HomeNewsBriefPriest Critic of El Salvador Gang Truce Switches Sides
BRIEF

Priest Critic of El Salvador Gang Truce Switches Sides

BARRIO 18 / 7 MAY 2013 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

A Spanish priest and a once-prominent critic of El Salvador's gang truce recently agreed to become involved in the proceedings, raising questions over why he experienced a change of heart. 

Father Antonio Rodriguez, a priest who runs a social rehabilitation program for former gang members, initially criticized the Barrio 18 and MS-13 gang truce secretly negotiated by the government as creating a "paz mafiosa" (mafia peace) that failed to address the roots of the country's violence. 

In early March 2013, Giovanni Morales -- a former gang member who helped run Rodriguez's rehabilitation program -- was murdered outside the priest's church. Rodriguez initially blamed the government for what he considered a "payback killing" for his own opposition to the truce. He added that should he be threatened or killed, gang truce negotiators Bishop Fabio Colindres and former congressman Raul Mijango were to blame. 

However, days later, he privately met with Mijango, reported investigative news outlet El Faro. Following the meeting, Rodriguez publically backed the truce. "In reality, it's not that I didn't want to participate in the truce, but [the mediators] were very closed off," he told El Faro. 

When El Faro asked Mijango how he convinced Rodriguez to change his mind, Mijango refused to provide details, merely stating, "That's a gift that God has given me."

InSight Crime Analysis

Considering Rodriguez's critical view of the truce, his rapid turnaround may raise some eyebrows. While it is possible that he decided that working with the truce was more effective than fighting it, it is also likely that his decision was partly spurred by fear for his life, following Giovanni Morales' murder. In his interview with El Faro, Mijango implied that Morales' death was a major reason for Rodriguez's change of heart, stating, "[Father] Toño's conversion was paid for with Giovanni's life." 

El Salvador's government has framed the gang truce as a success, highlighting the halving of the homicide rate while seeking US funding. However, analysts have questioned how to best judge the outcome of the truce. A recent report by the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC) -- which used Rodriguez as a source -- noted a rise in gang victim "disappearances" since the truce began, including gang members (like Morales) who refused to support the pact.

Rodriguez's previous opposition to the truce contrasted sharply with Bishop Fabio Colindres' position, one of the original negotiators of the gang pact. Next week InSight Crime will publish a special investigative report examining the position of El Salvador's Church in the truce in more detail.  

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 / 26 APR 2012

An elite police unit dedicated to dismantling "mara" street gangs has begun operations in San Salvador, as a drop in…

EL SALVADOR / 17 OCT 2019

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is launching a commission to crack down on cases of corruption and impunity among the…

BARRIO 18 / 8 FEB 2016

Former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes rejected claims that his administration provided perks to gang leaders for their participation 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…