Viewing cable 07SANSALVADOR1525
Title: POLICE CORRUPTION IN SAN MIGUEL

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07SANSALVADOR15252007-08-08 23:07:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy San Salvador
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DE RUEHSN #1525/01 2202307
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 082307Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7253
UNCLAS SAN SALVADOR 001525 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KCRM PGOV PHUM PREL ES
SUBJECT: POLICE CORRUPTION IN SAN MIGUEL 
 
REF: A. SAN SALVADOR 1248 
 
     ¶B. SAN SALVADOR 1485 
 
¶1. (U) Summary: Three current and former members of El 
Salvador's National Civilian Police (PNC) were arrested on 
July 29 and charged with carrying out a contract killing. 
Several local businessmen have also been implicated in what 
press reports describe as an extortion, racketeering and 
assassination network operating in the eastern Salvadoran 
city of San Miguel.  To complicate matters further, ongoing 
press speculation alleges a link between the criminal network 
and the populist mayor of the city of San Miguel.  End 
summary. 
 
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Murder for Hire? 
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¶2. (U) On July 29 Nelson Arriaza Delgado, a police sergeant 
from the criminal investigations unit of the National 
Civilian Police (PNC) in San Miguel was arrested and charged 
with murder for his alleged role in the assassination of an 
individual purported to have connections to street gangs 
operating in Nueva Sparta, a municipality in the nearby 
department of La Union.  Arriaza and two former policemen are 
accused of being part of an organized network of killers for 
hire which is suspected of involvement in upwards of 15 
unsolved killings. 
 
¶3. (U) On August 1 PNC Director Rodrigo Avila stated that 
that several San Miguel businessmen were under investigation 
for "recruiting" corrupt police officers into a network 
engaged in the murder of criminals and gang members.  In an 
interview with local paper Diario de Hoy, Avila compared the 
San Miguel network to the notorious "Sombra Negra" ('black 
shadow'), a right-wing death squad that targeted gang members 
and criminals during the Salvadoran civil war.  Avila alleged 
that the San Miguel group was not only involved in what he 
referred to as "social cleansing," but also complicit in 
murder and intimidation in support of their legitimate 
business interests, as well as smuggling, extortion, and drug 
and human trafficking.  (Comment: The Sombra Negra was one of 
the most notorious right-wing death squads of the civil war 
era.  Unless Avila has far more serious information regarding 
the activities of the San Miguel group which he has yet to 
make public, the comments he made to the press on August 1 
are almost certainly overblown.  End comment). 
 
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Politics Unusual 
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¶4. (SBU)  San Miguel, El Salvador's third largest city, is 
situated in the far eastern part of the country and is an 
important agricultural and industrial center.  As such, San 
Miguel's mayor has a certain level of national prominence. 
To complicate matters further, San Miguel's mayor, Wilfredo 
"Will" Salgado, is himself a controversial figure.  Salgado 
once described the Sombra Negra as a "necessary evil" and is 
alleged to have been involved in human and arms trafficking 
in the past, though never directly implicated.  The mayor, 
often described as a populist with "authoritarian tendencies" 
was expelled from the National Conciliation Party (PCN) 
earlier this year (reftel A), and has declared himself a 
Presidential candidate in the 2009 elections  (Comment: 
Salgado is not considered to have any reasonable chance of 
garnering sufficient support for a realistic presidential 
bid, though his presence in the race could alter the 
landscape enough to have both major parties concerned.  End 
comment)  Salgado has distanced himself from this case and 
its investigation, dismissing any connection to the alleged 
criminals saying only that he is a supporter of the police 
"from afar."  Unsubstantiated media speculation has linked 
ARENA and members of the PNC with a desire to use the San 
Miguel events to further discredit Salgado. 
 
¶5. (U)  The Ministry of Public Security and the PNC have been 
quick to label this an isolated incident rather than evidence 
of a widespread problem within the PNC.  The PNC is widely 
regarded as a reputable and 'clean' police force, in marked 
contrast to the police forces of some other Central American 
countries.  The opposition FMLN, which has used recent 
arrests in Suchitoto to criticize ARENA's human rights record 
(reftel B), has attempted to use this case as an example of 
the corruption of the PNC and by extension the ruling ARENA 
party.  This allegation has by and large been met with both 
media and public skepticism. 
 
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Comment 
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¶6. (SBU) Accusations of corruption are particularly damaging 
to the PNC.  The institution has been working hard to 
establish its bona fides with a Salvadoran population 
increasingly frustrated by corruption and the inability of 
the central government to gain the upper hand against street 
gangs and other violent criminals.  Allegations of death 
squads and extra-judicial killings hearken back to the 
darkest days of the Salvadoran civil war, and risk setting in 
motion further political polarization over public safety and 
crime control policy.  Moreover, the recent arrests in 
Suchitoto have raised the political temperature and placed 
the ARENA government on the defensive against FMLN (and U.S. 
NGO) charges of backsliding on human rights.  Though by all 
appearances the indicted police officers were motivated by 
corruption and greed rather than an overtly political or 
ideological agenda, further political ramifications could 
ensue from the unfolding San Miguel PNC investigations. End 
Comment. 
Butler