HomeNewsBriefCan Armed Soldiers Really Solve El Salvador’s Coffee Woes?
BRIEF

Can Armed Soldiers Really Solve El Salvador’s Coffee Woes?

EL SALVADOR / 2 DEC 2019 BY SUKANTI BHAVE EN

El Salvador officials have announced the deployment of more than 3,000 troops to protect coffee farms from theft -- a puzzling move, given that crop theft is not considered one of the major threats to the country’s coffee industry.

Justice and Public Security Minister Rogelio Rivas announced in November the National Plan for Coffee Security 2019-20, which calls for the deployment of 1,600 police and 1,700 soldiers to combat robbery, theft and smuggling of raw coffee beans, reported La Prensa Gráfica. Officials say that the security force will also protect some 50,000 coffee workers -- including owners and farmers -- from extortion and other threats, reported Seguridad 360.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Flirts with ‘Mano Dura’ Security Policies Again

Since President Nayib Bukele took office in June, he has initiated several hardline policies to tackle organized crime. His $31 million Territorial Control Plan put  2,500 officers and 3,000 soldiers in San Salvador and other cities to recover territory occupied by gangs in 17 municipalities.

InSight Crime Analysis

Five years ago, coffee theft was a rising concern, costing farmers some $400,000 in 2014, reported La Prensa Gráfica. Armed gangs ambushed farms at night, attacking trucks that transported beans. Approximately three percent of the total production that season was stolen, according to estimates by the Coffee Growers Association. Orestes Ortez, then the country’s agriculture minister, acknowledged the problem at the time, dispatching police to protect coffee farms and trace buyers of the stolen beans.

But recently, there simply haven’t been any significant reports of coffee theft, raising questions as to why this massive deployment was needed at all. It is essentially surprising that over 3,000 troops should be deployed to protect coffee plantations when Bukele deployed just 5,550 men in June to reclaim territory from organized crime gangs, a far more pressing problem.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profile

The misplaced decision to deploy troops to protect coffee seems to be a continuation of Bukele’s “mano duro” policies -- an approach that is gaining him support. A poll conducted by Prensa Gráfica in August showed that a large percentage of Salvadorans report feeling safe in places they frequently visit, such as their neighborhoods and supermarkets, reported AS/COA. Further, according to the same poll, two-thirds of citizens also have a positive view of the police force.

The Bukele administration’s move to deploy troops to coffee farms will not have much of an effect on larger concerns for coffee farmers, which include major loss of productivity due to climate change and leaf rust fungus, as well as massive debts. Bean prices have also been hit hard recently, reaching their lowest monthly average in about 13 years in April 2019, according to the International Coffee Organization.

The criminal issue that has persisted on coffee farms is extortion, including on the payroll: gangs coerce farmers to create no-show jobs for their members. But the presence of additional law enforcement is unlikely to help as extortion is El Salvador's pre-eminent criminal economy.

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

EL SALVADOR / 18 MAY 2021

Though far from revelatory, a new list of officials the United States government suspects of corruption and drug trafficking in…

EL SALVADOR / 1 JUL 2021

Multiple sources from the United States and El Salvador say the recent decision to temporarily halt the extradition of several…

EL SALVADOR / 13 JAN 2021

The head of El Salvador’s financial regulatory agency has instructed banks not to close the accounts of suspected or formally…

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…