Corruption in El Salvador: Politicians, Police, and Transportistas
Héctor Silva Ávalos, Infiltrators: A Chronicle of Corruption in the National Civil Police of El Salvador, Forthcoming
36 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2014 Last revised: 20 Oct 2014
Date Written: March 1, 2014
Corruption and the infiltration of public institutions in Central America by organized crime groups is an unaddressed issue that lies at the core of the increasing violence and democratic instability that has afflicted the region in the last decade. In El Salvador, infiltration has mutated into a system capable of determining important political and strategic decisions, such as the election of high-level judicial officials and the shaping of the state approach to fighting crime. This paper addresses corruption in El Salvador’s National Civil Police (PNC), the law enforcement agency created under the auspices of the 1992 Peace Accord that ended the country’s 12-year civil war. Archival and field research presented here demonstrates that the PNC has been plagued by its own “original sin”: the inclusion of former soldiers that worked with criminal groups and preserved a closed power structure that prevented any authority from investigating them for over two decades. This original sin has allowed criminal bands formed in the 1980s as weapon or drug smugglers to forge connections with the PNC and to develop into sophisticated drug trafficking organizations (DTOs). These new DTOs are now involved in money laundering, have secured pacts with major criminal players in the region — such as Mexican and Colombian cartels — and have learned how to use the formal economy and financial system. These “entrepreneurs” of crime, long tolerated and nurtured by law enforcement officials and politicians in El Salvador, are now major regional players themselves.
Note: This working paper is an abridged version of an investigation by Salvadoran journalist Héctor Silva Ávalos.
Keywords: El Salvador, PNC, National Civil Police, corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking
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