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Leftist former president of El Salvador sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption

By Jimmy Adeel
|
May 30, 2023

An El Salvador court presiding over charges presented by the Office of the Attorney General has imposed substantial prison sentences on former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes and his justice and defense minister, David Munguia.

The decision was handed down after the court found evidence of their involvement with criminal groups during their time in office, compromising national security, as reported by Reuters.

Convictions: A Land Mark Ruling

Funes, who presided over the country from 2009 to 2014, was handed a 14-year sentence, while Munguia received an 18-year sentence.

Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado underscored the gravity of the charges, highlighting the dangers these former officials posed to El Salvadorans' safety for political gain.

Delgado noted, "We were able to verify that these two former officials, who were obliged to protect Salvadorans, negotiated their lives in exchange for electoral favors, essentially acting as gang members."

Funes, however, refuted allegations of negotiating with gang leaders or providing them with any special privileges. He emphasized that the truce was facilitated by the Catholic Church, not his government, Aljazeera reported.

Extradition Hurdles

Funes, currently residing in Nicaragua and holding Nicaraguan citizenship since 2019, may face extradition issues.

The Nicaraguan constitution prohibits the extradition of its citizens, potentially posing legal challenges to enforcing Funes' sentence.

Munguia's Arrest and Allegations

Munguia was first arrested in 2020, suspected of unlawful association and involvement in other crimes, including the supposed orchestration of a truce between criminal gangs.

This alleged deal, aimed at reducing homicides, was rumored to have provided undisclosed benefits to these criminal organizations, casting a shadow on Munguia's reputation.

In response to his sentencing, Munguia claimed his conviction was politically motivated and that the charges against him were unfounded.

However, El Salvadon Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro welcomed the verdict on Twitter, praising the court's decision to hold those who harmed Salvadoran society through covert operations accountable.

"Those engaged in backroom deals at the expense of the blood of Salvadorans have been sentenced to pay in prison for the damage caused to society," Villatoro said.

State of Emergency in El Salvador

For over a year, El Salvador has been under a state of emergency declared by President Nayib Bukele's government. This measure has resulted in more than 68,000 arrests of individuals suspected of gang affiliations and has generally garnered approval among Salvadorans.

However, human rights groups have criticized unlawful arrests, torture, and prisoner deaths. Official records indicate that approximately 5,000 detainees have been released after investigations found no ties to criminal groups.

Mauricio Funes, a representative of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), a leftist party in El Salvador, made history with his presidential victory in 2009.

This victory marked the first time an FMLN candidate had assumed the presidency since the cessation of the Salvadoran civil war in 1992, signifying a considerable shift in the country's political landscape. However, Funes's tenure was later clouded by corruption allegations that surfaced after he left office.