{"code":"25736","sect":"El Salvador","sect_slug":"el-salvador","hits":"1686","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/en\/202109\/el_salvador\/25736","link_edit":"","name":"Top Bukele Official Embezzled $1.6 Million in Covid-19 Emergency Food Supplies","slug":"top-bukele-official-embezzled-1-6-million-in-covid-19-emergency-food-supplies","info":"","mtag":"Transparency","noun":{"html":"\u003Cspan class='tint-text--dark' data_href='\/user\/profile\/elemus'\u003E Efren Lemus\u003C\/span\u003E y \u003Cspan class='tint-text--dark' data_href='\/user\/profile\/cmartinez'\u003E Carlos Mart\u00ednez\u003C\/span\u003E","data":{"efren-lemus":{"sort":"elemus","slug":"efren-lemus","path":"efren_lemus","name":"Efren Lemus","edge":"0","init":"0"},"carlos-martinez":{"sort":"cmartinez","slug":"carlos-martinez","path":"carlos_martinez","name":"Carlos Mart\u00ednez","edge":"1","init":"0"}}},"view":"1686","pict":{"cms-image-000036390-jpg":{"feat":"1","sort":"36390","name":"cms-image-000036390.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036390.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036390.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036390-jpg","text":"<p>Osiris Luna Meza, vice minister of justice and the Bureau of Prisons director. Photo Victor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EOsiris Luna Meza, vice minister of justice and the Bureau of Prisons director. Photo Victor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036391-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36391","name":"cms-image-000036391.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036391.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036391.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036391-jpg","text":"<p>On August 5, 2018, Osiris Luna, then a legislator for the GANA party, celebrated an event to announce their support for the presidential candidate, Nayib Bukele. In this activity, his mother, Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, accompanied him. Photo taken from his Twitter official account.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EOn August 5, 2018, Osiris Luna, then a legislator for the GANA party, celebrated an event to announce their support for the presidential candidate, Nayib Bukele. In this activity, his mother, Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, accompanied him. Photo taken from his Twitter official account.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036392-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36392","name":"cms-image-000036392.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036392.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036392.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036392-jpg","text":"<p>Top left: a trailer maneuvers to enter the Mariona prison on October 21, 2020: Top right, the trailer upon leaving the prison at 6:30 p.m. The bottom photo was taken a day after at the warehouse where the food sacks were unloaded. The photos were taken by investigators with the Attorney General\u2019s Office.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ETop left: a trailer maneuvers to enter the Mariona prison on October 21, 2020: Top right, the trailer upon leaving the prison at 6:30 p.m. The bottom photo was taken a day after at the warehouse where the food sacks were unloaded. The photos were taken by investigators with the Attorney General\u2019s Office.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036393-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36393","name":"cms-image-000036393.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036393.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036393.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036393-jpg","text":"<p>Mar\u00eda Chichilco, minister of local development. Photo taken from her Twitter account.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EMar\u00eda Chichilco, minister of local development. Photo taken from her Twitter account.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036394-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36394","name":"cms-image-000036394.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036394.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036394.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036394-jpg","text":"<p>Franklin Castro. Photo taken from his Twitter account.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003EFranklin Castro. Photo taken from his Twitter account.\u003C\/p\u003E"},"cms-image-000036395-jpg":{"feat":"0","sort":"36395","name":"cms-image-000036395.jpg","link":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036395.jpg","path":"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/images\/cms-image-000036395.jpg","back":"","slug":"cms-image-000036395-jpg","text":"<p>Top and bottom-right: Sacks of food as they leave Mariona Prison and their arrival at the Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo family warehouse. Bottom-left: Another private truck used to transport the emergency food supplies. Photos from Operationl Cathedral case file.