Responding to a series of attacks on security forces, the government of El Salvador announced that it will hit back even harder. In November, there have been at least 13 murders of police officers and soldiers by the gangs. In response, the government's point man on security issues, vice president Oscar Ortiz, announced that the armed forces and police would be initiating "Plan Nemesis." (In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of divine retribution).
"Plan Nemesis will have as its objective to harden still further the regime of action against these criminal structures."
"We are striking blows against organized crime."
"We are going to deploy our units, pursue [the gangs] and beat them with force."The vice president also stated that gang leaders responsible for attacks on police would face even stricter prison conditions, and his minister of security stated that such gang members would face "the worst conditions" in jail.
Several hundred young people, all labelled as gang members, were rounded up in sweeps by the PNC and authorized by the country's attorney general. They are thrown into the unbelievably bad and overcrowded conditions of El Salvador's jails and prisons.
Also this week, El Salvador, along with Guatemala and Honduras announced the deployment of a Tri-National force against organized crime. This highly militarized response to the problem of crime in the region is supposed to respond to the flow of gangs and narco-traffickers across country borders in the Northern Triangle of Central America.
The rhetoric of retribution and vengeance, with its emphasis that the country's security forces are authorized to use all force necessary, creates a situation where respect for human rights has disappeared. There is no talk of justice, but only talk of smashing the gangs. Without a doubt, there are vicious murderers, rapists and extortionists within the gangs. But how many innocent victims will suffer as collateral damage in this war? How many young men will have a target on their backs, just because they have grown up in the wrong neighborhood?