EL SALVADOR: INCREASE IN POLITICAL KILLINGS

Created: 9/13/1988

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DIPECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE

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EI Salvador: Inc. reaae_ln Political Killings

The number of politically-inspired murdera and civilian killings in El Salvador has increased slightly during the past year, though th* overall level of deaths remains far balow that of th*. Moat of th* attributable political killings hava been committed by th* Marxist guerrillas In an effort to intimidate th* population and quash progovernment santiment. At the sam*ircumstances aurroundlng some of the suspicious killings bear similarities to thoaa perpetrated by right-wing death aguads in the past, although trier* is insufficient evidence to attribute these deaths to any particular person or group.

We believe that neither trie rightist ARENA party, which is trying toadarat* image to win next year's presidentialtlon, :ior th* armed forces, whichutoff of US aid, hasor sanctioned political killings. Nevertheless, right-wing extremists and individual soldiers ordloturbed by increased leftist political activity and discouraged by the lack of significant progress in th*

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Unit Allison

are Involved. Increased political tensions related to the scheduled presidential election next year and the continuing Insurgency will likely resultelatively high rate of political violence In coming montha. We believe the guerrillas, who are frustrated by their dim prosp-sctBolitical or military victory, probably will continue to account for the majority of political killings.

Positive Trend stalls

Political and auspicious killings of civilians inhad been declining sharply until lastslightly inQiaoiiths. Accordingavailablein San Salvador.

civilians died in a

small Increase over the previous yoar.1 (See Fig.evertheless, the overall level of deaths remains far below that of the. Dwarfing the uaall increase in political killings last yesroubling of "suspicious" murders, in which there are no clearly established political or criminal motives. (Sea Fig. In the first seven months the rate of killings with confirmed political motives was about the same as last year, while the number of suspicious killings has fluctuated wildly but generally renained higher than

As during the, tho increase in civilian killings has coincided with greater politicul and military activity by the Marxist inaurgents. The guerrillas' political allies are preparing to participate in the9 presidential

elections, while rebel front groupi. continue trying to stage IMAsiWrMT violent anti-government demonstrations in the capital. At theame time, guerrilla militarynotably economic abotage and terroristhave increased during the M'tHBHH past year (see Manyandview these rebel activities as an attempt to exploit the country's more open political environment while simultaneously continuing the war. Although government

operations7 have disrupted some guerrilla activity, they have failed to make deep, permanent reductions in the insurgency.

Theecord

tho Marxist insurgents, no doubt frustrated by their inability todramatic military gains or attract significant popular support, are responsible fnrma-torltv of confirmedGuerrillas have killed civiliansotherthe government, registering to vote, having relative* in the armed forces, or defying the rebels' frequent campaigns to blockade transportation. The rebels' indiscriminate use of weapon adopted to compensate for tacticalhas contributed to increased civilian casualties. Finally, the insurgents have kidnaped and murdered mayors, judges, local officials, political candidates, and civilians suspected of being government informers. For example, a'guerrilla commander in Usulutan Department recently killed two civilians suspected of collaborating with the Army and put their bodies on display to ^arnjthers in the area to avoid involvement with th* military.

A major element of the insurgents' overall strategy is to foment unrest and violence in the cities. This includes using terrorist attacks to "bleed" government forces. Although we do not believe the guerrillas are delibarately and indiscriminately targeting civilians, their urban terrorist campaign has resulted in some civilian casualties.

Right-wing Extremists

Circumstantial similarities to death squad murdersth*uggest that right-wing extremistsfor at least some of the recent suspicious killings,no one has claimedLXIHPTItNS:IDR1)

some characteristics of death squad acTwUy^aruieof iUH :orture, execution-style murders, assassination by groups of rmed assailants, and bodies being dumped som* distance from th* scene of th*last year. If rightists ar* indeed involved, we believe they have been acting primarily out of frustration with the slow rate of progress against th* lnourgants on the battlefield and out of fear that th* insurgents ar* participating in the political proc*ssto expand thair urban support natworka for terrorism and subversion.

Despite its past association with death squad activity, we believe that the right-wing ARENA party currently does not sanction human rights abuses. Such actions would wreck th* party's recent efforts toore moderate public image

and seriously jeopardize its prospects for winning the presidency next March- Indeed, we believe that, for the time being at least, even many ARENA extremists probably are cooperating with party moderates in an effort to strengthen their position and expand the party's popular appeal. Most ARENA leaders probably also are unwilling to risk the reduction or curtailment of US economic and military assistance that might result from unchecked violence.

