An ongoing trial in El Salvador has included assertions that a gang leader was in regular contact with politicians and other government officials, even though the country's former president recently said that the truce involved no direct contact between the two. 

Evidence gathered from the cell phone of suspected gang member Rubén Antonio Rosa Lovo, who faces extortion charges along with 67 other suspected gang members, suggests that government officials were in contact with top gang leaders during the 2012-2013 gang truce, reported La Prensa Grafica.

According to prosecutors, forensic analysis of the purported gang leader's phone suggests that Rosa Lovo was in contact with "a congressman" and "a former security minister."

SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Salvador Gang Truce

Communications recovered from the suspected gang leader's phone reportedly detail a conversation in which Rosa Lovo agrees to supply votes to a particular lawmaker in exchange for cooperation and support of the now-defunct gang truce.

Both David Munguía Payés and Ricardo Perdomo served as security minister for former President Mauricio Funes at different times during the era of the gang truce.

While the truce was active, major gangs like the MS13 and Barrio 18 committed to halting violence, and homicide levels fell accordingly. Funes has recently asserted that the government was not directly involved in negotiating with the gangs, and merely supported the mediators who helped brokered the truce. 

InSight Crime Analysis

El Salvador's gang truce was controversial from the very beginning. Recently, however, critics seem to be growing bolder in their attempts to impugn the actions of the previous administration, while Funes appears to be ever more eager to disown the government's alleged role in the initiative. 

The ongoing trial covered by La Prensa Grafica is not the only case in which court evidence appeared to point to contact between gang leaders and key officials. In a previous case, a protected witness reportedly testified that gang truce mediator Raul Mijango -- one of those mediators that the Funes government has said it supported -- approved of a gang attack on a police station. 

SEE ALSO:  El Salvador News and Profiles

Critics of the gang truce have argued that the initiative gave the Barrio 18 and MS13 the breathing room they needed to reorganize, consolidate, and strengthen. One concern is whether the truce allowed the gangs -- in particular the MS13 -- to become more sophisticated criminal structures, capable of smuggling drugs or weapons internationally. 

The US Treasury Department appeared to signal that this may be the case, after announcing new sanctions against MS13 gang leaders for "orchestrating assassination campaigns against Salvadoran law enforcement, military, and government officials." The Treasury Department first designated the MS13 as a transnational criminal organizations (TCO) in 2012. 

The new sanctions from Treasury weigh in unambiguously on the side of those who believe the gang truce strengthened the MS13. Along with assertions that government officials were in closer contact with gang members than they now claim, all this ultimately makes it harder for anyone to propose working with the gangs to reduce violence and death tolls. 

Investigations

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

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...

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...

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.

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...

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...

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.

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...

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.