Yesterday, President of El Salvador Mauricio Funes swore in retired general David Munguía Payés as the country´s new Minister of Public Security and Justice, following the sudden resignation of Manuel Melgar from the position on November 8. “This was not a decision that the President made; he is simply a spokesperson. It’s a decision that was made somewhere in the U.S. capital,” said Roberto Lorenzana, spokesperson for the governing leftist party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN).
Yesterday, President of El Salvador Mauricio Funes swore in retired general David Munguía Payés as the country´s new Minister of Public Security and Justice, following the sudden resignation of Manuel Melgar from the position on November 8. The move prompted outspoken opposition from Salvadoran social organizations who view it as a violation of the 1992 Peace Accords that ended the country’s Civil War and transferred public security from military to civilian administration.
Although President Funes has denied the “influence of foreign governments” in this cabinet switch, Roberto Lorenzana, spokesperson for the governing leftist party, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), said, “This was not a decision that the President made; he is simply a spokesperson. It’s a decision that was made somewhere in the U.S. capital.”
A Wikileaks cable from the US embassy in San Salvador reveals Washington’s evident disapproval of Melgar– a former commander of the FMLN guerrilla army during the country’s 12-year Civil War—since his appointment. In the 2009 cable, the U.S. Embassy official warns that funding for the Mérida Initiative, one of the U.S. “War on Drugs” initiatives in Mexico and Central America, would be “contingent upon guidance from Washington regarding how best to work around Melgar.”
According to the Salvadoran digital periodical El Faro, the US finally forced Melgar out by leveraging a second international program, Partnership for Growth; El Salvador is one of four countries worldwide handpicked by the US for the new program. El Faro’s sources in the Ministry of Security claim that Melgar’s removal was a U.S. condition for sealing the Partnership for Growth, officially signed just four days prior to Melgar’s resignation. The program’s initial report named violence and crime as El Salvador’s primary constraints to economic growth, quickly turning what the U.S. had publicly touted as an economic development program into another security initiative.
“It’s shameful how blatantly the US is manipulating El Salvador´s affairs of state right now” said Alexis Stoumbelis, of the U.S.-based Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, calling the apparent U.S. intervention that led to Melgar´s resignation “ a major violation of El Salvador’s national sovereignty and a deliberate maneuver to hijack El Salvador’s security apparatus to serve the US agenda of re-militarizing Central America under the pretense of fighting its bloody and disastrous ‘War on Drugs’.”
Munguía Payés , a career military officer, has served as Defense Minister since President Funes took office in June of 2009. He retired from the military earlier this year, sparking rumors that he resigned in order to run for president in 2014, as Salvadoran law requires candidates to have at least 3 years as a civilian. In response to Payés’ appointment, FMLN spokesperson Roberto Lorenzana announced, “We do not support this decision, nor do the majority of political forces in the country” and cautioned El Salvador against falling prey to the trend of expanding militarization in the region.
Military leaders are once again gaining influence in Central American governments, advocating “hard on crime” policies that advocate more weapons, more soldiers and advanced technology to fight narco-trafficking and crime, all a boost to the U.S. military contractors like Northrop Grumman and Blackwater, among the main beneficiaries of the Mérida Initiative in México, and to the Pentagon’s influence in Latin America.
Some, including Otto Pérez Molina, recently elected President of Guatemala, have strong links to the brutal right-wing regimes of the 1980s, which were backed by the U.S. According to FMLN San Salvador Youth Coordinator, Adalberto Elias, “It’s no coincidence that Guatemala’s President-elect is a general accused of genocide, El Salvador’s new Minister of Security is a former general, and a military officer who masterminded the coup d´état [Romeo Vásquez] is running for president in Honduras.”
Stoumbelis added that through the Peace Accords process in 1992, “the people of El Salvador took concrete steps to demilitarize their public security forces, advances that are now being rolled back through U.S. intervention disguised as economic and security assistance. CISPES will continue to call on our government to respect El Salvador’s sovereignty and stay out of their internal affairs.”