Monday, July 02, 2007

Two sets of killings -- one year later

One year ago, two sets of murders contributed to the growing polarization in El Salvador. Today, the different way the cases have been handled since then shows the institutional weakness of El Salvador's criminal justice system.

One set of murders took place on July 5, 2006 during disturbances on the outskirts of the University of El Salvador. In actions which were photographed and videotaped by Salvadoran media, a masked shooter fired an assault rifle at riot police. After the melee, two policemen lay dead, presumably from the shooter's bullets.


Today, in an early morning raid, the PNC netted their most-wanted suspect. The alleged shooter, Mario Belloso, was arrested without a struggle in the area around Mejicanos on the outskirts of San Salvador and charged with the crime.

In contrast to the very significant police efforts and the press coverage of the search for Belloso, the double-slaying of Don Francisco Antonio Manzanares, age 77, and his wife, Doña Juana Monjarás de Manzanares, age 75, has gone uncovered by the Salvadoran mass media and unsolved by the PNC. They were the parents of "Mariposa" Manzanares who was an announcer on Radio Venceremos, the covert radio station of the FMLN during the civil war in El Salvador. The double murder was particularly gruesome, and had the hallmarks of a death squad killing. Today Amnesty International issued a statement decrying the lack of investigation:
"How far does the violence against political activists in El Salvador have to go for the authorities to take notice?," said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Americas Programme.

"The brutal killings of Francisco and Juana show all the signs of the death squads that operated in El Salvador during the 1980's, which local organizations fear have resurfaced. The government's response also mirrors the years of impunity that have followed the end of the armed conflict."

Don't get me wrong. I am not suggesting for a minute that a killer who shoots police in a premeditated fashion should not be pursued and prosecuted with the full force of the law. If Belloso is that masked shooter and his bullets killed the police, he should pay the penalty for his crimes. But by not devoting very significant resources to the investigation of an apparent death squad political murder, the government continues to permit an atmosphere of freedom to act for those who would threaten political activists.

Tribute to the Manzanares and announcement of a religious service in commemoration of their lives and martyrdom.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, those who killed the 2 PNC officers on July 5, 2006 should be brought to justice and receive a fair trial. Tim, as you point out as should those who killed Francisco Antonio Manzanares and Juana Monjarás de Manzanares.

It is interesting to note the two articles from the July 2 Co-Latino. The first in which Beatrice de Carillo calls Mario Belloso's capture a "show" and says it is interesting to note it happened almost a year to the date of when the 2 PNC officers died and happens the same day that peaceful protests related to President Saca's visit to Suchitoto in which 13 people were arrested and others injured by rubber bullets, pepper gas, and tear gas, and journalists beaten by the PNC and UMO riot police. I is also interesting to note the journalists were denied access to Mario Belloso upon his capture take some video and photos.




Gloria Silvia Orellana
Leonor Cárdenas
Redacción Diario Co Latino

La Procuradora para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos, Beatrice de Carrillo, instó a los medios de comunicación a investigar más a fondo las declaraciones que viertan
las autoridades policiales sobre la persecución y captura de Mario Belloso, implicado en el asesinato de dos agentes de la PNC, en julio del año pasado.
«Es extraño para mí, que la captura casualmente coincida casi con el aniversario del asesinato, deben ser acuciosos y analizar las circunstancias que deja esta investigación, porque no se puede creer que en un país tan chiquito, un hombre pase casi un año escondido en su casa», afirmó la procuradora.
Sobre, las declaraciones que la funcionaria se habría entrevistado con familiares de Belloso, de Carrillo descartó dicha información. «En ningún momento, me he reunido con ellos, y sé que este caso es más un show policial... el caso quedará impune, por la falta de transparencia», agregó.
Mientras, que Antonio Cabrales, presidente la Fundación para el Desarrollo Económico y Social (FUSADES) se mostró complacido por la captura de Mario Belloso.
“La captura es una muestra de la eficiencia y responsabilidad de la Policía Nacional Civil”, dijo.
Belloso fue capturado este día, en horas de la mañana, luego de un operativo policial iniciado ayer por la tarde.
Cabrales añadió que la institución que representa espera que este tipo de acciones no se politicen, ya que son responsabilidad de las instituciones encargadas de darles solución.
“El Salvador no progresará si continúa la impunidad, este es un claro ejemplo de los cientos de miles de homicidios que ocurren en el país”, dijo
El abogado y coordinador general del foro para la defensa de la Constitución, José María Méndez, aseguró que es extraño que después de un año encuentren a Belloso en su casa.
“Es extraño que la captura se de en un momento de campaña electoral, sin embargo, nosotros esperamos que la justicia haga lo que tiene que hacer y si el señor es culpable pues que paga su culpa, pero es necesario que la justicia opere con igualdad para todos”, añadió el reconocido abogado.
Ricardo Alfaro Barahona, coordinador adjunto del foro, aseguró que la captura de Belloso, es extraña “ ya que casualmente ocurre a un año de búsqueda y que se le haya encontrado en su casa de habitación, justamente cuando la población de Suchitoto está siendo reprimida por protestar contra el presidente Elías Antonio Saca”.

