US funding elite units implicated in executions
An exclusive report from CNN this week highlights US involvement in funding elite Salvadoran anti-gang units. Those units have reputed links to extra-judicial killings of suspected gang members. The concerns over one unit were so grave that the unit was disbanded earlier this year, but the US-funded replacement unit contains members from the disgraced unit according to CNN.
The CNN report opens:
The United States has quietly funded and equipped elite paramilitary police officers in El Salvador who are accused of illegally executing gang members, CNN has learned.
Successive US administrations have pumped tens of millions of dollars into Salvadoran law enforcement and military to shore up the government’s “Mano Dura” or Firm Hand program, first launched in 2003 but redoubled in 2014 to tackle the country’s rampant gang problem.
Yet the country’s police will be broadly accused next month of “a pattern of behavior by security personnel amounting to extrajudicial executions” in a United Nations report, seen in advance by CNN, that will also call on Salvadoran security forces to break a “cycle of impunity” in which killings are rarely punished.
One police unit that killed 43 alleged gang members in the first six months of last year received significant US funding, CNN can reveal. Several of those deaths have been investigated as murders by Salvadoran police.
While the unit -- known as the Special Reaction Forces (FES) -- was disbanded earlier this year, many of its officers have joined a new elite force that currently receives US funding.Read the rest of this extensively reported piece here.
CNN also quoted a spokesperson from the US Embassy saying “the US government takes allegations of extrajudicial killings extremely seriously, and has consistently expressed concerns regarding allegations of security force abuses, the need for accountability, and the critical role of rights-respecting security forces in a healthy democracy.”
As I read this, I could not help but see parallels to the US involvement in El Salvador's bloody civil war. The Salvadoran security forces, then and now, were willing to tell their American funders that they took human rights seriously but they were also fighting a battle against a common enemy. Then the common enemy was communism, today the enemy is MS-13. Elite units of the security forces, then called "Atlacatl" and today called "Jaguars" act with impunity. And the Salvadoran commanders of security forces know that the US government might talk about human rights, but if the enemy is communists, or terrorists, or MS-13, it's just talk.