Uniformed agents from the Specialized Reaction Forces (FES) of the National Civilian Police (PNC) executed at least three homicides and participated in the sexual assault of two teenagers in two municipalities north of San Salvador. The agents also extorted a woman in San Miguel between February and March of this year.
The FES is the elite battalion created by the Salvadoran Government of Salvador Sanchez Ceren in April of 2016 to fight the MS-13 gang as well as the two factions of the 18th Street gang. It is composed of 1,000 men grouped in units of between 4 and 10 men each, and are under the command of PNC officers In a detailed investigation, Revista Factum tells the story of how the lack of institutional supervision, in part, contributed to this unit becoming an extermination group within the PNC.
For three months, Revista Factum investigated the FES group under the command of Lieutenant Diaz Lico, with the participation of the agents Bladimir de Jesus Flores Avalos, institutional identification number (ONI) 27791; Jose Roberto Ventura Gamez, ONI 27518; and another agent identified as Mogwli. The four police officers were accompanied by a civilian whom we will identify as Rastreador (Tracker). Rastreador’s testimony regarding the crimes committed by the group is known by of the Attorney General’s Office (FGR).
Starting in late May, based on Rastreador’s testimony, a Factum team began a journalistic investigation which included interviews with dozens of witnesses at the sites where the crimes attributed to the members of the FES occurred, the review of autopsy reports from the murders, reviews of police data bases, and access to real time communication between Rastreador and Lieutenant Diaz Lico and other PNC members via social media groups used to exchange information and respond to petitions to execute gang members.
Through this investigation, Factum was able to verify the participation of Diaz Lico’s group in three homicides, two sexual assault cases, and at least one extortion. On February 14th of this year Diaz Lico participated in the execution of Ivan Benjamin Carcamo Caballero, a 29-year-old man known as Bam Bam, and identified by the Police as a member of the 18th Street Revolucionarios faction. Diaz Lico, Flores Avalos and Ventura Gomez entered a house built with aluminum sheets located in Aguilares, a suburb located north of San Salvador, to murder the gang member; the agent known as Mogwli served as a look out. Once the agents had killed the gang member, Diaz Lico made a call through the radio to falsely report a shooting between police officers and gang members.
Carcamo Caballero is one of the 293 gang members who, according to PNC director Howard Cotto, died in the context of 346 shootings and alleged confrontations between police and gang members that took place this year between January 1-and August 27.. Factum’s investigation shows, however, that in Bam Bam’s case, there was no confrontation. Two more executions took place on March 3rd. That day, Ventura Gamez and Flores Avalos killed 26-year old Samuel Antonio Avelar Carpio, also known as Eclipse, and who had been identified as a member of the City Paraisos Locos Salvatruca clique of MS-13 in the Distrito Italia of Tonacatepeque, which is also a suburb located north of San Salvador. The process was the same: while two agents carried out the execution, the other two kept an eye on the perimeter.
Avelar Carpio’s autopsy, to which Revista Factum had access, shows that the gang member received one bullet to the forehead and seven through the back. In the same case, Diaz Lico’s group killed another gang member who is yet to be identified. An official document from the Supreme Court, which was obtained by Factum, certifies that this gang member died on March 3,2017 in Distrito Italia II, house 19, on Avenue Salsa Manzana 55, which is the same exact address where Eclipse was murdered.
In early March of this year, in an Aguilares’ mountain. Ventura Gamez and Flores Avalos sexually assaulted two teenage girls, 13- and a 14-years-old, after a search operation in which they were looking for a gang member. After leaving the house in which they were looking for the gang member, not having found him, the police officers came across the girls and accused them of supporting the gang members; after that, they put their fingers inside the two girls’ vaginas and forced them to put the front part of their weapons inside their mouths. Factum corroborated, in the place of the events, the identity of the attackers.
On January 16 of this year, a victim known in the court records as “victim 385” was extorted through a Facebook page called Group of Gang Member Extermination in El Salvador, which was used by Diaz Lico’s group to share information regarding their own activities and that of other police officers. The Facebook page was also used to obtain information about potential targets. Factum corroborated, through information available in an open judicial process in the Juzgado Tercero de Instruccion in San Miguel, that victim “385” was asked through the Facebook page to pay $600 in exchange for respecting the life of one of her family members who had recently been detained by the PNC.
Prior to publishing these details, Factum questioned both PNC director Howard Cotto and Vice President Oscar Ortiz regarding the crimes attributed to uniformed members of the FES. Both public servants are part of the chain of command that controls the elite unit. They both recognized that they have received complaints regarding the crimes attributed to the police officers, but denied the existence of any extermination groups inside the PNC. They promised to initiate investigations on the matter.
The Salvadoran government already has knowledge of the crimes attributed to Diaz Lico’s group in the FES: Rastreador presented the facts to the Attorney General’s Office in May of this year. The Attorney General’s office offered him protection and arranged for him to speak with two agents of the Elite Division against Organized Crime of the PNC. However, rather than question the witness regarding the crimes attributed to the members of the FES, the agents focused instead on asking him questions regarding the location of gang members and details of the interviews he had provided to reporters from Factum.