SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador -- A dreaded Salvadoran police unit blamed by the United States for human rights abuses has been disbanded, a top army commander said Wednesday.
Col. Reynaldo Golcher, the newly appointed commander of the Treasury Police, told United Press International in a telephone interview that the S-2 intelligence section of the security force had been abolished this week.
S-2, which investigated criminal and guerrilla activity, was made up of some 100 detectives and frequently was accused of human rights abuses and links to death squads.
Former S-2 director Maj. Ricardo Pozo was removed from his post last November after the U.S. Embassy charged his unit had beaten a confession out of a suspect jailed in the May 25, 1983 killing of U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Albert Schaufelberger.
One military official said the decision to disband S-2 was made solely by Golcher, who took over the Treasury Police May 22 from Col. Nicolas Carranza, himself frequently linked to death squads.
Golcher denied there was any proof to support allegations that S-2 was a death squad.
'There have been innumerable accusations but in many cases they are the product of disinformation,' Golcher said. He conceded S-2 had been involved in criminal activity.
An investigation found that three S-2 detectives took part in a recent kidnap-for-ransom that resulted in the death of Jose Llort, one of El Salvador's wealthiest coffee growers, Golcher said.
Of the three detectives now jailed in the Llort case, Golcher said one was a bodyguard to former Treasury Police chief Col. Francisco Moran, recently removed as head of the state electricity commission.
Golcher said S-2 detectives were being sent to Treasury Police combat units fighting leftist guerrillas, an assignment police agents said usually was reserved as punishment for wrongdoing.
On the battlefield, army commanders said government troops were deployed in seven of El Salvadors 14 provinces in a new counter-insurgency campaign.
The biggest anti-guerrilla campaign began in the far northeastern corner of the country, in the provinces of San Miguel, Morazan and La Union, said Lt. Col. Domingo Monterrosa.
Monterrosa said air force warjets and artillery supported the counter-insurgency sweep, the latest in a series of army drives into the rebel-dominated highlands along the Honduran border.
Monterrosa, commander of the 3rd Military Zone, said infantry units from the 5,000 soldiers stationed in the three provinces were participating in the drive.
In Usulutan province, the army also chased leftist guerrillas but so far no important contacts had been made in either of the sweeps, Monterrosa said.