Pressure mounts on Mauricio Funes in El Salvador
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A year after taking office as El Salvador’s first leftist president since the country’s civil war, former journalist Mauricio Funes has come under fire for what is perceived as lack of progress on promises to improve security and economic conditions in the country, The Times reports.
A brazen attack against buses in San Salvador on June 20 left 16 people dead and resulted in more political discord for Funes. The country has one of the highest homicide rates in Latin America and is terrorized by transnational gangs with roots in Los Angeles.
The president, who took office in June 2009, also faces charges that he has not attacked corruption more forcefully. His agriculture minister recently resigned in frustration, citing the persistence of corruption in the government as his reason for leaving.
Funes has defended his efforts. Corrupt police officers have been investigated and dismissed, gangs have been dismantled, and thousands of murder charges have been filed, Funes said. El Salvador’s army is now patrolling prisons, where much of the country’s crime is said to originate, notes Tim’s El Salvador Blog.
The president also argues that his government is generating jobs and attracting foreign investment.
But an unidentified security official told Alex Renderos, The Times’ special correspondent in San Salvador, that Mexican drug trafficking cartels are making inroads in El Salvador, challenging Funes’ ability to govern. ‘With the inexperience of this government in terms of security matters, and its cowardice to stand up to organized crime, you have the ingredients for a criminal state,’ the official said.
After the shocking bus attack, Funes called on leaders of El Salvador’s political parties to come up with a new anti-gang strategy this week, reports the online newspaper El Faro. The paper also notes skeptically that the president’s anti-gang strategy ‘recycles the formula’ used by previous right-wing governments.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City