Convictions in a mammoth gang trial don't include politicians
|Defendants in gang trial listen to court's ruling by video link|
In El Salvador, a massive trial against members of the MS-13 gang recently concluded in San Salvador. From the AP:
A court in El Salvador has sentenced 373 convicted members of the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang to prison terms of up to 74 years for crimes ranging from murder and arms trafficking to terrorist association in a mass trial historic for the sheer number of defendants, authorities said Friday.The trial had featured the testimony of Noe, a pseudonym for an ex-gang member turned cooperating witness against his former homies. His testimony revealed a broad range of criminal activities of MS-13.
As the judge in the case issued his ruling, he revealed videos which had not previously been shown in open court involving politicians who were willing to sit down and negotiate with El Salvador's gang leaders. The judge criticized prosecutors for having failed to bring charges against politicians. "In this country then we have two types of gangster: gangster gangsters and political gangsters," said Judge Godofredo Salazar.
Juzgado revela videos de políticos reunidos con pandillas para solicitar apoyo electoral. En los videos se ven a Ernesto Muyshondt, Aristides Valencia, Norman Quijano y Ernesto Angulo. pic.twitter.com/90Msb0ZnxV— LPGJudicial (@LPGJudicial) December 13, 2019
Judge reveals videos of politicians meetings with with gangs to solicit electoral support. In the videos are seen Ernesto Muyshondt, Aristides Valencia, Norman Quijano y Ernesto Angulo.In one video, the current mayor of San Salvador, Ernesto Muyshondt, is seen with stack of bills on a table as he talks with gang members. He asserts that his political party, ARENA was being extorted and needed to pay the gangs to be able to campaign. He has been frank that politicians in El Salvador have to deal with the gangs.
In another video, Norman Quijano, ARENA candidate for president in 2014 and former president of the Legislative Assembly, is seen meeting with gang members. Also captured on video is Arístides Valencia, the former Minister of Governance under the FMLN.
Quijano has said that he was invited to a meeting with religious leaders and that when he got there, there were former gang members present as well. He said the only discussions of money were about the amounts he would invest in rehabilitation efforts if he were elected president.
These videos are not the first which have shown politicians sitting down in discussions with gang leaders. In 2016, El Faro published a video showing ARENA politicians promising a new truce if Norman Quijano won the 2014 election. In a 2017 trial, there was more testimony about payoffs from the both major political parties to the gangs.
Yet despite the video evidence, prosecutors have never brought charges against any of the politicians seen in the videos. The past two attorneys general have never said more than that these are matters which are being investigated. All of the politicians in the videos have hypocritically supported Salvadoran laws which label gang members as terrorists and criminalize anyone who deals with them.