Is the Nayib Bukele administration negotiating with Gangs?

By Eddie Galdamez
Monday, September 21st, 2020
Nayib Bukele security plan

In its first 14 months in office, the Nayib Bukele administration has achieved a historic reduction in the number of homicides in the country.

President Bukele attributes the decline of homicides to his security strategy called territorial control plan. Nevertheless, critics of the president say that the homicide reduction is a result of a truce between the government and gangs.

Questioning if the Nayib Bukele administration is negotiating with Gangs is valid as it has been done in the past. Ex-president Mauricio Funes from the FMLN had a secret pact with criminal organizations that reduced the homicide rate. However, just because it happened before, is no evidence that is happening now.

Rogelio Rivas
Rogelio Rivas, Security Minister. Photo by: @SeguridadSV

Hints of this alleged truce have been circulating for months by many who are not supporters of President Bukele. I say alleged pact because it has not been confirmed by official entities, and no criminal charges have been filed against anyone.

The allegations of a truce went viral even further after the El Faro online newspaper posted an article regarding a potential pact. El Faro stated that they had evidence that the government had been negotiating with gangs for a long time.

Living in a free society means that anyone has the right to question if the Bukele administration is secretly negotiating the reduction of homicides.

Nonetheless, we also have to question who is making the allegations, what is the evidence, and if this a political issue related to the upcoming election.

Who is making the allegations?

The allegation regarding the pact is being made by the El Faro newspaper and individuals opposing Nayib Bukele. After the report by El Faro came out, politicians and supporters belonging to the opposing political parties, and candidates of new political parties commented on the matter.

What we all knew was happening by having common sense, but it was needed to be discovered by someone with evidence … Bukele’s government has been negotiating with the MS-13 for a year to reduce homicides and gain electoral support.
Jorge J. Daboub ANEP ex-president.
I do not know why some are surprised by the truce of the government of Nayib Bukele. If Bukele’s meetings with gangs aren’t anything new.
Carlos García Saade ARENA.
Once again a government intends to hide negotiations with the gangs to obtain electoral privileges and reduce homicides. “A thousand times Malditos.”
Juan Valiente, Nuestro Tiempo.
It seems that the article of El Faro revealing a pact with the gangs worries Nayib Bukele. It appears that his promises to improve security and fight corruption were a lie. So, it seems that Bukele is more concerned with perpetuating himself in power than with the welfare of the people.
Jose Miguel Vivanco. Human Rights Watch.

What is the evidence?

In their article, the El Faro newspaper wrote that they had hundreds of documents proving the negotiation between the government and gans.

Hundreds of pages of prison intelligence reports and shift logbooks from maximum-security facilities reveal negotiations between the Salvadoran administration and incarcerated leaders of MS-13 dating back to June of 2019 when President Bukele took office.
El Faro digital paper.

Ernesto Castro, the private secretary to the president, said the following in an interview with Ernesto Lopez, Dialogo21.

El Faro can report whatever they want to, we can say whatever we want to; however, you can’t argue with the facts. The facts will show that the report by El Faro is not accurate.
Ernesto Castro.
Ernesto Cstro
Ernesto Castro. Photo by; @ECastroES

El Faro reported that they had hundreds of documents in their possession supporting their argument; however, in the report, they showed only nine.

Supporters of the president began questioning why the rest of the documents were not published.

If they have the evidence and documents, why don’t they report it to the General Prosecutor of the Republic FGR to enforce the arrest warrants?
David Esau Aldana.

Furthermore, El Faro reported that part of the pact included ending the confinement of rival gang members in the same cells.

Incluyó revertir a mediados de este año la decisión tomada en abril pasado de juntar a miembros de pandillas contrarias en las mismas celdas.
El Faro Article.
Translation: It included reversing in the middle of this year the decision made last April to gather members of opposing gangs in the same cells.

The day after the El Faro report was published, and to prove that inmates of rival gangs were housed in the same cells. Osirus Luna, director of the prisons, allowed local and international reporters to inspect all sectors of the jails mentioned in the El Faro report.

The reporters were allowed to take photos and interview any inmate that they wanted at any time.

President @nayibbukele. We have concluded the tour in the Quezaltepeque, Izalco III, and Ciudad Barrios prisons, where national and international media confirmed that the restrictive measures in the prison system are still being carried out.

Are the allegations of a pact part of a political campaign strategy?

Yes, these allegations of a pact may be part of a political strategy perpetrated by the opposition. We are about six months away from one of the most significant elections in the last 30 years.

The current opposing political parties have to deal with the fact that Nayib Bukele and his political party, New Ideas, have a high approval rate in the territory.

Furthermore, the Legislative Assembly and the two main parties, FMLN and ARENA, have one of the lowest approval rates of all times.

Obviously, to do better in the next elections, the opposition has to lower the approval rate of the president and his political party. One way of trying to reduce the approval rate is to question the reduction in homicides rates.

The improvement in security and the reduction in homicides are some of President Nayib Bukele’s main accomplishments in the first 14 months of his administration.

El Salvador soldier
Photo by: @DefensaSV

Do El Faro and their report have credibility?

Without a doubt, the El Faro report and the newspaper have credibility. Over its existence, El Faro has reported breaking news, which has earned them awards and given them credibility.

Nevertheless, since Bukele became president, the newspaper has taken an antagonistic tone towards the president and the administration. Ernesto Castro stated the following in an interview.

President Bukele and his administration have a high approval rate with Salvadorans, which means that we have done some beneficial things for El Salvador and Salvadorans.

How is it possible that El Faro newspaper that claims to be impartial hasn’t written a single article about something good the administration has done. That alone tells you everything about El Faro’s objective that is to attack the administration and president Bukele.
Ernesto Castro. Private secretary to the presidency.

The attorney general opens an investigation into the pact.

Raul Melara, the Salvadoran general attorney, opened an investigation into the allegations.

Members of the General attorney’s office conducted searches in the three penal centers mentioned in the article. They collected all sorts of material related to each prison in order to investigate.

My point of view on the issue.

Is it possible that Nayib Bukele and his administration is negotiating a homicide reduction with criminal organizations? Yes, of course, it is; this is El Salvador, and we have seen worse.

Now, do I believe that the Bukele administration is negotiating with these criminal organizations? No, of course not! There is no concrete evidence of these allegations.

My point of view is that the Bukele administration has shown time after time that they are taking security seriously.

The good news is that the General Attorney started an investigation. Hopefully, they will put a statement on the issue sooner than later. Also, if evidence of a pact is found, they will file criminal charges against the ones involved.