Crime & Justice

Ex-Salvadoran leader, minister receive prison sentences for gang truce crimes

San Salvador, May 29 (EFE).- A criminal court in El Salvador on Monday sentenced former President Mauricio Funes, who currently lives in Nicaragua, to 14 years in prison for crimes he committed within the framework of a truce among gangs during his 2009-2014 administration.

“Former President Mauricio Funes has been sentenced to 14 years in prison and David Munguia Payes, the former minister of justice and security, has received a sentence of 18 years in prison,” the Salvadoran Attorney General’s Office (FGR) announced on Twitter.

Funes, who was tried in absentia after a legal reform permitting it, becomes the second president serving during El Salvador’s democratic era to receive a prison sentence.

The FGR said that Funes received eight years on the count of illicit connections and six years for failure to fulfill his constitutional duties.

Identical charges and sentences were filed and handed down against retired Gen. Munguia Payes, who also received four years behind bars for engaging in arbitrary acts.

Between 2012 and 2014, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13), Barrio 18 and other more minor gangs maintained a ceasefire backed by the Funes government to reduce the country’s murder rate.

According to the Public Ministry, the truce stipulated favors for the gangs, including perks for imprisoned gang leaders, public investment in communities under their control and a reduced presence of security forces in the neighborhoods dominated by the gangs.

Funes denied, after testifying before FGR officials in 2016, that his government had provided perks to imprisoned gang leaders in exchange for a reduction in the number of murders they committed.

Nevertheless, at the trial against the so-called managers of the truce, Munguia Payes provided testimony that changed the official version of the situation, declaring that the armistice was part of a “pacification” policy.

In June 2019, an anti-mafia court sentenced seven managers of the controversial truce among gangs to prison terms of two to three years.

Meanwhile, Munguia Payes said Monday after hearing his sentence that he considered himself to be a “political prisoner.”

“There have been many irregularities, one of them is that the accusations of a political nature have been fulfilled with judicial sentences. Currently, I truly consider myself to be a political prisoner,” he told reporters after the hearing at which the sentence was announced, adding that “none of the witnesses testified that I gave any order to break the law in the prisons.”

EFE hs/sa/bp

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