Nelson Rauda Portillo,  Director General of DGCP

An investigation by El Faro has revealed that the head of El Salvador's penitentiary system likely used his position to ensure favorable treatment for his incarcerated brother-in-law, as thousands of inmates who aren't so well-connected languish in the country's overpopulated, poorly run prisons.

According to El Faro, the brother-in-law of Nelson Rauda Portillo, the Director of the General Office of Penal Centers (DGCP), began serving a six-year sentence for drug possession in April of 2010. (El Faro did not reveal his name for security reasons.) Just two years later, he has already moved to the "Trusted Stage," during which prisoners are given privileges such as commuted sentences and exit permits, the online media source says.

While legally all prisoners are eligible, in practice the stage only applies to a privileged few, especially with regards to male inmates: out of the 24,353 men incarcerated as of November 26, only 374 had reached the "Trusted Stage," El Faro says. It's not illegal for Rauda's brother-in-law to have already been granted this privilege without completing even half his sentence, but the anonymous official sources consulted by El Faro all agreed that it would be impossible without some special maneuvering.

InSight Crime Analysis

The real issue is not so much Rauda's brother-in-law's favorable treatment in and of itself -- which, while unfair, does not appear to have violated any laws -- but rather the chaotic, arbitrary nature of El Salvador's penal system. The violence and high degree of gang control in Latin America's most overcrowded prison system are well-documented, but the heart of the problem is the failure of the country's penal and judicial institutions to deal fairly with all their inmates.

El Salvador's constitution, for instance, stipulates that prisoners must be regularly evaluated in order to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior, with rehabilitation as the end goal. Inmates are supposed to be evaluated every six months by DGCP "technical teams" made up of psychologists, doctors, lawyers, and other qualified professionals, who then pass their recommendations on to regional criminological councils.

In practice however, officials from the government's Ombudsman for Human Rights (PDDH) say that corruption is high within the DGCP, that the process is implemented arbitrarily, and that thousands of prisoners go years without receiving evaluations.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.