SAN SALVADOR – Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes announced Friday a one-year extension of the deployment of troops to help police battle crime.
“The military presence in the streets has had a very positive impact, all the opinion polls reflect that,” he told members of the armed forces at an event marking the Day of the Soldier.
Funes said he was expanding from 19 to 29 the number of zones to be patrolled by soldiers.
“We trust that in these 12 months they (the troops) bring the results the population hopes for,” he said, stressing that the “participation of the armed forces, while very valuable, must be seen only as an exceptional measure.”
Besides joint patrols with police, soldiers will be posted to 62 “blind spots” on El Salvador’s borders, the president said.
“We must recognize that the borders are, to put it graphically, a sieve through which filter all kinds of illegal merchandise, contraband, drugs, human trafficking and an infinity of fraudulent business,” Funes told the officers.
The president said he also granted a request from prison authorities to station soldiers inside some of the country’s most dangerous penal institutions, where recent riots left two inmates dead and 25 others injured.
Funes’ center-left government will ask the Legislative Assembly to pass bills authorizing the use of soldiers inside prisons and at border crossings.
El Salvador, where more that 75,000 perished in a 1980-1992 civil war, has an average of 13 homicides per day. The peace accords that ended the conflict included limits on the activity of the armed forces.
The governing FMLN party originated as the political wing of the guerrillas who fought the military in El Salvador’s internal conflict. EFE