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First Post from the Team El Salvador: Background/Overview

All politics in El Salvador today have their roots in the 12-year civil war of the 80s and 90s. Few American have much idea of how bad that war was, aside from the fact that something like 80,000 people got killed.

Furthermore, Americans don't remember the WAY they died -- but Salvadoreños do. The right-wingers, who were either government forces or had establishment links, had killing squads that killed and disappeared people in distressing numbers. Torture before death was routine. Ditto rape. High-school boys were drafted - or shot. Families were killed if it was even suspected that a member was a guerrilla. Whole villages were obliterated, inhabitants massacred and buildings razed. Guerrillas killed right-wingers too, but the government squads were the most feared.

During the Civil War, fear ruled everyone. We know more supporters of guerrillas got killed by the right wing than the other way around simply because of the figures: if the killings were equal, 40,000 would have died on each side, but we know that the deaths were disproportionate; many, many more peasants and middle class left wing supporters died than soldiers or right-wingers.

The two main political parties today are ARENA, and FMLN. When the peace accord was signed in 1992, the right wing establishment became ARENA and the guerrillas became FMLN. As you can imagine, there´s very little trust between them.

Since the peace accord, there´s been more freedom, more mobility, and a gradual increase in the capacity to ensure fair and transparent elections. We attended a talk by a civil-rights lawyer who told us that we couldn´t even have had such a meeting during the war years.

In the last five years, for example, there have been other reforms as well. One allows for Salvadoreños living abroad to vote by absentee ballot and the other, called residential voting, ensures that more Salvadoreños can vote near where they live. In the past, many country people had to travel long distances to vote, which was a real hardship for them. Also, there were reports of wide-spread voter fraud -- busloads of Guatemalans with false papers, for example, who were being paid to vote. With more local voting places, not only can more country people vote, but it will be easier to check up on Anyone with a Guatemalan accent.
Press conference announcing the Election Monitoring 

This is where the election monitoring comes in. The Salvadoreños are confident that they can have better elections than some in the past; that they can identify non-Salvadoreños and curb fraudulent voting; that they can resist the pressures to buy and sell votes. We monitors will be there to testify to the world that the Salvadoreños did it themselves, and did it right. We´ll also stay for the vote-counting, so we can testify as to the results, at least locally.

There aren't enough of us to blanket the country. But we´ll be a presence. And it´s heartening for us to see how genuinely enthusiastic and hopeful for the future the Salvadoreños are.

Not that the elections will solve all of El Salvador´s problems. But they´re one of the steps on the road to a stable and peaceful future.

Meta Peace Team - El Salvador Election Monitoring Team Arrives Safely

Thanks for your interest in the work of Meta Peace Team providing accompaniment, conflict de-escalation, and nonviolent action around the world.  Our new team has landed safely in country and connected with our hosts.

As you may know, MPT sent it's first team to El Salvador this month, to participate in International Election Monitoring.  For this project, we have partnered will longstanding human rights organization, SHARE El Salvador.

For this short-term team, watch for their posts on our blog here, MPTinPalestine.blogspot.com.  Longer-term teams have their own blogs, but to make it easier for you to find posts, you'll be able to read this team's reports right here.

Also, be sure to meet other volunteers from SHARE and get reports about the work at: http://www.share-elsalvador.org/category/blog.


Teams Coordinator


El Salvador Election Team -- new member Cathy Lester

Hi, my name is Cathy Lester and I'm going to be part of the MPT team going to El Salvador in the winter to help SHARE Foundation in election monitoring and possibly (if the goons show up) do some third-party non-violent intervention.

I'm from Grayling, up in the Northern half of the Lower Peninsula, but I've lived most of my life overseas, where I taught English as a Foreign Language and then lived in the UK with my British ex-husband. I learned Spanish in Colombia -- am fairly fluent but a bit chagrined that I can understand Colombians with the greatest of ease but when I listen to Salvadoreños on YouTube I have trouble following them!

I apologize for not getting on this earlier, but I've been involved in trying to a) have Christmas, b) get my Christmas letters sent, c) finish some blogs for the Traverse city Record-Eagle blogsite, from my China trip in the fall, d) do a lot of ski patrolling at the local ski park over the holidays, and e) organize some MPT fundraisers.

