Executive summary of report: El Salvador's Bid to Fight Corruption: Does the Country Have the Necessary Tools to Win this Battle?

11 Dec 2018

While there have been a number of criminal proceedings in El Salvador that have unearthed serious cases of corruption and resulted in the punishment of a few high-level officials, doubts remain about the willingness and capacity of Salvadoran institutions to dismantle the criminal organizations that, to varying degrees and in various forms, have permeated State institutions. 

Although Latin America offers comparative experiences with international support in the fight against impunity, El Salvador has opted to tackle corruption with strictly national tools and institutions. However, according to the report published annually by Transparency International, this has not reversed the perception that impunity is widespread in the country. Furthermore, according to comparative estimates, “hidden” crime rates in El Salvador are extremely high: 90 out of every 100 crimes committed go unreported.

This climate of impunity is detrimental to the fight against corruption in El Salvador for two reasons: first, because it reveals a system incapable of investigating crimes that involve complex structures and networks; and second, because it also shows that the independence of justice institutions lacks sufficient safeguards to shield them from the pressure exerted by groups with an interest in thwarting the fight against corruption.

Apart from some sporadic investigative journalism efforts, El Salvador has no publicly available information on basic impunity statistics— such as the number of investigations resulting in convictions in a given period—for any crime. Nor is there transparency regarding the work of the Office of the Prosecutor General, since, for example, its case prioritization criteria and strategic guidelines are not available to the public. It is telling that the Prosecutor General presents his criminal prosecution policy plans at the end of his term, when he will no longer be able to execute them, rather than at the beginning of his term.

At the international level, El Salvador has signed and ratified the most important anti-corruption instruments and has been evaluated by their monitoring mechanisms, but it has done little to put the law into practice. Thus, for instance, it has failed to show implementation of the recommendations and observations made by the MESISIC to create a mechanism that produces statistics on corruption cases investigated and adjudicated, and on the revenues brought into the public coffers as a result of the imposition of penalties.

Read the full executive summary of the report, El Salvador's Bid to Fight Corruption: Does the Country Have the Necessary Tools to Win this Battle?, here