Some of the captured individuals in El Salvador

El Salvador has taken down a network of colluding officials from within its judiciary, a sign that the momentum against corruption propeled by Attorney General Douglas Meléndez remains strong.

Former judges, legal assistants, lawyers and a current and former prosecutor were among at least 14 individuals captured on August 14, according to a press release by El Salvador's police. The operation is ongoing, with four outstanding arrest warrants.

Authorities say the corrupt network was involved in at least 29 cases of manipulating judicial processes in favor of criminals, according to El Diario de Hoy. The detainees allegedly offered judicial benefits to the defendants, including leaking confidential information, in exchange for bribes ranging from $50 to $10,000.

The ring assisted criminal suspects ranging from gang members to former Salvadoran President Antonio Saca, who stands accused of embezzlement. The latter allegedly paid a legal assistant $10,000 to obtain information on his case -- which now includes an additional charge for bribery -- according to a press release by the attorney general's office.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

The arrests come less than a week after an alleged leak from within El Salvador's judiciary was made public, although the two events currently appear to be unrelated.

On August 7, Police Chief Howard Cotto stated that authorities would pursue politicians that financed death squads in the country, without giving names. The following day, former San Miguel Mayor Will Salgado, who will run in the 2018 mayoral elections, stated that a judicial official had warned him of his imminent arrest for allegedly financing deaths squads, and advised him to flee.

Attorney General Douglas Meléndez neither admitted nor denied that Salgado was being investigated, according to La Prensa Gráfica. Salgado has not been arrested.

In another crackdown against corruption in El Salvador, former Mayor Florentino Rivas and over a dozen other individuals were sent to prison on the same day as authorities dismantled the corrupt judiciary ring, reported elsalvador.com. Rivas was arrested last week, accused of heading a transnational cocaine trafficking network.

InSight Crime Analysis

Corruption is no novelty in El Salvador, whether among judiciary, police or mayors. But these operations suggest an ongoing crackdown on the phenomenon under the impulse of Attorney General Douglas Meléndez.

Since taking office in January 2016, Meléndez has arrested former former President Saca and investigated his successor Mauricio Funes. In addition, the new attorney general distinguished himself from his predecessor in the high-stakes case against José Adán Salazar Umaña, alias "Chepe Diablo," the suspected leader of one of El Salvador's most powerful drug trafficking groups, the Texis Cartel.

As InSight Crime reported at the time, the former attorney general had all but buried the case against Salazar Umaña. Once in office, Meléndez reopened the investigation and eventually ordered Chepe Diablo's arrest. This move against a powerful criminal figure whose political ties appeared to reach as high as El Salvador's current vice president was a strong sign of Meléndez's intent to bring about change. These latest arrests suggest that more decisive action against corrupt elements of El Salvador's own government may be yet to come.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.