One of El Salvador's most notorious underworld figures and a key link between the MS13 gang and drug traffickers is set to walk free in a blow to efforts to end the impunity that surrounds the country's most powerful criminals.
The lawyers of Jose Misael Cisneros, alias "Medio Millon," have filed for his release as prosecutors have failed to bring a case against him since he was arrested over two years ago, breaching the amount of time someone can be held without trial in El Salvador, reported El Mundo.
Cisneros has been facing charges of unlawful association for his ties to the Fulton Locos Salvatruchos (FLS), a faction of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang. However, the case against him collapsed when prosecutors declared they did not have the witnesses to make the case.
InSight Crime Analysis
Cisneros is one of the most notorious and singular figures in the world of Salvadoran organized crime, and his release is a serious setback to attempts to combat both the MS13, and drugs and arms trafficking organizations.
While he is often identified as a leading figure in the MS13, the evidence against Cisneros suggests he is more of a connection between the gang and other underworld players, including the drug transport and money-laundering group the Texis Cartel. One of his main roles with the MS13 appears to have been as an arms dealer, although he also has the reputation of being a trusted ally of the FLS hierarchy.
Cisneros is also one of six MS13 linked men to be placed on the US Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals List, which describes him as a major drug trafficker.
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Like many of El Salvador's most powerful criminals, Cisneros is believed to have enjoyed the protection of corrupt contacts in the security forces, helping him to evade capture on a number of occasions until 2012.
However, as has proven the case numerous times in El Salvador, capturing such underworld kingpins is only half the battle, and the impunity they enjoy often extends into the judicial process.
Although the precise details of the collapse of the case against Cisneros are yet to emerge, it is worth noting one of the key witnesses in the case disappeared last year, in a worrying echo of previous accusations that he was behind the murder of a man who witnessed his crimes in the United States.