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

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with the seemingly intractable issue of street gangs. But it also creates new dangers.

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

El Salvador's Cojutepeque jail is a perfect illustration of how prisons in this country have become the main breeding and training grounds for street gangs.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

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...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...