June 6, 2016 / 11:57 PM / 3 years ago

El Salvador arrests ex-head of prisons over gang truce graft charges

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador arrested the former head of the national prisons system on Monday on suspicion of corruption during the implementation of an infamous gang truce, the country’s police said.

Nelson Rauda, who had been on the run since May, was wanted on graft and criminal enterprise charges allegedly committed during his time in charge of the jails between 2012 and 2013.

Rauda was caught during a police operation 70 kilometers northwest of San Salvador, the capital, the police said.

The gang truce started in 2012 and lasted until 2014. It won approval from former leftist President Mauricio Funes and the Organization of American States.

The pact was broken by public criticism that it was too beneficial to the gangs, which took advantage of less police pressure to rearm.

The breakdown led to a record escalation of violence last year, with homicide rates skyrocketing to 103 per 100,000 inhabitants, the world’s highest, because of fighting between the Mara Salvatrucha 13 and rival Barrio 18, authorities said.

El Salvador’s president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, a 71-year-old former communist guerrilla, has taken a tough line on crime, deploying anti-gang army battalions and toughening up legislation to fight the Maras and their associates.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Leslie Adler

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