3 arrested in El Salvador cop’s killing after siege

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele says three alleged gang members accused of killing a police officer have been arrested. – AFP pic, May 27, 2023.

EL Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced yesterday the arrests of three alleged gang members accused of killing a police officer whose death sparked a military siege of the northern town where the murder occurred earlier this month.

The killing on May 16 of officer Maximino Vasquez prompted Bukele to order 5,000 soldiers and 500 police officers to establish a “security cordon” around Nueva Concepcion, a town of around 30,000 people about 80km north of the capital San Salvador.

“We promised they would pay dearly for the murder of our hero. We destroyed their clique, arrested their comrades, arrested their leader, and today, we arrested the three murderers,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Those now detained “will never again cause terror” in the country, he said.

The suspects were identified as Jose Armando Ochoa Gutierrez, Francis Antonio Gomez Calderon and Salvador Enrique Portillo Landaverde, who was detained in Guatemalan territory.

Guatemalan police said on Twitter that Portillo Landaverde, 27, was a member of the MS-13 gang and had been detained in the department of Jutiapa, on the border with El Salvador.

Salvadoran attorney-general Rodolfo Delgado said at a press conference that authorities had established that Portillo Lanvaderde “was the one who fired the shots that caused the death” of the policeman.

He said prosecutors would request a charge of “aggravated homicide” against the trio and would be seeking a sentence of 30 to 50 years in prison.

Just over a year ago, Bukele launched a controversial “war” on gangs that has seen more than 68,000 suspected gang members arrested without a warrant under a state of emergency.

The crusade has proved broadly popular among Salvadorans, according to polls, but human rights organisations and the Catholic Church have criticised Bukele’s methods. – AFP, May 27, 2023.

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