Ex-Minister Accused of Interfering in El Salvador Anti-Gang Ops

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

El Salvador’s Attorney General has accused a former minister, who played a critical role in coordinating the country’s gang truce, of hampering police operations targeting gangs, highlighting one of the contradictions undermining the pact.

Luis Martinez, who has been a fierce critic of the agreement negotiated between the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 street gangs, said former Minister of Security David Munguia Payes had ordered the suspension of operations against 14 gang structures in a San Salvador municipality, reported La Prensa Grafica.

[See InSight Crime’s four-part special on the El Salvador gang truce]

Munguia was one of the main coordinators of the gang truce, which brought about a 41 percent drop in homicides in its first 13 months. However, he was forced out of the position after the Supreme Court ruled his appointment unconstitutional because he is a former army general.

Martinez also claimed that information was leaked to the gangs that allowed them to avoid police operations last October.

InSight Crime Analysis

The gangs have indicated that truce or no truce, they will continue criminal activities such as extortion, until they have alternative legal sources of income. This has presented the authorities with a dilemma that goes to the heart of concerns over the gang truce: the gangs cannot be permitted to continue carrying out criminal activities, but if law enforcement continues to pursue them with the hardline “mano dura” (iron fist) policies previously in place, it may derail the whole process.

The solution to this dilemma may only be found in long-term social investments that tackle the root causes of gang culture and these investments are unlikely to show immediate, measurable results.

If it is true that government figures are intervening in law enforcement operations to keep the truce on track in the short term, then however well intentioned, this will only strengthen arguments against the truce, and may even encourage the gangs to take advantage of any perceived or de facto legal amnesty.

SHARETweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+