The first fundraiser was at home, a cookie-decorating party (Christmas cut-out cookies, lots of frosting and sugar sprinkles). It was fun and actually garnered a bit of dough.

The second one was this last Sunday -- the local theater, The Rialto, in Grayling offered to put on an event and we got a documentary called "The Tiniest Place." It's about a village in the Salvadorean mountains that was literally annihilated during the Civil War, and how the people gradually came back and rebuilt. The narrative is told by the villagers themselves, who were very low-key, not trying to dramatize anything - but some of their experiences were so harrowing you don't wonder that a lot of them still suffer from anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, and so on. Still, it's a heartwarming film, and you see how the villagers have helped and supported each other. One guy looks sad throughout the entire film, but then at the end his cow successfully delivers a calf, and with the release of tension you see a big delighted smile, like that's the happy person he may have been before all the bloodshed.

Peter Dougherty came up to Grayling for the film. He spoke before the screening, and then afterwards we adjourned to a local church basement, where Fr. Peter was able to explain about non-violent intervention. We had smaller numbers than I'd hoped for but the ones who were there were interested and involved.

I'm hoping for a much bigger crowd for the third fund-raiser, a Spaghetti Dinner to be held at Hanson Hills, where they know me because that's where I'm on the ski patrol.

I am looking forward greatly to being a part of the MPT team!


2014 Elections Observation Delegation January 28 – February 4, 2014  
**Election Day is February 2nd**

Let me introduce myself. My name is Pat and I am a retired nurse, mother and grandmother, who has traveled extensively in Central America (CA), although this will be my first trip to El Salvador, and my second MPT international experience. My Spanish is typically understood by the kind respectful people I’ve met; however, I’m sure that my High School teachers are shaking their heads at my grammar! Fortunately SHARE is providing us with translators and the other MPT teamer speaks Spanish, so we should be more than okay.

This will be my first experience with election monitoring as well as with blogging, so I appreciate your patience as we try to explain what we see happening. It is exciting for me to be going and be with the people themselves, and begin to get to know them at a different level, than I do as a tourist. As a tourist, I’ve often seen beautiful sites, ate great interesting foods, and made friends. This time, I expect that it will be different. As we are invited into the lives of some   salvadoreños (Salvadorans), I should learn about them and about myself. I hope to contribute by being in solidarity with them. Whether or not or exactly how we contribute is TBD.  I know, though, that I will grow as a person, and I do hope that I will be able to communicate back to you more about the people and their election.  

Background: El Salvador is the smallest, but most densely populated country in Central America. About the size of Massachusetts, there are over 7 million people in El Salvador which is bordered on the north by Guatemala, the south by Honduras, and the west by the Pacific Ocean.


MPT Recruiting Now for Special Palestine Team: Freedom Bus and Bilin Conference

We invite you to join us for a very special Peace Team in the West Bank this Spring!  There are still a few weeks to apply for a special MPT Peace Team to Palestine, coming up in March/April 2014 (exact dates TBD).  Full training is included, and no prior experience is required.

Our volunteers have been invited to participate in the Freedom Bus nonviolent action against the military Occupation of Palestine and human rights violations.  More information about the Freedom Bus can be found here: http://www.freedombus.ps/.

If dates coincide, we will also participate again in the yearly Bilin Conference (read about it here: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/details.php?id=18m0msa5233y6qp7vdjh1).

Now is the time to apply, as training starts in January.  We'd love to have individuals or groups apply now.

For more information on participating with MPT on this or other teams, contact NicoleR.MPT@gmail.com, and request information or an application.

MPT First Team to El Salvador Preparing to Deploy

As we plan our next team to Palestine, our first Peace Team to El Salvador will be deploying shortly.  They will be cooperating with a large international effort to provide Election Monitoring in the upcoming national democratic elections in El Salvador.

MPT is very pleased to announce that we are partnering with local organizers SHARE (http://www.share-elsalvador.org/) to make this new team possible.

MPT Teamers, the International Policy Committee, MPT Staff and volunteers have been working hard for over 9 months to make this team possible -- we thank our Teamers who are getting ready to deploy now for their hard work and dedication!

Watch for introductions to our El Salvador Team and posts about their field experiences here on our blog, to keep you reading, as well as updates about the Palestine Teams forming for Spring.

Thanks for reading!