SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador’s police force vowed on Wednesday that it would do more to fight organized crime in the violent Central American country, which tens of thousands have fled, amid increased pressure from the United States to stop migration north.
A surge in Central American migrants crossing Mexico for the border with the United States has angered U.S. President Donald Trump, who this month threatened punitive tariffs on Mexico if it failed to halt them.
Mauricio Arriaza, director of El Salvador’s police force, said it was raiding some of the country’s most dangerous areas to recover territory from the gangs and capture their leaders, as well as to confiscate arms, illicit cash and drugs.
“If (the gangs) leave us no other option, we will have to intensify the efforts,” Arriaza said, without giving details on what those operations would entail. El Salvador’s government blames the gangs for the country’s violence.
Rights groups, including the United Nations, have in recent years scrutinized the Salvadoran police force for alleged extrajudicial killings and rights violations in instances that police described as confrontations with gang members.
The governments of the United States, Mexico and the so-called Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are meeting this week to negotiate development plans aimed to create incentives for migrants to stay home.
El Salvador remains one of the world’s most violent countries although the country’s police force reported that the number of murders in the first half of the year had fallen by 12.2% to 1,407.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Lisa Shumaker