Developments in attack on FMLN supporters

Following the deadly attack on a truck carrying FMLN supporters leaving an election rally on Sunday night, the situation is only slightly clearer.    Responses to the event have been along three lines:  

  1. Condemnations of the murders and demands for a transparent investigation.
  2. Concerns that this event does not signal a return to times of political violence which have marked El Salvador's past.
  3. Denunciations of the style of discourse of president Nayib Bukele and his allies, especially as represented by Bukele's tweet in the moments after the attack which insinuated that the deaths were a self-attack by the FMLN on its own to generate sympathy for the party and criticism of his government.

What we know at this point is that two people died in the attack: Juan de Dios Tejada y Gloria Rogel del Cid, both FMLN members, and at least three more were wounded.  There are three captured suspects who are all connected to El Salvador's Ministry of Health.  One of the suspects is a body guard for top officials within the Ministry of Health and another was a driver for the ministry.  A third suspect was reported to be a private security guard for the ministry.   After the shooting they drove their car to a parking lot annexed to a building of the Ministry of Health.   There are social media posts attributed to the Ministry of Health bodyguard where he expresses antagonism towards the FMLN and has a profile picture with a shotgun on his lap.

One of the Ministry of Health bodyguards was also wounded by gunfire.  The president and his supporters are now describing the deadly confrontation as a shootout with both sides exchanging gun shots.  The Minister of Health, Francisco Alabi, called the shooting "totally mutual."  Bukele tweeted on Tuesday night that a surveillance camera on the street recorded an FMLN member shooting one of the bodyguards.  FMLN representatives say the group of party supporters were unarmed.  

Bukele initially tweeted that the police had detained two FMLN militants in connection with the event, but the PNC later indicated this was incorrect.  

Attorney General Raul Melara responded to a reporters questions saying that, at this point, the narrative of what happened was "confused."   Melara characterized the event as one of "intolerance" and declined to answer whether he thought the shooting was an event of political violence.  

In reporting in El Faro there is the account of an eyewitness in the FMLN vehicle when it was approached by the car with the shooters and unable to get away from them.  Another digital periodical, Diario1, has a narrative of the events purportedly from someone in the truck.

Monday morning Attorney General Raul Melara summoned the heads of the country's political parties to meet with him.   All of the parties sent representatives with the exception of the president's party, Nuevas Ideas.

The US Embassy tweeted:

As the United States Embassy, ​​we express our sincere condolences to the victims of tonight's attacks. Any violence is unacceptable and those responsible must be brought to justice.

The attack was similarly condemned by the Organization of American States, the French Ambassador, and the United Nations representative in El Salvador.   US Congressman James McGovern tweeted

Everyone must condemn this act clearly, immediately & forcefully. El Salvador must not return to the violence of the past. I support a full investigation by AG @MelaraRaul

Father José María Tojeira, head of the Human Rights Institute at the University of Central America, tweeted:

To kill on the street, in front of numerous witnesses and in an electoral context, is a brutal and savage act that especially damages democratic coexistence. To investigate, pursue, and capture is inevitable. Bloodstained elections would be repugnant. Justice is the only path.

The Central American human rights organization Cristosal issued a call for an "exhaustive and prompt" investigation with "guarantees of transparency."   Cristosal urged the president to guaranty conditions so that the population could participate in the elections "with freedom, without intimidation or fear."

The online periodical El Faro, which has been a frequent critic of the president, published an editorial stating

Arrests have been made and the alleged perpetrators — two of them bodyguards assigned to Francisco Alabí, the minister of health — have been charged. And while the details of the crime have yet to completely emerge, we can already confirm that Bukele used a deadly attack to go after his political opponents. He did so without proof, and he did it purposefully. This was not an aberration from his style, it was its essence. This is the man who governs El Salvador....

Despite the gravity of the president’s reaction, it comes as no surprise. It is the continuation of the rhetoric this president has wielded since he took office: insulting, disqualifying, lying about, and attacking his political opponents. Dissident voices have no room in the country he rules.  

He conceives politics as a battle to eliminate the adversary by any means necessary. His discourse of hate has been the central pillar not only of his campaign, but his governing strategy. It is constant warfare.

Bukele has not removed his original tweet about a "self-attack" nor has he expressed any condolences to the victims.  The country's vice president Felix Ulloa Sunday night had tweeted out a more measured, appropriate response to the shooting, stating:

Faced with the violent act of this day I express:

1. My condolences to the family.

2.My absolute condemnation of it.

3. My call not to upend the electoral atmosphere, even less to want to get political advantages, by making unfounded remarks. 

4.Let the authorities do their job

But others were quick to point out that in the morning Ulloa had spoken at an event of war veterans telling those gathered that today the country was involved in a "new war."  

There were those in the FMLN who were also amping up rhetoric rather than calming the situation.   Jorge Schafik Handal tweeted the hashtag "#BukeleAsesino."   There is no evidence that this killing was directed by Bukele or his close associates.    

