Viewing cable 06SANSALVADOR1702
Title: EL SALVADOR: GOES FINALLY "GETTING IT" ON CRIME?

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06SANSALVADOR17022006-07-03 18:04:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
VZCZCXYZ0020
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSN #1702/01 1841804
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 031804Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3005
INFO RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 001702 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/02/2016 
TAGS: EAID ES PGOV PINR PREL
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR:  GOES FINALLY "GETTING IT" ON CRIME? 
 
Classified By: Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
¶1. (C)  SUMMARY:  Ambassador Barclay met June 27 with 
President Tony Saca to underscore U.S. concern about El 
Salvador's worsening crime problems; the President indicated 
that he intends to make crime his number-one priority during 
his remaining three years in office.  A flurry of recent 
activity in legal and judicial reform, together with the 
recent dismissal of corrupt judges and police, appear to 
indicate a newfound willingness on the part of goverment 
authorities to face up to the reality of the nation's 
critical crime problem.  The Embassy stands poised to 
integrate greater efforts with the GOES's anti-crime 
struggle, while keeping the Saca administration focused on 
the need for it to take the lead.  END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2. (C)  In an hour-long June 27 meeting with President Saca, 
Ambassador Barclay emphasized the importance the USG places 
on addressing the nation's critical crime problem, and urged 
Saca to take personal responsibility for the issue within the 
GOES.  President Saca responded that he was, and asked the 
Ambassador to watch out for important announcements in the 
next week.  He added that, notwithstanding the media's thirst 
for sensationalist crime stories, progress is already being 
made, and that the government's comprehensive crime-fighting 
plan would soon unfold.  Saca praised new Attorney General 
Garrid Safie and Civilian National Police (PNC) Chief Rodrigo 
Avila, and opined that it was important to establish public 
successes "on the ground" and improved cooperation between 
prosecutors and judges before pressing for further judicial 
reform in the Legislative Assembly.  Saca acknowledged that 
the recent arrests of allegedly corrupt PNC officers was a 
much-needed, if painful, measure.  Lastly, he expressed 
appreciation for USG assistance in the investigation leading 
to the arrest of alleged money-launderer Arturo Morales, and 
for positive U.S. statements in the wake of Morales's arrest. 
 (See more below.) 
 
¶3. (C)  On June 23, the DCM hosted a luncheon for Attorney 
General Garrid Safie, PNC Director Rodrigo Avila, Supreme 
Court Criminal Chamber President Nestor Castaneda, and Public 
Defender Marcos Gregorio Sanchez Trejo (the latter was 
reelected June 30); the luncheon was also attended by DOJ 
Attache Stacy de la Torre and FBI Legatt Leo Navarette.  The 
nation's staggering crime situation was also the subject of 
this meeting; the DCM emphasized the need to develop a 
comprehensive plan to address the problem, and stressed that 
the GOES needs to communicate a clear and consistent message, 
rather than downplay the seriousness of the situation and 
thereby lose credibility.  A lengthy discussion followed 
regarding the state of the country's judical sector, and how 
judicial corruption and lack of accountability affect public 
confidence in the system.  Castaneda affirmed that the 
Supreme Court will continue to remove judges who make 
erroneous rulings in the face of clear guidance from the 
higher court, and Safie indicated that his office intends to 
work with the PNC aggressively to investigate and prosecute 
corrupt prosecutors and judges.  PNC Chief Avila offered to 
present the Government's comprehensive crime plan to Embassy 
officials on July 7. 
 
