97% of El Salvador Wants International Anti-Corruption Body

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El Salvador citizens are almost unanimously in favor of creating an international commission to investigate organized crime and corruption in the country, a sharp rebuke of the current administration’s anti-crime strategy and handling of politically sensitive cases. 

Nearly 97 percent of respondents to a poll (pdf) published by the Central American University (Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas – UCA) said they support the government establishing an international commission to investigate cases of corruption and organized crime. (see chart below)

More than 58 percent of pollsters said they believe there is “a lot” of corruption within the Legislative Assembly; only 16.4 percent said there was little or no corruption. 

The survey, which asked 1,262 adults to evaluate the government’s performance during the second year of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén’s term in office, also reflected negative opinions about the country’s current security strategy. 

An increase in crime was considered to be the “principal failure” of the Sánchez Cerén administration, receiving over 35 percent of the vote. (see chart below) Slightly more than 53 percent of those surveyed said the government’s new “extraordinary measures,” which have limited communication between incarcerated gang members and the outside world, have had “little” or “no” effect on reducing gang crimes. 

InSight Crime Analysis

The survey indicates there is a deep mistrust among Salvadoran citizens that their government is capable of reducing widespread corruption and crime on its own. This overwhelming response may reignite debate about the establishment of an international anti-corruption body, which have already been created in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.

The International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG) has uncovered numerous corruption rings within the government, including several allegedly run by a president and his vice president. The Support Mission Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (Misión de Apoyo Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad en Honduras – MACCIH) began operations earlier this year. El Salvador, however, has refused to create such a body, instead opting for an anti-impunity program that has a narrower mandate and lacks the investigative powers of the CICIG.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profile

Authorities in El Salvador may well be afraid of the potential for an international commission to reveal discreet links between government officials and organized crime. El Salvador’s former Attorney General, Luis Martínez, — who was opposed to the creation of a CICIG-like body — has been suspected of obstructing investigations into Jose Adan Salazar Umaña, alias “Chepe Diablo,” the presumed head of the Texis Cartel. Authorities have yet to convict Chepe Diablo — who has also had business dealings with current Vice President Óscar Ortiz — despite being named a drug “kingpin” by the United States in 2014. 

On the security front, El Salvador’s homicide rate climbed to over 100 per 100,000 people last year, the highest in Latin America, and murders have increased during the first half of 2016. The government has mostly relied on a repressive, hardline approach that targets the street gangs.

The government has attributed a decline in homicides that began in April to the extraordinary measures roll-out, but the gangs say the decrease is due to a non-aggression pact they agreed to at the end of March. 

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