The Armed rorcae

The Lstics indicate that the number of

politically-motivated killings committed by Salvadoran soldiers is on the rise. The armed forces have committedfonfirmed political killings so far thisompared to only about two percent While we do not believe the killings are officially sanctioned, they may be the result of concern within the military about increased political activities by insurgent front groups. However, many of those soldiers and policemen most provoked by leftist activity probably are biding their time, calculating that an ARENA victory in the9 presidential election could resultterner stance against the guerrillas and their supporters.

RELEASE IH PART

Members of the Salvadoran armed forces, moreover, probablyEXEMPTIONS:lblll) have carried out at least a few of the suspicious killings. ThelMiJ

believes that frustration over the end of "state of1 legislation in7 haa prompted some soldiers to kill suspected leftists. Without the specialwhich suspended some civil liberties for suspectedthe Constitution permits the authorities to detain suspected guerrillas for onlyours before being turned over to the civilian courts. Most Salvadoran officers believeours is insufficient time tohorough intelligence interrogation and they are frustrated by the courts, which generally release suspected guerriii.as for lack of evidence.

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the salvador/an government probably will renpond to the increase in political killings by quietly pressing the military to be more vigilant in preventing and policing abuses. we expect the publicity-conscious armed forces high command, in particular, will move to head off any sentiment or tendency among officers and troops to deal with the left through illegal means. despite the frustrations arising from the many constitutional and judicial restraints imposed on the armeda time when they perceive the left as exploiting the hard-won democratic reforms guaranteed by the very government they seek tow* believe most officers will want to avoid actions that would allocate the populace or place vital foreign assistance at risk-

similarly, politically astute moderates within arena probably will exhort their extremist colleagues and constituencies to avoid any actions that threaten the party's political credibility and electoral prospects. although the christian democrats may attempt to une the death squad issue to discredit arena during the months leading up to the9imilar effort by president duarte prior to last march's legislative elections failed to have much impact at the polls. wetrategy of pertuasion would be effective to some degree in reducing political killings as the impending presidential election invites greater international acrutlny.

nonetheless, given el salvador's long legacy of political violence, extremist attitudes on the left and the right, and frustrations on both sides over the slow rate of progress in the war, we believe political killings will continue. tensions related to next year's presidential elections, particularly the increasing boldness of the left, may orovoke further violence, in our view. theprospects for political or military victory arewill continue to commit most of the political killings.

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-orirpet.

Appendix: The Armed Forces andghta

The Salvadoran armedresponsible for the greatest number of human rightssince theignificantly improved their conduct. US aid and influence have facilitated the professionalization of the Army, permitting it tocleaner" war. Today, all members of the security services receive human rights training from the International Red Cross, the Catholic Church, and the government's human rights commission. Soldiers and police who commit crimes are routinely brought to trial before civilian courts,

I, and many have been dismissedarious offenses. In addition, that concern about civilian casualties has driven the military to adopt stricter rules of engagement. Rigorous restrictions have been placed on the use of air and artillery support near populated areas, and infantry seldom employ "reconnaissance byblindly into an area to determine whether the enemy is present. Moreover, despite the likelihood that most prisoners will be releaseduidelines in effect sinceovernment troops still capture more guerrillas than they kill, according to the attache.

The prospect of US military assistance being curtailed, fear of negative publicity, and, in manyrowing realization that expanding popular support is critical to their countsrinsurgency mission, have compelled officers toeener appreciation for human rights. Colonel Rene Erailio Ponce, for example, an influential brigade commander who probably will become the next Chief of Staff, is working in his sector to promote greater public confidence in the Array, and he concedes that human rights abuses by government troops contribute toentiment.

| ccToneTl^wailr^cTT^staD^ pastyear reguested additional human rights lectures for his troops andhts manual.

RELEASE IH PART

EXEMPTIONS:

Despite the armed forces' improved performance and greater of the importance of human rights, abuses still occurwith far less freejuency than duringinstitutional factors tend to impede Because the military has never created anyfor investigating human rights abuses, such probeson an ad hoc basis and the results usually are

aa the Attorney General or the US-funded Special Investigationsare reluctant to pry too deeply into the "internal affairs" of the military. El Salvador's most powerful and cohesive institution. Others, like the government's human rights commission, have no legal authority. In addition, the Salvadoran court system relies

secre't'

more on confessions or eyewitness testimony than forensic evidence for convictions, and few witnesses are willing to testifyuman rightsone involving militaryof fear of retribution.

the insular, highly cohesive nature of the salvadoran officer corps also hampers investigations of alleged abuses. officers generally toleratehuman rights abuses, corruption, moral turpitude, or incompetence on thethe part of their colleagues, and few have been subjected to strict disciplinary action. the officer corps tends

enacta "code of

when onecollective

protectiveneas is, we believe, fueledesire to spare the by connection, themselvesany embarrassment.

RELEASE III PHUT EXEMPTIONS [billI

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Salvador: Confirmed Political Killings

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