Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The city managed for the gangs

Apopa is a small city to the northeast of San Salvador.   It is a place where El Salvador's warring gangs control large swaths of territory and shopkeepers must all pay la renta -- extortion payments.  Gang killings occur frequently.   A series of arrests on Monday, including the arrest of the mayor of Apopa, showed how deeply the gangs had infiltrated city government.   Thirty two persons, including at least 14 city employees were arrested in a series of raids.

According to Salvadoran police, the municipal government made available gasoline, cell phones, jobs and other benefits to the gangs.   Reportedly more than a a half million dollars worth of fuel was given to the gangs.  Gangs could also repair their vehicles at a municpal garage. The municipal police collaborated with the gangs in collecting extortion payments from local businesses.

Gangs could also party in Apopa.   According to the police, the municipal government facilitated the use of public spaces for concerts and other events thrown by the gangs.

The mayor,  José Elías Hernández, was charged with aggravated homicide for ordering the murder of a gang member and with illegal ties with gang organizations among other crimes.   Hernández was from the right wing ARENA party, and apparently his prior arrests for robbery and kidnapping had not gotten in the way of his election in 2015.

Others arrested included members of the municipal police, one of the mayor's bodyguards, the city director of social projects and the manger of municipal markets.

The Apopa municpal Facebook page indicates that the government offices are closed until further notice "due to a judicial proceeding."

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