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HomeNewsBusinessA robust anti-gang crackdown in El Salvador well-liked

A robust anti-gang crackdown in El Salvador well-liked

Nine months after President Nayib Bukele announced a state of emergency to combat street gangs, El Salvador has seen over 1,000 recorded cases of human rights violations and around 90 fatalities of detainees. Bukele’s popularity scores have also skyrocketed.

Bukele, who was elected in 2019, started isolating specific areas of El Salvadoran cities earlier this year and surrounded them with military and police who inspect anyone entering or exiting. Bukele asked Congress to give him the exceptional authority after gangs were held responsible for 62 murders on March 26 alone.

The two largest street gangs in El Salvador, Barrio 18 and MS-13, have been extorting money from almost everyone for years. Those who refuse to pay have been subjected to deadly retaliation. The gangs, which are thought to have 70,000 members, have long controlled large areas of land and extorted and killed people without consequence.

The provisions, which suspend the freedom to associate, the right to know the reason for an arrest, and the right to access counsel, have resulted in the detention of more than 60,000 persons. Anyone who the government suspects to be a member of a gang may also have their mail and phone calls intercepted. The period of detention without charge has been increased from three to fifteen days.

However, Bukele, who is running for re-election in 2024, has taken great pleasure in recent polls that indicate popularity ratings of close to 90% for both of him and his gang-clearing initiatives.

Rights advocates claim that young males are regularly detained just due to their age, appearance, or the presence of gangs in their neighbourhood. Raquel Caballero, the nation’s human rights officer, reported that 2,100 persons who had been detained but had no affiliation with street gangs had been freed.

In response to criticism of his policies from international groups, Bukele stated earlier this year, “I don’t care what they say. The gang members could be taken by them. We will provide them all to them if they request them.

Why do Salvadorans put up with one-month emergency decrees that restrict constitutional rights and give police and army broad discretion in searches, arrests, and pre-trial incarceration seemingly without end?

Lawyer and political commentator Thanya Pastor claims that Salvadorans are in desperate need of a solution as a result of years of unrestrained crime and bloodshed. “At this time, people won’t listen to arguments in favour of democracy, authoritarianism, or human rights. Their main concerns are safety and the chance to lead free lives, the pastor said.

Pastor claims to be in favour of the crackdown. He claims that Bukele’s government must nonetheless be held accountable for atrocities and provide an account of those who died while being imprisoned. The street gangs appear to have been unprepared for the violent raid.

Manuel Torres, a manufacturing worker at San José El Pino in the nation’s capital of San Salvador, said, “They weren’t expecting it, they were caught unprepared, and they rounded practically all of them up.” The MS-13 formerly held authority over the neighbourhood. Torres worriedly peered around, not wanting to get caught discussing the gangs in public. There are still a few of them, he claims.

55-year-old street seller Cristóbal Bentez claims the transformation has been dramatic. “The gangs reigned here, and they had clearly defined territories. “Either you pay up or they murder you,” declared Bentez. But it seems like the administration is back in charge now.

Human Rights Watch’s interim associate director for the Americas, Juan Pappier, argued that huge arrests won’t completely destroy the gangs’ organisational structures and that it is erroneous to believe that “you can achieve victory based on massive abuses of human rights.” In response to these critiques, Bukele is unfazed, tweeting: “They are frightened we will be successful and that other countries will want to emulate it.”

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