El SalvadorPresident Nayib Bukele made a controversial deal with the Trump administration that he says he can’t honor right now. The young leader of the U.S. ally in Central America agreed with officials to take in people from any country who are seeking asylum in the U.S. Trouble is, if the U.S. sends any, El Salvador currently doesn’t have the facilities to house them, he says. Nor is their safety a guarantee in a country with a high murder rate and rampant gang violence. Sharyn Alfonsi interviews Bukele for a 60 MINUTES report about the troubled country, to be broadcast Sunday, Dec. 15 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Bukele, at 38, is one of the youngest world leaders. Elected on a promise to clean up the corruption and end the violence in El Salvador, he tells Alfonsi his work is cut out for him. He has managed to lower the murder rate with heavy policing, but his government says there were still 131 murders last month alone in a country with just 6.5 million people. According to the UN, El Salvador has the highest murder rate among countries not at war. That violence causes people to flee to other countries, especially the U.S., where about 20 percent of Salvadorans have come to live over the past 40 years. Last year, 90,000 Salvadorans were apprehended at the U.S. border.
A lack of jobs also drives people away. “We have an economy that creates 20,000 jobs in a country where 100,000 kids get into working age each year,” says Bukele. “Our whole economy is in shatters. Nothing works.”
Asked if his country is prepared to accept the asylum seekers the U.S. could send per the agreement he made, he replies, “Well, not right now. We don’t have asylum capacities, but we can build them.” He ruled out tent cities. “That’s not asylum capacity.”
Critics call the arrangement an outsourcing of America’s asylum program. But it apparently keeps El Salvador in the good graces of the U.S. The White House recently released $51 million in aid it was holding back from El Salvador. The U.S. State Department also lowered the threat level to Americans traveling to the country to the same grade it gives France and Denmark. Alfonsi witnessed firsthand how dangerous it is to travel about in the capital of San Salvador. Gang territories could be traversed only by getting permission from gang leaders, who dictated instructions to assure safe passage. Bukele acknowledged certain streets were off limits to tourists. “That’s true,” he says. “I’m not comparing El Salvador to Denmark.”
El Salvador needs a safer environment if it is to attract the investment money – most of it from the U.S. – it needs to improve its economy. “It is our responsibility to create the conditions where people don’t want to flee our country,” says Bukele. His efforts and a stricter U.S. immigration policy are credited with lowering the number of Salvadorans trying to enter the U.S. in October to just 2,500 from over 12,000 in June.
A CENTRAL ALLY – In the last year, 90,000 Salvadorans have been apprehended at the U.S. Southern border. The migrants are fleeing economic hardship and in many cases gang violence – a vicious combination making it extremely difficult for El Salvador’s young president to improve his country. Sharyn Alfonsi reports. Guy Campanile and Tony Cavin are the producers.
THE LOST MUSIC – An Italian composer and pianist who converted to Judaism has made it his mission to recover, catalog and perform music written during the Holocaust – including works done secretly by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Jon Wertheim reports. Katherine Davis is the producer. THIS IS A DOUBLE-LENGTH SEGMENT.
During the Holocaust, an entire generation of talented musicians, composers and virtuosos died, but their musical legacy lives on thanks largely to the extraordinary efforts of Francesco Lotoro. An Italian composer and pianist who converted to Judaism, Lotoro is on a mission or “mitzvah” – a Jewish duty – to recover, catalogue and perform music written in captivity, including music written secretly by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Lotoro’s story, and those of some of the musicians whose works he has recovered, will be featured in a Jon Wertheim report on the next edition of 60 MINUTES Sunday, Dec. 15 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Lotoro, who was raised Catholic in the small town of Barletta, in Southern Italy, says he felt the pull towards Judaism in his teens. He says he has a “Jewish soul.” “There was a rabbi who explained to me that when a person converts…he goes back to being Jewish,” he says. “Doing this research is possibly the most Jewish thing that I know. We Jews have a word which expresses this concept. ‘Mitzvah.’ It is not something that someone tells you you must do. You know as a Jew that you must do it,” he tells Wertheim.
With the help of his wife, Grazia, who works at the local post office to support the family, Lotoro has collected more than 8,000 pieces of music, including symphonies, operas, folk songs and gypsy tunes – all written by prisoners in camps. There is no question that music saved some lives during the Holocaust; being a member of a prisoner orchestra, for example, increased your chances of survival.
Music that was composed secretly was sometimes smuggled out of the camp, or it was liberated with the prisoners who wrote it. Lotoro’s rescue missions involve tracking this music down all over the world, searching attics and basements for musical gems, as well as knocking on doors and meeting with survivors and their relatives.
Prisoners used anything they could find to compose music, and materials often had to be improvised. Compositions were scribbled on everything from potato sacks to food wrappings to telegrams. In one case, a prisoner wrote an entire symphony using a piece of charcoal given to him as dysentery medicine, and toilet paper. “When you lost freedom, toilet paper and coal can be freedom,” says Lotoro.
Lotoro believes if this music isn’t performed, it’s as if it’s still imprisoned in the camps – it hasn’t been freed. He isn’t just collecting this music; he’s arranging it and sometimes finishing these works, breathing new life into this music for a worldwide audience. “In some cases, we are in front of masterpieces that could have changed the path of musical language in Europe if they had been written in a free world,” Lotoro says.
Wertheim and Lotoro visit Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Southern Poland, and Wertheim speaks to Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, one of the last surviving members of the women’s orchestra at the infamous death camp. He also interviews the children of Holocaust prisoners whose music Lotoro has helped bring out of the shadows. This poignant story comes just a month before the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in January 2020.