HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Arrests Officials As Gang Truce Investigation Escalates
BRIEF

El Salvador Arrests Officials As Gang Truce Investigation Escalates

BARRIO 18 / 4 MAY 2016 BY SAM TABORY EN

Authorities in El Salvador have arrested public officials and mediators accused of acting illegally to facilitate a controversial and now defunct gang truce, raising the question of how far -- and how high -- the investigation into the deal will go. 

On May 3, the Attorney General's Office in El Salvador issued 21 arrest warrants for individuals involved in facilitating a truce between warring "mara" street gangs the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) and Barrio 18, reported La Prensa Gráfica.

Authorities have so far arrested 18 people, while three remain at large. Among them is Raúl Mijango, a former congressman and outspoken proponent of the truce who served as one of the main mediators between gang factions, as well as three mid-level police officials, three prison directors, and several prison employees. 

The charges against the officials include illicit association, trafficking of prohibited items in prisons, falsifying documents, and dereliction of duty. The three police officials arrested stand accused of coordinating stipend payments for officers participating in the truce, coordinating secret prison meetings between gang members, and coordinating the transfer of gang bosses from maximum security prisons to less secure facilities. 

Prosecutors have also alleged that $2 million in state funds was improperly used to finance the truce effort, suggesting that officials diverted funds away from paying prison vendors to pay for the activities of the truce. Investigators say the funds were used, at least in part, to fund perks for incarcerated gang leaders, providing them with fast food, cable television, video games, and dancers, among other things. No charges have yet been filed relating to the misuse of state funds. 

The gang truce was in effect from March 2012 and began to unravel towards the end of 2013, although limped on in various forms for some time after.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrests represent the clearest demonstration yet that the current Salvadoran administration is not only looking to distance itself from the gang truce, but that it is also looking to thoroughly discredit the agreement and those involved in brokering it.

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

Current President Salvador Sánchez Cerén made criticism of the gang truce a key issue in his 2014 presidential election campaign. This criticism later became action and in February 2016, Attorney General Douglas Meléndez declared his intent to investigate possible government links to the truce. Shortly after, new evidence surfaced suggesting gang bosses had been in contact with high level officials.

However, actually arresting those involved takes this investigation to new levels and raises the question of how high the pursuit of officials involved in the truce may eventually reach.

While support of the gang truce has become politically toxic, its impact remains hotly debated. By some estimates, the gang truce saved as many as 5,500 lives due to the drop in homicides that occurred during the cessation of hostilities, but critics claim it strengthened the gangs militarily and politically.

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

EL SALVADOR / 29 SEP 2015

Despite security measures, thieves continue to assault users of El Salvador’s complex bus and public transportation system, demonstrating the tremendous…

EL SALVADOR / 16 FEB 2018

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is one of the world’s largest and arguably most violent street gangs. After relatively humble beginnings…

BARRIO 18 / 17 JUN 2020

Deadly violence within female prisons in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is rare. But a spate of recent murders in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…