UN Report -- Homicide goes unpunished in El Salvador

A report released last week by the United Nations Development Program provided an alarming look at the complete incapacity of the criminal justice system in El Salvador to investigate, prosecute and punish murderers.

The study looked at a significant subset of the homicides recorded by the authorities in 2005. Of the 1,020 homicides studied, only 145 (14.2%) reached the court system. Even more alarmingly, only 39 (3.8%) resulted in someone actually being punished for the crime. In other words, 96.1% of the murders in the study went unpunished.

The study's authors did not equivocate in placing blame for this abysmal record:

An important percentage of the homicides remain unpunished for lack of will or capacity for the investigation, while each crime left abundant evidence that could have been processed to determine the authors of the crimes.

One does not perceive a sincere interest in improving and modernizing the techniques of criminal investigation. The country has had a high level of homicides for many years and the conditions for investigations continue to be meager.

There exists a lack of coordination between police and prosecutors in the investigation of crime: planning, strategies, actions, etc. In reality, the prosecutors do not assume functional direction in any meaningful manner and the police do not comply with their instructions. This produces negative results in the clarifying matters, prompts a standstill in enquiries, and later the inquiry is forgotten.

The report prompted an angry response from the government. Minister of Security, René Figueroa, accused the study's authors of "ideological biases" in performing the study and using outdated (2005) data.

Figueroa can complaion about the study, but the facts are there to be verified. If you are a criminal in El Salvador, the fear of being caught and punished is not a fear which will prevent you from committing a murder. 96% of the time, you won't be caught and punished.


El-Visitador said…
He he.

Saca could have spent his funds, his time, and his managerial talent in the police, court, prosecutor, and prison systems. He would thereby have delivered on his campaign promise to end the people's #1 concern: crime.

Instead, he chose to squander it all on new bureaucracies such as MITUR, ISNA, Super Competencia, Tribunal de Ética, new embassies, etc.

He made his bed. He can lie on it now, and squeal like a stuck pig about "ideological biases" –no one believes him.

- * -

It is easy, however, to blame it all on Saca's ineptitude. But those who applauded, or simply stood by the frittering away of our scarce resources on utterly useless and inoperative bureaucracies such as CONCULTURA, MARN, ISDEMU, and so many letter soups, also share the blame.
Anonymous said…
The country is under the control of gangs, who have the police, the courts and government on their payroll. There can be no democracy if there is no rule of civil law.
El-Visitador said…
«There can be no democracy if there is no rule of civil law.»

This is true.

This is why it is nothing short of criminal, for instance, the fact that our political class is wasting time on debating whether there needs to be a new bureacracy to regulate the price of gasoline.

In the Central American country with the cheapest gasoline. From Belize to Panama.

Talk about having your priorities backwards. Apparently, there is plenty of money for new superintendents, their chauffeurs, secretaries, bodyguards, offices in Escalón, paid media advertising, trips to international events, etc.

What there isn't money for, is for police salaries or for more policemen.

- * -

Interestingly enough, I don't think I have ever seen anyone call for the shuttering down of any bureaucracy.

I think people here were taught that government is supposed to fix their problems, so the instinct of all salvadoreans, in general, poor and rich, is to throw more bureaucracies at everything, with the infantile expectation that it will solve whatever ails them.

And then they complain that there isn't enough money left over for judges, or teachers.
Hodad said…
RIGHT ON! visitador
this time i wholeheartedly agree with you

one instance for example. look at web sites from ES government and other web sites from el sal
lots of flash and pan, poor navigation, too long to load, in other words lots of pomp and circumstance pretentiousness and 'so called pride'
very poor information, no responses from the web admins, no contact forms
on and on and on

lots of bureaucracy not much action

what was the famous quote by a salvadoran on 'lots of suits and talk, but not much action"
it escapes me but it is still quite appropriate

maybe the fired TV guy for president. maybe
Anonymous said…
Shut down the army, the biggest blackhole of national funds in the country, and we'd have 111 million dollars in the bag, and if I'm not mistaken, in 2005 the funds for the army were around 150 million dollars so a bunch of folks can go and do nothing (just guard the oligarchy interest in case you know the tired population decided to revolt, yet again). And if 111 million isn't enough, you have Mr. Pig talking about "updating" the military, that would mean more cash, while the police are sometimes left without even a full uniform! So let us not talk about pick-ups or gasoline for theur squads.

