Around the Region

Our Around the Region program included Honduras, El Salvador, and Ecuador. It focuses on political and democratic changes in the region, and how they affect – or should affect –U.S. policy toward the Hemisphere.

We examine developments in governance, constitutional reform, the role of women in leadership, and efforts by popular movements to change the political and economic arrangements in their nations through democratic processes.

We have reported on constitutional reform in Ecuador and Venezuela and the election of Mauricio Funes of the FMLN in El Salvador. Please see our reporting below for our work on El Salvador.

El Salvador Update

(El Salvador- Resumen)

The El Salvador Update, written by Linda Garrett, records and provides expert analysis of political, social, economic, human rights, and security developments in El Salvador, and in U.S.-El Salvador relations.

CDA is unique among NGOs – for its comprehensive reporting on El Salvador and its effort to provide analysis for policymakers in Washington.  For example, each update – since the beginning of the truce between El Salvador’s two largest gangs in March 2012 – has included a chronology of the month’s developments in the truce and ongoing peace process. The truce has not only saved lives in El Salvador by sharply reducing the homicide rate, but the actions behind it may contain lessons for reducing violence and increasing security in ways that merit attention.

CDA began monitoring developments in El Salvador in 2009 during the run-up to the election of President Mauricio Funes of the FMLN.  Much of the work is being done by Linda Garrett,  CDA’s senior policy analyst on El Salvador.

Linda’s extensive work related to El Salvador began over thirty years ago, including one decade she spent in El Salvador documenting human rights, social, political, and military developments. During her time as a consultant to the United Nations-sponsored Truth and Ad-Hoc Commissions and an investigator for the 1994 UN Commission on illegal armed groups, she wrote and anonymously published two books on human rights, as well as contributed to the Salvadoran magazine Tendencias.

Her peerless analysis is supported by executive director, Sarah Stephens, who connects the El Salvador work to CDA’s network in Congress; advisory board member, Héctor Silva, an independent journalist, academic and former Salvadoran diplomat; and consultant, Cynthia Curtis, all whom have long histories with El Salvador.

Click images below to read the El Salvador Update on our website.


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The First Year: A Chronology of the Gang Truce and Peace Process in El Salvador

Since March of 2012, El Salvador has experienced an unprecedented drop in violence due to a truce between the country’s two largest street gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18. Exceeding many early expectations, the truce has lasted over a year, and evolved to encompass a broader peace process within Salvadoran society.

Here, we present our chronology of the process compiled over the last year, which details this historic series of events. The chronology provides a more complete picture of the process as it developed day-by-day during the first year: from the original confusing, contradictory versions of its creation, to the various commitments and good-will gestures offered by gang leaders. The truce’s advances and setbacks are chronicled, alongside the suspicions and distrust expressed by many Salvadorans.  It also records the critical support provided by the Organization of American States (OAS).  Finally, the chronology helps us understand the motivations of the facilitators and gang leaders. It gives us a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of young people who are struggling to find a way out of tumultuous lives of poverty, crime and often unspeakable violence.

This chronology, focused on the gang truce and peace process, complements CDA’s extensive coverage of developments in El Salvador. It is CDA’s hope that the full telling of this story will encourage the debate and reflection, already underway in El Salvador, about the issues of exclusion and poverty, so closely connected to the causes of and solutions for the violence. The human dimensions highlighted here are crucial when considering policy choices; choices that heavily impact the lives of so many Salvadorans, not only in El Salvador but also in the diaspora. The Salvadoran government faces the challenges of developing a coherent public policy, that recognizes the possibility of human transformation from criminal to productive lives, and providing resources to implement that policy. If successful, the peace process could perhaps be the most significant legacy of the current government. PDF version available here.

Expectations for Change and the Challenges of Governance: The First Year of President Mauricio Funes

funes book coverOur report on the first year of the Funes administration was published in September 2010, and we are offering an electronic version of the printed report in English and Spanish (“Las expectativas para el cambio y los retos de la gobernabilidad: El primer año del presidente Mauricio funes“). We are also providing expanded access to our notes and interviews in the version available here.

This document was carefully researched and written by Linda Garrett.  CDA is fortunate to be working with Ms. Garrett, who focuses exclusively on political developments in the country, and whose involvement with El Salvador dates to 1981.

Prior to publication, Ms. Garrett, and Sarah Stephens, CDA’s executive director, spent a combined sixty-seven days in El Salvador since the 2009 election.  The research reflects what we learned in El Salvador during ninety-eight meetings, and from interviews conducted with more than seventy key players (left, right, and center) who collectively are writing this latest chapter in their country’s history.

CDA’s board member Collin Laverty, and Patricio Zamorano, our senior analyst, were integral to our research efforts in El Salvador and to the editing process. Mr. Zamorano and Inés Yáñez translated our report into Spanish.  We also benefited from the support of Kendra Seymour and David Dreyer as well as from our interns: Cathy Marques, Sarit Gluz, and Anna Schickele.