Monday, July 11, 2016

When police kill

In El Salvador, the police are killing ever growing numbers of alleged gang members in confrontations.   But such deaths are not just the result of blazing gun battles -- they also include death squads with off duty policemen operating in the country and summary executions of young men captured by the police or armed forces.

InsightCrime described the growing number of deaths in reported shootouts between police and gang members:

El Salvador's attorney general cautioned security forces against turning the country into the "Wild West" as authorities reported a string of shootouts that ended with eight gang members dead and a report surfaced indicating a spike in killings with multiple victims. 
Authorities said eight alleged gang members died on July 7 in reported shootouts with police, La Prensa Grafica reported. The paper quoted National Civil Police (Policia Nacional Civil - PNC) Director Howard Cotto as saying 4 armed individuals were killed after allegedly trying to ambush police in Ilobasco, about 50 kms northeast of the capital, San Salvador. The police reported that they recovered a 12-gauge shotgun and several 9mm pistols at the scene. 
The Attorney General's Office said three more people identified as gang members were killed later the same day in a shootout in La Paz, southeast of the capital, La Prensa Grafica reported. The paper quoted Attorney General Douglas Meléndez as cautioning the security forces to avoid "turning El Salvador into the Wild West." He said so far this year 183 people had died in confrontations with law enforcement.
Meanwhile, authorities say they have broken up a "social cleansing" death squad which included members of the police.   From EFE:
Salvadoran authorities have dismantled an alleged death squad partially made up of police and linked to around 40 killings of gang members since 2014, when a resurgence of gang-related violence began. 
Five civilians and five police were arrested Friday in the first crackdown in 20 years on a "social cleansing" group in El Salvador. 
Attorney General Douglas Melendez said the self-described "self-defense" organization was financed by local business leaders and Salvadorans living in the United States. 
Eleven other suspected members of the gang, which operated in the eastern province of San Miguel, remain at large. 
"We can't allow our country to become the Old West and this case is an example of that, where we have evidence of summary executions carried out by the suspects," Melendez said. 
Although the group has been linked to 40 homicides, the detainees will be charged with 9 killings, he added.
Also at the end of last week, the attorney general announced that officers involved in a killings of gang members during a police operation at Finca San Blas were being arrested and charged with an extra-judicial killing.   The San Blas killings were the subjective of a detailed investigative report by the online periodical El Faro which revealed that police in pursuit of gang members had captured and killed them, as well as at least one innocent civilian who was in that location.

Earlier this year, El Faro disclosed a similar execution by police of captured gang members and an innocent civilian at Villas de Zaragoza.

An article at RevistaFactum captures the mindsets of an army squadron in El Salvador setting out after gang members after an army soldier and his family had been killed.   When asked if they would capture the suspected gang members, he answered:
 Bitch! And for what are we going to capture that shit? Better that we end them and send them on their way. Anyway, only death is what awaits those sons of bitches.
What is frightening for El Salvador is the fact that a significant majority of the population would fully support that sentiment.




2 comments:

Greg said...

In 1983, while traveling from Sonsonate to San Salvador, our bus was stopped inside a traffic circle about 20 miles from our destination.

I was sitting on the left side of the bus next to a window.

Below me and perhaps 10 feet or so away a Hacienda Police (PH) soldier/officer was questioning a campisino. The man was dressed in the traditional all-white shirt and trousers, broad brimmed hat, perhaps in his early 40s. The PH, armed with a G3 assault rifle, was becoming increasingly irritated with the man. He was demanding identification and the man offered he had none.

The next thing I saw/heard was the rifle firing. The man fell dead at the PH's boots. He was killed because he couldn't produce identification.

Our bus was immediately entered by a Salvadoran sergeant wearing sunglasses. I recall he appeared very arrogant. He clearly wanted to warn everyone onboard to keep their mouths shut. When he realized all that were on the bus were American combat advisers - he simply nodded and got off.

We proceeded to San Salvador - the killing was reported to the embassy - to this day I have no idea of the outcome of that report but I imagine it went nowhere fast.

Now, 30+ years later, the Salvadoran police are still killing under the same mantra of their forefathers, the PH. It appears neither the FMLN nor ARENA in power or shared power can or does make a difference. It appears El Salvador has not changed all that much since that day in 1983.

Tim said...

Thanks for sharing this story.