Former President Mauricio Funes, sentenced to 14 years in prison for negotiating with gangs in El Salvador | International

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Salvadoran justice has sentenced former President Mauricio Funes to 14 years in prison for having negotiated a truce with the gangs during his term (2009–2014). Funes sought refuge in Nicaragua in 2016, where he has the protection of Daniel Ortega, who has granted him Nicaraguan nationality. Along with the former president, David Munguía Payés, former Minister of Justice and Security, has also been sentenced to 18 years in prison, as reported by the Attorney General's Office (FGR). "Former officials allowed the gangs to strengthen themselves economically and in the territory, in exchange for reducing the homicide rate between 2011 and 2013, to benefit the government in turn and favor it in the elections," says the FGR.

The authorities of El Salvador began an investigation against Funes for the secret negotiations that the government had held since 2012 with the leaders of the gangs that terrorized that Central American country. The so-called truce against the gangs, which was initially reported by the digital newspaper El Faro, resulted in a drop in homicides and even achieved recognition by the Organization of American States (OAS), whose secretary general at the time, the Chilean José Miguel Insulza, said that this organization would be the guarantor of the truce. The prosecutor's office had requested last year the arrest of the former president, who is under another investigation for illicit enrichment, embezzlement, illegal negotiations, embezzlement and influence peddling. In March 2016, officials from the Anti-Corruption Crimes Unit of the Salvadoran Prosecutor's Office formally accused the president and assured that Funes and his family could not justify an amount of more than $700,000 from his estate.

The sentence issued today by the Salvadoran justice imposes eight years in prison for Funes for the crime of "integrating illegal groups" and another six for breach of their duties. Funes has reacted through his Twitter profile to the sentence, which he has classified as "an unfair sentence without evidence." The former president has said that “the FGR did not present any proof that the benefits supposedly received by the gang members have been authorized by the Presidency. There is no doubt that the Specialized Investigating Court obeys the right”. Munguía Payés, for his part, has affirmed that he will appeal the judicial decision. "I consider myself a condemned politician, just for having served as Minister of Justice and Security in the administration of President Funes, they accuse me of a series of accusations that are unfounded," said the former minister.

The sentence against Funes comes at a critical time in El Salvador, when the current president Nayib Bukele has launched a bloody war against the gangs, which has left 68,000 people detained to date. Bukele has imposed an emergency regime for a year that has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations, which have stated that the human rights of detainees have been violated. The Cristosal organization, the main defender of human rights in the Central American country, released a report on Monday denouncing the hell of the Bukele prisons, where dozens of inmates have been tortured and strangled. “Massive and systematic rapes are already a State policy. The suspension of rights and militarization is no longer an exception but a rule that affects the lives of all Salvadorans," Noah Bullock, director of Cristosal, told EL PAÍS.

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