Bukele enacts a state of emergency in El Salvador to deal with gang crimes


the president of The SaviorNayib Bukele, promulgated this Sunday, with the approval of the parliament, a exception regimerestricting civil liberties and expanding the powers of the police, when the country faces a rise in gang violence that has left 76 homicides in two days.

Armed with assault rifles and bulletproof vests, police and soldiers patrolled the streets, while the arrest of leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) accused of ordering the crimes.

Citing “the serious disturbances to public order by criminal groups,” the decree, previously approved at the request of Bukele for 67 of the 84 deputies of the Legislative Assembly (pro-government), declares an “exception regime” for one month in “the entire national territory.”

Consequently, free association and assembly are restricted, it is allowed to open correspondence and intervene in telephone or email communications without a court order. It also restricts the right to be informed of the reason for an arrest and to have a lawyer upon arrest, and enables the term of administrative detention to be extended for more than 72 hours.

The purpose of the provision “is to facilitate legal tools and mechanisms” for the Police and Armed Forces to “restore order and citizen security and territorial control.”

“For the vast majority of people, life continues normal,” although there will be “focused and temporary closures” in some areas, Bukele tweeted after legislative approval.

Religious services, sports events and commerce can be carried out as normal, “unless you are a gang member or the authorities consider you suspicious,” he said.



“Not a ray of sunshine”

Bukele also ordered a “maximum emergency” to be decreed in all prisons, where more than 17,000 of the 70,000 gang members remain. Mara Salvatrucha and neighborhood 18among others, who live in El Salvador.

“All cells closed 24/7, no one goes out to the patio,” the president tweeted. “Message to the gangs: For your actions, now your “homeboys [compañeros presos] They won’t even be able to see a ray of sunlight.”

Bukelea 40-year-old millennial who has enjoyed broad popular support since he came to power in June 2019, made security an axis of his campaign and highlighted the improvement in homicide indicators at the beginning of his term.

But in December, the US Treasury Department sanctioned two government officials for allegedly negotiating with gangs to support the party of BukeleNew Ideas, in the 2021 legislative elections.

According to the indictment, in exchange, the gangs obtained money from the government and privileges for their imprisoned bosses, such as cell phones and prostitutes, which Bukele calls a “lie.”

The president is pointed out by his opponents for having “authoritarian” attitudes. Washington has reproached him for not respecting the separation of powers, having dismissed, with the help of Parliament, magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber and the Attorney General.

With the repressive measures “the government sends a direct message of non-negotiation to the criminal groups that seek to destabilize order and security in the country,” the Presidency stated in a statement.

“Due process”

The Savior lives a new wave of violence, with 62 homicides registered only on Saturday, according to the Civil national police (PNC), which had already reported another 14 deaths on Friday, also gang-related.

The Salvadoran Constitution authorizes the emergency regime in the event of “serious disturbances of public order” and Bukele assured that he acted “within the constitutional framework.”

But the opposition deputy of the former leftist guerrilla Farabundo Martí Front Jaime Guevara considered that “the current crisis requires good sense, wisdom and not bullying” and called for “unrestricted respect for individual rights” of the population.

Bukele He said that the Police and the Armed Forces “must let the agents and soldiers do their job and must defend them from the accusations of those who protect the gang members.”

He also asked the Prosecutor’s Office “to be effective with all cases” and warned that it will be aware of “judges who favor criminals.”

Ricardo Martínez, deputy attorney for the Defense of Human Rights, called on the government to “prevent and investigate all acts of violence and apply the full weight of the law, respecting the principle of innocence and due process.”

“It is urgent that the government protect the population with sustainable and respectful measures of DDHH (Human Rights). The security policy must always be within the Rule of Law,” said Juan Pappier, of the Americas Division of the NGO Human Rights Watch.

The gangs operate in The Savior through homicides, extortion and drug trafficking.

Last November the country suffered another spike in homicides, which in three days claimed the lives of some 45 people.

Even so, it closed 2021 with the lowest homicide rate since the end of the civil war in 1992, with 18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to official data. The total number of homicides, 1,140, ​​also represented a reduction compared to 2020, when there were 1,341.

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