Monday, May 9, 2016

Allegations Salvadoran governing party cooperated with gangs to win elections (May 9, 2016)

A member of the current Salvadoran cabinet negotiated with the country's main gang leaders in 2014 to gain support for the election won by President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, reports El Faro, based on video footage.

In the meeting current Minister of Governance Arístides Valencia meets with gang leaders of Mara Salvatrucha and a faction of Barrio 18. Valencia appears to thank them for their work in the lead up to the first round of elections, and says they will advance to concrete proposals in upcoming meetings. The gang leaders say it's the first time the organizations have gotten involved in electoral processes this way, and ask for, and are promised, help in transporting gang members to the polls and in renewing identification documents so as to be able to vote.

Valencia said the conversation has been misinterpreted but the allegations echo those already made by gang leaders and Raúl Mijango, the former FMLN congressman who led negotiations for a 2012 gang truce in El Salvador.
El Faro's report comes in the midst of a government crackdown on the negotiators of the 2012 gang truce, based on allegations of inappropriate actions including smuggling cell phones into jails for detained gang members and throwing parties within penitentiaries. (See Friday's post.)

Mijango received a six month preventative prison term this weekend, while investigations into abuses committed to facilitate the agreement continue.  He said all of the actions carried out within the truce framework had the approval of then president Mauricio Funes, reports La Prensa Gráfica

Reports last week on the arrest of gang truce negotiators in El Salvador noted the exclusion of then Minister of Justice and Security and current Minister of Defense, David Munguía Payés. La Prensa Gráfica reports that the Attorney General's report on illicit actions facilitating the truce does actually mention Munguía Payés on reiterated occasions in relation to the abuses the arrested negotiators were arrested for. Questioned as to whether Munguía Payés was left out at the last minute, the AG's office said the reference could be a "misspelling."

Munguía Payés said Attorney General Douglas Meléndez's allegations that the 2012 truce led to a reduction in homicides but led to an increase in disappearances was an "urban legend," reports el Diario de Hoy.
A Salvadoran court opened up a case against former President Mauricio Funes, his wife Vanda Pignato, and son  Diego Funes Cañas for alleged illicit enrichment, reports el Diario de Hoy.

On a more general Salvadoran note: El Salvador is a good place to commit a murder: the odds of any one of the thousands of homicide cases getting resolved is low, writes Oscar Martínez in a report for El Faro. The odds of somebody getting accused in a court for a homicide case are one in ten, and prosecutors can have up to 500 open cases at a given time, he writes in a piece that focuses on the difficulties prosecutors face in a rotten system.

News Briefs

  • Public trust in Rio de Janeiro's signature favela "police pacification units" (UPPs) is flagging ahead of the upcoming Olympics games, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the UPP areas, the number of violent deaths, including murders and police killings, rose 55 percent in the first half of 2015 from the previous year. Last month, at least 11 people were killed in police shootings, many in UPP areas, according to Amnesty International. (See April 28's briefs.) Though "extensively improved security" in the city was promised by local organizers, street theft in Rio state rose 29 percent compared with the previous year, according to the state. And rival drug traffickers have recently waged gun battles and even lobbed grenades in one of the city's most exclusive neighborhoods.
  • The Senate impeachment commission in Brazil recommended on Friday that President Dilma Rousseff be put on trial. The decision, which was expected, sets the stage for her potential suspension this week, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Last minute development this morning:  The acting speaker of the lower house of Brazil's Congress has annulled last month's vote on impeachment, delaying the impeachment process, reports the Associated Press. He said there were procedural flaws in the April 17 vote in the chamber that accepted impeachment charges against Rousseff, reports Reuters. Waldir Maranhao called on the Senate to return the process to the lower house for a new vote.
  • Brazil is veering towards the right, and the political swing is accompanied by growing vitriol and disillusionment with established politicians, reports the New York Times. (See last Wednesday's post as well.) The moment has catapulted Jair Bolsonaro, a polemic figure who has lauded the country's last military dictatorship and human rights abuses committed by members, into unexpected glory, particularly among the country's elite.
  • Though Rousseff's opponents are giddy at their apparent victory over the president, "rather than a solution to Brazil's woes, Rousseff's impeachment looks more and more like a symptom of them, and maybe the beginning of a long detour into political dysfunction. Her exit, for many, would mark a new low point for a country viewed as an ascendant global power just a few years ago," reports the Washington Post.
  • Major Brazilian construction company Andrade Gutierrez has greed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors for its alleged role in the massive Petrobras corruption scandal, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company is one of dozens of construction companies under investigation for their alleged roles in the "Car Wash" graft investigation.
  • Two European development banks, FMO, and FinnFund, announced they will seek to exit the Agua Zarca dam project in Honduras, if a credible link is made between employees of DESA, the developer of the project and the killing of activist Berta Cáceres. (See March 4's post.)
  • The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists will publish the data on 200,000 entities known as the "Panama Papers" on its website today, reports the Associated Press.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' approval ratings are at a personal low of 21 percent in the country's cities, according to Colombia Reports. A new poll shows a drop from up to 42 percent as recently as December. The results also show widespread pessimism regarding the country's peace talks: 66 percent of respondents believe the negotiations with the FARC are taking a bad path. The Guardian has interviews with two peace activists in Colombia, who discuss the unresolved underlying issues of the country's armed conflict.
  • Panama will transfer 3,800 Cubans who have been stranded in the country for months, to a town in northern Mexico so they can continue their journey towards the U.S., reports the BBC. The migrants will pay for the journey. Panama has become the latest Central American country to close its borders to Cuban migrants passing through en route to the U.S., which is forcing Cubans to face dangerous choices in their journey from Colombia, reports the Miami Herald. The options for those who don't have documents include going through the Darien jungle -- one of the world's most dangerous -- or via the ocean. That stretch of water, between the two countries is a hot-spot for undocumented travelers, notes the Miami Herald in a separate piece.
  • The infamously wily Mexican Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo Guzmán" was transferred to a to prison in northern Mexico near the Texas border early Saturday, reports the Associated Press. He has twice escaped from maximum security prisons and is battling to avoid extradition to the United States. (See Jan. 12's post.) The move fueled speculation in Mexican media that Guzmán was being moved either due to security concerns or as a precursor to a possible extradition to the U.S., reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • The legacy of the Confederacy lives on in a Brazilian outpost, where the descendants of American settlers who moved in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War celebrate Dixie tradition, reports the New York Times.

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