Last December 21, Ricardo Meneses, head of the National Police (PNC) was removed from his post and replaced with Rodrigo Avila. The English version of Proceso's January 11, 2006 edition is now available and expresses serious concerns about the appointment of Avila:
Someone had to be blamed for the bad handling of violence: Meneses was the chosen one. Someone had to be the savior: Avila was the one and the government pretends to surround him of an undeserved aura of efficacy. If the first time he ran the police he arrived as a person whose political affinities were not evident, now he arrives as a professed member of the ARENA party. In other words, with Avila in the head, the ARENA party took the police; with him, the police is becoming subordinated, not to the government or to the president, but to a political party. Only one step is left to the open politicization of an institution that was created, not to serve any party or power group in particular, but to the society as a whole.
There is no guarantee that Avila won't put the police at the service of ARENA and his members of the highest entrepreneurial ranks. The sole possibility that this could happen is enough for putting resistance to his appointment and for being concerned about the immediate future of the police. Moreover, what are at stake are the few progresses achieved in democratization and respect for the human rights. A police in the hands of the right wing could lead the country through the way of power abuse and institutional violence.
Definitely, the appointment of Avila as police chief is a bad choice. Not only because his performance was deficient, but because his ARENA militancy commits and conditions his role in the head of an institution that, by definition, ought to be apolitical. With this decision, president Saca affected Salvadoran democracy. If it was on purpose, this means that he is not committed with the common good and the rule of law, which are his main responsibilities as the president of the Salvadoran citizens. If it was not on purpose, it would be right if he revokes the appointment and considers, within a consensus with the social sectors' other candidates.
(Proceso is the weekly publication of Salvadoran news and political commentary published by the University of Central America).
The Hunnapuh blog also viewed the replacement of Meneses as politically motivated. The ARENA-led government needs to be seen as doing something about the crime problem in the lead up to the March elections. The choice of Avila was said to show a determination to bring in someone with experience. Hunnapuh suggests that Avila's inability to deal with the crime problem won't be apparent until after the elections.