Ex-El Salvador President Sentenced to 14 Years in Absentia for Negotiating With Gangs
Former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for his involvement in negotiating with gangs during his administration. The trial, which began in April, took place with Funes living in Nicaragua, as El Salvador changed its laws last year to allow trials in absentia.
Prosecutors had accused Funes of illicit association and failure to perform his duties regarding a gang truce negotiated in 2012. Funes denied negotiating with the gangs or providing privileges to their leaders.
El Salvador has been pursuing Funes, who served as president from 2009 to 2014, on various charges in multiple cases.
Additionally, Funes' former Security Minister, General David Munguía Payes, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his role in the negotiations. Funes received a total sentence of 14 years, comprising eight years for illicit association and six years for failure to perform his duties.
The gang negotiations were allegedly aimed at reducing the country's high homicide rate by offering benefits to imprisoned gang leaders. It is worth noting that in 2015, El Salvador's Supreme Court classified the gangs as terrorist organizations.
The current President, Nayib Bukele, has also faced allegations of engaging in similar negotiations with the gangs. In December 2021, the US Treasury revealed that Bukele's government had secretly negotiated a truce with street gang leaders, offering privileges in exchange for a decrease in violence and political support for Bukele's party. These allegations were previously reported by local news site.
Former Attorney General Raúl Melara had pledged to investigate the claims, but when Bukele's party gained control of Congress after the mid-term elections, Melara was ousted.
The truce eventually collapsed when the gangs killed 62 people in a single day in March 2022. In response, Bukele suspended certain fundamental rights and initiated an aggressive campaign against the gangs, which continues to this day.
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