SAN SALVADOR – El Salvador’s rightwing government said Monday that officials are receiving death threats from radical leftists and that groups linked to the main opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Party (FMLN) are preparing militants for armed combat.
Interior Minister René Figueroa said that some of his subordinates, and even members of their families, have been threatened in recent days.
He said the threats are at least partly connected with the ongoing investigation into the shooting deaths of two police officers during a July 5 protest by FMLN-linked grassroots groups near the capital campus of the University of El Salvador.
“In the face of the threats we have received, we can only blame some radical sector of the FMLN for any physical aggression” that may occur against an interior ministry official or his family, Figueroa said.
The minister said the threats were the work of two leftist youth organizations, the Revolutionary Student Brigade (BRES) and the Popular Youth Bloc (BPJ), and announced plans to investigate complaints from the public that those groups were conducting “training sessions” with weapons in various areas of El Salvador.
Lawmaker and FMLN spokesman Sigfrido Reyes said that Figueroa’s charges are part of a campaign to discredit his party and thereby “distract the population from the grave problems that afflict them due to the government’s incapacity to solve them.”
Crime, he said, “has reached extremely serious levels that the interior minister can’t control and which expose his inhability.”
A total of 1,873 murders were reported in El Salvador during the first half of this year, most of them committed with guns, the country’s Forensic Medicine Institute said last week.
With an average of 10 killings per day, this nation has one of Latin America’s highest murder rates. By way of comparison, New York City, whose population of some 7 million is roughly the same as that of El Salvador, has about 600 murders per year.
Reyes said that if the government has information showing that groups connected to the FMLN are conducting military training, Figueroa is obliged to present evidence and offer specifics on where the alleged activity is taking place.
He said his party plans to ask the United Nations to send “an independent expert” to El Salvador to evaluate compliance with the 1992 peace accords that ended 12 years of civil war between the FMLN, then a guerrilla army, and the government.
When questioned Monday about the country’s rampant crime, Figueroa sought to implicate the FMLN in the wave of violence.
The minister attributed the worsening situation to extortion rackets, organized crime and turf battles among drug traffickers, but also blamed “some sector of the political left wanting to manipulate some gangs that have a connection with the FMLN’s satellite groups, which are the BRES and the BPJ.”