<\/p>","capt":"\u003Cp\u003ETop and bottom-right: Sacks of food as they leave Mariona Prison and their arrival at the Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo family warehouse. Bottom-left: Another private truck used to transport the emergency food supplies. Photos from Operationl Cathedral case file.\u003C\/p\u003E"}},"pict_main__sort":36390,"date":{"live":"2021\/09\/19"},"data_post_dateLive_YY":"2021","data_post_dateLive_MM":"09","data_post_dateLive_DD":"19","text":"\u003Cp\u003E\u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202109\/el_salvador\/25732\/Osiris-Luna-vendi%C3%B3-42000-sacos-de-alimentos-que-eran-para-los-afectados-de-la-pandemia.htm\" target=\"_blank\"\u003E\u003Cem\u003ELeer en espa\u00f1ol.\u003C\/em\u003E\u003C\/a\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003EA criminal investigation in El Salvador found evidence that Bukele\u2019s vice minister of justice and Bureau of Prisons director, Osiris Luna, embezzled $1.6 million worth of food between September and November of 2020 from the Public Health Emergency Program (PES), a government storehouse of goods purchased during the pandemic to feed affected families.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThen, with the help of his own mother as negotiator, Luna resold these goods to a merchant criminally accused twice of selling contraband.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAlso responsible, prosecutors allege, were at least two other members of Bukele\u2019s cabinet: Mar\u00eda Chichilco, minister of local development, and Franklin Alberto Castro Rodr\u00edguez, former vice minister of governance and territorial development, who at the time of the alleged crimes was the coordinator of PES. Prosecutors labeled Chichilco and Castro as \u201cdirect authors\u201d of the embezzlement for allowing Luna to take control of government goods that they administered.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EProsecutors determined that Luna was a \u201cnecessary accomplice\u201d to the crime of embezzlement because he was an \u201cintermediary for the acquisition\u201d of a total of 38,500 bottles of oil and 43,000 sacks of rice, sugar, and beans property of the government, which were sold to a third party rather than delivered to families affected by the coronavirus.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the darkest days of the pandemic, President Bukele announced on Twitter five measures to \u201cprotect employment and the economy.\u201d One of them was the delivery of food. \u201cNo one is going to die of hunger in El Salvador,\u201d \u003Ca href=\"https:\/\/twitter.com\/nayibbukele\/status\/1262278974115373058?s=20\"\u003EBukele tweeted\u003C\/a\u003E on May 18. When El Salvador\u2019s Attorney General\u2019s Office sought information about PES operations from the government, it found no paper trail of protocols or manuals showing that the program exists.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EInstead, prosecutors used wire taps and other investigative methods to understand the inner workings of the emergency food program. They found that Xavi Zablah Bukele, the cousin of President Bukele and president of the Nuevas Ideas Party, acted as \u201cde facto coordinator\u201d of PES, prosecutors wrote, even though he doesn\u2019t have an official post in the administration.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThese findings come from Operation Cathedral, an extensive case file of the Attorney General\u2019s Office detailing investigations into illicit emergency spending during the pandemic and documenting the Bukele administration\u2019s \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202108\/el_salvador\/25670\/Criminal-Investigation-Found-the-Bukele-Administration-Hid-Evidence-of-Negotiations-with-Gangs.htm\"\u003Ecovert negotiations with gangs\u003C\/a\u003E. El Faro reviewed part of the case file, including audits of PES food deliveries, summaries of wiretapped conversations, and records of undercover surveillance of the trucks used to transport the stolen goods.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFormer Attorney General Ra\u00fal Melara assigned Operation Cathedral to a unit of four prosecutors, called the Special Anti-Mafia Group. On May 1, 2021, the Nuevas Ideas-controlled Assembly illegally removed Melara from office and replaced him with Rodolfo Delgado. Shortly after taking office, Delgado dismantled the Special Anti-Mafia Group.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEl Faro obtained information requests submitted by prosecutors to the administration, pictures of the trucks as they offloaded the food, and warehouse inventories. Interviews with employees from the Bureau of Prisons, which Vice Minister Luna directs, and records from the Vehicle Registry and Center of Judicial Documentation \u2014 conducted and obtained by El Faro independently of Operation Cathedral \u2014 confirm prosecutors\u2019 findings.