ARENA presidential candidate Norman Quijano

Representatives of at least two of El Salvador's top political parties, including the opposition leader and front-runner in the upcoming presidential elections, have met with the country's two major gangs, according to the mediator of the ongoing gang truce, raising the question of how much political sway the gangs hold.

Truce arbitrator Raul Mijango told a local television station in an interview that right-wing party ARENA leader and presidential front-runner Norman Quijano, as well as representatives from the incumbent FMLN party, have met with leaders of the country's two main gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18, reported Contra Punto.

Mijango also stated the gangs are "an elector that can define the result" of presidential elections in March 2014, reported Contra Punto. According to La Pagina, he highlighted the gangs' ability to mobilize more than 60,000 voters, as well as their ability to disrupt the elections.  

Quijano has consistently voiced his opposition to the gang truce -- which began in March 2012 -- and earlier this month current president Mauricio Funes branded him a "hypocrite" for apparently having already met with the gangs. 

InSight Crime Analysis

While all of the candidates in the upcoming elections have publicly distanced themselves from the gang truce -- surely driven by its unpopularity among the general population -- they are also aware of the ability of the gangs to affect elections. In fact, this is not the first time Quijano has faced accusations of hypocrisy for meeting the gang leaders. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

However, the profundity of the gangs' political reach is still an unknown. The 60,000 votes Mijango mentioned include only the gang members, not the gangs' extended families, friends, business associates and sympathizers. Perhaps more importantly, the gangs may sway local votes more than national ones, eventually gaining control of congressional seats and city councils. This would be a good development, if the gangs were already integrated into society, as the truce supposes, and have renounced criminality.

So far that has not happened, and the truce remains an easy target because the gangs continue to extort the general population, progress in the reintegration of gang members has stalled, and homicides are spiking.

However, the political meetings illustrate that the gang truce may have more staying power than previously believed. The truce, engineered by Mijango and now Defense Minister David Munguia Payes, greatly reduced homicides and opened the door for more direct social and economic programs with the gangs. With his statements, Mijango seems to be cautioning the candidates that rash actions to end the truce may lead to unfavorable electoral results and possibly worse.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

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...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

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. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

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. The BACRIM's roots lie in the demobilized paramilitary umbrella group the United Self-Defense...