Impact | Negative
Probability | High
Civicus Rating | Obstructed
On February 1, the Legislative Assembly controlled by the ruling party sanctioned five reforms to the Criminal Procedural Code, by means of which the figure of the “Digital Undercover Agent” is created. With this, the National Police is empowered to carry out undercover digital operations and collect personal and public information from the devices of the persons under investigation.
The regulation presents ambiguities in relation to the judicial authorization necessary to carry out this type of operations within the framework of investigations on crimes contained in the Computer Crimes Law and/or “other special criminal laws”. In principle, the police intervention requires the prior written authorization of the Attorney General’s Office. The latter may also request the judge to order as a precautionary measure for any natural or legal person the restriction, blocking of the account, profile or Internet site or the securing of the information contained therein. It is worth remembering that the appointment of the current Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado in May 2021 was highly questioned internally and externally.
Opposition sectors referred to the measure -which has not yet been enacted by the Executive Branch- as “the way to legalize espionage”, while the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) denounced the reforms for their possible implications for freedom of the press. Although from the ruling party, Deputy Francisco Villatoro responded that “it is a lie that there is going to be espionage or persecution”, the charges are not gratuitous. In fact, it was only last month that the use of the Pegasus software in the cyber espionage of journalists and political opponents in 2021 was proven.
On behalf of those affected, on February 8, the NGO Cristosal asked the Court of Auditors to investigate the improper use of public funds for the contracting of the software. The organization indicated that President Nayib Bukele, the director of the State Intelligence Agency, Peter Dumas, the Minister of Justice, Gustavo Villatoro, and the Minister of Defense, René Merino Monroy, could be involved in this transaction.