Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Funes: murder victims mostly criminals

In a television interview on Univision yesterday, Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes claimed that the rising homicide rate was not an indication that the public security policies of his administration were failing.  Instead he insisted that 90%(!) of the murders were not of innocent civilians, but were disputes between gangs over territory or the settling of grievances among the maras, or struggles to control narcotics trafficking.  (ContraPunto reports that Funes repeated his 90% claim later in a speech in Izalco).

Funes also dismissed claims that his government was militarizing public security as just the complaints of the "radical left."  In answer to another question, he stated that neither he nor his government had ever been in favor of current proposals from the president of Guatemala to decriminalize drugs, and Funes rejected the suggestion that he opposed such proposals because of US pressure.

President Funes may have started as a journalist, but I think he has abandoned any dedication to focusing on actual facts. I may be wrong, but it seems impossible that 90% of the victims are just other criminals. I know personally of too many victims and victims' families who were never part of any gang. What of the hundreds of women killed in femicides each year in El Salvador? What of the murders of bus drivers who didn't give in to extortion? What of the innocent victims of the bus burnimg massacre in Mejicanos? What of the environmental activists killed in areas where gold mines are planned? What of the married pair of PCN political activists assassinated in Guazapa while sitting on a porch last week?  I could go on and on.

Certainly there are many murders which do fit the description of battles between rival gangs over territory or drugs.   But to suggest that the great majority of victims are gang members and criminals is both wrong and an insult to the suffering affecting too many families throughout the country.


nanelle newbom said...

First- I strongly believe his numbers are wrong.
Second- If they are correct, it appears he is saying that it OK for gangs to shoot it out in El Salvador
Third- Whether they are wrong or right, based on my understanding of human society the web of gang violence holds people who are sucked into "involvement" on many different levels, and includes people "worth protecting".
That the problem being largely gang related is somehow an excuse for lack of effective correction reminds me of something one of my bosses once told me.
Once while I was working my ass off on a rape case, he leaned over my shoulder and asked, "Can you really rape a whore?". My answer is yes. I don't care who the individual victims are. It is Salvadoran society, and the Salvadoran economy that are victims as well. When due to the crime rate stores hide behind steel cages and when there are guys with shotguns at every corner it is not the gangs who are largely effected, but society as a whole. No mater who is dead in the street. What a horribly revealing statement he made. Horrible in its lack of wisdom.


Tim, I was more troubled by Funes' reasoning when he denied the militarization of the internal police function. Here, Funes said something I had never heard before and which I think would be anathema to the left: he said that the constitution does not go as far in restricting his action as the "radical left" say it does. But what he said next was the real clincher. He said that the constitution only requires that the security and defense functions be consigned to different departments. This reminded me of the argument we here in the U.S. that the U.S. Const. does not require a separation of Church and State and only forbids the establishment of a State religion. By this logic, there would be nothing to bar Pres. Funes from appointing military personnel to all levels of the internal security function, so long as they were moved to a different department. That's far more latitude than anything I'd heard in this debate--which previously had focused on whether the constitutional ban related only to active military versus retired.

On the point that 90% of the victims of violence are linked to gangs, I was far less troubled than you are. I took Funes point to be that the high murder rate in El Salvador is attributable to the activity of the gangs--to one sole factor--and is not indicative of a systemic failure or to a chaotic and pervasive type of violence that permeates all levels or institutions of a society. He had previously been making the point that the murder rate gets undue and disproportionate attention in the analysis of whether the government's security plan is working, and I think the president's remarks went to that point, and not--one would hope--to the blameworthiness or moral worth of the victims' lives.

Tim said...

I think this passionate response by Benjamin Cuellar is worth a read: