Funes deploys military to combat violence

The bloody statistics show the reasons for this week's action by Mauricio Funes:
Murders Up 40% in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR – The number of murders in El Salvador between January 1 and November 1 stands at 3,673, more than in all of 2008 and 40 percent more than during the same period last year, the press reported Tuesday, citing official statistics.

La Prensa Grafica newspaper based the figure on data from the National Police, the Attorney General’s Office and the medical examiner’s office.

The number of murders, which average 13.9 per day, is 40.2 percent higher than the 2,620 homicides that were tallied during the same period in 2008.

The National Police added that during last month alone there were 431 murders, 158 more than in October 2008.

Authorities warn that nearly two-thirds of the 3,184 men killed this year were between the ages of 18 and 30.

The San Salvador metropolitan area, which contains 14 municipalities, has had 419 more murders this year than during the same period last year.

Seventy-six percent of the killings were carried out with firearms.

In the face of the increase in violence, 94 percent of the residents of Greater San Salvador supported the possibility of increasing the use of army troops for security tasks, according to a survey by the firm JBS Opinion released Tuesday by the Diario de Hoy newspaper.

On Tuesday, president Mauricio Funes announced a plan to increase significantly the use of the Armed Forces to provide support to the National Civilian Police (PNC) in the fight against crime. Currently, some 1300 soldiers make joint patrols with the PNC. Under Funes' plan thousands more troops (he did not specify the exact number) will go on patrol, search for wanted individuals, provide perimeter security at prisons and reinforce El Salvador's borders. The additional troops, which Funes called an "exceptional measure" will work in the departments of San Salvador, San Miguel, Santa Ana, La Libertad and Sonsonate where the level of crime is the highest. After 180 days, the measure will be re-evaluated to determine whether to continue the military's role.

The deployment of additional troops marks the first significant step of the Funes administration on public security since he took office on June 1. Funes defended the measures declaring that "I approved the increase of support of the Armed Forces of El Salvador to the National Civilian Police as a method of guaranteeing order, internal peace and citizen security."


"The bloody statistics show the reasons for this week's action by Mauricio Funes"

Yes, but what are the reasons behind the bloody statistics? CoLatino reports that a group of PNC agents have reported that PCN Deputy/Retired Colonel Atonio Alemendariz has been orchestrating at least some of the crime (such as the rumored gang-uprising) in order to destabilize the Funes governemnt.

Yes, this needs further investigation. I must recall, however, that I interviewed Almendariz back in 2000--with his model of an M60 machine gun aimed right at my seat in his legislative office! His desk proudly displayed a plaque congratulating him for commanding one of the dirties units in the war--the Atlactl Batallion.

CoLatino reports that the police informants called upone Funes and others, "Don't play Almendariz's game" (no prestarse al juego de Almendáriz”)! I could not agree more. He is walking into a trap.

By the way, giving the military the power to conduct searches and make arrests reinforces the central weakness of public security in El Salvador--a lack of investigation to make charges stick. The courts will have no choice but to release many of those arrested for lack of evidence. Sombra Negra and similar groups target precisely those people released for these reasons. So we should expect to see an uptick in death squad violence.
Almendariz's comments to LPG show what his game may be:

Retired Colonel and PCN Deputy Antonio Almendariz was the harshest critic of the role that Funes has given the Armed Forces and said that sending soliders on patrol will frustrate the population when violence does not decrease. Using the Armed Forces to only support [the police] does not appear [good] to me. The Constitution gives the President the power to use the Armed Forces as Police,” Almendariz maintained.