Monday, in an official ceremony at the Escuela Militar Capitán General Gerardo Barrios in San Salvador, President Funes received the title of Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Fuerzas Armadas de El Salvador—FAES). In his speech, he called on the FAES to work together with the National Police (Policía Nacional Civil—PNC) to combat organized crime and delinquency.
He assured that it would be a priority during his administration to strengthen the FAES, develop plans, and grant the resources needed to best combat violence and crime. President Funes has chosen David Munguía Payés to be the new minister of Defense, and Carlos Ascencio to be the general director of the PNC. In his speech, Funes recognized the need for greater coordination between the FAES and PNC to combat organized crime and increase security. Over the past few years, the PNC has been known for corruption, and in a recent interview with the online news source, El Faro, Ascencio spoke of his goal to overcome the “flaws and deficiencies” in the institution. The President reiterated in his speech that he would work hard to put more money and resources into strengthening the institutions, but proved few other details on how to combat violent crime.
The 2009 study conducted by the Overseas Security Advisory Council reported that El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world with a murder rate of 55.3 per 100,000 in 2008. Much of this violent crime can be attributed to gang violence. With a population of 6.8 million, El Salvador has about 30,000 known gang members. Furthermore, last year El Salvador had the second highest rate of murder among youths at 92.3 per 100,000, second only to Iraq. In one example of the crime and “flaws and deficiencies” of the PNC, La Prensa Graphica recently reported that in the municipality of Colón in the department of La Libertad 75% of violent crimes in the last few years have been attributed to gang violence. However, due to lack of concrete evidence, authorities have made few arrests. One official attributed this failure to institutional shortcomings within the PNC.
According to the 1992 Peace Accords, the FAES should not be involved in internal security affairs. However, for some time the FAES has been involved in patrolling high-crime areas and establishing security checkpoints around the country. Though some have challenged the constitutionality of FAES’ role in internal security measures under the Saca Administration, Funes seems ready to continue if not strengthen their presence on the streets and in the countryside.
photo from La Prensa Grafica