US targets Salvadoran officials in latest round of international sanctions

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WASHINGTON, December 8 (Reuters) – The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on dozens of people and entities in Europe and the Western Hemisphere, including an organized criminal group based in northern Kosovo and officials El Salvador that Washington accuses of negotiating with the MS-13 gang.

The US Treasury Department said Wednesday’s action, the latest in a series of sanctions announcements marking President Joe Biden’s Democracy Summit week, named 16 individuals and 24 entities linked to transnational crime .

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said gangs operating across borders are unsettling and often in collusion with government officials.

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“We also know that organized crime backed by corrupt actors can destabilize the rule of law, erode trust in public institutions and weaken democratic governance,” Blinken said in a statement.

The Treasury said it had imposed sanctions on Osiris Luna Meza, head of the Salvadoran penal system and deputy minister of justice and public security, and Carlos Amilcar Marroquin Chica, president of the unit for the reconstruction of the social fabric.

He accused those responsible for leading, facilitating and organizing a number of secret meetings with incarcerated gang leaders, including Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) as part of El Salvador’s efforts to “negotiate a secret truce. with gang leaders “.

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele denied on Twitter that his government was negotiating with the gangs, instead blaming the previous government and the former mayor of San Salvador.

“It is clear that the interests of the United States government have NOTHING TO DO with democracy, in NO COUNTRY,” Bukele added later. “It’s funny that there are people out there who think that is the case.”

Kosovar gang leader Zvonko Veselinovic and his brother, who the Treasury accused of making deals with politicians to help their party win elections and pay candidates money, were also on the blacklist.

In return, politicians would give the brothers the best infrastructure contracts, provide proprietary business information to support their investments, and grant them control of certain areas for their businesses, the Treasury said.

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Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Nelson Renteria in San Salvador; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Cynthia Osterman and Grant McCool

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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