When gangs and mayors govern together

In June 2016, the mayor of Apopa, a small city located just northeast of San Salvador was arrested along with several members of the municipal government and police force.    The mayor,  José Elías Hernández, was accused of ordering a murder of a gang member as well as putting the offices of the city government at the service of local gangs.

This week InsightCrime published a lengthy investigation into the Apopa story titled Symbiosis: Gangs and Municipal Power in Apopa, El Salvador.   InsightCrime also published a video conversation with Héctor Silva Ávalos, one of the lead investigators for the story.   Some of their earlier reporting on this story appeared in March titled El Salvador Ex-Mayor Ordered Gang to Kill Local Official, Police Say.

From Symbiosis:
The Attorney General’s Office insists that Hernández is one of the cases that best illustrates how political power -- in this case, local government -- and the country’s violent gangs formed a mutually beneficial relationship. For the gangs, this relationship brought money, work, free gasoline and even fried chicken. But above all, it brought influence in the municipal government. For Hernández, it brought votes, resources and a stranglehold on power.  
The history of Apopa, one of the most important and populated of the suburban municipalities on the edge of the capital San Salvador, is one of the most important chapters in the story of the relations between the Salvadoran political system and the gangs: what they negotiate, what parts of that negotiation become public and what parts do not. It is also a story that has been repeated in other municipalities throughout the country. 
On Friday, November 3, a judge ruled that Elias Hernandez along with 66 others will go to trial for murder and collaborating with the gangs in his city.

There are other ongoing investigations and charges against municipal officials in other locations throughout El Salvador.   The temptations, but also the risks, are great for local officials in towns where the gangs may be the real authority controlling life in many neighborhoods. 

This risk was discussed in another article at InsightCrime titled El Salvador Police Chief Warns of Gang Infiltration in Municipal Elections.     With elections coming up in every city and town in El Salvador on March 4, 2018, the buying and selling of votes in zones controlled by gangs may have already begun.