Corruption, El Salvador Government, Organized Crime, transparency

Update on Inspector General of the PNC, Zaira Navas

Since last week when we posted an article about the Legislative Assembly’s plans to form of a Special Commission to investigate the Investigator General of the National Civil Police (PNC) Zaira Navas, several top ranking officials, including Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes have spoken out on her behalf. Members of the Legislative Assembly, including Diputado José Antonio Almendáriz, accuse Navas of improperly investigating Police Commissioner Douglas Omar Garcia Funes, former Commissioner Godofredo Miranda, ex-Director of Police Ricardo Menesses, and many others for corruption and ties to organized crime and drug trafficking.

During the legislative session last Thursday, the 45 votes in favor of the Special Commission were enough to move ahead with the investigation of the Inspector General. While no left-wing FMLN diputados voted in favor of the special commission, 45 right-wing ARENA, PCN, PDC, and Gana legislators supported it.

Yesterday, President Funes expressed his support for Navas, confirming that she has only followed the guidelines he gave her in conducting a thorough “cleaning’ of the PNC. Simialrly, the Minister of Justice and Security, Manuel Melgar, has claimed that the commission may be unconstitutional and should not be permitted to go forward. Even Carlos Ascencio, the Director of the PNC, defended Navas, saying that she was simply following the lines of investigations that President Funes had ordered. The Office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights has also stated “we must respect the work of the Inspector General.”

Government Agencies in El Salvador have operated in the shadows for a little too long.  A little sunshine every now and then is good for everyone, unless they have something to hide.

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Corruption, El Salvador Government

A Message to El Salvador’s Diputados: When Death Threats Fail; Form a Special Commission.

El Faro photograph of Zaira Navas

This week, Diputado José Antonio Almendáriz from the conservative National Conciliation Party (PCN) proposed that the Legislative Assembly Security Commission form a special commission to investigate Zaira Navas, Inspector General of the National Civil Police (PNC).  Diputado Almendáriz is challenging Navas’s very clear mandate to investigate Police Commissioners accused of corruption or criminal activities.

Since 2009, Inspector General Navas has made news for her office’s investigations of PNC Commissioner Douglas Omar García Funes, former Commisioner Godofredo Miranda, ex-Director General of Police Ricardo Menesses, among others. Commissioner García Funes is the chief of the Counter Transnational Gang Center and is suspected of drug trafficking. According to an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the Commissioner used his officers to provide security for shipments of drugs as they pass through El Salvador, and ensured that other police agencies would not interfere. Godofredo Miranda was accused, among other things, of botching an investigation into drug traffickers arrested under his command. Ricardo Menesses was forced to resign his post last year due to allegations that he has ties to high-ranking gang leaders and organized criminals.

Late last year, Inspector General Navas began receiving death threats for her investigations. The threats were so serious that U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who has had an interest in El Salvador for many years, wrote a letter to President Funes asking that he provide her with adequate protection so that she is able to complete her investigations. The threats did not deter Navas and her office continued its work.

Diputado Almendáriz justifies the need for a special commission claiming that 20 of the police officials that she is investigating have been cleared of the charges against them, and that she is targeting them because they are all former members of the Salvadoran Armed Forces. Citing the case of Godofredo Miranda, he said, “this is the case of Commissioner Miranda, which has already been dismissed, and the Police Inspector is still looking to gather evidence. She has been investigating for a year without results.”

It is curious that Diputado Almendáriz is worried about the Inspector General’s office investigations into allegations of drug trafficking and organized crime. He is the President of the Legislative Assembly’s Security Commission (the full title of which is the Commission on Public Security and Combating Drug Activity).  His mandate complements that of Navas’s.  He also represents Sonsonate in the Legislative Assembly, which has one of the highest crime rates and is allegedly a main transit points for drug traffickers entering El Salvador on their way to Guatemala and up to the United States. One would assume it is in his interest to investigate high-ranking police officers accused of trafficking drugs.

The Diputado, however, does have a history of cover-ups. The El Salvador Truth Commission, which among other things investigated war crimes during the civil war, found that then Lieutenant Colonel José Antonio Almendáriz was in command of the troops who executed Begoña Garcia Arandigoven, a 24-yeard old Spanish doctor, and that he “covered up the crime with the collaboration of the National Police Third Command Santa Ana Unit.

Threats did not seem to deter Investigator General Navas last year. We hope that the Special Commission doesn’t get in her way either.