HomeNewsBriefIn El Salvador, Hysteria Trumps Security Policy
BRIEF

In El Salvador, Hysteria Trumps Security Policy

BARRIO 18 / 17 AUG 2015 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

El Salvador's Attorney General recently said the country is looking to extradite alleged gang members to the United States on terrorism charges, a highly unlikely scenario that is illustrative of the government's increasingly tough rhetoric on combating soaring gang violence. 

In an interview with Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Grafica, Attorney General Luis Martinez said he has been in talks with US officials about extraditing gang members as terrorists. 

"We are going to demonstrate the power of the state," Martinez declared. "We are going to impose order, law, and justice. We are going to make them respect [us]."

Martinez said gang members deserve to be considered terrorists because they have carried out attacks against security forces and government agencies. "It is an effort on their part to create fear and terror in society," he said 

According to La Prensa Grafica, the 140 suspected gang members allegedly involved in the forced bus strike that paralyzed San Salvador for days and left seven public transport operators dead will be tried on terrorism charges.

InSight Crime Analysis

The likelihood that members of El Salvador's largest street gangs, the MS13 and Barrio 18, will be extradited to the United States is slim to none. Despite Martinez' comments labeling gang members as terrorists, neither the MS13 nor the Barrio 18 has been placed on the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. It is hard to imagine the US government seeking to extradite gang members on terrorism charges if the criminal group they belong to is not considered a terrorist organization. 

Martinez's comments are more reflective of the government's increasingly radical position on how to combat the gangs amid historic levels of violence.  Last week, Martinez announced authorities had placed warrants out for the arrest of 300 suspected gang members on terrorism charges. "They are terrorists, not gangsters," Martinez said at the time.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Martinez is not alone in calling for stronger punishments for gang members. In January, El Salvador's top police official announced officers should shoot at suspected criminals "with complete confidence." The following month, another high-level police official declared, "We're at war." Amid this aggressive rhetoric, incidents like police massacres of civilians and gang members have also been reported

The tough talk by police and government officials comes amid evidence that El Salvador is on track to become the most violent country in the Americas this year. June and May were reportedly the two most violent months since the country's civil war ended in the early 1990s, raising doubts about the country's ability to reduce violence in the short term. 

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 / 12 APR 2012

El Salvador is rolling out a new security strategy for lowering gang violence, but the new approach places little emphasis…

BARRIO 18 / 26 AUG 2014

El Salvador's attorney general has confirmed that his office is investigating the actions of both sets of negotiators in the…

EL SALVADOR / 19 AUG 2011

Drug trafficking in Central America is now a greater threat to the region than ever before, according to a report…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…