Gang Priest Arrested in El Salvador: 'Padre Tono' says he is victim of political persecution

A Salvadoran judge ruled that Spanish Passionist Father Antonio Rodriguez, known for his work in rehabilitating gang members, should remain in jail, accused of various crimes regarding gang activities.

Father Rodriguez, known as Padre Tono, was arrested July 29 and charged with several offenses, including illicit associations, influence peddling and introducing prohibited items -- including cell phones -- into prisons where members of the Barrio 18 or Calle 18 gang are held. He was arrested in connection with a huge police raid against 127 gang members on charges of extortion, among other crimes.

Advertisement

On Aug. 4 he was granted parole, but he was arrested again after the attorney general's office added new charges Aug. 5. He is being held by the national civil police.

"I do not understand why (the attorney general) has arrested me, and not Francisco Flores," he said to local media, talking about the former Salvadoran president accused of various corruption charges. Father Tono rejects the accusations and says he is the victim of political persecution by El Salvador's government.

"Father Tono's attitude has been always controversial, and to the eyes of many people, it is normal to regard these things as politics," Passionist Father Gerardo Mendez told local media. "This is a form of persecution."

"Tono knew the risks" of criticizing Salvadoran authorities, he added.

For years, Father Rodriguez has run rehabilitation projects for gangs in Mejicanos, a suburb of San Salvador. He was critical of a gang truce brokered in March 2012, but supported government plans to bring about peace in the streets.

On Aug. 3, hundreds of people marched in the Spanish town of Daimiel, where Father Rodriguez was born, to show support for him.

El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the hemisphere, with 69.2 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to figures from the World Health Organization. The authorities attribute many of these deaths to gangs.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Miguel K'nowles
3 years 5 months ago
Our Lord was a prisoner to.
Beth Cioffoletti
3 years 5 months ago
Padre Tono sounds very much like he is the company of Fr. Alfred Delp SJ and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I pray that he will be given the spiritual consolations and strengths of so many others who are imprisoned for being a threat to corrupt and unjust political powers.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018