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAt the beginning of July, the U.S. State Department \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202107\/centroamerica\/25586\/State-Department-Accuses-Four-Senior-Bukele-Officials-of-Corruption.htm?utm_source=DB+El+Faro+_English&utm_campaign=79e70537e4-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_22_01_08_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ec9190c89-79e70537e4-394664995\"\u003Eincluded Luna in the \u2018Engel List,\u2019\u003C\/a\u003E targeted sanctions against individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who the department believes to have undermined democracy or engaged in significant acts of corruption.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAs Bureau of Prisons director, Luna oversaw the Bukele administration\u2019s covert negotiations with all three of El Salvador\u2019s gangs for electoral support and a reduction in homicides, as first \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202009\/el_salvador\/24785\/Bukele-Spent-A-Year-Negotiating-with-MS-13-for-a-Reduction-in-Homicides-and-Electoral-Support.htm\"\u003Erevealed by El Faro\u003C\/a\u003E one year ago, and as \u003Ca href=\"\/en\/202108\/el_salvador\/25670\/Criminal-Investigation-Found-the-Bukele-Administration-Hid-Evidence-of-Negotiations-with-Gangs.htm\"\u003Efurther substantiated\u003C\/a\u003E by Operation Cathedral.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003EHe was also one of the first Bukele officials whose corruption was reported in the press. In January of 2020, \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202003\/el_salvador\/24110\/La-historia-detr%C3%A1s-del-d%C3%ADa-en-que-Bukele-se-tom%C3%B3-la-Asamblea-Legislativa.htm\"\u003Ehe violated government prohibitions\u003C\/a\u003E on emoluments by traveling to Mexico on a chartered flight paid for by a company seeking a security contract with the Salvadoran government, and whose owner has personal ties to President Bukele. In the first ten months of the Bukele administration, evidence emerged that Luna illegally and \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202105\/el_salvador\/25462\/Asamblea-otorga-inmunidad-a-funcionarios-de-Bukele-por-compras-durante-la-pandemia.htm?utm_source=DB+El+Faro+_English&utm_campaign=2232ef99a3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_22_01_08_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ec9190c89-2232ef99a3-394664995\"\u003Eopaquely spent $8.5 million\u003C\/a\u003E in funds from the Bureau of Prisons commissary.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36390\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Osiris Luna Meza, vice minister of justice and the Bureau of Prisons director. Photo Victor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EOsiris Luna Meza, vice minister of justice and the Bureau of Prisons director. Photo Victor Pe\u00f1a\/El Faro.\u003Cdiv class=\"photographer text_italic rule--ss_l tint-text--idle\"\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-ca112855-7fff-272b-4db7-5e41ae1b3851\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the first year of the pandemic, the Bukele administration refused to submit its emergency spending to Legislative Assembly auditors. In May 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture sealed off all documents on pandemic spending for two years. When the Attorney General\u2019s Office \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202011\/el_salvador\/24986\/Fiscal%C3%ADa-arranca-investigaci%C3%B3n-contra-el-Gobierno-Bukele-por-los-contratos-irregulares-de-la-pandemia.htm\"\u003Eraided the Ministries of Health and the Treasury\u003C\/a\u003E in November, after finding that two-thirds of purchases of pandemic-related medical supplies showed \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202011\/el_salvador\/24995\/668--de-las-compras-de-insumos-m%C3%A9dicos-bajo-investigaci%C3%B3n-por-negociaciones-il%C3%ADcitas.htm\"\u003Esigns of corruption\u003C\/a\u003E, the National Civil Police \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202011\/el_salvador\/24990\/El-d%C3%ADa-en-que-la-Polic%C3%ADa-obstaculiz%C3%B3-la-investigaci%C3%B3n-del-Fiscal-contra-el-Gobierno-Bukele.htm\"\u003Eobstructed the raid\u003C\/a\u003E by attempting to bar prosecutors\u2019 entry to Ministry of Health facilities.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn May 5, 2021, just four days after the swearing-in of the new legislature two-thirds controlled by the president\u2019s party, a new law \u003Ca href=\"\/es\/202105\/el_salvador\/25462\/Asamblea-otorga-inmunidad-a-funcionarios-de-Bukele-por-compras-durante-la-pandemia.htm?utm_source=DB+El+Faro+_English&utm_campaign=2232ef99a3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_22_01_08_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3ec9190c89-2232ef99a3-394664995\"\u003Egranted retroactive immunity\u003C\/a\u003E from civil and criminal suits for the pandemic-related spending of government officials and external contractors.