US funding elite units implicated in executions

CNN video

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.


Greg said…
A historical note to begin -

The acronym "FES" was originally coined by the FMLN during the civil war. These special forces units, primarily sapper units, were trained in Nicaragua and Cuba by either North Vietnamese or East German experts in the use of explosives and special unit tactics.

David Spencer authored a superb book on these and other FMLN units -

That said -

In his now declassified August 21, 1989 National Security Directive 18 (NSD 18), then President George H. Bush authorized US GOV assets and resources to assist the Andean Ridge countries, specifically Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru, in their efforts to interdict/stem the flow of illegal narcotics into the United States.

NSD 18 was likewise explicit in its description of the links between drug cartels and terrorist/insurgent organizations. This directive has remained in place although certainly updated and enhanced as the Threat has likewise become more sophisticated and rampant/violent.

As a former gang investigator I am well aware of MS-13 both historically to include its trajectory from inception to present day. There are no rules but the rules followed by MS-13 and those rules are inviolate. At the same time those charged to uphold the Rule of Law in El Salvador must be held accountable in this ongoing war, but held accountable by the successive administrations in El Salvador to include the FMLN politicians in power.

Funding by the US is an absolute must. MS-13 has unlimited funding streams (as do the other narco-terrorist cartels and gangs) via the sale of drugs, weapons, people, and other criminal enterprises that are immensely profitable.

Securing the peace in El Salvador is the responsibility of the Salvadoran Government on behalf of the People. Ensuring US National Security interests and our population is better protected from the likes of MS-13 and other narco-gangs is our business.

Other countries, especially in SE and SW Asia, handle their gangs and drug cartels far more effectively and with far less fanfare - prison or execution - and a very short trial to determine which option is to be made final.