January 13, 2015. I picked up the newspaper only to read that Robert White had died. Gasp!... He was one of my heroes. He was an American in a foreign land-a career diplomat whose courage and integrity led him to confront his own government’s policies only to be rewarded with dismissal from the Foreign Service.
My mind floated back to El Salvador 1986 as I flew in to that tortured country for the first time. I was shaking in my sneakers but armed with the spirit of Bob White and Jean Donovan. Jean was one of the four American churchwomen murdered in El Salvador in 1980 where Bob was serving as US ambassador. I had first met these indomitable spirits in a chance reading of Jean’s story in “Salvador Witness” by Ana Corrigan. That reading led me to the story of Bob White’s courage to speak truth to power. As I landed, I had two quotes running through my head; Bob White’s, ”This time the bastards won’t get away with it” said as the 4 church women were disinterred, and Jean Donovan’s “If it weren’t for the children…”, explaining why she couldn’t leave El Salvador at the height of the violent revolutionary war.
El Salvador has a way of grabbing you. There are so many contradictions: raw survival, deep-rooted faith, and inextinguishable hope midst unrelenting violence.Read more
El Salvador held elections for Mayors, Deputies and representatives to the Central American Parliament on Marh 1st. I served on the observer mission with the Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS). This is CIS’s 11th International observer mission in El Salvador and my 8th time serving as an observer. International observers are mandated by the Peace Accords. The two main political parties are, FMLN (former guerrillas) and ARENA (right wing party). There were several minor parties also participating some for the first time who received little support.
The process this time was greatly disrupted by a late decision of the Constitutional Court. Three months prior to the election the court ordered that cross over votes be allowed (ability to split a voters choice among more than one candidate in different parties). This change caused much confusion and complexity to counting the vote. The process went smoothly during the voting but when it came time to count the vote at each table it was much different. The first vote to be counted was the Central American Parliament. Most voting tables needed 5 or 6 hours to complete this count and two more ballots still needed to be counted. The complexity of county cross party votes and preferential votes within the party was more than labor intensive, it was painful to watch. After manning the tables all day (beginning at 5:00 AM) the same people had to continue with the count until the wee hours of the morning – 24 hours after beginning work.Read more