SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador~ On Monday, a judge in El Salvador handed former President Mauricio Funes a 14-year prison term for his role in dealing with gangs while in office. In April, the former leader Funes, who was currently in Nicaragua, stood trial. In the past year, El Salvador passed new legislation permitting trials to proceed without the presence of a defendant.
During the 2012 gang truce negotiations, Funes was charged by prosecutors of illegal association and failing to carry out his responsibilities. Funes had previously denied having any kind of talks or special treatment for gang leaders. General David Mungua Payes, the former minister of security under Funes, was given an 18-year prison term for his role in the negotiations. After the sentencing, Mungua Payes said that the trial was plagued with injustices. I’m a political prisoner for no other reason than that I was President Funes’s former minister. They’ve made a slew of unfounded allegations against me,” he stated.
Eight years in prison was unes’ total sentence for illegal affiliation and six years for neglecting her responsibilities.
General Mungua Payes’ sentencing seems unjust to me, and the punishment itself is illegitimate as far as it applies to me,” Funes stated. He claimed the state’s case was not convincing. By contrast, Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado tweeted, “we proved that these two ex-officials, who had the obligation to protect Salvadorans, negotiated their lives in exchange for electoral favors, acting like gang members.”
Former Salvadoran president Funes is the country’s second leader to be convicted of criminal acts committed while in office. After admitting to embezzling more than $300 million from the government, former president Tony Saca was given a 10-year prison term in 2018. From 2004 until 2009, he served as president before Funes. The negotiations, according to the prosecution, were an attempt to reduce the homicide rate by the country’s most powerful street gangs in exchange for advantages for the organizations’ imprisoned leaders. Funes, 64, who served as president from 2009 to 2014, has been the subject of at least half a dozen criminal investigations in El Salvador. In 2019, he became a citizen of Nicaragua.
The Supreme Court of El Salvador declared the gangs to be terrorist groups in 2015. It has been alleged that current President Nayib Bukele has also held conversations with criminal organizations. According to the U.S. Treasury report from December 2021, the government of Bukele covertly arranged a ceasefire with the heads of the country’s formidable street gangs. Inmates who led gangs in exchange for a reduction in violence and support for Bukele’s party allegedly received special treatment. Talks have been reported by El Faro, a local news outlet.
When Bukele’s party won the midterm elections and took control of Congress, the new parliamentarians fired Ral Melara, the former attorney general, who had promised to look into the charges. When 62 people were massacred in one day by the gangs in March of 2022, the peace allegedly collapsed. Bukele’s response was to temporarily revoke some citizens’ constitutional protections and launch a full-scale war on the gangs, which is still ongoing.
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