By Dialogo July 28, 2010 For the first time in El Salvador, criminals burned a bus with passengers inside. The crime, which took place on 20 June and left seventeen people dead, including a baby girl a few months old, horrified the country and created political pressure for the implementation of new anti-gang measures in the Central American nation. Among these measures is the use of the armed forces in support of the fight against groups like the Mara 18 gang, accused of responsibility for the bus attack, and others. The Salvadoran Defense Minister granted Diálogo the following exclusive interview, minutes after addressing the Sub-Regional Conference for Mesoamerica, held 20-23 July in San Salvador and organized by the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS), in order to discuss this and other topics. Diálogo – What is the role of the armed forces today in El Salvador? Gen. Munguía – The tasks that we’re going to carry out in providing support to the National Civil Police (PNC) have been defined. There’s an executive order (No. 70) in which the president orders the armed forces to support the PNC, but limits our actions, that is to say, we don’t have all the functions of police. We have a mandate to set up checkpoints, search vehicles, search people, and arrest individuals caught red-handed. Diálogo – What happens when individuals are arrested by armed forces personnel? Gen. Munguía – If we arrest someone, we immediately turn that person over to the PNC. In addition to that, we’ve established a joint command with the PNC where all activities are coordinated, so that, if there’s a problem, it can be solved right there, at the joint command. Diálogo – How is the fulfillment of this task being approached? Gen. Munguía – We’ve formed eight task forces of 350 men each, with their respective officers. The mission we have is to occupy the twenty-nine areas with the highest crime rates in the country. We’re operating in these areas, and our presence is a permanent one. Diálogo – Is this a preventive measure? Gen. Munguía – Up to now, it’s all preventive. There’s a proposal to reform the law to criminalize being part of a gang, and that’s also going to give us the opportunity to arrest gang members. Diálogo – So, currently, being part of a gang is not considered a crime? Gen. Munguía – At the moment, the fact of belonging to a gang is not considered a crime. The principle of the presumption of innocence prevails, that is to say, although we know some of them are criminals, and people point them out to us as criminals, we can’t do anything. It’s very difficult to prove the crimes. We can only arrest them if we catch them red-handed. Right now, we can’t arrest them on allegations that they commit crimes. Diálogo – But isn’t it true that in order to be part of a gang, the future member is supposed to commit a crime? Gen. Munguía – It’s true. In reality, today, they demand that the person commit at least one homicide. There are cases of gangs that demand up to six homicides. Therefore, it can be presumed that if a person belongs to a gang, it’s because he’s already committed at least one homicide, but they can’t be arrested on the basis of this presumption, nor can you start an investigation or legal proceedings. It’s necessary to wait for them to commit other crimes and for us to catch them in the act. Nevertheless, there’s a new law proposed by the President of the Republic that will allow us to arrest them for belonging to a gang. Diálogo – What was the participation of the armed forces in the case of the bus that was burned? Gen. Munguía – Unfortunately, we didn’t participate directly in that investigation. Nevertheless, we already knew that this gang existed in the municipality where they committed the crime, but we couldn’t arrest them until they committed a crime. However, we helped the National Police to solve the problem, because we advised them that there was this gang in this area, and they focused their investigation in that direction. Diálogo – Do you consider gangs to be the main security problem in El Salvador at present? Gen. Munguía – Yes. We can’t overlook the fact that there are others, like organized crime, drug trafficking, and white-collar crime, which can also be behind these gangs. The chief problem arises from the combination of gangs with drug trafficking. This is what is causing the violence that we’re seeing in the streets and this large number of homicides that are being committed in the country. When the armed forces started to support the National Civil Police (PNC) more consistently – in November 2009 – the crime rate was between 14 and 15 homicides a day. With the work that we’ve been doing, we’ve succeeded first of all in containing the upward trend of this vicious cycle, and then with the most recent missions that the President of the Republic has assigned us, such as taking control of a significant portion of the prisons, we’ve succeeded, together with the police, in getting down to 9 homicides a day for the month of June 2010. Diálogo – Can you say a bit more about the intervention of the armed forces in the prisons? Gen. Munguía – The police had data indicating that more than 80 percent of extortions were ordered from inside the prisons. Today there’s been a significant drop in extortions in the