Monday, February 24, 2014

When murders go unsolved

One of the greatest challenges facing El Salvador is the weakness of its criminal justice system.   Crimes are not well investigated, and prosecutions of those who are arrested seldom produce results which are credible.   As a consequence, impunity and a lack of justice for victims is prevalent.

This problem is a central theme in a lengthy article by Robin Oisín Llewellyn in Le Monde diplomatique  titled El Salvador, violence and impunity.  The article details the history of murders and threats of violence against members of the environmental movement in the department of Cabañas and the many questions still left unanswered by the criminal justice system.   Here is an excerpt:
[F]our years after the murders, those killed have become known as the “martyrs” of the mining movement, and their faces gaze down from posters in the offices of environmentalists campaigning for a nationwide ban on metallic mining. To the families of Ramiro and Dora, the mining company is directly or indirectly responsible, and the departed live on: “They are our consciences,” says Guevara. 
Other motives for the murders 
Yet given the impunity surrounding the deaths, there is a danger that other interests are using the mining conflict as a smokescreen to conceal other motives for the murders. Cabañas is known to host narco-trafficking routes from the Honduran border that head west towards Guatemala. El Salvadoran smuggling is dominated by the Perrones and Texis cartels: the Perrones originated in milk, cheese, and clothes-smuggling networks that have developed links to Colombian, Mexican, and Guatemalan groups; the Texis cartel is characterised by the socially elevated, apparently-respectable nature of its leaders. 
The success of the Cabañas environmentalists in mobilising civil society could be seen to have presented a danger to the cartels’ operations, for once it threatened to overturn municipal decisions and to develop an electoral dimension, it began to undermine the stability of power relations on which large scale trafficking and money-laundering depend.
Read the rest of the article here.

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