Arrests and Political Persecution of former FMLN Functionaries Widely Denounced
In a process widely denounced for its legal transgressions and inconsistencies, the interim judge of the Second Justice of the Peace of El Salvador ordered six months of pre-trial detention for former FMLN officials, Dr. Violeta Menjívar, Erlinda Handal, Carlos Cáceres, Calixto Mejía and Hugo Flores, who were captured arbitrarily on July 22 and, later, accused of embezzlement and money laundering for allegedly receiving bonus payments during the administration of former President Mauricio Funes (2009-2014).
The decision has been characterized as political persecution by various sectors, because, in addition to violations of the accused's fundamental rights to due process and the presumption of innocence, the executive branch has exercised top-down pressure on the process, with the detainees being subjected to illegal indictments and without a fair trial.
In their statement, the American Association of Jurists - El Salvador Branch (AAJ-ES) condemned "the actions and intentions of the regime to politically persecute its opponents," by forcing the adjudication of crimes against former officials. “Every day the violation of the Constitutional State of Law of El Salvador is more evident - it is publicly and internationally known; all facilitated through the absolute control that the President of the Republic has of all organs of the State, including the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic,” their statement reads.
According to the FMLN Secretary General, Óscar Ortíz, the country is in "a critical moment" that resembles the times prior to the 1992 Peace Accords, giving rise to the consolidation of "a systematic violation of civil, political and human rights” with the purpose of “silencing critical voices, threaten all opposition” and politically persecuting “all opposition to the current regime, the current dominant group.”
The Bukele administration’s prisoners have been transferred to La Esperanza penal centers, known as Mariona, and the Women's Prison in Ilopango. The defense is expected to appeal the resolution as soon as permitted the opportunity.
For the rest of the defendants, including former President Salvador Sánchez Cerén; former Minister of Public Works, Gerson Martínez; and former Minister of Public Security, Manuel Melgar, an international arrest warrant has been issued, since they are currently not in the country.
The resolution against the former officials of the opposition FMLN Party was carried out amid strong criticism of the Bukele administration for measures that harm the population, such as the approval of the Bitcoin Law, the push for privatizing reforms to the Water Law, the cuts to education programs, the announcement of new public-private partnerships, and the increased militarization of public security.