country due to the action and support of the armed forces, just to cite one example. Diálogo – What is your opinion on putting prisons in isolated locations, like Alcatraz was in the United States? Gen. Munguía – It would be a good thing, but it’s necessary to distinguish between what we would like to do and reality. Building a normal prison costs the country around thirty million dollars. Building a high-security prison and putting it on an island might cost us three or four times more. The reality is that the country is not currently in a position to spend that much money on building those kinds of prisons. There are cheaper alternatives, like building prisons using modular containers and surrounding them with a security perimeter to hold trusted prisoners or those who are about to complete their sentences, older adults or individuals with very serious illnesses. I believe that this could be a temporary solution to the problem. Diálogo – Aren’t cell phone blockers in prisons another solution to be implemented? Gen. Munguía – Technology is one solution, but it can’t be the only solution, because no technological tool is 100 percent secure. First, because the technology isn’t finished yet, and second, because in the end, these technological devices have to be operated by human beings. This is another large problem that we have in the prisons, that is to say, there’s quite a bit of corruption there. For example, the United States gave us some scanning chairs that detect whether someone going into a prison is carrying something illicit. It’s a good technology, but it’s been observed that several times, the person who was administering these chairs disconnected them at the time they were being used. We know that it’s from inside the prisons and by means of cell phone calls that crimes are being ordered on the outside, and the government is making efforts to prevent this, even using cell phone blockers, but it’s something that’s complicated to fight. Diálogo – Is there an exchange of police and military intelligence across the whole region? Gen. Munguía – Yes, but it’s still very elementary and deficient. During the last meeting of the Central American Integration System (July 2010), this was one of topics discussed. Commitments have been made and coordination has been done precisely in order to handle the transfer of information and intelligence more effectively and more rapidly, so that we can be more effective in the fight against crime, with even the participation of Mexico and Colombia. Diálogo – How can problems related to human rights be avoided? Gen. Munguía – The first thing that we did was to train our personnel on the subject of human rights, before starting to carry out these missions. We set up teams with the organizations that defend human rights and with other specialized organizations in order for them to give classes in this area to our officers, non-commissioned officers, and enlisted personnel. We also have strict supervision in the fulfillment of our missions. Up to now, there have not been any serious accusations related to human-rights violations. Diálogo – And with regard to juvenile delinquents? What is the government doing to prevent them from joining gangs, and what should be done with those who are already part of gangs? Gen. Munguía – First, it’s necessary to control the areas in order to prevent the criminals from dominating an area, so that after that, the government can come into these locations with its social programs. The vast majority of these social programs are directed toward helping at-risk youth so that they don’t turn to gangs. There are also rehabilitation and reinsertion plans for those who want to leave a gang. Now, since the laws on juvenile crime are very protective of minors, the gangs use children to commit crimes. In the country currently, 90 percent of crimes are committed by gang members, and of these, around 60 percent are committed by children. Our society is even debating the possibility of lowering the minimum age for treating a child who has committed a crime as an adult.
By Dialogo August 13, 2012 On August 9th Colombia and Ecuador dismantled seven drug labs, found on their shared border during a joint operation, according to Ecuador’s Interior Ministry. In a press release, the ministry indicated that six labs were discovered on the Colombian side during the operation on August 8th, in which the district attorney’s office and police from both nations participated. The drug-processing facilities were located in the bordering area between the coastal province Esmeralda, Ecuador (northwest) and the Colombia’s Nariño region, in which authorities also destroyed coca crops. “Thanks to this collaboration, we were able to dismantle a drug processing network that thrived on the chemical consumption in Ecuador and the raw material (coca leaves) from Colombia”, he added. The operation left seven detained in Ecuadorian territory. Since last January, Ecuador has seized about 18.5 tons of drugs, mainly cocaine. The amount of drugs seized reached 26 tons in 2011, compared to 18 tons in 2010 and the record of 68 tons in 2009. On July 25th, President Rafael Correa said, Ecuador, which borders with Colombia, is applying mechanisms to prevent the infiltration of international drug trafficking organizations.
