Central America, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru Train to Fight Extortion

By Dialogo
March 15, 2012

Fifty police officers, prosecutors, and judges from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru are participating in a specialized course, offered by U.S. experts in the Salvadoran capital, in order to fight the widespread crime of extortion.

The training at the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), in western San Salvador, seeks “efficient responses,” according to the regional director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Joseph Deters.

The course, developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, teaches techniques for “investigating and prosecuting” extortion, which has spread throughout the region, especially in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Deters noted that the lack of reporting extortion cases “is an obstacle to the ability to confront” this plague “rapidly and effectively.”

Victims often prefer not to report a case out of fear or because they do not believe in the protection of the authorities, with the consequence that impunity prevails and a contribution is made to strengthen criminal structures, Deters stated.

“By intimidating the citizenry and using indiscriminate violence, the perpetrators have increased the incidents of extortion targeting small retailers,” he warned.

The FBI expert also warned that “as extortion expands, it becomes ever more difficult to identify, diagnose, and characterize it.”

In the case of El Salvador, in order to counter the extortion that affects small and medium-sized retailers, the FBI is proposing a task force of police officers, prosecutors, and judges, as part of the Partnership for Growth initiative promoted by the United States.

Salvadoran Justice and Security Minister David Munguía acknowledged that extortion “is severely impacting” the middle-income population and the less affluent sectors, but he regretted that victims do not report cases because “they don’t trust the authorities.”

Munguía recalled that Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which make up the so-called Northern Triangle, “have become the countries with the world’s highest crime rates in recent years.”

Honduras has a rate of 82 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, Guatemala 40, and El Salvador 65. Extortion in those countries affects retailers, bus companies, taxis, schools, and families.