El Salvador court orders pre-trial detention of ex-officials

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2018 file photo, El Salvador's President Salvador Sanchez Ceren addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. Prosecutors in El Salvador have issued an arrest warrant for Snchez Cern in July 2021 on charges of embezzlement and money laundering, according to Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (Frank Franklin Ii, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN SALVADOR – A judge in El Salvador ordered the pre-trial arrest of 10 former government officials, including ex-President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, on corruption charges Wednesday.

All of the former officials were part of the government of ex-President Mauricio Funes. Sánchez Cerén served as his vice president before going on to win the presidency.

The court also indicated it would work with Interpol to seek the arrest of Sánchez Cerén and four others not in custody. Funes, who is not one of those named in the case, but faces charges in other cases, lives in Nicaragua where he received political asylum.

Current President Nayib Bukele has pursued corrupt officials in previous governments. The hugely popular president not only swept the parties that had ruled El Salvador for much of the past three decades from power, but has pledged to punish acts of corruption. He has been criticized for not pursuing alleged corruption within his own administration with the same vigor.

Those targeted in this case include government ministers and deputy ministers from Funes’ cabinet. Funes and Sánchez Cerén were the last two presidents of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, the same party that Bukele came up in before being ejected for criticizing its leaders prior to his run for president.

Bukele has said that records indicate Sánchez Cerén left the country in El Salvador and has not returned.

The Attorney General’s Office alleges that the former officials illegally received $2.6 million.