USA on Wednesday imposed economic sanctions on two senior government officials in Nayib B Watch on The Savior, signaling them to participate in covert negotiations with jailed gang leaders, something considered a “lie” by the Salvadoran president.
The government of Joe Biden said that the sanctions are aligned with the objectives of the Summit for Democracy that the US president will host this Thursday and Friday, as well as with the Strategy of USA to Combat Corruption, published on December 6, which considers this issue a national security priority.
The Treasury announced that Osiris Luna Meza, vice minister of Justice and general director of prisons of The Savior, and Carlos Amílcar Marroquín Chica, director of Reconstruction of the Social Fabric of the Salvadoran Presidency, were blacklisted for their dealings with high-ranking gang leaders Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Neighborhood 18.
The sanctions, applied under the Global Magnitsky Law of 2017, entail the freezing of any assets that those involved may have in USA and prohibits any transaction through the US financial system.
“Organized crime backed by corrupt actors can destabilize the rule of law, erode trust in public institutions and weaken democratic governance,” said the head of US diplomacy, Antony Blink, after the announcement of the sanctions.
“We will continue to use all available tools to break the links between criminal activity and corruption,” he promised.
Pacts with MS-13 and Barrio 18
The Treasury said an investigation revealed that Luna and Marroquín facilitated and led meetings in 2020 sponsored by the government of Watch to make a secret truce with gang leaders.
He noted that in these conversations, the heads of criminal groups agreed to support the party of Watch, New Ideas, in the legislative elections of 2021, in which the ruling party triumphed. On their side, criminal gangs obtained financial allowances from the government and privileges for their imprisoned bosses, such as cell phones and prostitutes.
The Treasury also indicated that Luna negotiated with the leadership of the MS-13 and Neighborhood 18 the gangs’ compliance with the national confinement decreed by Bukele in March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic of Covid-19.
In addition, he accused Luna of stealing and reselling basic products purchased by the government intended to help those affected by the health emergency, and of devising a plan to embezzle millions of dollars from the prison system of The Savior.
His mother, Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, participated in both fraudulent schemes, for which she was also sanctioned by the Treasury, according to the statement.
From San Salvador, Watch, which maintains a strained relationship with the Biden administration, rejected those allegations.
“Cell phones and prostitutes in prisons? Money to the gangs? When did that happen? They didn’t even check the date? How can they put such an obvious lie without anyone questioning them? There are videos yes, but of their friends doing that. Not us. They don’t even hide anymore, “he tweeted.
The Savior It is one of the eight American countries not invited to the Summit for Democracy called by Biden, as well as Bolivia, Cuba, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
“We don’t believe The Savior be ready or you are going to contribute productively to the conversation that we are going to have, “said last week the head of Latin American affairs at the National Security Council of the White HouseJuan González, accusing the Bukele government of “undermining” democratic institutions.
In power since June 2019, the Bukele government, which denies pacts with the gangs, refused in recent months to extradite USA to leaders of the MS-13 claimed by justice in New York.
The gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Neighborhood 18, among others, have about 70,000 members in The Savior, more than 17,000 of them incarcerated, and are engaged in extortion, sex trafficking, drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
The government of the former Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes (2009-2014), who fled to Nicaragua After being charged with corruption, he facilitated a truce between gangs, which led to a sharp reduction in homicides. Because of that pact, which was broken in a few months, the gangs were strengthened.