The historic collapse in violent executions in El Salvador is due to a secret pact between the Government of Nayib Bukele and the three gangs that control the country, Mara Salvatrucha-13, Barrio 18 Revolucionario and Barrio 18 Sureños, according to new evidence released this week. Monday.
The the newspaper El Faro published audios, photographs and testimonies that underpin the president’s contacts with gang leaders in exchange for improvements in prison living conditions and benefits for his members in freedom.
According to the Salvadoran newspaper, before his dismissal in May of this year, the prosecutor Raúl Melara organized a group to investigate the relationship of several officials of this and other governments involved in dialogues with these organizations, considered terrorists by Salvadoran legislation. In that investigation, dozens of evidence were gathered that ended without seeing the light, due to the hasty and illegal departure from office of Melara and her team.
That group of prosecutors baptized the case as Cathedral and seized official documents from Penal Centers after The lighthouse published, in September 2020, that the Government had been negotiating with the MS-13 for a year. On September 7, 2020, four days after the publication of this medium, the Prosecutor’s Office registered several prisons, as well as the central offices of the General Directorate of Penal Centers (DGCP). As a result of these investigations, the prosecutors discovered that the operation to negotiate with the gang members was much broader than what was published so far: it included not only the MS-13, but also the two factions of Barrio 18, whose leaders were also imprisoned. they received visits from public officials.
Catedral investigators discovered a greater number of irregular visits to maximum security prisons, in which the director of Penal Centers, Osiris Luna, authorized hooded people to enter the prisons to meet with leaders of the three gangs, skipping all legal entry protocols, including registrations, and even letting them in without even identifying themselves. Prosecutors concluded that these mysterious hooded men were generally officials from the current Directorate for the Reconstruction of the Social Fabric, led by Carlos Marroquín, and gang leaders at large who entered to receive instructions and transmit information to their imprisoned leaders.
The Prosecutor’s Office also obtained news books and photographs of those visits and obtained the telephone number of one of the MS-13 gang members involved in the negotiation, from which they extracted audio messages in which the gang plans the disguise that its members will wear. to enter jail to negotiate. In one of the audios, dated August 6, 2020, a gang member talks with another about the preparations to enter, and assures him that the government representatives are nervous: “… They are concerned about the slightest mistake we may make of part of us and they are also careful not to make the slightest mistake so that this does not fail and it does not come to light that there is an understanding ”.
Thanks to these audios, they also learned about the list of requests that the gangs have made to the Government to keep the agreement in force: it is a list of 20 points, very similar to those that the gangs raised in 2012 to the then Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, when he visited the country to support the negotiation process with the gangs that the FMLN government of former President Mauricio Funes, known as La Tregua, attempted.
The gang members asked the Government of Nayib Bukele to stop the massive operations of the Army and the Police against them, and the indiscriminate persecution of their own “just for being tattooed”; they asked for financing for micro-enterprises and employment for their members; visits by family members in prisons and modifications in the maximum security regime, among other aspects.
The Prosecutor’s Office also managed to document something that the Government has insisted on denying: the members of different gangs in the maximum security prison of Zacatecoluca were separated on August 8, 2020: the deputy director general, Carlos Aparicio, spent nine hours in those facilities coordinating the separation of inmates, so that each cell exclusively housed members of a single gang. The Government mounted a tour inside prisons for some journalists after the publication of this medium in 2020, but did not include Zacatecoluca, where the main gang leaders are imprisoned.
The information obtained by the Prosecutor’s Office is added to the evidence provided by the Salvadoran newspaper in a previous report in which, after analyzing 108 pages of news books from Penitentiary Centers, it established that on October 18, 2019, four months after Bukele’s inauguration, and on August 7, 2020, at least one gang member and different Public officials headed by Carlos Marroquín on Luna’s permission entered the Zacatecoluca and Izalco Phase III prisons on 12 occasions to meet with leaders of the MS-13.
Since coming to power, Bukele has boasted a reduction in violence to levels never seen in recent years. The authorities reported “zero homicides” last Sunday, August 8, 2021, according to the Bukele Press Secretariat, which attributed the achievement to the success of its Territorial Control Plan. Just six years ago the Central American country registered 147 homicides in the first five days of August, with five police officers among the victims. The reduction in 2021 is significant, with 5 homicides in the first five days of August.
The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, with its two factions – Los Sureños and Los Revolucionario – are the two major criminal groups in El Salvador. Authorities estimate that there are some 60,000 active gang members operating in 94% of the country’s municipalities, and some 18,000 are incarcerated.