El Salvador and Honduras Unite against Gangs and Drug Trafficking
By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo March 21, 2017El Salvador and Honduras agreed to reinforce mechanisms for cooperation along their 375-kilometer border to reduce the level of gang activity and transnational organized crime. The accord was reached on February 9th and 10th, during the 18th Bi-national Meeting of Military Border Unit Commanders, held as part of the Central American Armed Forces Conference in the Salvadoran city of La Palma. “Crime syndicates are changing their ways of operating due to globalization. That is why the key for us is to work together more closely and in a more coordinated way to mount a common front against the broad range of transnational crimes that affect our society,” Colonel Jorge Alberto Miranda, chief of Operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Salvadoran Armed Force, told Diálogo. “We want to have a permanent and effective presence at all of those border crossings, whether physically or through the use of technology, to ensure the peace and security of our borders in the face of different forms of organized criminal activity that come and go through our country,” Col. Miranda said. “Those blind spots are used by gangs and smugglers who operate by way of complex drug trafficking syndicates to elude justice,” Francisco Bertrand Galindo, a Salvadoran constitutional lawyer, told Diálogo. According to the 2016 Global Peace Index Report published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a think tank that studies peace in 162 nations, El Salvador and Honduras ranked in 111th place. This ranking includes domestic variables such as violence, criminality, and homicides. “If the authorities are able to control every square meter of the country and they keep dealing blows to the gangs’ financial structures, [the gangs] will have less impact on urban centers. However, gangs are always on the lookout for new ways of committing crime. They are complex, violent, and well-funded organizations,” Bertrand added. Those taking part in the bi-national gathering of commanders led by infantry brigade commanders from both countries’ armies, stressed how the public sense of peace and security in the Northern Triangle region has improved, thanks to the Tri-national Task Force’s deployment along the border between both countries. The task force was created in November 2016 by El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala to tackle gangs, drug trafficking, common criminality, and other crimes, head on. “In and of itself, the presence of this tri-national force represents an important deterrence mechanism. In recent months, we have seen a substantial improvement in the public’s sense of security and in the lowering of crime rates in border areas,” Col. Miranda reported. This tri-national security apparatus “enjoys a high degree of operational discretion. To the extent that such discretion persists, our trilateral and even bilateral operations are going to improve things,” Bertrand said. From February 1st to 9th there were more than 250 murders associated with gangs and criminal groups, compared with 936 during the same period in 2016, according to a press briefing by Salvadoran Minister of Justice Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde. The measures taken by the authorities have led to a reduction in the average number of daily homicides, from 23 to eight, the Salvadoran president reported in a February 25th press release. “This meeting between border delegates reinforces our operational coordination and cooperation with various state institutions in order to fight gangs and organized crime while protecting human rights,” Col. Miranda explained. To meet today’s challenges, bonds of cooperation are needed at the national and international levels. “Our bonds of cooperation and integration with Honduras are solid. Both of our countries are deeply committed to fighting gangs and transnational crime, and we do so with great dedication and effort,” Col. Miranda summed up.