what the indictment is, because the articles are very simple and do not explain what is happening. I understand that total discretion regarding the process is intended to impede the press from fully documenting what is happening in this case against the policemen, who they believe leaked some information. I suppose they refer to our investigation into the Texis Cartel, but I infer this because the articles do not say.

***

In July of last year, an official from the US Department of Justice that has closely followed the investigations into the Texis Cartel said: “There is still a lot of money he [Salazar Umaña] cannot justify. That is the most important [aspect of] this investigation.” Attorney General Luis Martinez does not think the same. For the attorney general, it is more important to investigate those who investigated the Texis Cartel: a kind of tropical Edward Snowden syndrome.

**Hector Silva Avalos is a Research Fellow at American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino Studies and the editor of Revista Factum, an online media outlet that focuses on El Salvador.

Oh, the Humanity!

Social scientists, philosophers, and theologians have written volumes with definitions and descriptions of humanity and what makes mankind different from other primates, mammals, and other animal organisms. Scientists compare us with chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. They examine behaviors such as grooming, caring for their young, dominance and hierarchies, interpersonal relationships, territorialism, violence, and inter-clan belligerence. Philosophers from differing cultures cite moral conduct that will lead to peaceful lives among people. St. Paul, in chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians defines love and what its antitheses are. Christian doctrine cites Jesus of Nazareth as the epitome of humanness including his upturning of the moneychangers’ tables in anger with their defiling God’s house. Christ has been preached for two thousand years as the perfect person. Then we read or watch the daily news, editorial blogs, and Facebook posts.

I have to wonder how after tens of thousands of years on this planet we have not yet learned to live together without clashing on personal and large-group levels. Is there really any hope for homo sapiens? Are we doomed to be more homo than sapient? For all the articles and books written by those who study human kind our behavior shows that we can’t agree on basics such as the sanctity of life.

As societies have evolved from hunter-gatherers to what we are today in our different forms around the globe, and our clubs and stone tipped spears have become nuclear weapons, heat-seeking devices, and drones, we still have those who seek to dominate lands and their inhabitants by rock throwing, by mass migration, and by the most potent weapon of all, fear.

When we place side by side the writings of the sages and the news of the day we find extreme dissonance.  One party feels entitled to some land and the other party feels just as strongly. One party feels its religion is the true religion and it is imperative to enforce it on other parties whose beliefs teach that theirs is the one and only way…but we’ll tolerate others’ beliefs. That makes us the better humans. One party feels that by organizing it can dominate businesses, the economy in general, and even the government.

Humans, when they had no other explanation or excuse for conditions, blessed or blamed a god or gods for putting them in charge or casting them in a subservient role. The Divine Right of Kings and Manifest Destiny are just two of the terms that come to my mind when I consider the justifications employed in conquering, enslaving, and destroying people, cultures, and nations over the millennia. Tribal chiefs, kings, presidents, religious leaders and dictators have taken power to the limits throughout history. And while we have walked on the Moon and contemplate visiting planets we have not learned to live together on Earth any better today than in 10,000 BCE. The technology which has enabled us to communicate with almost anyone on the planet in seconds should have brought us closer together. Our purported common desire for peace and good will among our kind seems to get lost in attempts to apply the practices to achieve a global community.

In my old age I’ve become a pessimist. I accept Bob Dylan’s conclusion that the answers are blowing in the wind. As I approach my personal demise I welcome the day I will depart from this sad and futile existence. In the meantime I will weep for my grandchildren and their descendants whom I will never know. Despite all of mankind’s technical advances, discoveries, inventions and explorations we have not moved any further along socially since we shared the planet with Neanderthals. Humanity? Where is it?

 

The Farmer in the Dell

One of the goals I have aimed for in El Salvador was to have a piece of property apt for a garden. During my first trip to Nicaragua we worked on a farm/training center teaching groups from small, rural communities about having home gardens for growing table vegetables for the nourishment they provide. While everyone here puts every speck of land into corn and beans, I decided to find foods we can enjoy other than those two staples. Margarita brought some guisquil, known to me from my Mexico days as chayote, down from her old house in Casa Blanca and its vines are snaking up our papaya tree and in among our bushes.

Guisquil o Chayote A popular gourd in soups.

Guisquil o Chayote
A popular gourd in soups.

