Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Who to believe?

In twelve years of blogging about El Salvador, I early learned the lesson that things are often not what they seem.   This is particularly true when it comes to the world of crime, gangs and policing in El Salvador.

Yesterday I wrote a long blog post about the arrest of Dany Balmore Romero García.   It appeared that the arrest of Romero may have been an attempt to quash his documenting of extrajudicial killings by security forces in El Salvador.   In the articles cited in my blog post, there were many voices coming to the defense of Romero.  

After that post was published, El Faro published a story written by Efren Lemus titled Purgas en la cúpula de la MS-13 por dinero (Purges in the leadership of MS-13 because of money).  El Faro had obtained access to wiretapped recordings in the possession of Salvadoran authorities involving top MS-13 leaders.    The article details how one group of MS-13 leaders, the Holloywood Locos, were angry that another MS-13 section, the Fulton Locos, were spreading rumors that the MS-13 leaders had received millions of dollars during the 2012-2013 tregua (gang truce).   The recordings purport to document a series of instructions going out to execute certain Fulton Locos gang members who were subsequently killed.

Among the recordings in the hands of El Faro are included communications between El Piwa (Marvin Ramos Quintanilla, labelled by authorities as the CFO of MS-13) and "Dany Boy" (Dany Romero).    The communications and certain visits by Dany Romero to Salvadoran prisons where gang leaders were housed and a meeting at the offices of OPERA are tied to the instructions going out to kill the Fulton Locos leaders who were believed to be spreading rumors about tregua money.

If the recordings are authentic, and the interpretation of various code words in those recordings are accurate, it would seem to be a fairly damning set of facts against Dany Romero.    It reminds me very much of the earlier arrest of Padre Toño in 2014.    The priest who worked to rehabilitate gang members had a similarly impressive set of international supporters, but a set of phone recordings showed that the facts surrounding his actions were much less clear.

As in all things in El Salvador, a healthy dose of skepticism is required to get to the bottom of any set of facts.   We are nowhere near the bottom yet concerning the allegations raised by Operation Check.

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