HomeNewsBriefAfter Scandal, El Salvador Police Trade One Elite Unit for Another
BRIEF

After Scandal, El Salvador Police Trade One Elite Unit for Another

EL SALVADOR / 19 FEB 2018 BY FELIPE PUERTA EN

Two months after a scandal over the abduction of a police officer by members of her own elite unit, El Salvador's national police announced the unit’s replacement with another specialized force with the same objectives and features very similar to those of its controversial predecessor.

Police Chief Howard Cotto announced the “dissolution" of the Police Reaction Group (Grupo de Reacción Policial – GRP) and its replacement by the Specialized Police Tactical Unit (Unidad Táctica Especializada Policial – UTEP), also known as the Jaguars. The elite unit will be under the command of the deputy commissioner, César Ortega, known in his circle as “Artillero” or "Gunner."

Half an hour after the announcement, the UTEP launched its first operation, which included several arrests and seizures allegedly linked to the financial structure of the MS13. One of the suspects arrested is accused of laundering money for the gang through a minibus company.

The GRP has been repeatedly linked to massacres, and more recently the unit was shaken by the disappearance of officer Carla Ayala from their facilities, allegedly at the hands of one of her colleagues, at the end of December last year.

Cotto made it clear that none of the more than 200 men and 16 women from the GRP will be part of the UTEP. However, it will take on members from the Special Reaction Forces (Fuerza Especializada de Reacción – FES) and the Special Police Operations Unit (Grupo de Operaciones Policiales Especiales – GOPES).

Last August an investigation by Revista Factum revealed that members of the FES had participated in at least three extrajudicial executions, as well as cases of sexual abuse and extortion.

InSight Crime Analysis

Although the police have indicated that they are currently conducting an internal investigation into what happened regarding officer Ayala, the Attorney General's Office has stated that the outcome is still uncertain and the case has come to be largely dependent on witness testimony due in part to obstacles put in place by the very same police force on which she served.

Previous investigations within the police ranks have often proven to be fruitless, with few convictions to date.

The impunity surrounding cases involving security forces can be attributed to several structural factors that, in addition to the culture of violence within its ranks, can be tied to institutional capabilities and political will.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, recently told InSight Crime that systemic changes are necessary to address impunity for abuses of authority by police.

"Ultimately it is about providing good evidence, having judges that are not afraid of indicting police officers, protecting these judges from very unpopular decisions and ensuring that internally within those institutions there are mechanisms that allow the gathering of the required evidence to demonstrate extrajudicial executions or excessive use of force," Callamard said.

In this context, the decision to replace an entire police elite unit with another in the midst of continuous accusations of abuse and violence seems to be more of a cosmetic measure than a concerted effort to address the institution's impunity issues.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 3 NOV 2017

Brazil's justice minister caused a stir this week when he accused Rio de Janeiro's military police of maintaining ties to…

EL SALVADOR / 11 FEB 2015

An El Salvador court has finally convicted a businessman linked to criminal network the Texis Cartel on arms charges, but…

ECUADOR / 18 FEB 2015

In 2011, Ecuador was one of the most violent countries in Latin America; the homicide rate had risen to over…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…