martes, 13 de agosto de 2013

Salvadorean police chief blames rising violence on gang fights, in-fighting

The National Police chief of El Salvador has blamed gang rivalries for a nationwide increase in violence that has recently taken the country's homicide rate to 10 a day, up from the 5-7 officials boasted had become a norm after a ceasefire criminal gangs ostensibly began in March 2012. Rigoberto Pleités said police counted 113 homicides in the first 12 days of August compared to 69 for the same days in 2012, and attributed the rise to territorial fights between the gangs and to internal fighting, El Salvador's El Mundo reported on 13 August. The daily observed that the Police chief would not comment on recent speculations about whether or not the gangs were still abiding by their ceasefire and commitment to gradually end violent crime. "The ceasefire...is not an issue for the police. We have always considered that if two or more groups are fighting and make a non-aggression pact, then obviously that reduces homicide numbers," he said. The police chief said he was not informed of a document reportedly issued by the World Health Organisation classifying El Salvador as the country with the second highest murder rate after Honduras. Salvadorean media reported on the document but it was not immediately clear when it was issued. The list issued by the United Nations agency counted 69.2 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in El Salvador, and 91.6/100,000 in Honduras, elsalvador.com reported on 12 August; it was not immediately clear if this rate was for 2012 or the first half of 2013. El Salvador's director of public prosecutions (Fiscal-General) Luis Martínez was separately cited as repeating his earlier position that the gangs' ceasefire was "hypocritical" and pledging that state prosecutors would continue their fight against crime, El Mundo reported on 13 August.

Colombian President changes armed forces chiefs

President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón changed Colombia's senior military and police officials late on 12 August, in a move said intended to boost security in the last year of his presidency; his Defence Minister insisted there were no tensions with the generals over ongoing peace talks with the communist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The new armed-forces commander was General Leonardo Barrero Gordillo, hitherto head of the armed forces joint command in south-western Colombia, while Air Force General Hugo Enrique Acosta Téllez was named head of the armed-forces joint command, Colombia's Colprensa agency reported. General Juan Pablo Rodríguez Barragan was appointed army commander, Vice-Admiral Hernando Wills Vélez the Navy commander and General Rodolfo Palomino López, National Police commander. The agency cited Mr Santos as saying that the appointments were designed to "continue to weaken" insurgent and criminal forces and enhance ties with the population; he praised the work done by the outgoing commanders whom he qualified as having obtained "the most results" against crime and violence in "Colombia's recent history," Colprensa reported. The newspaper El Espectador observed on 13 August that the new commanders had shown competence in field action against crime and guerrilla activities and their appointments came at a time when Colombians wanted firm action against crime and insecurity. Many in Colombia have inevitably compared the Santos government's fight against criminals and guerrillas with those of the preceding administration led by the conservative Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who enjoys very high popularity ratings that sometimes exceed those of Mr. Santos. The outgoing police chief José Roberto León Riaño observed last June on Colombians' "nostalgia" for the former president Uribe, in comments immediately picked up by the press. The remarks apparently left Mr Santos unperturbed at the time; perhaps he knew then he would soon be changing his military high command. The Minister of Defence Juan Carlos Pinzón Bueno was cited on 13 August as saying that the reshuffle was not due to any tensions with the former generals, and specifically not with the outgoing army chief Sergio Mantilla. He was responding to unspecified media speculations. Nevertheless his comments to the broadcaster Blu Radio indicated that communications between himself and army chiefs were frank; "we did have meetings all the time. They are men with strong personalities but they also know perfectly well that the person talking to them is the same way, when it comes to doing their duty," El Espectador reported. The Minister denied General Mantilla had acted as an obstacle to current peace talks with the FARC.