Nayib Bukele and Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, during a police ceremony in San Salvador, on September 30, 2020.JOSE CABEZAS (Reuters)
The government of Nayib Bukele has intensified its persecution of journalists. This Tuesday the director of the Salvadoran police, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, has reported that the reporters who denounced and investigated the secret negotiations between the Government of then President Mauricio Funes and the maras, the gangs that sowed terror in the Central American country, where they controlled large territories, will be prosecuted. The so-called "truce" was agreed in 2012 and allowed to reduce the rates of violence at that time in El Salvador. "Those political leaders, such as some journalists who were also in that [truce], those in charge of justice and the policy of criminal prosecution at any time are going to show them at the judicial level," Arriaza warned. "They will have to respond in those actions in which they defended the crime and induced that things or aggravating circumstances will affect the Salvadoran people," said the officer.
At the end of May, Salvadoran justice sentenced former President Funes to 14 years in prison for having negotiated the so-called truce with the gangs during his term (2009–2014). Funes sought refuge in Nicaragua in 2016, where he has the protection of Daniel Ortega, who has granted him Nicaraguan nationality. Along with the former president, David Munguía Payés, former Minister of Justice and Security, has also been sentenced to 18 years in prison. "The former 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 turn and favor it in the elections," the prosecutor's office said in its indictment.
The uncovering of negotiations between the government and the gangs generated a political scandal in El Salvador, a country mired in brutal violence. The leaks put Funes' executive branch on the ropes, at a time when corruption scandals involving the president were also known. The digital media El Faro was one of the first to denounce the negotiations, becoming the focus of the government's criticism. "The director of police announces that they will go after journalists who covered the truce. This country would not have known the truce without journalism, nor the many subsequent pacts, including that of the Bukele government. This is scandalous!" journalist Óscar Martínez, editor-in-chief of El Faro, wrote on Twitter.
The police director announces that they will go after journalists who covered the truce. This country would not have known the truce without journalism, nor the many subsequent pacts, including that of the Bukele government. This is scandalous! https://t.co/y8W8Fxxn9k
— Óscar Martínez (@CronistaOscar) June 6, 2023
Arriaza said Tuesday on a television program that Salvadoran justice will take action against politicians and reporters who covered those negotiations. Although the official did not give names of reporters, he warned that "they are in the spotlight." This is yet another onslaught by the Bukele regime against El Salvador's independent press. The president has focused his criticism against media such as El Faro, which has publicized negotiations between the current government and the gangs. Due to the persecution against him, the newsroom of the media decided to change its administrative operation to Costa Rica. "Our newsroom will continue in San Salvador and we will continue doing journalism in El Salvador. But our administrative and legal operation is no longer. We are now a Central American newspaper based in San Jose. It is the culmination of a process that we undertook a few months ago due to the lack of conditions to continue operating in El Salvador," El Faro reported in mid-April.
Arriaza's announcement comes as Bukele has launched a bloody war against the gangs, which has left 68,000 people detained to date. Bukele has imposed for a year a regime of exception that has been strongly criticized by human rights organizations, which have claimed that the human rights of the detainees have been violated.
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