The local agroservicio, the store for farmers where we buy our chicks, only had a few choices in seeds. I bought a little plastic baggie of radish and one of cucumber. I still can’t find anyone who sells tomato or green pepper plants or any plants at all. My intention was to ask Margarita where would be the best place in the yard to sow these colorful seeds and then get to work. But it’s different here. She went into a lengthy speech using western El Salvador farmer vocabulary that might as well have been in Greek–if the Greek economy were worth a drachma (just like the Salvadoran economy isn’t worth a colon). It included varas de Brasil and other forms of vegetation in order to construct a ramada which I thought was something for the cukes to climb on. Then she mentioned sand and black dirt which was plentiful in Casa Blanca. Casa Blanca is a community with many natural resources but toilets and Internet connections are not among them. She said she’d ask son-in-law Milton if he’d drive all these things down to our house. This happened two days ago. When he pulled up to our back gate I thought he’d brought part of the jungle down from the hills with him. He proceeded to carry these twenty-plus foot green grass trunks into the yard. Eight in all. Then there was one what I’d describe as a fat, hollow bamboo trunk that could be used for a drain pipe. He stacked some fern-like branches on top of the other bamboo. Finally he very gingerly unloaded two plastic grocery bags of wet sand and one of the blackest dirt I’ve ever seen. Remember, Central America is an isthmus on a large seismic fault and part of a chain of volcanoes that over the eons has provided some of the richest volcanic soil in the tropics if not the world.   Sometimes it’s difficult-to-impossible for Margarita to stay on task. Her OCD husband doesn’t stop one task to begin another until the first is satisfactorily completed. So yesterday she taught me how to build a ramada, which is basically a crude shelter made of branches.

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Chiquero, Ramada, & Young chicken pen

She cut the large poles with a small hand saw to a height that wasn’t much over my head. In some she used the machete to hack a groove in one end to contain the cross polls. Then she lashed the corners with baling wire and announced the structure was built. I tossed the thin branches with what must be leaves on top and wondered why it was thus. It offered no shade like banana leaves and I couldn’t picture cucumbers climbing up it. But I’m a gringo and what do I know? That’s why I have Margarita–to explain things to me. But once that was done she went in to take a shower and go to church. That left me wondering about the radishes and the cucumbers. I decided to also take a shower and to spend a relaxing afternoon with my precious princess listening tell me corny kid jokes, ask me riddles with double meanings that you’d have to have been brought up here to understand, and ultimately watching a romance and crime movie starring members of a Mexican band that was popular in the eighties.

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Ramada from below

So this morning I’m up early and all jazzed to continue the work. Margarita had retied the clothesline we had to loosen to get the ramada built but that was so she could hang the clothes that spent the night in the washer. The hose had been run into the house yesterday to the washer even though the water inside the house was enjoying one of its two workdays per week and the hose could have been connected to the pila a few feet away.

Ramada and Milpa.

Ramada and Milpa.

I was all up for attacking the work at hand from the day before. Margarita retied the clothes line we’d had to take down to build the ramada. I had to wait for her to get home from walking our daughter to school before I could get her to sit and tell me what I was to do with the seeds. Again I had to silence her as she was going to show me what to do in one spot when she wanted it in another spot ten feet away on another wall. I stopped her again asking why she demonstrates in one place in lieu of the other. I told her she confuses me and I come away with nothing from her instructions. Furthermore, if she gives me all the instructions at once I won’t remember them all or the sequence.

I took the nearby bricks and made a rectangular wall. She helped me pour the two bags of sand into the box and I leveled them. Then she took a portion of the black soil and spread that on top of the sand. She told me to sow about four rows. THAT I didn’t need too much help for. Then I moved over to the adjacent piece of land and began to chop it up as it was dry. This would be my cucumber bed. I have a real rake as opposed to the home-made pick axe from Casa Blanca and I raked the soil as fine as possible and removed the stones.

New Radish Bed

New Radish Bed

I Googled ‘how to plant cucumbers’ and got some advice from “The Farmer’s Almanac”, Burpees Seeds, and a couple of videos on YouTube. I decided I had space for three rows in four columns. Good enough for a family of four. I have plenty of both seeds left over. I still want tomatoes.

Cucumber bed with radish bed in background.

Cucumber bed with radish bed in background.

Part of the fun of gardening is the waiting. What will come up and when? Will subterranean monsters feast on the seedlings, stems, leaves, and blossoms before I reap my harvest? Will we ever get a normal rainfall in this part of El Salvador?