El Salvador: Public health workers restart demonstrations


Public health workers restart demonstrations; Funes points to former president under investigation for money laundering; Salvadoran inmate said to commit mass extortion from inside Guatemala prison


Public health workers restart demonstrations

Doctors working in El Salvador’s social security institution (Instituto Salvadoreño de Seguridad Social–ISSS) took to the streets once more to demand the government grant them a wage increase.

This week’s demonstrations took place three days after doctors returned to their duties following weeks of protests, as they waited for the Legislative Assembly to include within-grade increases in the 2014 budget. Within-grade increases are periodic increases in employees’ rate of basic pay from one step of the grade of his position to the next step of that same grade, after meeting requirements for length of service and satisfactory performance.

According to Claudia Olano, representative of the ISSS union, negotiations with authorities have not been fruitful so far. She claims the government is offering an hourly raise of $0.60, or an additional $80 a month for each doctor that works four hours a day seven days a week.

These increases however would be subject to discounts given the strikes have been declared illegal by a federal judge who rules on labour matters. Under the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) statutes, these most recent strikes are illegal as well. Wage increases would thus shrink to $60.

The Director of the ISSS, Leonel Flores, claims that the institution has invested $4 million in wage increases for 1,960 unionized workers. This translates into monthly raises of $120-200, depending on the doctor’s specialty.

Yet Olano claims that unionized doctors have not received wage raises in 13 years. The spokeswoman also asserts that the authorities have admitted the ISSS has the necessary resources to raise wages.

A total of 32 medical units and seven hospitals suspended services due to the strike, only offering emergency services.

Funes points to former president under investigation for money laundering

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes requested the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República – FGR) to investigate one former president and other public officials belonging to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista – ARENA) for tax fraud and money laundering. No names have been revealed yet.

Funes’ accusation comes after the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began an investigation for the laundering of some $10 million involving former Salvadoran officials.

One of the accusations is that the unnamed officials used public money to aid multinationals in lawsuits against the Salvadoran state in commercial disputes related to mining and energy. Funes also mentioned that several banks could have been deliberately involved in the scheme.

Funes denies that these claims are part of a smearing campaign against the political right ahead of the 2014 presidential elections.

Salvadoran inmate said to commit mass extortion from inside Guatemala prison

According to an investigation undertaken by the Guatemalan National Civilian Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC), a Salvadoran inmate named Ismael Ernesto Alvarado Flores was allegedly involved in 2,000 incidents of telephone extortion from inside the Pavoncito prison. Two of Alvarado’s acquaintances, his brother and his girlfriend, are said to have participated as well.

Alvarado belongs to the Salvadoran gang Barrio 18. He currently awaits trial for charges of extortion and unlawful association.

After discovering Alvarado’s activities inside prison, prison authorities sent him to isolation, where he would not have access to a telephone. Access to telephones in Salvadoran prisons is not uncommon, and numerous inmates continue engaging in illegal activities in the outside.

The PNC claimed that all incidents happened within a two-month period. Of the 2,000 incidents the PNC believes that at least 10% were successful, meaning victims made some payment.