HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Strikes against Death Squads Led by Army, Police
BRIEF

El Salvador Strikes against Death Squads Led by Army, Police

EL SALVADOR / 23 JUN 2017 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

Police and army officials were among those arrested in El Salvador's biggest opperation against anti-gang death squads in recent memory, as the authorities finally move against the deadly militias that have flourished under their noses.

On June 21, Salvadoran police arrested four police officers, including one high-ranking official, ten members of the military and 34 civilians accused of forming a network of death squads in various zones in the east of the country, reported EFE. A further five military officials remain at large.

Will Ruiz, the head of the anti-organized crime unit at the Attorney General's Office, announced at a press conference that the group stands accused of 36 murders and two attempted murders, one case of deprivation of liberty, and 13 armed robberies.

Ruiz told media that the network consisted of two factions that had allied with each other, one dedicated to "social cleansing" killings and the other to bank robbery.

According to the prosecutor, the mission of the death squad was to "take justice into their own hands because of the incompetence of the authorities in solving the gang problem that affects the population."

However, while most of their victims were members of the MS13 gang, Ruiz said, among them were also nine people who investigators believe had no ties to gangs at all. In addition, there is evidence in two cases that the group acted as contract killers, taking payment to carry out murders.

The network was divided into diverse cells that coordinated to aid each other's operations, Ruiz said. This included using their inside contacts in the police, who provided intelligence and alerts to their death squad comrades, and hindered the operations of their police colleagues.

The prosecutor also described the alleged financing of the death squad by people living in the United States. He identified one of these suspected moneymen by the alias "Willy," saying he is wanted on charges of human smuggling and is believed to have fled to the United States.

InSight Crime Analysis

The operation in El Salvador represents the most serious blow yet against a phenomenon that until recently provoked little response from the state, even as the list of its victims grew ever larger.

Rumours of anti-gang death squads turned into concrete evidence of "social cleansing" killing sprees as far back as 2014. But amid a climate of fear and violence as the gangs declared open war on the security forces, their activities went largely unchecked.

SEE ALSO: Corruption in El Salvador: Politcians, Police and Transportistas

The first signs that this could change came with the arrest of six police officers along with several civilians in May 2016. And a group of police was charged in July 2016 with participating in extrajudicial killings. This new wave of arrests now represents a serious stepping up of efforts to combat the death squads and a welcome sign the authorities are finally taking the problem seriously.

The alleged activities of the death squad send a clear message about the dangers of letting such vigilantism take hold. Not only do such groups undermine the rule of law, they also inevitably leave innocent victims and will likely slide into criminality, whether in the form taking payment for their killings and robbing banks as in this case, or in other activities such as extorting protection money from the communities they claim to protect.

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

EXTORTION / 20 AUG 2018

The repeated appearance of “copycats” in Guatemala shows how criminals are taking advantage of the country’s widespread extortion and its…

BRAZIL / 27 MAR 2018

A new report says that a lack of regulation of private security companies in Latin America is having negative impacts…

EL SALVADOR / 27 AUG 2013

A scheme that placed undercover police officers and soldiers on board El Salvador buses to combat extortion and robbery…

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…