¶4. (C)  The Ambassador's meeting with President Saca and 
DCM's luncheon occurred against the backdrop of GOES and 
judicial anti-crime activity on many fronts.  On June 19, the 
Supreme Court backed up a witness protection law passed in 
April, and ruled that it is not unconstitutional for 
witnesses' faces to be concealed during trial.  Thirteen PNC 
officers, most of them 911 operators, were arrested June 20 
for their alleged involvement in a January 31 robbery.  The 
Supreme Court on June 22 dismissed Judge Carlos Escobar of 
Santa Tecla, who in December released members of a Mara 
Salvatrucha kidnapping ring who had been apprehended with 
ransom money in hand from the recent kidnapping of a 
businessman.  The Court at the same time ordered an 
investigation of San Francisco de Menendez Judge Adrian 
Menendez for his alleged involvement in dismissing charges 
against a number of persons charged with tax evasion.  The 
Ministry of Governance on June 25 announced measures that 
would reform prison regulations to prohibit cellphones and to 
allow police to enter and conduct emergency searches and 
movements of prisoners without a court order.  On the same 
day, the Attorney General announced that seven additional 
judges were under investigation for malfeasance, and the 
National Conciliation Party (PCN) proposed the 
criminalization of prison visitors' practice of bringing 
prohibited items to prisoners, with the imposition of three- 
to five-year sentences.  On June 26, the Ministry of 
Governance proposed some 70 legal reforms, including 
increased penalties for threatening witnesses and for 
underage offenders, seizure of property associated with 
criminal acts, prohibition of additional articles from 
prisoners, and new procedures for trials involving gangs and 
other organized crime. 
 
¶5. (C)  The recent arrest of tourist agency operator Arturo 
Morales on money-laundering charges marked an important 
milestone in Salvadoran law enforcement, since it 
demonstrated that even members of prominent families were not 
beyond the reach of the law.  (Note:  Morales has family 
connections to the owner of leading daily La Prensa Grafica, 
as well as inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  End 
note.)  Morales stands accused of laundering, via falsified 
immigrants' remittances, proceeds from narcotics sales 
totaling more than $10 million, from which he profited 
approximately $1.2 million.  The DEA and DOJ had long sought 
Salvadoran cooperation in arresting Morales. 
 
¶6. (C)  Christian Democratic Party (PDC) leader Rodolfo 
Parker on June 26 outlined to poloff additional moves being 
made in law enforcement and judicial reform, saying that the 
Government and legislators had finally recognized the need to 
purge institutions and weed out corrupt judges, prosecutors, 
and police.  He confided that seven prosecutors would soon be 
dismissed, and that significant changes were coming soon in 
both criminal law procedures and penalties.  Parker is 
pushing ahead a measure that will require that acquittal 
rulings by justices of the peace be reviewed and confirmed by 
criminal-court judges; he is also promoting an amendment to 
constitutional procedural rules so that when a judge refuses 
to enforce the law, his/her ruling must be reviewed by the 
Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (CSJ), and if the 
CSJ rules against the judge's position, he/she cannot issue 
similar rulings in the future.  Parker opined that although 
the PDC, ARENA, and PCN are commited to working together to 
achieve significant judicial reform, such comprehensive 
measures will take time, and may therefore have little 
immediate impact on the nation's homicide rate.  (Note:  El 
Salvador's 2005 homicide rate, which equaled 55 killings per 
100,000 persons per year, was the Hemisphere's highest; with 
murder numbers up so far in 2006, this year's rate may well 
end up as the world's highest.  End note.) 
 
¶7. (C)  COMMENT:  June interagency Embassy meetings resulted 
in a draft consensus crime strategy.  The Ambassador and 
Embassy staff will continue to stress a solid and consistent 
message that crime represents the most serious challenge to 
the country's sustained economic growth and the continued 
consolidation of its democratic institutions.  We will 
emphasize that the GOES must take ownership in addressing the 
crime problem, rather than expecting the United States and 
others to lead the way.  We believe that key elements of any 
effective solution will include enhancing the efficiency of 
the PNC (already the region's best police force) and 
exercising greater control within the prison system to halt 
communication of detained gang leaders, and thereby disrupt 
their organizational network.  In the new process of 
allocating budgetary resources resulting from the joint 
State/USAID "Blue Sky Exercise", the Embassy has recommended 
allocating approximately USD 3.5 million--above and beyond 
existing INL funds--toward an anti-crime program.  END 
COMMENT. 
Barclay