El Salvador, Intelligence and Security
El Salvador won its independence from Spain in 1821, and joined the Central American Federation. The nation left the Federation in 1839, establishing its own government. Political rivalry has been endemic in El Salvador, reaching a climax in 1980 when the country erupted in civil war. In 1992, leftist rebel guerrillas and the El Salvadoran government signed a peace treaty. Specified in the agreement were numerous government and military reforms desired by opposition forces. Some of these reforms extended to the El Salvadoran intelligence and security community.
Reforms continue today, but the intelligence community of El Salvador underwent several changes under a program of demilitarization in the 1990s. Secret police and anti-dissident units were abolished, but political espionage remains in practice to a lesser degree.
The main intelligence agency in El Salvador is the Direccion Nacional Civil (DNI), National Directorate of Intelligence. The DNI collects and processes both domestic and foreign intelligence information. The agency also coordinates the operations of several smaller intelligence units, including counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, anti-narcotics, and anti-paramilitary forces.
The Ministry of Defense and Public Security manages military intelligence and security forces. Though the army and various militias are responsible for their own strategic intelligence forces, the Ministry of Defense aids in the sharing of information among various agencies, and coordinates large-scale surveillance operations for the C-2, the main military intelligence wing.
The El Salvadoran government also maintains a number of special operations units in the intelligence community. An Anti-Riot Unit (UMO) and the Political Reaction Group (GRP) work with law enforcement to conduct surveillance on anti-government groups and paramilitary organizations. The anti-riot squad has acted as peacekeepers during large protests, and helped stop looting after natural disasters.
As part of its series of reforms, El Salvador legalized the U.S. dollar as official currency, alongside the existing national currency, the colon. The government hopes that the influence of a stronger currency will help the nation recover from the effects of civil war and encourage investment in the region. However, the dual currency also opens the nation to increased financial crimes, including money laundering for drug cartels. Working with neighboring nations, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations, El Salvadoran intelligence forces are acting to combat trafficking and financial crimes related to illegal drugs.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. "Columbia" CIA World Factbook < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/es.html >(April 18, 2003).