Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele had promised after the deadly stampede that left 12 dead on May 20 in a stadium: no one “will go unpunished”. The president and two other leaders of the club organizing the match were arrested on Thursday, as were two officials of the sports arena.
Justice announced the arrest of the president of Alianza FC of San Salvador Pedro Hernandez, the head of security of the club Edwin Abarca Ventura, its financial director Zoila Cordova, as well as the general manager of the company Edessa which operates the Cuscatlan stadium Reynaldo Avelar Contreras and the employee responsible for the keys to the facility, Samuel Garcia Montano.
According to the general prosecutor’s office, the organizers “after having exhausted the entries available for the match, decided to illegally market tickets issued for previous matches”.
In addition, the stadium gates did not have sufficient capacity to allow the entry of so many spectators, and “were not opened with sufficient advance to allow an orderly and safe arrival”, added the floor on Twitter.
Negligence and greed
“The negligence in the organization and the greed, materialized by an overbooking, led to a human avalanche which caused loss of life, injuries and endangered the safety of the participants”, he lamented.
Twelve people died in this stadium with a capacity of 35,000 seats, one of the largest in Central America. More than 500 others had to seek medical treatment.
The tragedy occurred when turned-back supporters broke down a gate giving access to the southern sector of the enclosure, the most popular.
President Bukele immediately announced on Twitter that the investigation “will concern everyone: teams, management, state, ticket office, league, federation, etc.”. “Whoever the culprits are, they will not go unpunished,” he warned.
Up to 12 years in prison
The police carried out searches on Thursday at the premises of Alianza, Edessa and the Cuscatlan stadium in search of “accounting financial documents” and tickets used on the day of the tragedy, the prosecution said.
Overselling tickets on the black market is a common practice in the country, and not only for this match, lamented the director of civil protection services Luis Alonso Amaya.
Those arrested should be brought to justice in the coming days. They face 12 years in prison.
The Salvadoran Football Federation (Fesfut) and the clubs decided on Wednesday to stop the closing tournament of the national championship, angering the players. The federation invoked “the need to guarantee security in sports arenas”.
The Alianza club was held responsible for the tragedy by the Festfut and received a one-year sanction of matches behind closed doors. He was also declared the loser of the match, which was interrupted at the time of the tragedy after 15 minutes of play, and was fined $30,000 by the federation.
For the federation, Alianza had “not adopted measures aimed at preventing events” or had “done it negligently”.
In particular, she considered that the access controls to the stadium had been “manifestly deficient”.