SAN SALVADOR, May 30 (AP) – A judge Monday sentenced former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes to 14 years in prison for negotiating with gangs while he was in power.
Funes’ trial began in April, where the former leader lives in Nicaragua. El Salvador changed its law last year to allow trials in absentia.
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Prosecutors charged Funes with illegal association and failure to fulfill his duties under a gang truce negotiated in 2012. Funes denied negotiating with gangs or granting any privileges to their leaders.
Funes’ former security minister, General David Munguía Payes, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his involvement in the negotiations.
Munguía Payes said after the sentencing that the trial was riddled with irregularities.
“I consider myself a political prisoner because I was only a former minister to President Funes. They made a series of baseless charges against me,” he said.
Funes’ sentence was a combined eight years for unlawful association and six years for failure to perform duties.
“In my opinion, the sentence against me was illegal and without legal basis; the sentence of General Munguía Payes seemed unjust to me,” Funes said. He said the state had failed to prove the allegations.
On the other hand, Attorney General Rudolph Delgado tweeted, “We prove that these two former officials, who had an obligation to protect Salvadorans, traded their lives for electoral favors and acted like gang members.”
Funes is the second former El Salvador president to be jailed for illegal activities while in office. In 2018, former President Tony Saca was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $300 million in state funds. He was Funes’ predecessor and was in power from 2004 to 2009.
Prosecutors say the gang negotiations are aimed at getting the country’s powerful street gangs to reduce homicide rates in exchange for jailing their leaders.
El Salvador is pursuing Funes, 64, in at least six cases in connection with other alleged crimes while he was in power from 2009 to 2014. Nicaragua granted him citizenship in 2019.
In 2015, El Salvador’s Supreme Court ruled the group a terrorist organization.
The current president, Nayib Bukele, has been accused of engaging in the same type of negotiations with gangs.
In December 2021, the U.S. Treasury Department said that Booker’s government had secretly negotiated a truce with the leaders of the country’s powerful street gangs. Jailed gang leaders were allegedly granted privileges in exchange for slowing the killings and providing political support for Bukeler’s party. Local news site El Faro had previously reported on the talks.
Former Attorney General Raul Melara had said at the time that he would investigate the allegations, but when Bukeler’s party dominated the midterm elections and took control of Congress, new lawmakers ousted Melara.
The truce apparently broke down when the gang killed 62 people in one day in March 2022. Booker responded by suspending some basic rights and waging an all-out war on gangs that continues to this day. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the body of content may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)