Daniel Trujillo
Redacción Diario Co Latino

La ansiedad de los periodistas de los distintos medios de información por obtener la mejor imagen de Mario Belloso, impidió que la presentación del supuesto asesino de dos agentes de la Unidad del Mantenimiento del Orden, en julio del año pasado, se realizara de la mejor forma.
Momentos antes de su presentación, fotoperiodistas y camarógrafos ya obstruían la puerta de salida de las oficinas de la ex División de Investigación Criminal (DIC) de la policía, con el propósito de ser los primeros en tener la imagen de Belloso, quien fue capturado esta mañana.
Con anterioridad, las autoridades policiales advirtieron a los comunicadores gráficos que hicieran sus imágenes guardando el debido orden.
Sin embargo, los reporteros visuales hicieron caso omiso a las indicaciones, provocando el desorden dentro de las instalaciones de la ex DIC.
Cuando Belloso salió, los camarógrafos y fotoperiodistas de prensa nacional e internacional impidieron que llegara al lugar donde los medios de comunicación capturaran sin mayor problema su imagen.
“¡Apartate…!, ¡Dame permiso!, ¡No me empujés!”, eran los gritos que se escuchaban de los reporteros visuales.
“¡Por favor, señores de la prensa guardemos el orden debido!”, replicaba el director de la policía, Rodrigo Ávila.
Cuando las autoridades evidenciaron que los comunicadores no estaban dispuestos a guardar el orden, agentes policiales cubrieron por completo a Mario Belloso y lo llevaron en un vehículo policial.
Pero, los reporteros no desistieron y lo siguieron hasta el vehículo, impidiendo por un momento su traslado hacia una de las bartolinas de la policía.

Anonymous said...

The right wing goverment media and the president are trying so desperately to pin the shooter to the leftist (FMLN) party. And they timed the show carefully to happen almost on the first anniversary of the incident.
Most people believe that al that parafanelia found in Belloso's place of hiding, was set up by the police to link him to FMLN and the Universidad Nacional and also, another protest by people opposing Saca's privitazation of water services on the north of El Salvador.

wally said...

Two sets of murders. In one you have actual live media coverage, which generates photos and videos of the actual murders taking place in addition to at the very least the presence of hundreds of witnesses. Bandanas don't make for very good disguises in those situatins. Also policemen were killed, which causes the investigating police to have an extra incentive to find the killers. Nothing insidious about that, just human nature. They could be the next cop getting shot. The other murders happened without video, photos, hundreds of witnesses or live media coverage and instead of in broad daylight, happened under the cover of darkness. This in a country where a lot of people are unfortunately murdered every day. Murdering police in the middle of a demonstration already being covered by the media will generate a ton of publicity, and it doesn't take a media conspiracy to do that. An older couple tragically being murdered in their homes, even for political reasons, will not generate the same publicity, not in El Salvador or any country. So if you're comparing two murders, let's compare all the details as well. People who have the whole truth can make better decisions than if they are presented with only carefully chosen details.

