Funes is sentenced to 14 years for negotiating with gangs

A court in El Salvador sentenced former President Mauricio Funes to 14 years in prison yesterday for negotiating a truce with the gangs to lower the homicide rate in exchange for benefits for their leaders in prisons.

Meanwhile, his former Security Minister, General David Munguía Payés, was sentenced by the court to 18 years.

Funes was facing charges for the crimes of illegal grouping and breach of duty, while General Munguía Payes was convicted of the same crimes and that of arbitrary acts.

the second

Funes, 64, thus became the second Salvadoran president convicted of violating the law during his tenure (2009-2014).

The Court argued in its ruling that the testimonial, expert and documentary evidence verified the commission of the crimes committed by the defendants when they were officials.

He pointed out that in the trial it was established that both had knowledge and control of the illegal actions that were carried out as part of the truce agreed with the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gangs and the two factions of Barrio 19, in 2012 and 2013. .

“We were able to verify that these two former officials, who had the obligation to protect Salvadorans, traded their lives in exchange for electoral favors, acting as gang members,” Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado said on his Twitter account.

“They considered themselves untouchable, but the time has come to put an end to so many years of selective impunity, those who made dark negotiations at the cost of the blood of Salvadorans have been sentenced to pay in prison for the damage caused to society,” added the Minister of Justice and Security, Gustavo Villatoro.

He added that the meetings between gangs were accredited, for which illegal transfers were made from different prisons, and the entry to the prisons of orchestras and women, as well as mediators, without complying with the proper protocols.

According to the court, the directors of the prisons did not have decision-making power to carry out these actions.

At the end of the trial, Munguía Payés affirmed that there were many irregularities in the process and that he considered himself “a political convict just for having served as a former minister of President Funes. They accuse me of a series of accusations that are unfounded.”

The former Minister of Security said that he will appeal the sentence since he expected to be released “because there was no legal basis for all the accusations that have been made against us.”

Funes, who lives in Nicaragua under the protection of the government of President Daniel Ortega, who granted him nationality in 2019 to avoid his extradition, was not present at the trial. The ex-president did not name a defense attorney, so one was assigned to him ex officio.

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A criminal reform approved in September 2022 allows trials to be held with defendants absent.

truce agreements

The witnesses – among them the Catholic Bishop Fabio Colindres and the former Security Minister and former director of the State Intelligence Organisms, Ricardo Perdomo – said in the trial that Funes and General Munguía Payés were aware of all the details of the truce agreements. .

The bishop explained that the truce began in March 2012 with a meeting in the maximum security prison known as Zacatraz, where the gang leaders were being held, and that in the process they agreed not to attack each other and lower the homicide rates in exchange for benefits for they.

They asked to be transferred from the maximum security prison to common prisons, to be allowed intimate visits and the possibility of having cell phones.

After that meeting, the leaders were transferred to prisons where “their bases” were being held to explain the agreement to them.

The so-called maras or gangs have a presence in populous neighborhoods and communities in the country and are involved in drug trafficking and organized crime, according to authorities. They also extort merchants and transport companies and kill those who refuse to pay.

other cases

This is not the first case of alleged negotiations between Salvadoran officials and gangs. Journalistic investigations and United States authorities have also accused the government of current President Nayib Bukele of agreeing with these groups.

The digital newspaper El Faro has published two reports documenting alleged negotiations between Bukele administration officials with the three main gangs in El Salvador and an indictment by the United States Attorney’s Office against Mara Salvatrucha gang members, filed in court. federal government in New York, singled out two high-ranking Bukele officials for having negotiated with that gang a reduction in homicides in exchange for alleged benefits between 2019 and 2021.

However, neither in El Salvador nor in the United States is there a formal accusation directed specifically against officials of the Bukele government.

Homicides fell in El Salvador during the Funes government but the numbers rebounded when the truce was broken in 2013 after the removal of Munguía Payés. The new authorities withdrew benefits from imprisoned gang members.

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