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Showing posts from August, 2017

Gang truce charges dismissed, what's next?

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The judge overseeing the trial of government officials involved in the 2012 gang truce in El Salvador has dismissed the charges against all the defendants.   The judge ruled that the prosecutors had failed to prove their case, and pointed primarily at the Minister of Justice and Public Security, David Munguía Payés, who is now the Minister of Defense in El Salvador.   Munguía Payés initiated and authorized the government's participation in the truce, according to the court, and the judge also pointed at the likely involvement of then president Mauricio Funes.   The defendants in the case were simply implementing a plan created at the top levels of the administration of president Funes.

El Salvador's Attorney General announced on Thursday that he will appeal the dismissal of the charges.

Beyond the appeal, one open question is whether Attorney General Douglas Melendez will ever pursue  Munguía Payés and Funes?    The other question is whether prosecutors will follow up on the t…

The tarnished image of Mauricio Funes

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In 2009, voters made Mauricio Funes the first president of El Salvador from the Left.  His election was a cause of great celebration for those on the left, and throughout most of his presidency, Funes was one of the most popular presidents in all of Latin America.

But the years since have not not been kind to Funes' reputation.   A series of investigations and scandals have dogged the ex-president who now lives in self-imposed exile in Nicaragua:

The gang truce.  The now-discredited gang truce arose during Funes' presidency, but he always tried to maintain plausible deniability about his role in it.  In the trial of various government officials for granting benefits to gang leaders in prison, then-minister of security David Munguia Payes testified that Funes had authorized and was kept informed of the elements of the truce as it unfolded:

From Héctor Silva Ávalos, writing at Insight Crime:
Mauricio Funes... was very familiar with the gang truce from the moment that then-Public…

Sanctioned torture of gang members who attack police in El Salvador

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El Salvador's Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde, released a video on August 18, showing conditions in solitary confinement cells where prisoners who have attacked the police or armed forces will be held.    The conditions are justified as part of the "exceptional measures" which the National Assembly has authorized to combat the epidemic of gang violence in the country.

As he narrates the video, Landaverde describes the cells where prisoners will be held in absolute isolation with no contact with the outside world.   There is no artificial lighting or ventilation in the cells.   There is only a small window about one foot square above the toilet covered by bars.   Beds are concrete slabs.

The next day the justice ministry issued a press release listing 26 gang members who would be placed in these cells for allegedly participating directly or indirectly in attacks on security forces.  From the press release, it appears that some of thes…

More reports of extra-judicial killings by police

Reporters at RevistaFactum have published detailed descriptions of three extra-judicial killings by members of an elite anti-gang unit of El Salvador's police force.  Their work is republished in English at InsightCrime.    The reporting details the tactics the unit used to execute gang members in the central part of the country.

The existence of extra-judicial killings is not news in El Salvador.   But the specifics of the reporting, which forces authorities to open an investigation, is uncommon and important.

The reporters also detail how elements of the unit used social media to collaborate and select targets:
The Facebook page was but one way the police participating in these allegedly extrajudicial executions and other crimes communicated. With Rastreador's assistance, Factum followed a WhatsApp channel in which at least 50 police shared photos of dead boys and men, all alleged gang members, as well as tips on how to avoid judicial scrutiny, notices about when alleged gan…

Jesuits case in Spain may go forward

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For a number of years, a court in Spain has had before it a case involving the 1989 murder of the Jesuit priests at the University of Central America.   Although the case is before the court, none of the former military officer defendants are yet before the court.   El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court has twice denied extradition of the officers who are in El Salvador.   
This leaves former Salvadoran army colonel Inocente Orlando Montano Morales who has been fighting attempts to extradite him from the US to Spain.   Yesterday Montano lost another round in court. From the Associated Press: Judge Terrence Boyle ruled that a lower-level magistrate judge was correct last year in approving the extradition of Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, who is charged with “terrorist murder” in the 1989 killings of the Jesuit priests, most of whom were from Spain.  A human rights lawyer who helped persuade Spanish authorities to prosecute Montano applauded.  “The U.S. government has a great int…

Cardinal from El Salvador visits Long Island

El Salvador's first cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal José Gregorio Rosa Chávez, visited Long Island, New York  last week and its large community of Salvadoran immigrants.   Long Island has suffered a series of recent murders tied to MS-13, and so Rosa Chávez was asked to offer his thoughts on dealing with the gangs:
Rosa Chávez, in an interview taped Friday by Telecare, the diocese’s cable television station, said that “in my country, there is a policy of severe repression” against gang members, with the philosophy that “a good gang member is a dead gang member.”...  But the cardinal said the approach has proven ineffective, leading to an escalation of violence.  “What happens? The gang member is a cornered animal, he becomes more savage, and they are killing police,” he said in Spanish. “That methodology doesn’t solve anything.”  “At the same time, the people suffer because of what gang members do. They celebrate when a gang member dies,” he said. “We are at a mome…

100th anniversary of Romero's birth

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August 15 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of slain Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero.   Romero was beatified by the Roman Catholic church in 2015, and the country's faithful continue to wait expectantly for news that the church will canonize Romero and officially give him the title of saint.