Tim said...

Wally,

I don't agree. While the pictures made for dramatic news coverage on July 5, the drama of the TV news should not set the agenda for the police. And what does it say that they knew Belloso's identity almost immediately and could not find him for 12 months? Frankly, the story of the murder of the elderly Manzanares is not a story without drama and intrigue -- there were death threats, gruesome details, an internationally famous daughter -- but the story of that case does not fit the political agenda of the mass media in El Salvador.

Larry said...

"The other murders happened without video, photos, hundreds of witnesses or live media coverage and instead of in broad daylight, happened under the cover of darkness."

I don't remember the TV cameras being present when the ARENA poliicians were murdered in Guatemala--also under cover of darkness. Somehow, however, the media managed to cover it.

Rusty said...

What's interesting is that in my opinion the murders of the ARENA diputados HAVE NOT been covered by the media to the extent one would expect from such a spectacular, politically-oriented muliple murder. Sure, for the first week, the press was all over it, but there has been strikingly little coverage of the event since then. Why is this?

As far as Bellosos goes, of course ARENA is going to make a political event out of this. Are we reallys surprised? When it comes to politics in El Salvador, there's no clear rulebook and everything that can win a vote, even through bribery and lies, is valid. All of the ARENA supporters I know are truly scared of this next election. There's a real feeling, even this early, that this next election is not ARENA's to win, and this has a lot of people scared, so don't be surprised if ARENA starts digging deep into its book of political tricks to stay in power.

Solavá said...

Believe it or not, Tim. There's also another side to this story. Paolo Luers, in his new blog Siguiente Página has a very different take on the murders. He knew personally and intimately the Manzanares, the murdered parents of Mariposa, who is the primary activist behind this case. He also knew Paco very well. He was the youngest son of the Manzanares and, of course, the brother of Mariposa; he became quite known as a young revolutionary musician who became, after the war ended, a criminal linked with corrupt members of the police; he was involved in kidnappings and extortions. When Paco died, and in El Salvador we all knew why he had died, Mariposa claimed he was a victim of the death squads. Luers remembers that and claims that the murder of the Manzanares couple was also not a political crime. He argues as well that this case has been manipulated politically by the most radical members of the left. If that is the case, then the left has been quite convincing. But this is one case, based on what I know, when I'm more inclined to agree with Paolo, unfortunately. It's very hard to believe that this was a political crime.

Tim said...

Solava,

I do believe there are multiple sides to this story. Thanks very much for the link to the Paolo Luers blog -- I found his account to be an eloquent story of how political forces can use a family's tragedy as a political symbol. This is where having a competent police force, skilled in forensic investigations and prosecutions, is so necessary. Perhaps if there was a credible investigation, which open-minded people could accept, it would not be so easy for one side or the other to use a tragedy for political gain. If the FMLN or others claim this was a political murder, the investigation is that much more important -- and the lack of investigation that much more troubling. What I did not see in Paolo Luers' account was anything to point us one way or another towards whether this was a political killing or not.

This is an unfortunate trend -- the failure of the PNC to solve murders which plausibly appear to have a political motive -- the murder of Gilberto Soto, the murder of Francisco and Jesus Carillo, and the murder of the elderly Manzanares couple.

Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to see this blog people not happy to have the murder being brought to justice and pointing previous events to cloud things. It is unfortunate obviously all the people that died and disappeared during the war but we will need a lot of space also to ask for justice to all the kidnappings and murders that the guerrilla made during the war. They were "revolutionary acts" and are free of scrutiny?. As salvadoreans we signed the peace and we forgive crimes from both sides and we should not make any foreign to tell our story!

I recognize El Salvador needs a lot of improvement in many areas. Justice is one of it and by far one of worst cases where we can see social inequality well exposed. We need to use the Constitutional frame to solve our problems: there is a Parliament, an Executive Organ and this is the way to change things. If you disagree, vote against if you agree, vote for!

Solavá said...