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEl Faro emailed both Luna directly and the Bureau of Prisons communications office to request an interview. When an employee asked for the questions in advance, El Faro replied that newsroom policy is to withhold questions prior to interview, but that the topic of discussion would be wiretaps, photographs, and documents from the Attorney General\u2019s Office showing that Luna sold PES supplies on the private market. At press time there was no response.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhile Luna hasn\u2019t broached this investigation, he publicly supports making sure the window for pressing charges for corruption never expires. \u201cWith this legal tool, the corrupt will be behind bars,\u201d he tweeted in July 2021, when the Salvadoran government proposed eliminating the statute of limitations for these crimes.\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EThe Vice Minister\u2019s Mother\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Operation Cathedral Case file reconstructs in great detail the embezzlement of the food supplies. Prosecutors report that on September 29, 2020, Bureau of Prisons Director Osiris Luna made a phone call to Minister Mar\u00eda Chichilco and asked her for sacks of rice. A judge had approved a wiretap on Luna\u2019s phone, so prosecutors heard as the minister promised to check how many sacks were available in storage. They agreed that she would give him 500 sacks.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EChichilco had control over large quantities of food purchased during the pandemic. In April of that year, in her role as director of the Social Investment Fund for Local Development (FISDL), she signed an agreement with the Ministry of Governance to allot funds from her budget to purchase white corn, red beans, white rice, cooking oil, brown sugar, iodized salt, and spaghetti. The Ministry of Governance committed, in return, to coordinate the delivery of the food, in free packets, to families affected by the pandemic.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EHours after the conversation between Luna and Chichilco, prosecutors recorded another call in which Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, former candidate for alternate deputy in 2012 for the Grand Alliance of National Unity (GANA), the party with which Bukele won the presidency, offered to sell the rice \u201cin bulk\u201d to a potential buyer. Meza Olivares is Osiris Luna\u2019s mother.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EProsecutors allege that Vice Minister Luna\u2019s mother is part of a de facto hiring and contract procurement structure within the Bureau of Prisons. \u201cShe directly coordinates with Prison Bureau personnel,\u201d reads an Operation Cathedral report. Sources from within the Prison Bureau confirmed to El Faro that this structure exists and that Luna\u2019s mother participates in it.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe buyer negotiating with Meza Olivares over the phone was Ismael Oliverio Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo, a 38-year-old motorist charged twice, in 2003 and 2008, with smuggling contraband \u2014 in particular, rice \u2014 from Honduras. On both occasions he was acquitted.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAccording to a summary of the wiretaps, Meza Olivares and Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo agreed to meet on September 30 in a restaurant in Colonia Layco in San Salvador, where the merchant would make an up-front payment for the sacks of rice. The summary did not state how much Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo paid to Meza Olivares.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ETwo days after Luna\u2019s phone call with Minister Chichilco, Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo made four trips to a Bureau of Prisons storehouse to collect the rice. The Cathedral case file states that the merchant used a truck that had the space for only 150 bags, requiring him to make multiple trips. Prosecutors allege that the man tasked with delivering the rice to Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo was Wilfredo Ostorga Molina, an employee who Luna trusted. In exchange for the rice, Ostorga Molina received a payment of $9,000, prosecutors allege.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36391\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"On August 5, 2018, Osiris Luna, then a legislator for the GANA party, celebrated an event to announce their support for the presidential candidate, Nayib Bukele. In this activity, his mother, Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, accompanied him. Photo taken from his Twitter official account.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EOn August 5, 2018, Osiris Luna, then a legislator for the GANA party, celebrated an event to announce their support for the presidential candidate, Nayib Bukele. In this activity, his mother, Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, accompanied him. Photo taken from his Twitter official account.