Viewing cable 06SANSALVADOR2766
Title: SACA'S COMMISSION CHATS WHILE MURDER RATE RISES

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06SANSALVADOR27662006-11-16 17:54:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
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DE RUEHSN #2766/01 3201754
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 161754Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4404
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNFB/FBI WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 002766 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2016 
TAGS: ES KCRM PGOV PREL KHLS
SUBJECT: SACA'S COMMISSION CHATS WHILE MURDER RATE RISES 
 
REF: A. SAN SALVADOR 2526 
 
     ¶B. SAN SALVADOR 2661 
 
Classified By: DCM Michael A. Butler. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
¶1. (C)  SUMMARY: The GOES released new figures on November 14 
that show murders are up in October over September, rising to 
339 homicides last month alone.  The Saca Administration 
paradoxically responds that the numbers are not entirely 
negative.  They point to the fact that the murder rate is 
down in some of the 20 most violent municipalities.  While 
the efforts at better coordination between municipal 
government and the police in the most dangerous areas may be 
good news, the overall increase in the murder rate is 
decidedly bad news.  In other bad news, six prisoners have 
been murdered in different prisons in the first two days of 
the week, and a prison director was wounded in an 
assassination attempt at a roadblock outside of San Miguel. 
The Ambassador's October 16 message to stop crime now 
inspired a flurry of positive commentary and reflection from 
all sectors of society.  This reflection and debate has led 
to some very positive long-term planning, including proposals 
by leading think-tank FUSADES, and the creation of the new 
Anti-Crime Commission to study the issue (reftel B), but it 
has not led to immediate action to get criminals off the 
street--as the Ambassador urged.  While the Commission 
deliberates over possible solutions, violent crime in El 
Salvador continues to rise.  END SUMMARY. 
 
¶2. (C)  After three months of not reporting homicide rates, 
the Ministry of Governance released new figures yesterday to 
leading daily La Prensa Grafica.  The numbers (reflecting 
police statistics that do not include victims who die later 
while being cared for in a hospital) show 291 murders for 
September, with 339 in October.  This brings the overall 
number of murders in 2006 to 3,076, slightly up from the 
3,043 reported for the same period in 2005.  Despite this 
seven percent rise in the murder rate in one month, the GOES 
points to municipalities like San Martin, where efforts 
between the police and municipal government to ban arms in 
public places and better coordinate the involvement of local 
residents apparently contributed to decreases in the murder 
rate.  (Note: The issue of access to more reliable crime 
indicators was a major theme of a recent anti-crime plan 
released by leading think-tank NGO Salvadoran Foundation for 
Economic and Social Development (FUSADES).  Discrepancies 
between police statistics and Institute of Legal Medicine 
(IML) numbers, combined with recent efforts of the Ministry 
of Governance to not report violent crime figures, has made 
analysis very difficult for civil society advocates.  End 
Note). 
 
¶3. (U)  At the same time these numbers were released, news 
broke that two prisoners were murdered at the Chalatenango 
Penitentiary on November 13, and four additional prisoners 
were murdered at the Ciudad Barrios Penitentiary in San 
Miguel on November 14.  Near San Miguel on November 14, 
Warden Nelson Miguel Hernandez of the San Francisco Gotera 
Penitentiary in Morazan was wounded in an assassination 
attempt by masked gunmen who stopped his car at a roadblock. 
Initial reports of the murders indicated they were committed 
by the maras in a brutal show of violence to protest new 
government restrictions on frequency of conjugal and other 
family visits, measures intended to reduce levels of 
contraband in prisons.  Minister of Governance Figueroa told 
the press he does not believe this, and instead posited that 
they were retribution killings among rival gang members. 
 
¶4. (C)  The new Anti-Crime Commission has made initial 
consultations and is reported to be contemplating three 
recommendations: stricter gun control, increased resources 
for the police, and the passage of a RICO-style law to 
prosecute gang members for participating in organized crime. 
The Commission's third meeting will take place next Tuesday, 
but Embassy contacts report that the Commission has not 
addressed any substantive issues thus far. Some leading 
members of the Commission have actually urged that the 
Legislative Assembly refrain from passing any new anti-crime 
laws for at least the next two weeks as the Commission 
prepares its own recommendations.  The other area the 
administration has addressed is media coverage of crime.  On 
November 10, major media outlets in the country, including 
major newspapers and television and radio stations signed an 
agreement to report on crime in a more "humane and 
responsible" manner.  This includes not publishing images of 
crime victims' corpses, refraining from speculation regarding 
those responsible for specific crimes, and portraying a more 
positive image of the country.  Embassy contacts close to the 
presidency have assured Polcouns that President Saca's 
political advisers had a direct hand in urging the media to 
sign on to such an agreement, in order to take public 
pressure away from the president on the burgeoning violent 
crime issue. Saca, in fact, has been publicly ebullient about 
the media agreement, saying that presenting a more positive 
image in the media will help reduce crime by helping 
introduce a  culture of nonviolence. 
 
¶5. (C)  COMMENT:  The Ambassador's October 16 speech has been 
viewed by key opinion-makers and the most influential 
elements in the private sector, inter alia, as having 
coalesced public opinion to demand immediate solutions to the 
violent crime and mara problem.  Nearly a month later, major 
newspaper editorials continue to enthusiastically support the 
Ambassador's call for action, and a broad array of Embassy 
contacts continue to lavish praise on the speech.  However, 
despite this positive feedback, the signal for immediate 
action has so far elicited only another commission to study 
the problem further. Post will continue to press the National 
Assembly to pass key legislation now, such as a RICO law and 
an asset forfeiture bill, and let the commission deliberate 
on its own timetable. 
Barclay