Last week, the online newspaper El Faro ran a story on how the Salvadoran government negotiated a truce with criminal gangs, known as “maras”, just before recent midterm elections. According to El Faro, the recent transfer of dangerous gang leaders from high security prisons to low security facilities was part of the deal. In exchange, the gangs, which contribute much to the high violence statistics in El Salvador, reduced their murder rate, the publication claimed.
But as soon as El Faro published the story all hell broke lose. The mnister of Justice and Security, General David Munguia Payes, held a press conference, to which El Faro was not invited. After denying the existence of a pact between the government and the criminal gangs, the minister said the work of El Faro was dangerous.
El Faro maintained that the job of a news organisation is to question government policies and challenge views held up by the powers at be. However, the outlet added, in weak democracies like El Salvador this could bring on added problems.
Carlos Dada, director of El Faro, said the government has told them they have intercepted messages between gang leaders where they have expressed their dissatisfaction with El Faro’s reporting. “But the government has not offered us any protection,” he said.
El Faro has been in the eye of the storm since it criticized the selection of military officers to run the police and security offices — something they say is forbidden under El Salvador´s 1992 peace accords, which ended a 12-year civil war.