\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-f5f78020-7fff-0d34-cc49-262652c09982\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EProsecutors allege that Luna, director of the Bureau of Prisons, did not sign a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Local Development, headed by Chichilco. No official documents even registered the delivery. Prosecutors reviewed the delivery records of the FISDL warehouse in Zapotit\u00e1n, La Libertad, where the sacks of rice were at the time of the call between Luna and Chichilco, and the warehouse\u2019s \u201cwaybill,\u201d or record of official vehicle use, and found no evidence of a delivery from the Ministry of Local Development to the Bureau of Prisons.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWarehouse records, though, show evidence of missing rice. According to the contract, the FISDL purchased 6,925 quintals of rice. Between June 20, 2020 and February 20, 2021, FISDL delivered 5,812 quintals, mainly to the Ministry of Governance \u2014 a shortfall of 60 metric tons of rice, according to the documents reviewed by El Faro.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EProsecutors wrote that \u201cMrs. Alma Yanira Meza Olivares, the mother of the vice minister of justice, was an unnecessary accomplice given that she was the third to benefit from the misappropriation, clearly demonstrated in the sale of the rice.\u201d\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EWhen El Faro called Alma Yanira Meza Olivares for comment, she listened to the findings of this investigation before ending the call: \u201cI don\u2019t speak with journalists because they have a hidden agenda. So don\u2019t waste your time, keep on investigating.\u201d She hung up. El Faro also visited Minister Chichilco\u2019s office, left a voicemail, and messaged her over WhatsApp outlining the findings of the investigation and requesting an interview. By press time she didn\u2019t reply.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EEl Faro also placed multiple calls and wrote messages to Wilfredo Ostorga, who works for Osiris Luna, but received no reply.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EFollowing the Trucks\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThis wasn\u2019t the only case of embezzlement of food that the Attorney General\u2019s Office attributes to Vice Minister Osiris Luna: last year the Ministry of Agriculture, the wing of the administration tasked with purchasing food on the international market to create emergency relief packets during the pandemic, signed 22 agreements with state institutions for the distribution of the food. One of those institutions was the Bureau of Prisons, which received 40,313 baskets.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAccording to prosecutors\u2019 records obtained by El Faro, not all of these baskets arrived at their destination. Wiretaps from Operation Cathedral reveal that a network overseen by Osiris Luna sold part of the food to the highest bidder.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn Monday, October 19, 2020, prosecutors recorded calls between Osiris Luna, his employee Wilfredo Ostorga, and merchant Ismael Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo, in which they agreed to meet at Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo\u2019s house. The next day, the group met at the Bureau of Prisons offices and traveled to the prison facilities serving as food storehouses in Santa Ana and the Center for Juvenile Detention (CDM) in Mariona.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36395\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Top and bottom-right: Sacks of food as they leave Mariona Prison and their arrival at the Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo family warehouse. Bottom-left: Another private truck used to transport the emergency food supplies. Photos from Operationl Cathedral case file.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003ETop and bottom-right: Sacks of food as they leave Mariona Prison and their arrival at the Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo family warehouse. Bottom-left: Another private truck used to transport the emergency food supplies. Photos from Operationl Cathedral case file.\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-b819731d-7fff-e1bc-ccad-a499e0345980\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOstorga coordinated the transfer of food to Mariona on October 21 with two individuals identified by prosecutors as \u201cJC\u201d and \u201cTony.\u201d The transfer was delayed by the arrival of 25 trucks with PES logos to transfer food to families affected by the pandemic, prosecutors noted, but Ostorga had the newly arrived trucks wait outside while they loaded up Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo\u2019s shipment. El Faro obtained nine pictures of the food delivery. In one of the photos, taken in the afternoon on October 21, a red and white trailer backs into the Mariona prison facility.