HomeNewsBriefCan New Law Bring El Salvador Extortion Under Control?
BRIEF

Can New Law Bring El Salvador Extortion Under Control?

EL SALVADOR / 19 MAR 2015 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

El Salvador has finally passed a much delayed anti-extortion law, but serious doubts remain over whether it will be enough to tackle one of the most widespread and damaging crimes in the country.

After significant political wrangling, El Salvador's Congress approved a new anti-extortion law by a huge majority, with 78 out of 84 representatives voting in favor (see the full law here). 

The law establishes harsher penalties for extortion running up to 15 years, with even longer sentences for aggravated extortion, which includes extortion committed by gangs, public officials, from within prisons and using weapons, reported El Diario de Hoy.

The law also introduces a range of responsibilities for telecommunication companies in an attempt to tackle extortion from within prisons, which the government say accounts for 45 percent of extortion in El Salvador.

Companies will be prohibited from providing telecommunications services in areas near prisons, and are obliged to take the necessary technical measures to ensure they meet this requirement. They will also be required to suspend any phone line the Attorney General's office says is being used for extortion.

In addition, under the terms of the reforms, police and prosecutors will no longer have to wait for a criminal complaint before they investigate extortion cases.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite the large majority with which El Salvador's new anti-extortion law passed, it remains a contentious piece of legislation. The law was criticized on many sides, with opposition politicians questioning whether it goes far enough or whether the government has the capacity to implement the reforms.

Nevertheless, it contains some interesting new instruments to tackle extortion, such as removing the need for a complaint to start an investigation. This move may help address the silence around extortion, a crime which is notoriously underreported due to victims' fears of reprisals.

Perhaps the most ambitious section of the law has attracted the most concerns and will also likely be the most difficult to implement: telecommunication restrictions on prisons.

Placing a legal responsibility for enforcing this on private companies has generated concern in the sector. According to Contrapunto, industry representatives have shown opposition politicians that it is near impossible to completely block the cell phone signal at all times with the technology currently being used, and that inmates also use satellite phones to make calls, which cannot be blocked in the same way.

Similar reforms in Guatemala obliging companies to block signals have had limited success, with gang leaders reduced to attempting to coordinate extortion via handwritten notes, but only in the few prisons where the law has actually been enforced.

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

BARRIO 18 / 30 NOV 2017

Powerful statements made by a member of one of El Salvador’s most notorious gangs to the New York…

EL SALVADOR / 21 SEP 2016

With the United States increasingly clamping down on its southern border and high numbers of Central American refugees continuing to…

EL SALVADOR / 11 MAY 2017

US aid funding for Central America will be reduced in 2017. And while news reports have largely focused on…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…