Central America – Working during the containment in El Salvador on the project ICRIME

Publé le 24 April 2020

“El Salvador, small state of Central America, does not avoid Covid 19. It is even more an issue as the health care system usually is enequal, especially without social security, but also very insufficient, when facing the disastrous consequences of the virus on sick persons who need emergency care. Even the authorities confessed it.

On March 15th, a state of emergency was voted by the Parliament in order to temporarily limit some rights such as free movement and meetings. Moreover, people who enter in El Salvador are systematically put in quarantine in uncomfortable and improvised places, apparently. Therefore, our expert colleague who is a medical examiner, Maria Dolores MORENO, can’t come back to El Salvador for now as she went on a mission to certify laboratories in Panama. On March 22nd was declared an obligation of containment for 30 days. The airport is closed. There is no flight.

However, those reasonable decisions, implemented to avoid as much as possible contagion, are foiled by the decision of that same government to grant to the most deprived a 300 dollar subsidy per family without any logistical preparation. It certainly is praiseworthy, yet, it creates gatherings of tens of thousands of people every day that come to beg for it as well as chaos. Banks can’t always hand that sum of money out for numerous regulatory and practical reasons. This decision concerns 1.5 million households in total. This grotesque situation manifestly creates a huge potential source of infection. Officially there would be on 04/03/2020, 44 infected persons and 2 dead persons (64 infected persons and 3 dead persons on 04/06/2020)

The SICA shut down like most of work places. So, we are invited to do teleworking. I am lucky to be settled in a big flat, in the Colonia San Benito, that gives me an amazing view on one of the several active volcanos of the country, named the Boqueron. It makes the containment more bearable, even though I list days one by one without precised countdown.

Our project has a regional mission and involves several countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Niacaragua, Belize, Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica and Honduras). Among the activities planned in 2020, there is the production of practical guides on themes dedicated to special techniques of investigations. Those guides must be elaborated by working groups composed of a prosecutor and a specialised investigator of each country. The idea is to implement 8 working groups, including 5 countries each. A first physical meeting was planned in one of the countries to present and initiate the activity, and then it was planned to communicate through videoconferences or emails. This first meeting will have to be remotely organised and via videoconference with the logistical support of the SICA. I make the most of containment to work on projects that can be used as models and frameworks for guides. The production of those documents, that I initially planned to only be a support, will be even more useful according to me, as the first meeting will be via videoconference.

I also start to contact resource persons from each country and working group in order to get remote meetings ready. For now, I only received one positive response from a female prosecutor from Guatemala. Nevertheless, I should get other useful contacts soon thanks to the support of REFCO which is a regional network of prosecutors. It is important to specify it is of course an unofficial and preliminary initial contact as the SICA is in charge of official steps towards each country.”

Robert AMPUY – Expert