Is El Salvador’s government in partnership with the country’s brutal MS-13 gang?
“Plan for Territorial Control” is the new hard line policy of El Salvador’s government headed by President Nayib Bukele, that led to stricter and more inhumane conditions in the maximum security prisons of the South American country. El Salvador’s prisons director Oris Luna Meza had said in April referring to the new policy that jailed gang members will see “not one ray of sunshine.”
Under the new policy phase would lead to shutting out the natural sunlight from the inmates’ cells, banning family visits and the rival gangs of El Salvador, MS-13 and Barrio 18 whose members are imprisoned would be housed together in already overcrowded cells. As coronavirus pandemic spread across the world, images of hundreds of prisoners, half naked, with shaved heads shackled together in jam-packed cells sparked outrage among international human rights groups. Now the government isn’t shying away from the reality and is instead inviting global journalists to film the appalling state of the unsanitary prison cells in the country.
El Faro, El Salvador’s high profile online journal, released stark revelations regarding secret negotiations that Bukele’s government had with the mortal rival gang members in jail. El Faro has alleged, citing information in a series of leaked government documents, that jailed members of MS-13 gang have received special benefits like fast food and have not received the usual harsh treatment in exchange of keeping peace in El Salvador’s streets. These prisoners have ordered their gang members outside to pace down violent crime like murder and extortion in El Salvador’s communities. The journal also has made an explosive allegation against Bukele administration of striking a deal with gang for next year’s legislative elections.
President Bukele went on to Twitter, his most trusted mode of communication, and rejected the El Faro’s allegations. He tweeted “Show me one privilege, just one.”
El Faro also claimed that prisons director Meza was also present during these meetings along with unidentified masked man. Prisons Director Osiris Luna Meza denied these allegations saying, “I have not and will not participate in any such meeting. I have always been very consistent with my political activities. These kinds of activities aren’t who I am.”
The government has been consistently denying all allegations of any deal with the MS-13 gang but has not openly denied the authenticity of leaked documents. Mr. Meza has assured of his resignation if Attorney General’s office confirms allegations against him through ongoing investigations. President Bukele has on the other hand have had a history of strained and rugged relationship with the press, specifically El Faro. He has said that he would not take up the criticism of human rights violations earlier in April for the inhumane treatment of prisoners and on the flip side being accused of shaking hand with the same gang members now.