The pre-eminent blogger about all things Oscar Romero, Carlos Colorado, shared this post today on Romero's birthday:

Happy 100th Birthday, Blessed Romero!
Blessed Oscar Romero, the martyred Salvadoran archbishop beatified by Pope Francis in 2015, was born one hundred years ago this week (August 15) and his centennial was marked by devotees around the world. At a memorial service at St. George’s Cathedral in London on Saturday, August 12, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, postulator of Romero’s canonization cause, reminded over 500 attendees gathered there that they joined faithful “in El Salvador and in other parts of the world, to remember this shepherd for his Gospel witness that brings …

FMLN and ARENA paid gangs for votes in 2014 elections according to witness

There is currently a trial going on in El Salvador where the defendants are government officials and mediators charged with improperly granting concessions and benefits to leaders of El Salvador's gangs in connection with the so-called 2012 gang truce or "tregua".   In the course of that trial, a gang leader who cut a deal with prosecutors testified last week that the country's leading political parties delivered a combined $350,000 to the gangs in return for delivering votes in the 2014 presidential elections.

The witness goes by the moniker "Nalo" and his real name is Carlos Eduardo Burgos Nuila.   Nalo was part of the leadership of Barrio 18 Revolucionarios -- one of the two factions of the Barrio 18 gang in El Salvador.   Nalo was one of the gang leaders outside of the prisons who were called on to execute the orders of the imprisoned gang chiefs in connection with the 2012 gang truce.

The ex-leader of the 18 Revolucionarios gang testified that the FML…

Trial reveals government involvement in 2012 gang truce in El Salvador

This article originally appeared on the website of InsightCrime under the title El Salvador Gang Truce Was ‘State Policy’: Trial Testimony
Written by Angelika Albaladejo
Wednesday, 09 August 2017

A trial has begun in El Salvador against several officials for their alleged illegal activity related to a controversial gang truce between 2012 to 2014. The testimony and evidence presented is poised to shed new light on the links between politicians and gangs in the Central American country.

Early testimony and public statements by several officials during the early days of the trial suggested that the truce was a "state policy" endorsed by former President Mauricio Funes. Witnesses also said that the impetus for the gang truce did not come from the gangs or civil society, but from the government itself.

Former truce mediator Bishop Fabio Colindres testified that he and Raúl Mijango, a former mediator and vocal proponent for the truce, were "invited" by Defense Minister Da…

Teen pregnancy in El Salvador

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The United Nations Population Fund is reminding us about the high and tragic costs of pregnancies among girls as young as 13 in El Salvador: Pregnancy can be a dangerous time, especially for girls whose bodies are not yet mature enough for childbearing. Globally, pregnancy-related complications are the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19.  Yet early motherhood is common in El Salvador. Between 2013 and 2015, one out of every three pregnancies was to an adolescent mother, according information from the Ministry of Health....  Adolescent pregnancy is one of the biggest sexual and reproductive health challenges in the Latin America and Caribbean region. Factors contributing to the region’s high rates of teen pregnancy include widespread gender-based violence, lack of comprehensive sexuality education, and barriers to sexual and reproductive health services. In connection with its work, the UNPF has published a new document with the testimonies of 14 child mothers from every…

Perceptions of policing in El Salvador

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Last week researchers from the Public Opinion Institute at the University of Central America (IUDOP) and Florida International University released the results of polling concerning the perceptions of the Salvadoran public concerning the police.  The report is titled Legitimacy and Public Confidence in the Police in El Salvador.

The report surveyed persons throughout El Salvador about their interactions with police and their views of police practices.  Although many persons, especially the youth, have been subjected to abuse by police, there is still significant tolerance for such practices.  While 60% of Salvadoran believe that the police should follow the law in combating crime, 40.1% would approve the use of torture in dealing with gang leaders, 34.6% would approve extrajudicial executions and 17.2% are okay with practices of "social cleansing."

These relatively high levels of acceptance for abuses directed at gang members, no doubt lead to respondents reporting high leve…

August parades, festivals and vacations

El Salvador is starting the annual week of August vacations, centered around the festival of Salvador del Mundo for the capital city. The mayor's office in San Salvador has this promotional video: