On Monday Mauricio Funes replaced the civilian head of the National Police (PNC) with retiring general Francisco Ramón Salinas Rivera. This came just a few months after Funes had named another former general, David Munguía Payés, as the Minister of Public Security. Earlier, a third military officer was placed as second in command in the state intelligence unit.
The appointment of Salinas out of the armed forces to be in charge of internal policing and security matters was promptly criticized by the FMLN the BBC reports:
"The choice of General Salinas is another step towards the dismantlement of the democratic and civilian doctrine behind our public security, and openly contravenes the peace accords and the constitution," the FMLN said in a statement.Human rights groups also criticized the appointment according to the BBC:
The FMLN argues that no member of the military should head the police, a force it says is defined as civilian in the constitution.
Director of the Human Rights Institute at the Central American University Benjamin Cuellar said "betting on the Armed Forces as a solution to our problems" would land El Salvador in a war on drugs which "is already lost and whose victims will be on our doorstep".
President Funes said choosing Gen Salinas to head the police was in no way a militarisation of the organisation, nor did it violate the peace accord.
He said the General had already requested his retirement from the Armed Forces and was therefore a civilian.
The President said high levels of violence and the rising influence of Mexican drug cartels in El Salvador had forced him to take "stronger institutional measures".
As El Faro notes, the appointment of General Salinas comes just a week after Funes apologized for the massacre at El Mozote commited by the Salvadoran military and Funes instructed the military to stop celebrating as heroes military officers who had committed atrocities.
In another potentially troubling development, the courageous Inspector General of the PNC, Zaira Navas, announced that she had resigned her position. Her reasons for leaving were not clear, but she said it was not related to the appointment of Salinas.