Meanwhile, the AFN has debunked speculations that the few athletes who attended the illegal competition in Ozoro in Delta State will be sanctioned. “I am sure you are all aware of the ‘adopt a talent’ programme we have introduced? It is for all categories of athletes, whether foreign or home-based. I am sure one or two people here have benefitted from it. I can assure you we are expanding the net to capture more athletes,” Dare promised, adding that governments all over the world partner individuals and corporate bodies to develop sports. “This is why welfare of athletes, especially their off-field environmental which has been taken for granted, will be given priority attention,” observed Dare. The Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has said that welfare of athletes will not be negotiable as they prepare for both the African Athletics Championships in Algeria and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. ”This is what we are doing. Gone are the days when athletes wait till competition venue to get training grants that ended up to be counter productive. “I am impressed with what I have seen here and I can assure you that we will encourage the Athletics Federation of Nigeria to provide more competitions for you to keep busy, evaluate your performances and ensure the needed growth is achieved. “The very few athletes who were in Ozoro travelled over night to Akure to participate in our All-Comers competition after realising they have been misled into going to Ozoro.”Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram While addressing track and field athletes in Akure at the weekend at the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) All-Comers competition, the minister who was represented by his Special Adviser on Media, John Joshua-Akanji, said he will create a safe environment for them to train and compete. “Government is very determined that there is rapid development of sports in Nigeria as it is not only a unifying factor but also a way to generate employment. AHEAD TOKYO OLYMPICS The Sports Minister said prompt payment of allowances and training grants are key to success in sports and that athletes will no longer be owed allowances either in part or in full again. Enoch Adegoke, Emmanuel Arowolo, Favour-Ofili, Ifeanyi Ojeli, Joy Udo-Ganriel, Oyeniyi Abejoye and a host of other national athletes who represented Nigeria at the African Games in Rabat, Morocco last year gave glimpses of what Nigerians should expect this year. The AFN All-Comers witnessed a huge turn out of athletes who expressed their appreciation to the federation for giving them a quality event to assess how far they have gone in their training as they prepare for two major events this year. “That is just a figment of imagination of people who are bent on distracting us but we are focused,” acting President of the AFN, Olamide George, said at the weekend. “The Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development will also provide the necessary support to the AFN to ensure a smooth and efficient administration of the sport. We will not interfere in the day-to-day running of the administration of the AFN. We will only collaborate and provide the necessary intervention especially when the team is going for international competitions where they will be representing Nigeria,” concludes the minister.
The Ghana Football Association(GFA) is hopeful of receiving a letter from Ghana midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng officially on reversing his international retirement from the Black Stars.Kevin Boateng has already made know his availability for the Black Stars after leaving the team in 2010, but until now the AC Milan player is yet to officially notify the Ghana FA even though he has been in contact with coach Kwasi Appiah.According to the Ghana Football Association spokesperson Ibrahim Saanie Daara Kevin Boateng is keen on officially writing to them on his availability for Ghana’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Zambia next month.The Ghana Football Association international relations manager Mr. Alex Asante spoke to Kevin about it, he was in America and promised he was going to write it,” he told Joy sports.“Kevin knew he had to officially write a letter announcing his return even before he spoke to GFA President Kwasi Nyantakyi so we should expect him to do that in the coming days.Meanwhile Ibrahim Saanie Daara also added that the Ghana Football Association has asked Prince Boateng’s AC Milan team mate Sulley Muntari to officially render an apology to Coach Kwasi Appiah and the playing body or risk missing out on the Zambia game. Muntari has still not apologized to the coach and his team mates in the wake of his public attack on the coach when he was substituted in the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Lesotho in June.The midfielder himself confirmed in an interview with Joy sports that he confronted the coach after he was substituted during the match.But Ghana FA spokesperson Saanie insists he will not be considered for future games if he fails to apologize.“As has been said consistently and to Sulley himself that he did something that the coach thought it was not respectful and undermines team’s spirit and the coach’s authority before the players in the dressing room against Lesotho, he was told that there was something he must do to be considered for future matches,”“That was made clear to Sulley a day after the game in no uncertain terms that he must do the right and decent thing to the coach because the coach has a position which is until a clear apology comes from Sulley to him and the team Sulley will not be considered for future matches.”