The best thing which could happen now is a transparent investigation and prompt justice for those involved.  Everyone should lament the loss of innocent lives.   Everyone should avoid rhetoric which might inflame tensions and make a repetition of this event possible.   That starts at the top.    

UPDATED - 11:30AM, 2 Feb, to indicate that PNC has said no one from the FMLN is under arrest in connection with the event.



Don said…
So, now you're not sure if Bukele has the population so riled up that they are killing people in the streets?
Don said…
The entire post omits Bukele's popularity and the polls that show Nuevas Ideas blowing out all the other parties.

El Faro, this blog, and every outlet omits the enormous popularity that Bukele and Nuevas Ideas has with the Salvadoran population. That seems like an interesting fact to ignore just before an election that is going to put all of El Salvador's political machinery in the hands of a president and party that is popular with 90% of the population.

The eye witness in the El Faro story says that the man who shot into the truck was drunk and mad at the driver. The story does not sound like a description of politically motivated violence, but who can really say at this point. I guess the most interesting point is the rush to blame this on prompting from Bukele.

I would really be interested in seeing some concrete examples of Bukele using hate rhetoric and inciting violence to prompt people to kill people at a political rally. I guess I missed all that hitler/trump-like discourse during the past few years.

There is big push from the media and this blog to make Bukele's popularity due to the insanity of the Salvadoran population. How else could 90% of Salvadorans support such a horrible president?

Don said…
I would also like to point out some important information:

1. Mauricio Funes stole $400 Million and then ran away and accused Bukele of political persecution.
2. Sigfrido Reyes stole $6 million and the ran off and claims that he is a victim of political persecution.
3. The MO of FMLN politicians is to claim that they are victims of political persecution when they are about to go to jail.
4. They are about to go to jail
5. It is within reason to deduce that the shooting could have been a false flag attack.

It is interesting how that Bukele making that accusation was such a scandal to journalists. Oh, how dare he even mention that. Yea, of course El Faro says that, because that is the politically savvy thing to say. El Faro: How dare somebody suggest that a Salvadoran diputado would do something that makes them out to be victims of political persecution. We aren't stupid. Those diputados could be going prison if this election goes the way it looks like it is going to go.
Don said…
Don't try to make this about people covering up evidence. This is about people like you preaching to an English only audience about Bukele's rhetoric riling people up to the point of going out and killing other people in the street.
Don said…
Regardless of what you think of the fact that shots were fired from the truck and from the guys in the car the main issue here is people like you saying that it was political violence and that Bukele's rhetoric caused this. That is the only thing that you need to worry about. Don't worry about who shot who. Worry about the fact that it looks less and less like "political violence" but that you were so quick to tell people that it was Bukele prompted political violence.

Why? Because you want to make Bukele's support look like insanity. You want to make support for Bukele and Nuevas Ideas look like hate instead of populism. And who reads this blog? People who can't read Spanish well enough to decide for themselves. You should stick to coverage of events that happened back in the 1979-1992 period. That was back when you could have done something to stop the U.S. gov't (a gov't that you are actually able to vote for) from funding a genocide. Instead you are trying to get the U.S. govt to step in now? That's a little weird in my humble opinion.
Don said…
You are re-tweeting AOC about how misinformation can do damage regardless of how fast somebody walks back their initial misinformation, when YOU were posting on this blog blaming the shootout on political hate rhetoric.

YOU were one of THE FIRST people to use the murder to sway public opinion against Bukele.

YOUR posts about Bukele using hateful rhetoric were misinformation.

YOU refuse to back up your claims with actual evidence. YOU spread misinformation about the shooting. Either you are a hypocrite opportunist or just totally wrapped up in your own little echo chamber.
David Amdur said…

I am fluent in Spanish and read Tim's blog because it has good information and references sources I may not otherwise see. I very often then go look at those sources. Tim is very good about putting links for those sources in. Perhaps you should, as they say, "take a chill pill", because you seem rather fixated on what you think Tim's posts about the January 31 political violence are about. If you feel so concerned about this then develop your own blog and make it accessible.
Don said…
Oh, thanks for the comment David. I feel a lot better now that I know that you are fluent in Spanish.
Don said…
A guy blogs for 17 years about El Salvador and he is perfectly normal. But I comment on a post that is total BS and all of a sudden I'm the crazy one.
Don said…
But you're right. I should calm down. In fact I am going to completely stop following Tim Muth's blog and opinion pieces in El Faro. I'm sorry. I just get a little worked up when I see takes like this from Americans that were in their prime when the U.S. government started funding a genocide in El Salvador (1979-1992). Maybe I will start a blog about the American invasion of Afghanistan in 30 years.
Don said…
I will wait 35-40 years until U.S. intervention in Asia is pretty much over and I'm retired and then I'll start giving a popular politician hell in the blog I develop, too. I guess I'm just a kook.
Don said…
This is my last comment now that I have been doxed by David the comment police. Great comment etiquette David. Now, you all can go back to your safe space and blogging about countries that got destroyed while you were in your prime.