Delegation to El Salvador

By Nancy Caccamo
San Francisco de Asis Blog
February 2, 2010

San Francisco de Asis: 30th Anniversary of Passionists

San Francisco de Asis: 30th Anniversary of Passionists

Nancy Caccamo and Kathy Woods were part of a delegation led by Father Jerry Waris to El Salvador January 12 -19, 2010.

Meeting with Vice-President of El Salvador: Father Jerry Waris, Nancy Caccamo, Kathy Woods, CIS [Rev. Shawn Ratigan in back row, right]

Nancy reports: A delegation representing three parishes traveled to El Salvador: St. Patrick’s: Fr. Shawn Ratigan (new pastor), Fr. Jerry Waris (former pastor, now retired); Our Lady of the Presentation: Rex Scott
(Business Manager), Rex’s adult children, Ashley Salisbury & DannyScott; St. Peter’s: Kathy Woods and Nancy Caccamo.

We spent several days in the countryside as we visited Estanzuelas (St.Patrick’s) and San Rafael Cedros (Presentation), visited San Francisco de Asís and attended the 30th anniversary celebration of the Passionist
priests and met with the Vice-President in his role as Minister of Education. I have attached somw notes that I gathered from several meetings.

There are several websites that have information about the current situation in El Salvador. If you don’t already read them, you may want to take a look at the following. They all provide good information.

Myfavorite is Tim’s Blog. (You can access their newslettersfrom website.)

Notes from January 12 – January 19 Delegation to El Salvador

Sources: Leslie Schuld, Director of CIS


The Legislative Assembly is configured differently now. In December, the Arena party split. Twelve deputies were expelled from the party and some are now voting in alliance with the FMLN. There is a 13% sales tax across the board, no property tax and little income tax. However, because of the new government, reforms now have a chance.

Tuition in the public schools has been eliminated. The government will now provide each child with one pair of shoes, uniforms and some school supplies. The National University is still within reach of the poor because there is a sliding scale for tuition.

There is much hope at the present time, but there are obstacles. The policies in the last 20 years such as privatization of utilities caused the costs of basic services to rise. Because of CAFTA, it is cheaper to buy beans/rice from the US. Local farmers have no work.

Exploitation of natural resources:

There is a movement to privatize water.

The former president signed a contract with Pacific Rim to mine gold in poor areas—Cabañas and Chalatenango. In order to mine gold, cyanide is put into the water. Only 1%-2% of the profit would go to the community and the company would leave after 5 years. The current government has said “NO” to mining and Pacific Rim is suing. Three environmentalists in the countryside have been assassinated. This is a big issue that continues.

The current Archbishop of San Salvador, José Luis Escobar Alas, has come out against the mining. However, he has supported the construction of a dam that will cause environmental problems, so he is not consistent in his positions about decisions affecting the poor. A new dam is projected for Chapparal Sulaman, called the Chapparal Hydroelectric Project, over the Torola River in San Miguel. We were told that the government would probably sell electricity from this hydroelectric plant to foreign countries. Electricity is currently being sold to Honduras from a dam in Usulatan. A dam had been proposed in Chalatenango that was stopped because people had protested against it. The results of the new dam will be damage to the environment, the poor will be tossed off their land and they will not be justly compensated.

Organized crime/Gangs:

The impunity of organized crime hasn’t changed since the war. Gangs are recruited by organized crime for drugs and extortion, which is aimed at the poor. The targets of extortion are buses, small stores and the poor who are receiving remittances. Gang members move into a neighborhood and find out which families have members who emigrated and they target them. The most emigration to the US has been from the Eastern part of El Salvador, i.e., San Miguel. A new police investigator has been naming some higher-ups and this is causing problems. The poor don’t trust the police and won’t go to the police stations to report the extortion. It is a very complicated problem—bigger than even the economic situation. People still have hope, but it is a challenging time.

Death Squads:

Activity from the Death Squads has increased and they are targeting leaders under the new government. Deaths from violence have increased from 7-8 per day to 16 per day since Funes has become President. However, this could also be attributed to the fact that the new government is not hiding the reality now and Funes has said that he will accurately report what is happening. Funes has 80% support of the people and the press is favorable of him.

Two months ago, the Legislative Assembly approved putting military on the streets. The Peace Accords had prohibited them, however, the military was approved because of the crime/gangs. People are happy that the military are back because they feel safer.


Meeting with Vice-President of El Salvador: Father Jerry Waris, Nancy Caccamo, Kathy Woods, CIS

Delegation meeting with Salvador Sanchez Cerén, Vice President of El Salvador and Minister of Education

January 18, 2010

Vice President Cerén began the meeting by telling us that the current situation in El Salvador is dependent on the previous government and that the future must build on this. People want an immediate response. However, this is a new movement in history and the government will have to motivate the people. The people participated in changing the military dictatorship. Health care, education, housing and social programs are the most important goals of this government.

