DE RUEHSN #2369 2701254
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271254Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3902
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 002369
E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/25/2016
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR: NEW ANTI-TERRORISM LAW A MESSAGE TO
REF: A. SAN SALVADOR 712
B. SAN SALVADOR 1736
Classified By: DCM Michael A. Butler, Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) SUMMARY: Late on September 21, the Salvadoran
Legislative Assembly passed new counterterrorism legislation;
the ruling ARENA party and their center-right PCN allies were
joined by the Christian Democrats (PDC) for a total of 50
votes in favor of the new law, despite vociferous opposition
by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).
Although the law contains significant language from
internationally accepted standards, it was clearly written
with the intent of curbing the ability of the FMLN and its
mass organizations to carry out civil disturbances, as in the
July 5 bloody encounter with the Salvadoran police (reftel
B). END SUMMARY.
2. (C) Counterterrorism legislation has long been a subject
of interest and debate in the Assembly, but the July 5 riots
that ended in the assassination of two police officers
(reftel B) offered renewed impetus for swift passage of the
new law. It remains unclear whether the FMLN actually
ordered the killings (which appeared to have been carefully
planned), but the alleged killers and their accomplices had
close ties to the party. The FMLN has increasingly turned to
orchestrating violent public protests as its ability to
influence legislation has waned, and apparently expected the
July 5 riots to become violent. President Saca viewed the
killings as a breach of the terms of the 1992 Peace Accords.
Immediately following the police murders, PDC leader Rodolfo
Parker informed the Embassy that the Legislative Assembly
would respond with new counterterrorism legislation. The
FMLN strongly opposed the law, which one FMLN deputy
characterized as "state-sponsored terror". ARENA's
Legislative Assembly delegation chief Guillermo Gallegos
testily countered by opining, "It's to be expected that
ex-terrorists, some of whom still have a terrorist mentality,
are against counterterrorism legislation; it goes against the
logic of the FMLN to support this kind of measure."
3. (C) Rather than distinguishing terrorism from regular
crime by defining it as politically-motivated violence, the
new legislation lists some 27 types of acts as terrorism,
punishable with a maximum sentence of up to 86-1/2 years in
prison, in the case of aggravating circumstances. The law
provides sentences of 40-60 years for the murder or grave
injury of public officials, diplomats, or other international
figures, and punishes kidnapping and terrorist attacks
against aircraft or maritime vessels with sentences of 55-65
years. Significantly, the law also provides sentences of
25-30 years for the armed occupation of public buildings, a
tactic long favored by radical leftist groups in El Salvador.
The law also outlines punishment for the use of weapons of
mass destruction, crimes against port and maritime security,
and participation in terrorist finance (though lacking
USG-favored language on cash couriers and wire transfers).
Under the new law, penalties are stiffer than what the penal
code would otherwise impose; the law also specifies trial
before a judge rather than a jury.
4. (U) Other acts that are punishable under the purview of
the new law include:
-Tampering with chemicals and medicines
-Inciting acts of terror
-Publicly defending or supporting acts of terrorism
-Membership in terrorist organizations
-Espionage associated with terrorism
-Acts of cyberterrorism
The law also includes an obligation for citizens to report
suspicious activity and provides for the admission of
evidence obtained through wire-tapping.
5. (C) COMMENT: Although the FMLN sees the government using
counterterrorism legislation to suppress protest, it is more
likely that the administration is simply sending a message to
the FMLN that violence such as that instigated on election
day and July 5 will no longer be tolerated. As with most
legislation in this country, this is another example of the
two polar extremes working against each other rather than for
the common public good.
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