domingo, 9 de septiembre de 2012

Murders spoil "farse" ceasefire of Salvadorean gangs

The discovery outside San Salvador of the bodies of five students likely murdered by gangsters last June has belied the ceasefire declared last March by El Salvador's two main gangs the Maras, though many insist it reduced murders in 2012, the Associated Press reported on 9 September. The students were reported missing on 21 June and found dead in July in Santa Tecla, a district west of the capital; authorities attributed the massacre to the Mara Salvatrucha and believe the teenagers were murdered for refusing to join them. Officials and observers were now divided over whether or not the ceasefire had effectively reduced crime in El Salvador. AP cited the justice ministry as declaring that murders dropped 34 per cent in January-August 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, from 2,874 to 1,894. The state coroner (Instituto de Medicina Legal) reportedly registered a 31-per-cent drop in murders in this period - from 2,839 to 1,949. But the figures were apparently not flawless: The ministry declared its figures to be based on "cases investigated" while the coroner used reported disappearances. The latter cautioned however that it was not authorised to investigate such reports while Justice Minister David Munguía Payés observed to AP that people often failed to retract complaints when disappeared individuals returned. Certain experts expressed skepticism: Carlos Ponce, a criminologist working with the prosecutor-general's office, told AP he thought the gangs were continuing their activities and "continuing to kill" - perhaps with greater discretion - and said he suspected "manipulation" of Munguía's figures. Another observer, Max Manwaring of the US War University in Pennsylvania, qualified the ceasefire as a "farse" and said it was difficult to count murders when officials could not investigate crimes in parts of El Salvador controlled by the gangs. The former guerrilla fighter and current ceasefire mediator Rául Mijango attributed the killings to unidentified vigilantes who he said were trying to ruin the ceasefire between the Maras by killing Maras. AP's field inquiries and conversations with members of the public suggested that the intimidating authority of the Maras over localities had not diminished. The agency gave the first names of the students believed murdered by the Maras last June, as authorised by police: 15-year-old Kevin Alexis, 16-year-old Jonathan Alexander, 16-year-old José Roberto, and Fernando Alexander and Jonathan B. both aged 18.