La Hachadura, El Salvador—A brass band, a helicopter, seven drones, 20 police trucks—some of them newly emblazoned with Patrulla Fronteriza shields—and at least three members of the US State Department were present to inaugurate El Salvador’s new Border Patrol last week. Under a scorching late-morning sun on September 12, the Salvadoran minister of justice and public security, Rogelio Rivas, gave the order to a police official, who then shouted, Border Patrol, deploy! and the trucks started, slowly, leaving the parking lot of La Hachadura with the border crossing with Guatemala just to the west. The 100 new agents saluted their minister, and then kept standing around in the sun, some of them fanning themselves with their hats. Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, the director of the police, later called the deployment merely “symbolic.”
But deploying any security agencies in El Salvador is a fraught endeavor: after a 12-year civil war ended in 1992, during which the Army and police murdered tens of thousands of its own civilians—with heavy funding and training support from the United States—the country hasn’t been able to escape the specter of violence. In recent years, police units have been charged with a pattern of extrajudicial killings, and the insecurity in the country is still expelling tens of thousands of refugees every year.
According to Oscar Chacón, cofounder and executive director of Alianza Americas, “A Salvadoran Border Patrol, in essence, echoes the Trump administration’s containment strategy which, as we know, only has two results: human suffering and an increase in criminality and corruption that only favors those who can afford to pay.”
After mounting pressure from the Trump administration, as well as $150,000 issued from the State Department to re-outfit the new border patrol trucks, El Salvador seems to be kowtowing to Trump’s anti-immigration agenda. In total, the new agency will include 300 immigration agents and 100 agents from the Border Security Division of the National Police. The new forces will be a “strategic arm,” according to Rivas, to help ensure public security, and will be deployed to all of the country’s border crossings, as well as in the 154 “blind spots” between the ports of entry.
By Nelson Rauda and John Washington for THENATION.COM
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