Wednesday, November 30, 2011

War on crime declared

On Monday, former general and new Minister of Justice and Security David Munguía Payés gave an interview where he declared a "war on crime" and announced that his goal was to restore tranquility to the population and to produce a 30% decrease in crime within one year. The new minister made the point that such a dramatic reduction would require the participation of all elements of government and society.

Mike Allison, who writes the Central America Politics blog, has a nice opinion piece on Al Jazeera about the changeover for the Minister of Public Security in El Salvador. He writes:

Funes said "David Munguía is a man I have the utmost faith in, a retired soldier who deserves recognition from civil society for his performance in the armed forces during the two-and-a-half years he has been working under my mandate."

Funes does not appear to be someone who cares what the FMLN, civil society, the Catholic Church, and international solidarity activists say about his decisions. He has shown this in the past with his use of the armed forces on the streets of San Salvador and with Decree 743 that temporarily neutered the Constitutional Court. Funes does what he thinks is right. On the other hand, Munguía Payés' appointment could indicate that Funes does not have a deep group of individuals in which he places much trust. Funes might have felt that he had no option but to stick with Munguía Payés over the objections of much of Salvadoran society.

Personally, I think that Munguía Payés' appointment sets bad precedent. I am not worried so much about him as I am the fact that his appointment opens the door for additional appointments of former military officials to head state institutions. That's not a path that anyone wishes to see El Salvador travel down.
Two things I'll be watching for: what do opinion polls show as the reactions of the regular Salvadoran (sending the troops into the streets has been quite popular even if ineffective), and what changes in police tactics and deployment come with this new leadership.

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