This week, the number of homicides for August surpassed 700, making this easily the bloodiest month in the bloodiest year since the end of the civil war. It was a week which saw El Salvador's Attorney General Luis Martinez and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court making news related to the struggle to control gang-related violence.
It's terrifying, but are gangs terrorists? The Constitutional Chamber released a ruling which addressed issues surrounding a El Salvador's anti-terrorism law and anti-gang legislation. According to the court's ruling, the warring street gangs can properly be called terrorists under the law, and membership in the gangs alone is sufficient to be considered a crime. The law should not, however, be extended to those who commit acts of protest, so long as the purpose was not the use of terror and violent acts. The ruling said the government can properly prosecute those who was are financiers or apologists for the gangs, and the court specifically ruled that any agreements in the so-called truce or "tregua" of 2012 were illegal. The ruling was praised by politicians and the general public.
I suppose there are now 60,000 "terrorists" in El Salvador and hundreds of thousands more collaborators. The great danger is that the language of a war against terrorism will sanction even greater abuses by the police and military against young men living in marginalized communities. It may also frighten off organizations from working with at-risk youth or gang members for fear of being labelled supporters of terrorism.
The country's attorney general, Luis Martinez declared that authorities had broken up a plot to use explosives to blow up the attorney general and other parts of the government. Arrests in the alleged plot have been made.
Attorney General Martinez also attacked members of IPAZ who have supported dialogue with the gangs. Martinez asserted that these church leaders were deceiving gang members and were solely seeking to gain power and enrich themselves from funds for programs to rehabilitate gang members. Since I personally know all the bishops mentioned by name in the article, I can categorically satate that nothing could be further from the truth.
Fourteen members of the Barrio 18 Revolucionarios gang were murdered within the prison walls of the Quezaltepeque prison. Later the attorney general's office announced that it had learned that the murders had been ordered by a gang leader in another prison in Gotera, Morazan Department. If true, it shows that the government is still a long way from restricting illicit communications in and out of the prisons.
The University of Central America issued an editorial with a grave warning about the growing number of mass killings in El Salvador. In particular, the editorial called for thorough investigation of these events and prosecution of the perpetrators:
Be they gangs, governmental forces, or irregular groups of extermination who are committing these types of killings, the certainty is that they express a brutality so extraordinary that the citizenry ought not rest until its has complete understanding of each and every one of these events, and until they are brought to trial.
Sean pandillas, fuerzas gubernamentales o grupos de exterminio irregulares los que cometen este tipo de asesinatos, lo cierto es que expresan una brutalidad tan extraordinaria que la ciudadanía no debería estar tranquila hasta tener conocimiento completo de todos y cada uno de ellos, y hasta que sean llevados a juicio.