El Salvador's Supreme Court building

El Salvador's Supreme Court has transferred 21 judges, including four that made rulings favorable to a prominent businessman accused of corrupting the justice system, a clear sign that the high court supports the current crackdown on impunity by the Attorney General's Office.

The Supreme Court removed the judges from their posts in the capital, San Salvador, and nearby Santa Tecla on September 20 and ordered they be sent to outlying jurisdictions, reported El Faro.

Four of the judges had issued rulings that benefitted Enrique Rais, a well-known businessman who was arrested in late August alongside former Attorney General Luis Martínez and several other suspects. The Attorney General's Office alleges the group conspired to obstruct justice in cases related to Rais' business interests, including a state-subsidized waste management firm.

Less than a week after the arrests, a judge ordered Rais and the other suspects be released from pretrial detention and placed under house arrest, a move that was questioned by the Attorney General's Office. Martínez remained in prison due to pending charges in a separate case. The judge, Evelyn del Carmen Jiménez Solís of the Seventh Court of Peace, is among those who were transferred to other districts, reported El Diario de Hoy.

The Supreme Court's judicial investigation unit currently has 43 open cases into eight of the judges who were moved, according to La Prensa Gráfica.

InSight Crime Analysis

None of the judges were dismissed by the Supreme Court, but its decision to transfer them does send a strong message that the the court is seeking to prevent corrupt judicial officials from derailing the case against Rais and Martínez. As noted by El Faro, the court's decision is likely in response to recent comments by Attorney General Douglas Meléndez, who said he didn't trust the judges in San Salvador to handle the high-profile case.

“It is not just the gangs that have cliques; the judicial system has them too,” he told reporters shortly after pressing charges against Rais. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

Beyond a show of support to the Attorney General's Office, the decision also sent a message to the judiciary: the Supreme Court will not protect judges who provide legal cover to well-connected suspects. 

Still, the transfers are just that; the judges remain on the bench, albeit in a different jurisdiction, and no criminal charges are being brought against them. While the ruling is a step towards reducing judicial corruption, more action will be needed to change the status quo of impunity for the country's elites. 

Investigations

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

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...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

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...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

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...

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: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

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...