lunes, 20 de enero de 2014

El Salvador buses "pushed to brink" by gang extortions

Bus companies in El Salvador were reported to have paid criminal gangs some USD 36 million in extortion money in 2013, and some firms were "on the verge of collapse," the website reported on 19 January, citing a spokesman for one of the routes. Extortions - often ordered from jails where gang members are confined - ranged from 10 to 25 per cent of bus routes' total revenues, the website reported. Juan Pablo Álvarez, a spokesman for the ACOPATT firm's Route 29 said the firm had paid some USD 4,000 a month to criminals just for that route - apparently handing over the money as the bus moved through different districts - while "we paid twice the money, that is 8,000 dollars in December." This was presumably for the same route; the website cited the spokesman for Route 79 as describing a similar situation. Mr Álvarez told the website that going to the police was risky as the gangs would react once they found out, which they did usually and swiftly, and "the last time we did this they burned one of our buses." He said "we are in a jungle and must become used to dealing with all the animals, to survive." He observed that some firms had "more complex" problems with the gangs, like having to take them for free to "the beach or other fun places." El Salvador's Minister of Justice José Ricardo Perdomo was cited as saying on 14 January that extortions had declined in frequency in the preceding five years, based on reported cases, though he did not give figures. Officials in El Salvador admit extortion is widespread in the country, as it is in Central America. Mr Perdomo told a television interview that more than 44,500 people were detained in 2013 in relation with various offences, while, thanks to state policies, the national murder rate had dropped from 12.13 a day in 2009 to 6.8 in 2013, the Justice and Public Security Ministry reported.

Colombian Army shoots 13 FARC guerrillas in fighting

The Army shot dead 11 fighters of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a shootout on 18-19 November in the district of Tame in eastern Colombia, and two more in fighting in the north-central department of Antioquia, Caracol radio reported on 20 November, citing comments by the Armed Forces chief General Leonardo Barrero. Press and media initially reported nine casualties from the Alfredo Castellanos Mobile Column of the FARC's 10th Front, though General Barrero said 11 were killed and one was detained. He said the Army was not sure yet about the death reported earlier of the column's commander, a man dubbed Franklin, and was investigating to check if he had died or fled to Venezuela. The Army stated on 18 January that it killed two guerrillas of the FARC's Front 18, in fighting in the district of Ituango in Antioquia. These were said to have engaged in extortion and drug trafficking in the Bajo Cauca sector of Antioquia. Separately a member of the FARC was reported arrested in the district of El Bagre in Antioquia, and another surrendered to troops at an unspecified location, handing over weapons and equipment, the Army reported on 19 January.