Larissa Hotra

Larissa Hotra (Survivor Corps in El Salvador): Larissa graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources in 2004. She worked at the nonprofit SafeHouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a legal advocate and as an environmental science educator to high school students. She then served as the Midwest campaign coordinator for Global Impact, a nonprofit that raises money for international humanitarian organizations. By night, she worked as the Political Affairs Editor for a Ukrainian Internet Newsletter, e-POSHTA. Throughout her time in Chicago she dabbled in everything that the city had to offer: producing a story for Chicago Public Radio on the Ukrainian diaspora; organizing and working with the Ukrainian diaspora through PLAST – a Ukrainian youth scouting; attending free cultural and musical events; practicing her Spanish language skills in Latino immigrant neighborhoods; and trying to play soccer on every piece of green space in the city. At the time of her fellowship, Larissa was in the first year of a Master’s program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

The politics that underlie it all…

16 Jun

In my own recent experience in the country, a few common themes have arisen through my daily reading of the El Salvadoran daily newspapers (La Prensa Grafica and El Diario De Hoy): 2009 El Salvador Election updates; rising gas prices (regular gasoline costs upwards of $4.50, while diesel is creeping past $5.00); murders, like yesterday’s discovery of a 12-year old girl strangled to death 50 meters from her home; coverage of the United States elections (predominantly the Obama and Hillary show); constant accidents from bridges built poorly; agriculture market fluctuation; and the ubiquitous poverty that halts the development of people who live in the country-side.

In lieu of the upcoming presidential elections in 2009, much of the street discourse revolves around the elections and the two major party candidates in the running: Mauricio Funes, FMLN candidate, and Rodrigo Avila, ARENA candidate and former head of the National Police Force in El Salvador, (Nationalist Republican Alliance—the leading political party). The polls suggest, however, that the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN-a former revolutionary guerilla organization), which has outgrown ARENA in size, is the prime contender to win the 2009 elections. The political tension surrounding the elections is palpable and visceral. Wearing red signifies an allegiance to the FMLN and trees/garages/fences/buildings are painted the respective party colors of each municipality’s leaning.

One of my questions left unanswered is the following: Where do disability rights fit into the political platforms? The new El Salvador Disability Rights Law decrees that one of every 25 employees hired by private businesses be a person with disabilities. Will this be upheld and honored? Will more attention be paid to disabled individuals through public services, such as accessibility to prostheses and infrastructure accessibility outside of the capital?

It appears that much focus of the media and candidates is on the prescience of violence in and without the capital. Both parties—FMLN and ARENA—vow to combat drug trafficking and gang violence, if elected to the presidency, and both vow that secession of violence will have a positive impact on other aspects of daily life, such as affordable food, housing, and accessibility. However, in reading Tim’s El Salvador blog (regarding political and otherworldy
goings-on in El Salvador,, the following excerpt from an attached article (The Australian newspaper “Green Left”) provides an interesting description of the politicization of gang violence in El Salvador. It suggests that violence, reminiscent of the recent civil war, is still being wielded for political gains:

“Authorities routinely attribute political murders to the gang crime prevalent in El Salvador, when in fact there is evidence that gangs are actually being used for political assassinations. It appears the right-wing forces, which were forced into a negotiated peace to end the civil war in 1992, are now reverting to their old tricks of intimidation and violence in a bid to hold onto power. It is imperative that the democratic gains associated with the peace accords are upheld. For the Salvadoran people, these gains came at the expense of many lives. This is an important time to build solidarity with El Salvador.”

It suffices to say that the gains in disability rights, through the UN Convention on Disability, which El Salvador ratified in 2007, and the new Disability Rights Law, are progressive steps forward for El Salvador. However, it remains to be seen what affect the 2009 elections will have on maintaining a forward approach.

An additional news piece that arose last week was the incendiary “Path to Peace Award” that was given to El Salvadoran President Tony Saca of ARENA: Many believe that El Salvador’s problems will not improve until Tony Saca is removed from his own power path and politicization of the country. Some view the presentation of the award as de-legitimizing El Salvador’s own ‘path to peace’. As one blog commentator wrote, “Maybe peace in this sense means backing away from restarting the civil war.”

LSN’s work with conflict survivors reflects the ongoing effects of the twelve-year civil war, as well as the politics surrounding the struggle for disability rights in El Salvador. I will keep you updated as I learn more about the effects the elections will have for the survivors.

Posted By Larissa Hotra

Posted Jun 16th, 2008

1 Comment

  • Hillary

    June 12, 2008


    Nice use of the word ubiquitous! I see you did pass your GRE. I’m going to try to read this everyday. I miss you.

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