A former El Salvador government minister turned opposition supporter has criticized the country's gang truce during a hearing into prison system corruption, as debate over the truce becomes increasingly political in the run up to national elections.
Answering questions from the country's Attorney General's Office, former Vice-minister for Justice and Public Safety Douglas Moreno claimed current Minister of Security Ricardo Perdomo knew about a controversial decision to allow two incarcerated gang members to leave prison to attend a meeting of a religious sect to answer questions on the gang truce, reported La Prensa Grafica.
Moreno also criticized the existence of prostitution rings involving imprisoned gang members, as well as their access to cell phones and ability to maintain regular contact with the outside world; both central themes of the investigation, reported El Diario de Hoy.
Responding to the accusations, Perdomo claimed that while he knew of the meeting, he believed it would take place on prison grounds and fired top prison official Nelson Rauda when he learned they had been allowed out.
Both Perdomo and Minister of Defense David Munguia of the governing FMLN party have accused Moreno of political motives in his criticisms, after he switched political sides and began working for a politician from the opposition ARENA party.
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With national elections only four months away, there is probably some truth to the claim that Moreno's criticisms are politically motivated. The truce has proven to be somewhat unpopular, with half of respondents to a recent survey doubting the effectiveness of the process and saying the gangs benefit the most from it, and claims of the gang leaders enjoying benefits in prison reinforce these views.
With murders rising recently, and violence erupting in designated "peace zones" negotiated as part of the truce, the process has come under increased scrutiny and is likely to become a political football in the run up to the February election. With government support for it apparently dwindling and ARENA keen to capitalize as much as possible, the politicization of the truce has the potential to lead to the death of the fragile process, despite recent backing from the Organization of American States (OAS).