I think everyone here wants justice to be done. Just like Tim says: "If the FMLN or others claim this was a political murder, the investigation is that much more important -- and the lack of investigation that much more troubling". I wholeheartedly agree with that. But we need to remember that El Salvador has fallen into a very vicious and destructive cycle, where every single incident becomes politicized. This cannot continue to happen because then justice will not be done. There needs to be a call for reason. Citizens need to see that it's important to build a base for sustainable citizen action. In other words, instead of calling the Police "pigs" and provoking them, the political grassroots movement should come the them and ask for their protection before every protest, which are constitutionally protected. And when there is a semblance of an injustice people should work to demand efficient and effective police and judicial work.

In this highly charged political environment, citizens need to remember that institutions such as the Police are there to serve THEM. And thus, they need to be pushed to play their constitutional role, separately from political interests. Don't forget that the most repressive use of the police force against demonstrators since the end of the war took place in 2004 in San Salvador, when the FMLN mayor turned them against street vendors, leaving several dead and wounded. The Police will have to be there to serve the public under a leftist government or under a rightist government, and in both cases they need to act according to the law and to serve and protect the people. The goal, then, should be to strengthen our democratic institutions.

Anonymous said...

Who is Paulo Luers?

He is a german photographer who used to go to El Salvador during the civil war to shoot guerrilla pictures. He was traveling back and forth between Germany and El Salvador.. he was shooting guerrilla pictures in El Salvador and he was selling those pictures to the media back in Germany.

Back then, he sympathized with the guerrilla, and that's how he got to know some "comandantes guerilleros", but when the war ended, also ended his occupation. He went back to Germany and tryied to make a living out of journalism, but he couldn't get any jobs as journalist or photographer.

After some time eating shit with no jobs and no money in Germany, he decided to come back to El Salvador, so he did. He started his own business (strange how he got the money to start his own business, I wonder if he "sold" something to get the money...). Anyways, he started a restaurant and at the beginning, a lot of his "old friends" visited his restaurant called la Ventana), but as time went by, something started to happen to him... he started to be very "friendly" with some politicians from the far Right (ARENA), they where coming to his restaurant and had long strange conversations with him.. to make a long story short, Paulo Luers ended up writing articles against the guerrilla and agaist the newly formed political party FMLN. I WONDER WHAT MADE HIM CHANGE??$$??$$

He used to write for La Prensa Grafica, and he got fired. He recently also got fired from El Faro apparently for writing "not so true" stories, for writing stories that never happened ( only in his imagination), basically he became another "Marvin Galeas" ( another guerrillero "arrepentido" who now works for ARENA and writes crap agaist the FMLN all the time in the editorial of El Diario de Hoy).

In conclusion, I DON'T BELIEVE SHIT OF WHAT LUERS WRITES. HE'S NOT A RELIABLE JOURNALIST (he's not even a journalist).

I feels sorry for Solava, who says that he feels inclined to believe Luers.

Solavá said...

Anonymous:

Don't feel sorry for me. I know how to speak my mind and I know how to defend my own opinions.

First of all, you have Paolo Luers story wrong: he is german but he was with the guerrilla, specifically with the ERP, the most militarized of the FMLN factions. He run Sistema Radio Venceremos during the entire war and produced many of the guerrilla films that the FMLN is so proud of: Letter from Morazán and Time of Daring, among others. As far as I know, he was the person responsible to get the money to run the Radio Venceremos operation, in other words, he kept Mariposa and Paco "Cutumay" Manzanares working with the radio. This story is well documented in hundreds of articles and in several books. And he never went back to Germany after the war. He founded, first, a TV production company and then a newspaper, Primera Plana, the first weekly journal to introduce investigative journalism in El Salvador, clearly a predecesor to El Faro.

You can attack Paolo if you wish, but that doesn't change the fact that he was a very good friend of the Manzanares, and that his testimony is important on that ground alone regardless of what he does for a living today or who are his friends or his enemies, for that matter.

