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Our maxim: “understanding before action”
Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

lunes, 2 de junio de 2014

Los problemas a enfrentar por el nuevo presidente de El Salvador.

El Salvador’s New President Must Deal With Wreckage of Gang Truce

By Michael Allison, June 2, 2014,

Yesterday, Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) succeeded Mauricio Funes as president of El Salvador. While Funes has received overall high marks from the Salvadoran public, in particular in the area of education, he leaves a public security mess for the incoming Sanchez Ceren administration. 

Funes assumed the presidency in June 2009 amid growing public insecurity due to MS-13 and 18th Street gang violence, organized crime and drug trafficking. During his first year in office, Funes ordered 2,500 additional troops to the 1,500 already patrolling the country’s most violent neighborhoods and streets. The vast majority of Salvadorans approved of the decision, but human rights activists and public security analysts objected, claiming that Funes was simply following the same ineffective policies of his predecessor. The increase in military patrols did little to reduce the violence in 2010 and 2011.

In November 2011, Funes replaced his minister of justice and public security with a retired general and former minister of defense, David Munguia Payes, who promised a tougher approach to crime, including a further expansion of the armed forces’ role in internal security. However, at some point over the next three months, he also helped to orchestrate a truce between the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs: In return for better prison conditions for their imprisoned members, the gangs promised to stop killing each other and perpetrating attacks against civilians and security personnel. The country’s murder rate immediately dropped from approximately 13 to five per day, a decline that, though stark, still left El Salvador among the most violent countries in the region. Nonetheless, Funes and his team had given the country an opportunity to overcome the high levels of criminal violence that had plagued it since its civil war ended in 1992.

However, the “surprise truce” was unpopular among the Salvadoran people, the business community and the U.S. Embassy. It had been negotiated in secret by Monsignor Fabio Colindres, head chaplain of the Armed Forces of El Salvador and the National Civil Police, and Raul Mijango, a former congressman and FMLN guerrilla. Over the next year, the truce seemed to hold, with homicides staying at much reduced levels and positive stories emerging of a small number of former gang members entering the workforce. However, Mijango, Colindres and Munguia Payes were unable to win broad support for the truce, and the president never publicly threw his support or that of his administration behind the risky initiative. Instead, the president hid his administration’s role in facilitating the truce, further undermining its viability.
Then, in May 2013, the Constitutional Court forced Munguia Payes to leave his post as minister of justice and security. To replace him, Funes appointed Ricardo Perdomo, who had been serving as the director of the State Intelligence Agency. It was believed that Perdomo would continue with the work begun under his predecessor. But strangely enough, one of Perdomo's first moves as minister was instead to dismantle the truce, arguing that it had not achieved any of the government’s strategic goals. Perdomo cut off communication between imprisoned gang leaders and the press, put an end to high-level meetings between gang leaders in the Mariona prison and isolated the truce's key mediators. With government support withdrawn, it was no longer reasonable to expect the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs to continue their side of the deal.

Not surprisingly, the country’s murder rate has been trending upward for the past year and is now at its highest since the truce was announced in March 2012. More than 80 people were murdered in El Salvador over the weekend of May 24-25; the gang truce appears to be effectively over, as even Funes, on his way out, has acknowledged. But questions remain. Is the recent increase in violence an indication that incarcerated gang leaders have lost control over their members on the outside? Is the increased instability a plan by the gangs to force the incoming administration to address the truce in a serious way? Or is the increase in violence an attempt by organized crime, gangs, drug traffickers and death squads to destabilize the next administration? The answers to these questions will go a long way toward determining the security situation heading into the 2015 legislative and municipal elections.

The Sanchez Ceren administration will be confronted with the same major challenge as previous administrations: how to improve security in one of the world’s most violent countries. While continued investments in social programs and health care are necessary for the medium- and long-term security of the country, the new security team must decide how to tackle the failing, or failed, security situation and gang truce immediately. Unfortunately, there are few indications that the new FMLN administration has a well-thought-out plan.

As a candidate, Sanchez Ceren promised that his administration would pursue a policy of “mano inteligente”—an “intelligent hand” as opposed to a “dura” or “firm” one—but rarely spoke of his position on the truce’s future. The incoming minister of justice and public security, Benito Lara, is apparently unaware of the alleged recent arrests of gang negotiators. After being reappointed as minister of defense in May 2013, Munguia Payes will continue in that role when the new administration takes office, despite his responsibility for a host of troubled policies: He was the main architect of the unpopular and failing truce; his relationship with U.S. security agencies has deteriorated; he has overseen several questionable moves that may have facilitated drug trafficking and organized crime; and his appointment endangers a second Millennium Compact aid program with the U.S.

El Salvador’s security challenges are daunting. Unfortunately, it is not clear that the incoming Sanchez Ceren administration has the answers that the Salvadoran people are so desperately seeking.

Mike Allison is associate professor of political science at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania and maintains a blog on Central American politics at You can follow him on Twitter @CentAmPolMike.

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