Statistics on school attendance:

Preschool (4 through 6 years): 50% - 51% of eligible children enrolled.

1st grade – 9th grade: 98% of eligible children enrolled (1,300,000 students)

High School (10th, 11th, & 12th grades): 45% of the 1,300,000 students continue in high school.

University: 24% of high school graduates continue in university.

(Wilber Solano told us that there is no compulsory education in El Salvador. Many children sell goods in the markets and the streets.)

A high number of students repeat grades. 10% of all students have to repeat a grade. 14% to 15% leave before finishing. 7% don’t finish at all.

The Vice President discussed the following programs that are being implemented in order to provide education for the majority of students and to improve the quality of their education.

“Let’s Go to School”. This is a five-year plan to institute radical change in schools. Targeted goals are community integration, permanent training for teachers, participation of students in creating their own knowledge and not just receiving knowledge, family integration and involvement in the process of their children’s education and involvement of teachers in the community.

Teachers will be trained in modern methodology and pedagogy. There are 56,000 public school teachers and the hope is for them to be updated in teaching methods.

Initial education will begin at birth and continue through 6 years. Inclusive education will be implemented. Children who have different needs will be able to participate with typical peers and children with special needs will have access to regular education.

In the area of literacy, 17% of the population is illiterate. A total of 600,000 people cannot read or write. There is also the problem of those who have learned to read and write but then have dropped out of school. The goal is not just to teach literacy but also to have students continue to receive a full education.

“Educate Me”. This program is directed toward youth who leave school. It incorporates a flexible model of studying at night or the weekend and technical education so that youth can be prepared to go on to either a technical job or the university.

“Mega Tech”. This program integrates the areas of science, creativity and strengthening values and identity. It begins in Preschool.

“Closing the Gap”. A pilot program in five rural schools has been initiated to utilize technology in learning. Students included in this program attend preschool through 9th grade. Laptop computers have been given to the teachers and they have received training. In February, each student will receive a computer and will be able to take it home.

The Vice President feels that a number of the new programs are visionary. In order to fund the programs, they are beginning with small pilot projects and involving communities, NGOs and private parties. It is difficult for the government to totally fund all of the projects and it needs allies. In the next five years, the government must put more money into the education budget. Currently, 18% - 20% of the national budget and 2.8% of the GNP is allocated for education. The goal by 2015 is for 6% of the GNO to be invested in education.

One of the problems in the country is employment. 70,000 people lost their jobs during the past year. The programs that are proposed will generate jobs, such as making the uniforms that will be provided for all students by the government. Construction of new homes will also provided employment. Technical education should be increased so that students can get jobs right away. There is no program that links education to employment. They plan to work with the Ministry of Economics in order to train students in developing the necessary skills for applications, interviews, etc.


First Scholarship Student to graduate from college

Delegation meeting with Scholarship Committee and Students

San Rafael Cedros

January 15, 2010

Iris is the head of the program in San Rafael Cedros and in charge of the Scholarship Committee. The group formed for leadership formation, to find office space for the program and help the students stay in school. There are nine members of the committee and they are in charge of the finances. The committee would like to restructure at the current time because the women have been members for several years.

The committee holds two meetings each month with the students. At one meeting, the students receive their scholarship money. At the other meeting, they reflect on themes for leadership development such as youth violence, economics, media, human rights, gender equality, HIV-AIDS, family planning. The students are required to attend the meetings. The proposed calendar of workshops for 2010 include the following themes: World Day of the Environment (June 5), government, sexual and reproductive health, drawing, history of towns in San Rafael Cedros, new government, new social programs, democracy and its implementation, global warming.

The committee maintains a registry of students, contracts with the students and their parents and the names of the sponsors from Presentation. The students are required to give the committee a copy of their grades.

The program began in 2007 with 15 students.

2008: 24 students

2009: 31 students (27-high school, 4-university)

13 students graduated, 4 are leaving program, 9 going to university

2010: 16 high school, 12 university (I know—the numbers don’t match up)

Their biggest achievement is the 9 students going on to the university.

High school: Scholarship of $25/month

University: Scholarship of $87.50/month

The National University has a sliding scale for tuition. SRC has made a commitment to send their high school students on to university after they graduate.

Selection Process

1. Committee asks the community councils for recommendations. There are also personal requests to the committee.

2. Criteria:
Scarce economic resources
Participation in community life
Good grades
Attitudes of solidarity
Prioritization—single mother, large family size

3. Requirements
Maintain good grades
Students must teach workshops in the community
Participation in group meetings

4. One scholarship per family































Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.