U.S. accuses El Salvador of cutting secret deal with MS-13 to tamp down killings

U.S. accuses El Salvador of cutting secret deal with MS-13 to tamp down killings

12/9/2021 7:13:00 AM

U.S. accuses El Salvador of cutting secret deal with MS-13 to tamp down killings

The Biden administration imposed sanctions on two Salvadoran officials for allegedly offering privileges to gangs in exchange for a reduction in homicides and political support.

TheTreasury Department announced Wednesday that it was imposing sanctionson two Salvadoran officials for their roles in the alleged gang negotiations: Osiris Luna Meza, the vice minister of justice and director of the prison system, and Carlos Amilcar Marroquín, head of a major social welfare agency. The men organized meetings with jailed gang leaders, the department said in a statement.

AdvertisementStory continues below advertisementAs part of the negotiations, the department alleged,Bukele’s government “provided financial incentives to Salvadoran gangs MS-13 and 18th Street” in 2020 to ensure that the number of “confirmed homicides” remained low. The gang leaders agreed to back Bukele’s party, New Ideas, in legislative elections in 2021, the department alleged

.El Salvador's leader takes control of legislature in midterm electionsBukele has denied negotiating with gangs as president or in his previous job as mayor of San Salvador. He has credited his security policies for reducing El Salvador’s homicide rate to its lowest level in more than two decades. But headtopics.com

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disappearances have surgedin recent years, according to watchdog groups.Bukele rejected the U.S. accusations Wednesday. “How can they put out such an obvious lie without anybody questioning it?” he tweeted. He scoffed at allegations that jailed gang leaders had received privileges including cellphones and visits from prostitutes.

AdvertisementLuna Meza and Marroquín retweeted the president’s comments but did not issue individual statements.It was not the first time the Bukele government was accused of negotiating with gangs.El Faro published an investigationlast year that detailed talks beginning in 2019 aimed at getting the gangs to agree to a reduction in homicides.

José Miguel Cruz, a specialist in Salvadoran security issues at Florida International University, said the imposition of U.S. sanctions brought the allegations to a new level. “This implies that there is sufficient evidence that can be used in legal proceedings to show the link between the government and the gangs,” he said.

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Story continues below advertisementCruz said it was not clear the allegations would seriously hurt Bukele domestically. The 40-year-old president, a Twitter enthusiast who styles himself as a corruption-fighting political outsider, is one of Latin America’s most popular leaders. headtopics.com

Advertisement“This contributes to damaging his image,” Cruz said. “But it’s not going to convert him into an unpopular leader.”El Salvador is now the world's largest bitcoin experimentThe U.S. government accuses MS-13 and other Salvadoran gangs of terrorizing American communities in New York, Virginia and elsewhere. The Biden administration worries that gang activity in El Salvador is propelling a growing number of migrants to leave for the United States.

Bukele developed a friendly relationship with President Donald Trump by agreeing to take in asylum seekers turned back from the U.S. border. But ties have cooled considerably under President Biden.Story continues below advertisementU.S. officials fear Bukele is becoming steadily more authoritarian. Elected in 2019, Bukele has defied rulings from the Supreme Court and purged older judges, replacing them with magistrates seen as his allies. The country’s top court ruled recently that

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Critics say such a move would violate the constitution.AdvertisementBukele has insisted he is trying to reform a corrupt system.Veronica Reyna, a security analyst with the Salvadoran group Passionist Social Service, said Washington appeared to be showing that it would reveal information about corruption, even if El Salvador’s justice institutions will not.

“What the U.S. is saying is that even if we can’t get this information from national [Salvadoran] institutions ... because they are not independent and respond to certain interests, we are going to publish information from our own investigations and make it clear that this is a reality,” she said. headtopics.com

Story continues below advertisementThe Treasury Department also accused Luna Meza of negotiating with gangs to ensure their support for a quarantine imposed by Bukele early in thecoronaviruspandemic. The department further accused the prison director of working with his mother on corrupt schemes, one of which allegedly involved the diversion of government pandemic relief supplies.

The sanctions prohibit American citizens from dealing with any properties owned by Luna Meza and Marroquín in the United States.

Read more: The Washington Post »

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same way usa made deals with drug dealers to pay for private wars? like that?