Businessman stands up to gangs in El Salvador

World Today

Businessman stands up to gangs in El Salvador

In El Salvador, an estimated 70 percent of businesses pay extortion fees to criminal gangs just to operate. One businessman is publicly denouncing the gangs – and vowing never to give-in to their tactics.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.

Businessman stands up to gangs in El Salvador

In El Salvador, an estimated 70 percent of businesses pay extortion fees to criminal gangs just to operate. One businessman is publicly denouncing the gangs - and vowing never to give-in to their tactics. As CGTN's Nitza Soledad Perez reports, that defiance brings with it a continuing threat.

Catalino Miranda is a transport entrepreneur, daring the mafia of the poor.

“At the start of 2005 and in 2006 my company lost 25 drivers. They were killed and that was followed by threats,” Catalino said.

Police figures show nearly 700 transportation workers were killed between 2011 and 2016 in El Salvador. Of those killings, about one hundred happened in municipalities served by Catalino’s buses.

“To stop the murders they wanted a certain amount of money. And back then I decided not to hand over any payments or agree to their demands,” he added.

Catalino has never paid a dime, but with two attempts against his life, he chose to arm his company and install GPS and cameras in the buses.

Extortion is rampant. A regional newspaper investigation revealed that in 2015 Salvadorans paid about $390 million in coerced fees to organized crime groups.

Gang violence provokes many people to flee Central America, creating a wave of immigrants trying to reach the U.S. through Mexico.

While U.S. President Donald Trump has stepped up deportation and repatriation of convicted gang members under U.S. custody back to Central America, Catalino fears this will bring even more crime to his already violent nation.