Former FMLN councilor assassinated in El Salvador

Since January 31, three members of the opposition left-wing FMLN party have been killed in attacks ahead of the February 28 legislative and municipal elections

February 05, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
“We reject the hatred and violence promoted by Bukele” Photo: FMLN/Facebook

On February 4, legislators and members of El Salvador’s left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party denounced the assassination of their fellow comrade and former councilman, José Nelson Berríos Méndez. They extended their condolences to Berríos’ family and demanded thorough investigation and justice for him. They also condemned the far-right president Nayib Bukele for promoting hatred and violence against their party.

45-year-old Berríos was murdered in his home in the Tierra Blanca locality in the Chirilagua municipality of the San Miguel department between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. The National Civil Police (PNC) found his dead body on February 3 with multiple stab wounds. According to the neighbors, some unidentified men broke into his house and killed him. The motive for his murder is still unknown.

Berríos was former councilor of Chirilagua for the FMLN party from 2009 to 2012. He is the third member of the FMLN party who has been killed this week, during the time when all political parties are campaigning for the upcoming legislative and municipal elections scheduled for February 28.

Earlier, on January 31, two members of the FMLN party were killed and five others were injured in an armed attack against the FMLN election caravan in the capital San Salvador. On February 1, the police captured the three suspects who shot against the FMLN members. Along with them, two FMLN supporters, who allegedly fired back at the attackers, were also arrested.

On February 3, the Office of Attorney General charged the accused for “the crimes of aggravated and attempted homicide.” The same day, the two members of the FMLN were released due to “the lack of evidence” against them.

During a press conference on February 3, the head of the Attorney General’s Office, Raul Melara, showed some videos of Sunday’s violent incident captured by CCTV cameras. These videos contradicted the versions of President Bukele, who said that the FMLN had organized a self-attack, and that the FMLN members fired back at the attackers.

Melara acknowledged that “we are facing an incident motivated by hate and political intolerance.” Melara assured that violence will not be allowed or condoned, especially amid the election campaign ahead of the elections.

All the three accused are associated with the health ministry. Roberto Carlos Coto de Paz is a security guard at the ministry, Héctor de Jesús Castaneda is a driver at the ministry and Diego Francisco Alvarado Peña is the personal bodyguard of health minister Francisco Alabí. The fact that the perpetrators are linked to the health ministry, has raised concerns at the national and international level. Various international social and political leaders and organizations have repudiated the attacks and have called for a thorough investigation.

The FMLN and its members have blamed President Bukele for hate speeches and have held him responsible for the crimes. The party members have also denounced Bukele’s manipulation of the police to falsify the investigation. Attorney General Melara reported that he has requested the FBI to collaborate in this investigation.