HomeNewsAnalysisThe Confusing Anti-Corruption Fight of El Salvador’s Attorney General
ANALYSIS

The Confusing Anti-Corruption Fight of El Salvador’s Attorney General

EL SALVADOR / 28 MAR 2019 BY HÉCTOR SILVA ÁVALOS EN

El Salvador Attorney General Raúl Melara has called for evidence and witness statements to be unsealed in all corruption cases, and for such information to be made available to the public. While seemingly a move for transparency, Melara's demand comes just after witnesses implicated his Deputy Attorney General Allan Hernández in a bribery scheme that’s already landed one former top prosecutor in jail.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said the measure is part of Melara's anti-corruption fight. Unsealing these records, however, could expose witnesses who testified against his deputy for alleged corruption.

Salvadoran law allows for the sealing of evidence to protect victims and witnesses alike, in addition to withholding the identities of minors under the age of 18. Sealing is almost always requested by prosecutors, though there have been cases in which a judge has officially imposed such regulations. Certain portions of a case file can also be withheld from view, such as specific statements from witnesses who have received benefits in exchange for their testimony.

“The people have a right to know. I have requested that seals be lifted on all corruption-related cases,” Attorney General Melara wrote in a tweet.  

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profile

The majority of open corruption cases in recent years have had some or all evidence sealed and the identity of witnesses withheld at the request of the Attorney General’s Office. Such measures have proved vital in the recent embezzling cases against former presidents Antonio Saca and Mauricio Funes.

Melara’s predecessor, Douglas Meléndez, relied heavily on testimony from witnesses who received legal benefits, including immunity, in exchange for information detailing the crimes allegedly committed by the former heads of state.

The current prosecution of former Attorney General Luis Martínez for allegedly turning the prosecutor's office into a pay-to-play shop has also required such witness information. In that case, Deputy Attorney General Hernández has been accused by two officials who say that he received cash from prominent businessman Enrique Rais. Rais is accused of bribing members of the Attorney General’s Office in order to be favored in legal proceedings initiated by him or against him. 

InSight Crime Analysis

It’s still unclear what Melara’s motives are for unsealing the information on all of the country’s corruption cases, primarily because he hasn’t thoroughly explained them.

Eliminating the sealing of evidence in corruption cases can indeed reveal more details about the scope of corruption in El Salvador, and expose public officials who have provided information about their own involvement in corruption while working under the protection of two former presidents. But unsealing can also ruin ongoing investigations, as Melara well knows.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

For example, the case against former Attorney General Martínez is based to a large extent on witnesses who had a minor role in the corruption scheme and have agreed to disclose what they know in exchange for reduced sentences, or even to avoid being charged at all. 

After calling for the unsealing of corruption evidence, Melara has not said whether he will attempt to prosecute people who have received benefits in exchange for their testimony.

It is also unclear if he will open investigations into any officials whose names come up in testimony. This includes his deputy attorney general, Allan Hernández, whom he has defended in public despite the fact that at least two witnesses and official documents allegedly link Hernández to past corruption networks within the prosecutor's office. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 28 APR 2021

Despite numerous investigations against him, an Argentine aviation tycoon was able to exploit aircraft registration loopholes in the United States…

EL KOKI / 25 JAN 2022

Venezuela’s Peace Zones were arguably some of the strongest evidence showcasing the odd, fluctuating relationship between organized crime and the…

COCAINE / 29 SEP 2021

Accused paramilitary drug lord “Memo Fantasma,” or “Will the Ghost,” has petitioned a judge to be let out of a…

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…