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBoth in the Mariona and Santa Ana prisons, DGME had food for people affected by the pandemic in two forms: stored in cardboard boxes or in white plastic bags, both with logos of PES and the government. The investigation by the Attorney General\u2019s Office indicates that the Osiris Luna network again used trusted inmates to transfer food to sacks without any government logo.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EAccording to the description by the Attorney General\u2019s Office, Ostorga wanted to eliminate traces of his operation in that warehouse and asked the employees \u201cthat there were no bags (with government logos) and that they sweep everything well.\u201d The trucks left Mariona at 6:30 p.m. on October 21, 2020. At that time, another call was registered between Mart\u00ednez and Ostorga in which they talked about the money and in which \u201cOstorga expressed that his boss (Osiris Luna) asked if he could arrive that same day for the payment,\u201d according to the document from the Attorney General\u2019s Office. Mart\u00ednez responded that it was better to arrive the next day and he took the chance to complain about 3,000 bags that didn\u2019t have oil. Ostorga promised to verify what had happened.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe two trucks left Mariona and the investigators from the Attorney General\u2019s Office followed them to a warehouse on 37th Street and 7th Ave, near the Luz del Mundo Church in San Salvador. Photographs document the arrival of the trucks there. The food was unloaded at a house on the corner with a white, brick wall.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36392\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Top left: a trailer maneuvers to enter the Mariona prison on October 21, 2020: Top right, the trailer upon leaving the prison at 6:30 p.m. The bottom photo was taken a day after at the warehouse where the food sacks were unloaded. The photos were taken by investigators with the Attorney General\u2019s Office.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003ETop left: a trailer maneuvers to enter the Mariona prison on October 21, 2020: Top right, the trailer upon leaving the prison at 6:30 p.m. The bottom photo was taken a day after at the warehouse where the food sacks were unloaded. The photos were taken by investigators with the Attorney General\u2019s Office.\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-c5355465-7fff-261c-5820-9d63112fab83\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EDuring the trip from Mariona to the new warehouse, Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo called his brother Samuel and another person only identified as \u201cWilliam\u201d so they could prepare the unloading.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn the photographs, it\u2019s difficult to recognize the plate numbers of all the vehicles that were used for the transfer of food, but El Faro has been able to document that the plate of one of the trailers (red cabin and white trailer) is C118-812, which El Faro confirmed with the Vehicle Registry is registered in the name of Susana del Carmen Ar\u00e9valo de Mart\u00ednez, mother of the Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo brothers.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EMart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo returned to Mariona the next day. The authorities recorded another phone call on October 22, which confirmed that he would pick up another 3,080 bags of food that day. And he still had more to buy.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn the morning of September 17, 2021, El Faro called the home phone number of the Mart\u00ednez family, but the line was out of service. El Faro also wrote to Ismael Mart\u00ednez over Facebook account, but by the publishing of this article, he hadn\u2019t responded. El Faro also visited two of the warehouses which prosecutors allege were used to store stolen goods. However, on Saturday, September 18, both were closed. This newspaper left a letter explaining the details of the investigation and asked Mr. Mart\u00ednez to contact the cell phone of one of the reporters.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EBaskets of Food\u00a0\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOnly four days later, in a conversation recorded by the Attorney General\u2019s Office on October 26, 2020, the then national coordinator of PES, Franklin Castro Rodr\u00edguez, promised Osiris Luna to deliver 80,000 more baskets of food, valued by the Attorney General\u2019s Office at three million dollars.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIn theory, this food (rice, maize, beans, flour, powdered milk and oil) were for families of inmates, but the conversation recorded by the Attorney General\u2019s Office exposed that Castro didn\u2019t care if the food arrived to those affected by the pandemic or not. According to a transcription from the Attorney General\u2019s Office, Castro told Luna \u201cto do whatever he wanted\u201d with the packages. \u201cHe would give him 80,000 bags and (Osiris Luna) would give him 80,000 names and it was his business what he would do with them,\u201d reads another part of the report by the investigator.