El Salvador: former socialist president Mauricio Funes sentenced to 14 years in prison for making pacts with gangs

The former president of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front is in exile in Nicaragua with the complicity of Daniel Ortega's regime.

A court in El Salvador has sentenced former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes to 14 years in prison on Monday. His former justice minister, David Munguía Payés, was also sentenced to 18 years in prison. According to the Salvadoran Attorney General's Office, both politicians were found guilty of collaborating with Salvadoran gangs to gain political influence in the country.

The Salvadoran Attorney General's Office released a statement via Twitter that lists the charges for which Funes and Munguía are convicted. The former president will face eight years in prison for illicit groupings and another six for breach of duty. In Munguía's case, four more years will be added for arbitrary acts.

Misrepresenting homicide rates

"The ex-officials allowed the gangs to strengthen themselves economically and in territory, in exchange for reducing the homicide rate between 2011 and 2013, to benefit the government in office and favor it in the elections" according to the Attorney General's Office in a press release. Since 2012, the homicide rate in El Salvador has dropped significantly, although not as much as in 2020. This achievement was given to Funes by the international community, which did not suspect the criminal relationship between the maras and the former leftist president.

"We are satisfied with the decision adopted by the court. It is a historic ruling because the accused is the former president of the Republic," said the Salvadoran Director of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor to the media. "The judge alluded to the fact that the background of the agreements between these officials and the gangs, as well as the benefits they obtained, have been accredited," he concluded.

Support from Daniel Ortega

The Attorney General's Office published several videos of former Minister Munguía in handcuffs and being accompanied by several police officers. In the case of Funes, he was tried thanks to a legal reform that allowed the process to move forward in his absence. The former president is in exile in Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua, who granted him citizenship and has offered him protection since 2016. Funes, former leader of the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front, was aligned during his terms in office with the rest of the socialist governments in Latin America, which is why he obtained Ortega's support to flee El Salvador.

The Prosecutor's Office has not finished with Funes. He has been charged with another financial crime. According to the Prosecutor's Office, Funes would have enriched himself illicitly, embezzled illicit negotiations, embezzled public funds and peddled influence. He is also accused of tax evasion to pocket more than $250,000 during the 2014 tax year.