Long-Awaited Wiretapping Agreement Signed
In a highly anticipated ceremony at the Salvadoran Attorney General’s office on January 28, U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte and Attorney General Romeo Barahona signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that paves the way for the creation of a new National Electronic Monitoring Center in El Salvador. Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez participated in the ceremony as an honored witness.
The new MOU allows the U.S. government to begin purchasing equipment, hiring trainers, and renovating the building chosen by Salvadoran officials as the site of the new facility. The United States has promised just over $5 million to assist in the launching of the new Center.
The realization of the long-awaited MOU marks a significant milestone in the fight against organized crime in El Salvador. The purpose of the Center, according to the “Special Law for the Interception of Electronic Communications” passed by the Legislative Assembly in February 2010, is to establish a central facility to intercept, process, analyze and record electronic communications for use by Salvadoran law enforcement officials as evidence against organized crimes.
On December 8, 2010, Foreign Minister Martinez and Ambassador Aponte signed an addendum to U.S.-El Salvador Letter of Agreement on the Merida/CARSI Initiative to allow for the establishment of a new activity, known as the “Electronic Surveillance Program.” Per the new MOU, the National Electronic Monitoring Center will be run by the Government of El Salvador, and any communications intercepts collected by the new Center will be admissible in both Salvadoran and U.S. courts.