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EFormer Vice Minister Castro now works in the Agricultural Rescue Plan within the MAG. On September 17, 2021, El Faro tried to contact him in two ways: through a direct message to his Twitter account and through an official interview request with the MAG communications office. A MAG press officer asked that the request be sent through email. By the time of publication, Castro had not responded to either of these interview requests.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe packages arrived at the Mariona prison the same day. Once more, inmates transferred part of them to sacks without government logos.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt was, according to the description by the investigators, a long night because the buyer Ismael Mart\u00ednez made two trips: two trucks first arrived at Mariona and then to the prison in Santa Ana. \u201cOsiris Luna and Wilfredo Ostorga traveled late at night to the Santa Ana Prison and waited for Ismael Mart\u00ednez and his brother Samuel to arrive before dawn and load the two trailers with sacks full of food products belonging to the State,\u201d indicated the investigator\u2019s document obtained by El Faro.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36393\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Mar\u00eda Chichilco, minister of local development. Photo taken from her Twitter account.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EMar\u00eda Chichilco, minister of local development. Photo taken from her Twitter account.\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-3df87251-7fff-03ea-c111-e9de36427138\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat night, the Attorney General\u2019s Office recorded a call between Samuel Mart\u00ednez Ar\u00e9valo, the brother of the purchaser of the food, and Wilfredo Ostorga, employee of Osiris Luna, in which he confirmed that he was bringing 800 bags: 300 of rice, 60 of sugar, 40 of beans, and the rest of other products, such as flour and powdered milk. The network of the DGME director charged, according to the Attorney General\u2019s Office, $12,500 for that shipment. The money, according to the official investigation, was delivered by the merchant Ismael Mart\u00ednez to Wilfredo Ostorga on October 27, 2020.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat day, the merchant Ismael Mart\u00ednez returned with the trucks to the Santa Ana prison to bring 38,500 bottles of oil and 15,000 more sacks of food. This was his last documented visit at that warehouse.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe next month, in November 2020, Mart\u00ednez arrived at the Mariona prison another three times to pick up food. The Attorney General\u2019s Office documented that on November 4, 2020 he took 61 quintals of sugar and 874 sacks of other food. On November 7, he spoke on the phone to coordinate the pickup of some barrels of oil, although he did not specify the amount. His last visit to Mariona was reported on November 24, 2020. That day, he took another 1,394 sacks of food from the PES program.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe next day, November 25, Franklin Castro, presented his resignation as the national coordinator of PES before the National Commision of Civil Protection. He cited his \u201cmultiple responsibilities\u201d as vice minister of interior affairs, especially because the minister, Mario Dur\u00e1n, was campaigning to become the mayor of San Salvador and he had been left in charge of the office.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Attorney General\u2019s Office labeled Castro the \u201cdirect author\u201d of the embezzlement \u201cfor having given the opportunity to another to commit the act of appropriation of goods that were under his administration.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThat same day, November 25, the National Commision of Civil Protection elected Castro's replacement: Juan Carlos Bidegain Hanania, son of Carla Evelyn Hanania de Varela, minister of education for the Bukele and member of the Commision. Bidegain never held the post, but was named Interior Minister in April 2021.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cstrong\u003EA Ghost Program\u003C\/strong\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn April 24, 2020, as the economic impact of the pandemic became clear, President Bukele announced on Twitter five measures to help \u201cour families endure the Covid-19 pandemic.\u201d One was the delivery of 1.7 million food packages. A month before the presidential announcement, on March 14 2020, the Agricultural Minister issued an agreement to buy food and contract call centers for the amount of $237 million. The agreement, called the Food Assistance Program (PES), would be coordinated, in theory, by the Secretary of Commerce and Investment and the Presidential Commissioner for Operations and Cabinet, Carolina Recinos.