El Salvador officials face US sanctions amid anti-crime efforts

Written by Staff Writer, CNN Mexico City

CNN has reached out to the El Salvador Embassy for comment on the United States’ new sanctions. The sanctions were signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, May 18.

Leaders in El Salvador have come under fire for failing to tackle criminal gangs that threaten the country’s criminal justice system and stability. U.S. sanctions against several of the country’s top officials suggest that Washington is pursuing policy change amid concerns over the gang crisis.

According to a statement from the White House , El Salvador’s Secretary of the Interior Francisco Dall’Anese and Interior and Justice Minister Mauricio Ramirez Landaverde are among the officials sanctioned in the Treasury Department’s action.

“These individuals are collectively responsible for helping the gangs succeed by compromising the leadership of the state and undermining state institutions,” the statement says.

The statement adds that El Salvador’s former public prosecutor Benito Lara is also among those named.

“To continue aiding the gangs’ criminal activities, the United States designates both Dall’Anese and Ramirez Landaverde as specially designated global terrorists in recognition of their efforts to circumvent our economic sanctions,” the statement says.

“By knowingly and materially assisting the gangs’ criminal activity, both Mr. Dall’Anese and Mr. Ramirez Landaverde are also endangering the public safety of the United States, as they are acting as a support group for the gangs,” it continues.

Hundreds in El Salvador’s capital have protested police repression amid worsening security problems.

The actions come two days after El Salvador’s lower house voted to hand back a “golden handshake” — a recognition which is an essential part of an international visa waiver program.

The U.S. government previously agreed to modify this requirement after numerous protests and a demand by members of the parliament to reconsider the move.

Prior to that, thousands of protesters took to the streets in El Salvador’s capital on Wednesday, hurling objects at police and urging authorities to take action against the rising insecurity, which has left more than 300 people dead so far this year.

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