Aug 13, 2016

Operación Jaque aftermath, El Salvador doubling down on "extreme measures" (Aug. 12, 2016)

Screen shot 2016-08-13 at 1
crédito de foto:Latin American Daily Briefing
Salvadoran crackdown on street gang Mara Salvatrucha's financial network last month was a departure from the general operations against individual gang members, writes El Faro's Carlos Martínez. (See July 29's post.) Prosecutors and police are attempting to prove that gang leaders carried out lucrative businesses that were undeclared to their rank and file. Operación Jaque promises to be "an adult investigation," he writes, "it promises to be an investigation that has led authorities closer to understanding -- finally -- the organizational interior of the MS-13; its internal conflicts and its balance of power ... But it's important to remember, that it is, for now, just a promise."

Martínez analyzes the inner workings of the MS-13, which he notes has never been a monolithic organization. It more closely resembles a federation of organizations, he says, and backs the authorities' strategy of attempting to foment divisions between the leadership and the rank and file. (See July 29's post.)

El Faro published a very detailed account of wire-taps related to Operación Jaque that reveal divisions in the MS-13 leadership. Conversations between Ranfla leadership reported by El Faro also appear to show that former gang-member Dany Romero, who worked for a violence reduction NGO with foreign funding, was actually involved in carrying messages from incarcerated gang members. (See Monday's post on Dany Romero.)

But whether or not Romero was currently involved with the MS-13, it's not clear what will happen with the information he was collecting on alleged abuses of gang members by security forces. Media reports say he gathered reports of 140 extrajudicial killings of alleged gang members, notes Revista Factum. Prosecutors accuse him of attempting to destabilize the government with such reports. (See Monday's post on Dany Romero.) Outgoing Salvadoran Human Rights Prosecutor David Morales emphasizes that denouncing violations cannot be considered attacks on the State.

Also in the context of Operación Jaque, Salvadoran prosecutors say MS-13 leaders sought to create an elite unit of 500 fighters armed with powerful weapons from Mexico and Guatemala, in order to carry out "selective and simultaneous" attacks against high-profile targets such as business owners, security forces, judicial workers and politicians, reports InSight Crime. Though its unclear how far advanced the plan was, it sheds light onto the potential impact of the criminal organization's transnational connections. InSight notes that all firearms in El Salvador -- legal or otherwise -- must be imported at some point as there is no local manufacture.

This week El Salvador's Security and Justice Minister Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde announced the beginning of second phase of "extraordinary measures" aimed at cutting off incarcerated gang leadership from the outside world. The doubling down comes despite increasing questions over whether measures such as intensified security measures, especially in communities surrounding prisons, infringe on citizen rights, reports InSight Crime.


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