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Weekly Report - 10 September 2020 (WR-20-36)

Bukele faces damaging allegations of gang links in El Salvador

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele is facing distinctly uncomfortable questions after the online investigative newspaper El Faro published an incendiary report which alleges that, since taking office in June 2019, his government has been involved in private negotiations with one of El Salvador’s main street gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13). Allegations of dealings between government officials and mara street gangs to reduce violence and secure political support are in themselves nothing new in El Salvador, and Bukele himself faced similar allegations from El Faro while serving as mayor of San Salvador (2015-2018). But these are the first to emerge since Bukele assumed the presidency, promising to crack down hard on gangs and pillorying past governments for dealing with them. Aside from the legal implications (since 2015 gangs have been designated terrorists under an anti-terrorism law), the claims cast doubt over Bukele’s oft-trumpeted key achievement in office – reducing homicides.

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