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EIt didn\u2019t happen like that. The main purchases of the program that the government called PES were made by MAG and the distribution was entrusted to other government institutions.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EBecause of media reports that detailed anomalies in the purchases, the Attorney General\u2019s Office opened an investigation and asked MAG for a certification of PES. The program, however, only existed in the president\u2019s tweets and the tweets from his press office. In official letter 353\/2021, the Attorney General asked MAG to detail the norms for the creation of PES, the manuals, the objectives, the participating institutions, and above all, how it executed and administered its million-dollar project. On February 8, 2021, MAG, then led by minister Pablo Anl\u00edker, responded: \u201cThis ministry doesn\u2019t have the stated documentation given that this is a project of the Presidency.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe Attorney General\u2019s Office then sent a second letter, 767\/2021, to the Judicial Secretary of the Presidency. This branch did not have the details of PES either, which is why it sent the inquiry to MAG. Cornered by the petition by the Attorney General\u2019s Office and the Presidency, MAG tried to correct its response: \u201cThis ministry doesn\u2019t have such a document, given that [PES] is the project\u2019s name from a communications standpoint, and that the program is called the Nutritional Security Program (Programa de Seguridad Alimentaria).\u201d In other words, PES is an alternate name for a preexisting program.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\t\t\u003Cfigure class=\"pict pict_land pict_move_posc 0 cs_img cs_img--curr rule--ss_c\" data-shot=\"pict\" data-hint=\"pict\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__pobj text-overflow\"\u003E\u003Cimg src=\"https:\/\/elfaro.net\/get_img?ImageWidth=2000&ImageHeight=1333&ImageId=36394\" class=\"pobj\" style=\"max-width: 100%\" rel=\"resizable\" alt=\"Franklin Castro. Photo taken from his Twitter account.\" \/\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"pict__line block edge--ss_lax edge--ss_rax padd--ss_l0x padd--ss_r0x line--ss_s0b lineh rule--ss_c\"\u003E\u003Cspan class=\"block-inline full-width align-middle lineh__rect tint-back--nake\"\u003E\u003Cspan\u003E\u00a0\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/span\u003E\u003C\/div\u003E\u003Cfigcaption class=\"pict__text cs_img_caption folk_content typo_buttons line--ss_s0c line--ss_s0c--auto block full-width text-overflow rule--ss_l relative\"\u003E\u003Cdiv class=\"__content block-inline full-width align-top tint-text--idle relative\"\u003EFranklin Castro. Photo taken from his Twitter account.\u003C\/div\u003E\u003C\/figcaption\u003E\u003C\/figure\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp id=\"docs-internal-guid-9df0f48c-7fff-c178-8a9b-afc14b84abcd\" dir=\"ltr\"\u003E\u201cDuring the course of the intervention, it was found that the PES has no formal existence,\u201d say prosecutors\u2019 records reviewed by El Faro. The same document says that Franklin Alberto Castro Rodr\u00edguez was named national PES coordinator on October 5, 2020, on orders from Xavi Zablah Bukele, the cousin of President Bukele and president of the Nuevas Ideas party. Prosecutors profiled Zablah Bukele as one of the people in charge of PES, even though he doesn\u2019t have an official position. The Attorney General\u2019s Office says that Zablah Bukele was the \u201cde facto coordinator\u201d of PES.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003ESources in the executive branch consulted by El Faro on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, also confirmed the leading role of Zablah Bukele in PES and explained that in the cabinet meetings of President Bukele, his cousin and the head of the Nuevas Ideas party virtually participated in decision making.\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EThe delivery of food packages intensified between September 2020 and February 2021, in the months prior to legislative elections, leading some opposition candidates to denounce the electoral use of the Government\u2019s program to favor Nuevas Ideas. On February 3, 2021, President Bukele\u2019s party claimed a staggering victory, gaining an overwhelming majority in the Legislative Assembly and winning 149 of the 262 mayor\u2019s offices.\u00a0\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003EOn September 17, 2021, El Faro asked the new Attorney General\u2019s Office for the status of investigations into illicit government spending during the pandemic. A spokesperson responded: \u201cAccording to Article 76 of the Penal Code, all investigations are sealed, so the prosecutors cannot share information about a case that hasn\u2019t been brought to trial.\u201d\u003C\/p\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cbr\/\u003E\u003Cp dir=\"ltr\"\u003E*English version by Roman Gressier\u003C\/p\u003E"}