MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Nicaragua said Tuesday it has given political asylum to former El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, who has come under scrutiny back home for a truce with gangs during his administration and is also facing multiple legal cases.
The Nicaraguan government’s official Daily Gazette published a notice announcing that Funes, his partner and three children have all been granted asylum. It said their lives and physical integrity are in danger as a result of “fighting in favor of democracy, peace, justice and human rights.”
Funes said via Twitter that he decided to seek asylum Aug. 31 “after confirming the political persecution that is being initiated against me.”
According to the Gazette, the petition was dated Sept. 1, the same day El Salvador’s Supreme Court ordered the release of a list of Funes’ government-funded trips abroad while in office. Asylum was granted the following day.
Funes, a former journalist who was elected as a member of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party, is facing a civil prosecution back home for alleged illicit enrichment. Investigators argue that he and his family need to justify the origin of more than $700,000 in income.
Salvador prosecutors have also opened an investigation into possible corruption dating to his 2009-2014 government. In August, Salvadoran authorities raided several homes and businesses searching for evidence related to alleged “crimes of embezzlement, illicit negotiations, misuse of funds, illicit enrichment and influence-trafficking.”
Funes denies any wrongdoing.
“Asylum only seeks to guarantee protection from persecution,” he tweeted. “I have not given up on confronting the judicial process nor proving my innocence.”
Funes’ government repeatedly denied approving negotiations with the gangs, which are blamed for violence that has pushed El Salvador’s homicide rates to among the highest in the world. However several officials from his administration say otherwise, and a group of mediators were allowed to meet with gang leaders both inside and outside prisons.
His FMLN, which continues to be the governing party of El Salvador under current President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, was formed from a former guerrilla movement — similar to the origins of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Funes arrived in Nicaragua three months ago saying he was working as a consultant.
Associated Press writer Marcos Aleman in San Salvador, El Salvador, contributed to this report.