But you are missing the point. Because Tim's post was about justice, not about personalities. And to achieve justice you need strong, effective institutions. There is only justice if there is equity: the Government has to investigate the murder of the Manzanares. Nobody knows for sure if this was a politically motivated assasination. As a journalist I am supposed to be skeptical of everything. I have to cuestion everything, it's part of my job, and it's ingrained in my nature.

The essence of democracy is not expressed only in the fact that two people can have opposite opinions on an issue without killing each other, but that a person can change his mind without being treated as a traitor for that reason.

Personally, I don't need to believe that the murder of the Manzanares was politically motivated in order to demand justice for them, as I have done, and as we all need to do.

Anonymous said...

You said the magic word: TRAITOR. Paulo Luers.

Paolo Luers is a traitor.

TRAITOR: a person who betrays a friend, country, principle ( the left, the guerrilla for instance), or not?

Or.... he didn't betray anybody, but he's just doing "it" for the money? Then, what's the right adjective for him?

Vendido?

Isn't that the same shit?

By the way, I feel sorry for Luers too, because Look how he ended up, writing as a blogger.. Damn!

You still want to defend him? go right ahead. Defend your traitor.

Anonymous said...

Más vale bolo conocido que alcohólico ANÓNIMO.

Solavá said...

What a fine way of dealing with an argument.

Again, personalities are not the issue in El Salvador. Justice is.

No one who follows their conscience is a traitor, even if you don't agree with their views. In the United States no one worries of being label a traitor if they switch alliances from the democratic to the republican party, or at least, they don't fear for their life if that word is used. We need to keep things in perspective. That vocabulary is not conducive to justice in El Salvador.

I will not continue reading this thread, but I will leave you with a few names of people murdered because they were seen as traitors:

Roque Dalton
Rutilio Grande
Enrique Álvarez Córdova
Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Mélida Anaya Montes
Ignacio Ellacuría
Ignacio Martín-Baró
Segundo Montes
Armando López
Juan Ramón Moreno
Joaquín López y López
And many, many more, too many to mention...

In Monsignor Romero's words: "Protect the poor, reject violence, love justice".

Anonymous said...

I couldn't write the names of the thousands of people killed by the right-wing death squads and the Us trained salvadoran military just for being members of some workers union, or just for being defenseless peasants, women and children... they were many thousands.

Monsignor Romero was killed by D'aubuisson for being considered a communist. ( I know that neither personalities nor history is the issue here, but you're writing too many lies).

I agree, justice is the issue, but what a shame it doesn't exist in El Salvador.. but no wonder here, since ARENA has "governed" the country for the past almost 20 years, and the result is impunity.

Anonymous said...

This is obviuosly a very passionate subject. Each side sees its own explanation but, when pepople like Paolo Luers who has profited from both sides speak, you have to be an idiot to believe one word he says. Sorry Solavá, you are very eloquent in your presentations, but clearly they are lies.

Camilo said...

To annoymous: you seem to be the very reason why people are stuck in the space between. Ni para adelante, ni para atras. In addition, you hide your identity in annonimity which itself is suspect. You have Paolo's story wrong but you are not willing to accept that you got the facts twisted. You can say whatever you want about Paolo but you can never say that he is a coward who hides behind in annonomity. And that is way more than we can say about you.

Happygolucky said...

Dear Tim, I am really shocked to read some of the commentaries concerning the Manzanares familiy. Especially "the case" of Paco (Cutumay) was researched as far as possible for example by the Procuraduría de Derecos Humanos and it was PROOVED, that for exmpale the video material of his assesination was manipulated etc. Every dead is a tragedy and I really don't understand how it's possible that some people argue and bring up the idea that Paco was a criminal without concerning the results of investigations of Human Right Organisations. This is shocking for me. Paolo Luers may say what ever he wants, but it's polemic stuff, we all know that.
Paco was killed because of political reasons and beside of all this it was an extra-legal killing. I am rellay shocked. I am very close to the Manzanares familiy and I've been very close to Paco and I can tell you that it's really, really hard, if you have lost someone this way and you even have to read this kind of things Solavá is writing. That has nothing to do with human rights,either with justice, no way. It is very, very sad.