Former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes rejected claims that his administration provided perks to gang leaders for their participation in a controversial gang truce.
During a recent press event, Funes stressed that the truce was strictly between the gangs themselves and included no negotiations with the government, La Tribuna reported.
“The only thing the government did was monitor this agreement through the mediators,” Funes added.
Funes was referring to a 2012-2013 truce between El Salvador’s two biggest street gangs Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS13), which was mediated by a third-party closely linked with the government. While the agreement initially saw a dramatic drop in homicides, negotiations collapsed in 2013 and officially ended the following year. The country has since seen record levels of violence.
Funes’ denials comes after the Attorney General’s Office leaked a series of audio recordings of gang witnesses who claimed that the Funes’ administration provided gang leaders with perks including money, conjugal visits and transfers to lower security prisons in return for their participation in the truce. Additionally, lax security measures were allegedly implemented to facilitate the movement of mediators, who also had access to government vehicles, La Prensa Gráfica reported.
Funes questioned the validity of these claims, stating that some of the witnesses were imprisoned criminals seeking reduced sentences and that the transfer of gang leaders out of maximum security prison was for security reasons not having to do with the truce, La Tribuna reported.
Attorney General Douglas Meléndez said his office will reopen the investigation into the truce, while members of the opposition National Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacional – ARENA) reportedly plan to propose a congressional inquiry into the truce, El Diario de Hoy reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
The recent accusations against the Funes administration and possible investigations are indicative of the level to which El Salvador’s security policy has become politicized.
But while politicians seeking a win against their rivals may have successfully closed the door on any future gang truce, they have yet to put forth their own solutions.
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The end result is one less option in a environment where deviating from a militarized approach to gangs can be politically costly. Funes’ successor, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, is evidence of this. While his former security minister spoke of alternatives to “iron fist” security polices and gang rehabilitation programs, in reality, under Sánchez Cerén El Salvador has continued down the path of militarized policing.
Unfortunately, this option is clearly not working for El Salvador, as demonstrated by its deteriorating security situation.