But honestly speaking, the police here too is corrupt. Many of them extort buses themselves, just as gangs, and as a report from Tutela Legal said it has become the new nest for death squads, many police members protect narcs, have close ties with gang members with whom they conspire with (due to family ties, or through intimidation caus many policemen live in the same neighbors as the gangs). But that doesn't matter, because in the end ARENA's plan for security is to PRIVATIZE IT, that is why you see hundreds upon hundreds of "seguridad privada" companies, and about every single business in the country with at least one guard, multiple houses being monitered by guards, or even entire colonias. Now imagine if the nation as a whole wa sindeed a paradise of safety, people like Rodrigo Avila and D'Aubisson would be left out of their jackpot business of selling security in a place where there is a scarecety of it.

That is one of the greatest reasons why they don't do much combating crime, and much much less in even changing whatever may lead people to commit crime. Specially when the bulk of homicides are suffered by the masses, not by them folks fortressed up in Santa Elena, etc.

But you know what is the crux of the matter? That all of this is part of the culture of impunity that reigns in El Salvador, where top government officials, top "businessmen" have been involved in fraud, money laundery, arms dealing, people trafficking, drug trafficking, extortion, tax evation, it started on the very top and their control on the forces of law and justice, running em so illy as to not hinder them on their wrong doings (like the closing up of Probidad, and even before that preventing Probidad from having access to public officals bank account information to track things like Carlos Perla and stuff). You've got so many cases of corruption and lack of processing them, like for example the most recent and one that should be of special interest due to whom denounced it... is the case of MOP and Ministro Gutierrez a friend of Saca who took bribes to give licitaciones to construccion companies (which often btw, are used for money laundery), but what happened after ironically DHS denounced him (as to why, I won't discuss)? Saca removed him from his position alleging that it was due to his health. Now about a month ago, Gutierrez was thrown out of COENA, but there is no investigation of him. ISTA, giving lands for votes and to people affiliated with ARENA even when the lands in question are filed as "natural protected areas", no real investigation, no prosecution. Or how urbanization of el Balsamo, which was famous for the mass deterioration caused by previos urbanizations that lead to the disaster in the earthquakes of 2001. You see no investigating nor stopping that, even though that area has become a protected area and is a high risk zone, too.

In conclusion, El Salvador is living the consequences of corruption stemming from every single branch of government, the social deterioration caused by the culture of impunity that has been created. Which leads as you pointed out, to people not trusting very much on our public officials,

Though if people would delve deeper, they'd usually find private interest in all those public frauds.
Anonymous said…
Tim, in today´s La Prensa there is an article and graphs showing that homicides in May '07 were almost 25% fewer than May '06. There are also 1,827 more prisoners in jail for murder than there were a year ago. Reported extortion attempts on bus drivers has dropped from 296 in January to 166 in May. That sounds like good news. But from the article quoted here one would never suspect this had happened. Once again, what you´re linking to is the truth, but only half of it. So people are making their opinions based on half the truth. Journalism´s goal seems to be to stir up outrage in the reader, and that can only be done by telling just enough of the truth to trigger outrage. It's a left and right thing, no one group has a monopoly on it. The problem with that is that it´s killing hope in the people here. Outrage and hope don´t go well together. And I´m not faulting you for bias, just the people you link to sometimes. Again, you're a fair guy, and you love El Salvador. Find more good new on El Salvador. It's out there, for whatever reason it's hidden, but it's there.
Tim said…

Considering the various extenisve coverage the UN report got in the Salvadoran press, I thought it was an important report to describe and the real problems with the criminal justice system are worth noting.

At your suggestion I noted the statistics from La Prensa on the blog. But I think we need to be careful about concluding too much from a single month. I find the stats about people in prison for murder to be much more interesting -- it's a fairly dramatic jump and I am very interested in the story behind those numbers. Of course, a discouraging story is to look at the incredibly overcrowded conditions in El Salvador's prisons and to think what they would be like if all crime were successfully prosecuted....

Let me know when you see good news and I'll be happy to talk about it.