SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – A former national security adviser to El Salvador’s government, who had accused a congressman from the ruling New Ideas party of corruption and drug trafficking, died in state custody in unclear circumstances, his family told reporters on Thursday.

Alejandro Muyshondt was arrested last August for alleged crimes that President Nayib Bukele listed on X, including leaking documents to journalists and former leftist President Mauricio Funes, who is now based in Nicaragua.

Muyshondt’s family said the prosecutor’s office told them he died in a state hospital on Wednesday, where he was sent after suffering a stroke. A preliminary report found he died of pulmonary edema, a build-up of fluid in the lungs, according to documents published by local media.

Neither the prosecutor’s office nor the Salvadoran government immediately responded to requests for comment.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heart problems mostly cause pulmonary edema, but pneumonia, contact with certain toxins, medications, and trauma to the chest wall can also cause it.

In a post on X shortly after Muyshondt’s 2023 arrest, Bukele said there was evidence he helped Funes evade capture. Prosecutors accused Funes of tax evasion and illicit association and failure to perform duties over the gang truce negotiated in 2012. Funes denies negotiating with the gangs.

Bukele said Muyshondt had leaked evidence against New Ideas Congressman Erick Garcia to avoid a looming investigation.

Garcia was fired from Congress last August and is facing a trial at a yet unknown date for allegedly altering official documents. Garcia, who Muyshondt accused of corruption and links to drug trafficking, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Muyshondt was the cousin of Ernesto Muyshondt, a former mayor of San Salvador, the capital, who is now in a psychiatric hospital and himself facing legal proceedings over alleged electoral fraud, breach of duty and gang connections.

Muyshondt’s death comes days after the landslide reelection of Bukele, who won fierce popularity for a crackdown on gangs that shelved civil liberties and saw over 76,000 Salvadorans arrested en mass without due process.

Rights groups have raised concerns over hundreds of deaths and torture in custody.

Of 218 reported deaths in the two years since the gang crackdown began, 36 have been attributed to pulmonary edema, rights group Cristosal told Reuters.

The U.S. government has accused Bukele’s government of making a pact with El Salvador’s gangs. The Salvadoran prosecutor who first led the investigation confirmed the findings to Reuters.

In December 2021, Bukele disclosed WhatsApp messages in which the then-United States charge d’affaires in the country, Jean Manes, interceded for the release of Ernesto Muyshondt.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria and Sarah Kinosian; Writing by Sarah Morland; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Brought to you by