HomeNewsBriefEl Salvador Arrests Priest Over Gang Negotiations
BRIEF

El Salvador Arrests Priest Over Gang Negotiations

BARRIO 18 / 4 AUG 2014 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Authorities in El Salvador have arrested a priest and youth worker who has operated as a key intermediary with “mara” street gangs, in a strong indication the new government is looking to push certain players out of any future negotiation process.

Spanish priest Father Antonio Rodriguez was detained on July 30 on charges of bringing illegal objects into the country’s prisons, illicit association and influence trafficking. The objects in question allegedly included drugs, cash and cell phones brought into the Cojutepeque and Izalco prisons, according to La Pagina

According to the Attorney General’s Office, the actions of Rodriguez — who is popularly known as “Padre Toño” — helped gang members continue committing crimes. Based on recordings of telephone conversations, the body claims he worked with imprisoned Barrio 18 gang leader Carlos Ernesto Mojica Lechuga, alias “El Viejo Lin,” performing favors such as prisoner transfers on his behalf and bringing in cell phones used to commit extortion, reported La Prensa Grafica.

Following protests in support of the priest a San Salvador court granted him conditional liberty on August 4 as proceedings continue, reported El Diario de Hoy

InSight Crime Analysis

Father Antonio Rodriguez, a Spanish priest who heads a church in the greater San Salvador area, has been an important and often controversial intermediary between civil society and El Salvador’s two main street gangs — Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13).

Padre Toño has long advocated for dialogue with the gangs but was initially opposed to the truce struck between the two sides in March 2012. However, he climbed on board with the initiative after a close associate of his who worked with former gang members was murdered.

Rodriguez was a member of one of two camps of intermediaries, the other of which was led by Raul Mijango and Bishop Fabio Colindres, who were instrumental in brokering the initial agreement. These original mediators were largely sidelined by the previous government after former Security Minister Ricardo Perdomo — a major truce critic — came into office in mid-2013. Since then, the truce has slowly fallen apart, and murders are now back at pre-truce levels.

The priest later teamed up with Perdomo to plan a new peace process — which had the backing of the US government but was flatly rejected by the gangs — leading to accusations he was attempting to usurp Mijango and Colindres. Perdomo shut down the communication channels that had previously been used to facilitate gang negotiations, but reportedly gave Padre Toño permission to enter the prisons. 

SEE ALSO: El Salvador Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

Padre Toño’s arrest suggests the new government of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren is looking to push his team — and by extension possibly Perdomo — out of the process. While they have not said they will formally support Mijango and Colindres, Security Minister Benito Lara said in July the government would not block any attempts at gang negotiations

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.

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 26 MAY 2017

Authorities in El Salvador arrested a fugitive crime boss who had escaped from a Guatemala prison two weeks earlier, with…

BARRIO 18 / 11 JAN 2016

Gangs like the MS13 and Barrio 18 in El Salvador are rigid about enforcing the boundaries of their territory. This…

EL SALVADOR / 16 MAR 2012

The chief of the US Southern Command has suggested a growing interest in combating Central American criminal groups, though it’s…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Strategic Communications Manager Job Description

12 FEB 2021

InSight Crime is looking for a full-time strategic communications manager. This person needs to be able to work in a fast-paced world of daily news, high-profile investigations, national and international…

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …