Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Elite Salvadoran police carried out summary executions - Factum investigation (Aug. 23, 2017)

Members of an elite corps of El Salvador's police carried out at least three summary executions, sexually assaulted two teenagers, and at least one case of extortion, reports Revista Factum based on an in-depth investigation. The four police officers accused of these crimes formed part of the Specialized Reaction Forces (FES) of the National Civilian Police (PNC).

Revista Factum carried out a three month investigation of the FES group under the command of Lieutenant Diaz Lico, with the participation of the agents Bladimir de Jesus Flores Avalos, Jose Roberto Ventura Gamez, and another agent identified as Mogwli. The four police officers were accompanied by a civilian identified as Rastreador (Tracker), whose testimony of the crimes committed by the group is known to the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).  Lack of supervision "lack of institutional supervision, in part, contributed to this unit becoming an extermination group within the PNC."

But Factum's investigation also demonstrates these "...are not isolated cases of rotten apples -- the figure used by diverse PNC directors and Ministers of Security since the formation of the civil police in 1992 -- or of extermination groups foreign to the institution," argues the magazine's editorial. "No, this journalistic dispatch certifies that the crimes have been executed by police personnel with tolerance of the institutional leadership."

"Today, with this investigation, we know that, in effect, the Salvadoran state opted to tolerate another gang within its breast, formed by high-level police with legal licenses to bear arms and exert lethal force ... These are not isolated cases, it is an institutional trend, tolerated by those who direct the institution and the government."

Factum's investigation includes interviews with dozens of witnesses, the review of autopsy reports from the murders, reviews of police data bases, and access to real time communication between Rastreador and Lieutenant Diaz Lico and other PNC members via social media groups used to exchange information and respond to petitions to execute gang members.

If verified, the actions described are directly criminal, said PNC director Howard Cotto, in an interview with Factum.

According to official sources, 293 gang members died in alleged confrontations between police and gang members so far this year. The investigation shows how in at least one of those cases, officers beat and killed an unarmed gang member, reports Factum in a piece focusing on the killing of Ivan Benjamin Carcamo Caballero, a 29-year-old man known as Bam Bam.

The magazine published extensive Whatsapp chats between police officers who share videos of a beaten gang member, a photo of a body with multiple gun wounds and advice over how to stage a homicide scene, and frank discussions. 

News Briefs
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  • The U.S. government is considering restricting trades in Venezuelan debt, as part of efforts to pressure the Maduro administration, reports the Wall Street Journal. The extent of the measure has not yet been determined -- different sources say it could range from temporarily banning U.S.-regulated financial institutions from buying and selling dollar-denominated bonds issued by the Republic of Venezuela and state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela SA to more limited restrictions. Up until now, economic sanctions have been applied only to government officials, though U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened broader economic sanctions. (See Aug. 10's post on the issue.)
  • Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro says he is seeking an international arrest warrant for the former chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, who will reportedly seek asylum in the U.S., according to the BBC.
  • Chile’s government granted political asylum to five former Venezuelan Supreme Court justice appointees who had sought protection at the Chilean embassy in Caracas, reports the Wall Street Journal. The five were among the magistrates recently appointed to the court by the opposition-led National Assembly. Chile’s Foreign Ministry said in a news release that it had requested Venezuelan authorities safe-conduct, or immunity from arrest, for the five judges so they could travel abroad.
  • Chilean women's rights campaigners hailed a Constitutional Court decision affirming limited access to abortion as a "triumph of reason," reports the Guardian. (See yesterday's post.)
  • Public opinion surveys commissioned by the Instinto de Vida campaign in Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala and Venezuela — the six most violent countries in the region -- found that between 50% and 75% of the respondents were afraid of being victims of homicide. But they also found that most respondents preferred prevention oriented public policies, writes Igarapé Institute director Robert Muggah in the Los Angeles Times. "These hopeful views are backed by evidence. The Instinct for Life campaign has identified a series of data-driven measures that have successfully prevented killings. These include deterrence-based strategies that prioritize the most violent crimes, hot spot interventions, responsible gun and ammunition regulation, and recidivism prevention. When it comes to value for money, the most effective strategies to reduce lethal violence are investing resources in stabilizing unstable households and promoting positive parenting. Interventions that keep children in school, provide vocational training, generate meaningful jobs and teach life skills to at-risk youth are also effective."
  • A Mexican journalist Cándido Ríos was killed this week, despite being under a government protection program for reporters and human rights defenders, reports AFP. He is the tenth journalist killed so far this year in Mexico.
  • The U.S. State Department broadened its travel warning to citizens traveling to certain Mexican tourism areas -- including Cancún-- due to increased cartel violence, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Peru's justice system is advancing against several top politicians accused of corruption -- "but without much-needed legislative reform, its institutions will remain susceptible to criminality," according to InSight Crime. Now new data from IDL-Reporteros could implicate Keiko Fujimori in receiving illicit Odebrecht campaign donations in 2011.
  • Brazil's government announced a plan to privatize the country's largest electric utility, Eletrobras. The announcement earlier this week sent the stock market soaring, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Brazilian prosecutors filed charges against Aldemir Bendine, the former chief executive of Petrobras and Banco do Brasil, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • A year after the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the sports facilities built for the events languish around the city, reports the Miami Herald. However, other related projects, such as new transportation lines, have fared much better.
  • Trump said he would risk a government shut-down in order to obtain funding for his proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico, reports the BBC. "Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me if we have to close down our government, we are building that wall," Trump said at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona.

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