Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A changing of the guard in El Salvador

I have an op-ed up at Al Jazeera on the recent resignation of Manuel Melgar and the appointment of David Munguia Payes in El Salvador.

Munguia Payes' replacement of Melgar as Minister of Justice and Public Security is causing a bit of controversy in El Salvador - maybe even as much as Melgar's appointment did in the U.S. Embassy back in 2009.

Here's the intro, but you'll have to click through to read the entire article.
Manuel Melgar resigned as the Minister of Justice and Public Security two weeks ago in El Salvador. Initially, there was no public explanation for his voluntary resignation. On Tuesday, President Mauricio Funes appointed retired general David Munguía Payés to replace Melgar. The alleged involvement of the United States in Melgar's resignation, the role of the military in post-war El Salvador, and President Funes' relfationship with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) are three important issues related to Melgar's replacement with Munguía Payés.
I am going to be writing some longer op-ed pieces for Al Jazeera on the politics of Central America every month. I'll let you know about them here, but you'll have to visit their site to read the entire articles.


  1. You overlook an important argument against Mungia Payes. Crime in general and homicides in particular have increased following the increase in military troops on the streets and the new public security powers that Funes gave the miltary--under Mungia Payes's command! The Salvadoran military and its leaders have FAILED.

  2. I don't have murder numbers broken down by month or by department. However, in the first year after troops were deployed on the streets of San Salvador, the murder rate fell from about 71 (2009) to 65 (2010)(http://tinyurl.com/6pttmwy).

    Unfortunately, whatever the reasons for 2010's decline won't be repeated in 2011. El Salvador has suffered through an 8% increase in murders during the first ten-months of 2011 compared to the same time period in 2010 (http://tinyurl.com/cpo55re).

    And the country looks like it is on pace to record over 70 murders per 100,000 this year (http://tinyurl.com/cek9yuq).

    Granted murders aren't everything when it comes to citizen insecurity. However, it's better for the rate to be going down than up.

  3. I havent found any substance to allegations of US involvement. The El Faro article claims the resignation occured due to pressure from private sector and the US, but unfortunately i they dont back this up at all or even mention a source. Please post if you find anything.
    While it seems everyone respects Payes, im surprised Funes would appoint a military man. Apparently, Funes is OK with the possibility that Arena returns to power and appoints their own military man?

  4. The FMLN has repeatedly said that outside pressures led to Melgar's removal/resignation (http://tinyurl.com/7eo939e). However, they don't say the United States. Funes, on the other hand, denies that he caved to any outside pressures (http://tinyurl.com/7xvelv8).

    It's a bit of he said / she said situation right now and I don't expect to come across hard physical evidence that would indicate definitively that the US pressured Funes in anyway.

  5. Thanks you are correct that the FMLN has said this in their statements. Thanks for the article! I am curious whether or not the Obama administration has continued the American tradition of coercing Salvadoran politicians and voters. I was hopefull when Funes was elected without the standard set of threats from the U.S. But maybe Funes is viewed as compatible with U.S. interests?