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.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

ELITES AND CRIME / 22 MAR 2019

A new investigation has revealed how Cuban doctors are used by the Venezuelan government in an extortion scheme to remain…

EL SALVADOR / 29 AUG 2017

The government of El Salvador has yet to provide a convincing response to allegations that senior officers of the…

BARRIO 18 / 10 DEC 2015

The number of asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala in the United States shot up 410 percent between…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…