Country Reports on Terrorism 2007 - El Salvador

El Salvador, the only Western Hemisphere country with troops serving alongside U.S. forces in Iraq, continued its support for the Coalition by dispatching a ninth contingent of troops to Iraq and approving a tenth rotation that will arrive in Iraq in early 2008. El Salvador also hosted a U.S. Department of Defense "Forward Operating Location" (FOL) at Comalapa International Airport, and a USG-funded International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA).

The Government of El Salvador cooperated closely with the United States on counterterrorism efforts and took active steps to protect U.S. interests and citizens. The CA-4 agreement, recently implemented among El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, allowed for the inspection-free movement of citizens among these countries, and reduced overall inspection at land crossings. The agreement has raised concerns, however, that its implementation could possibly facilitate easier international movement of terrorists.

The National Civilian Police was well regarded by U.S. and international observers alike, and coordinated its work with the Immigration Service, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Office of State Intelligence.

In July, the Government of El Salvador used the 2006 terrorism statute2 to file charges against several individuals who had taken part in a violent demonstration protesting the visit of Salvadoran President Tony Saca to the town of Suchitoto. This in turn led to numerous Salvadoran and U.S.-based non-governmental organizations alleging that the government was using the statute to suppress political opposition, and was guilty of backsliding on human rights. Given the violent nature of the demonstrations, in which several protestors blocked roads, set fire to debris, threw stones at the Presidential motorcade, and allegedly fired shots at a police helicopter, the government's decision to prosecute the protestors under the statute served to further blur the distinction between full-blown acts of terrorism and violent political protest subject to ordinary criminal sanction.

2 The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed a new counterterrorism law in September 2006, which featured new sentencing requirements for certain terrorist-related crimes, but failed to distinguish terrorism from regular crime. Rather than define terrorism as politically motivated violence, the new legislation listed some 27 specific acts that would constitute terrorism. The various acts are punishable by a maximum sentence of 86 1/2 years in prison (in the case of aggravating circumstances). One of the more controversial provisions of the law provided for 25-30 years in prison for armed occupation of public buildings, a tactic favored by some militant groups affiliated with the opposition FMLN party.


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