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April 18, 2022, 1:59 p.m.
Reporting & Production

In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele hijacked the political party, Nuevas Ideas, which was formed by members of the Salvadoran diaspora to help him get elected. This narrative, according to a new investigation — the first — from the newly-formed Redacción Regional in Central America, is quite different from what Bukele himself is pushing. Contrary to what the investigation, called República Finquera has found, Bukele has been pushing that he formed the party himself with associates close to him.

Redacción Regional, which means “regional newsroom” in Spanish, was formed to produce journalism just like this that examines how Central American governments are “attacking their own democracies.” It’s made up of four newsrooms: La Prensa Gráfica in El Salvador, Contracorriente in Honduras, No-Ficción in Guatemala, and Divergentes in Nicaragua. Dromómanos, a production company that works with newsrooms to produce investigative and narrative journalism all over Latin America, is also a member of the collaborative. Its goal, as its first investigation nails, is to cover the rise of authoritarianism, corruption, and militarism across Central American countries.

Here’s how Redacción Regional describes República Finquera (translated from Spanish):

Power in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua attacks democracy while Central American migrants face increasing danger in Mexico. From the old tyranny of Daniel Ortega to the ‘millennial’ regime of Nayib Bukele, this is the portrait of authoritarianism in Central America, where presidents are elected at the polls as the new hope of the people to use these countries as they once were: the farms of a few.

“Today more than ever, it’s been proven that collaborative journalism and journalistic alliances are a great bastion and a great support for journalists to be able to penetrate, to be able to influence, and to be able to exchange knowledge and generate greater depth in journalism,” Daniel Valencia Caravantes of La Prensa Gráfica said. “Apart from the debate that can be generated from [constant] production of content and editorial discussion,[it will] generate a wealth of knowledge for the new generations [of journalists and citizens] that are forming.”

Valencia said the idea for Redacción Regional was borne out of conversations between fellow Central American journalists Alejandra Sánchez Inzunza, José Luis Pardo Veiras, Jennifer Ávila, Carol Gamazo, Wilfredo Miranda, Rodrigo Baires, Oswaldo Hernández, and Valencia between December 2020 and January 2021. As they discussed and reflected on the political situations in their respective countries, they knew that their journalism and their readers could only benefit from a collaboration between countries.

Once the different outlets had finalized the project, they applied for funding with the Pan American Development Fund.

“As journalists we are always sniffing around [for stories] and we were observing what was coming and what is already happening,” Valencia said. “Journalism is, in the end, an intellectual exercise and we smelled what could happen in the region. We started talking about how we could build something that would allow us to take a regional look at this phenomenon of the political crisis that was eventually going to cross Central America with more force.”

Every week, designated journalists from each media outlet meet virtually to discuss common threads and what kind of coverage Redacción Regional can produce. Like its first investigation, República Finquera, which was published today, RR plans to publish a new investigation every Monday. Upcoming stories include exploring the rise of caudillos (military dictators) and how the pandemic exposed the ways that corruption causes inequality in different countries. On Wednesdays, they’ll publish a related opinion or analysis column through the end of May.

“It is very rich to have a single regional newsroom with the [perspectives] of the journalists who are on the ground,” Jennifer Ávila of Contracorrientes, said. “It breaks that traditional model journalism has had for a long time to send correspondents to these countries.”

Given the severe challenges to press freedom in different Central American countries, Ávila said that working with journalists across the region is both reassuring and a way to show these governments that they’ll continue to be held to account.

“It’s a way to stand up to those attacks and a sign of solidarity,” Ávila said. “It is important for Honduras to know what Nayib Bukele is doing in El Salvador and the attacks on the press in that country and it is important for Nicaragua to know about the corruption that exists in Guatemala. When we publish an article from El Salvador in five countries, it strengthens the message, the journalism, and makes the target of an autocrat a little more complicated to follow.”

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