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Friday, January 27, 2023

El Salvador arrests 2% of its adult population in war on gangs: other countries take note

(CNN) — Eight months after El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele declared war on gangs, an estimated 2% of the country’s adult population – about 100,000 people – are now behind bars.

Bukele’s actions this year, sparked by a wave of bloody mass killings that killed dozens in March, placed El Salvador under a prolonged state of emergency and relaxed important constitutional rights such as due process and freedom of expression.

According to Tiziano Breda, a Central America expert at Crisis Group, this heavy-handed or “Iron Fist” anti-gang policy is working, with the homicide rate falling in the country.

And Bukele himself now enjoys a reputation many leaders can only dream of: an 86% approval rating in an October poll of 12 Latin American countries by CID Gallup made him the region’s most popular leader, despite alleged rights violations. became a popular leader.

But is it sustainable? Regional observers have warned that the popularity of Bukele’s policy could be emulated in the region; While other Latin American countries already implement measures outside the law to address their own gang problems.

El Salvador: 30 more days under the exception rule 2:15

And as Jonathan D. Rosen, an assistant professor at New Jersey City University and co-author of several books on organized crime, drug trafficking, and security in America, points out, history has shown that heavy-handed policies often backfire against them. It happens to him.

‘A perfect recipe for abuse’

El Salvador is home to some of the most notorious gangs in the world, including Barrio 18 and MS-13. The latter emerged in Los Angeles in the 1980s among Salvadoran immigrants who had fled their homeland in the midst of a violent civil war partly financed by the United States. Experts say it grew to include other Central American migrants, and in the 1990s many were deported to their home countries, leading to an explosion of violence there.

Prior to Bukele’s crackdown, an estimated 70,000 active gang members across the country made it “virtually impossible for politicians and state officials if they were to, among other things, run electoral campaigns or provide services in slums”. did not want to negotiate with them,” according to the Crisis Group report.

But rights groups fear the effort to eradicate gangs will come at a high cost, including the militarization of Salvadoran society in the form of 58,000 arrests, overcrowded prisons and security forces patrolling the streets between March and November 2022.

According to an HRW report published on 7 December, widespread human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment during detention, and arbitrary arrests when police and military raided low-income neighborhoods, appear to have occurred since the start of the Bukele raid.

HRW writes that many arrests over the past year appear to be based on dubious evidence, such as the person’s appearance, criminal record or anonymous tips “and unfounded allegations on social media”.

On 3 December, Bukele’s war against gangs intensified when security forces “completely sealed off” Soyapango, the country’s most populous municipality. Bukele shared a video on Twitter that showed armed soldiers marching in the area.

A policeman arrests a man in El Salvador.

Juan Papier, senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told CNN that authoritarian measures in Soypango constituted “a perfect recipe for abuses” by constraining people’s freedom of movement.

“There is a tendency in Latin America to believe that suspending rights is necessary to address very serious security problems,” Papier told CNN.

Papier points to the example of Chile, which had an extended state of emergency in response to violence in the south of the country, and which was extended for a month in late November; and Ecuador, where the government announced similar measures in November in response to prison gang violence.

In recent weeks, Honduras’ leftist leader Xiomara Castro, who ran for government on a human rights platform, has called for a month-long partial shutdown amid protests to the level of suspending constitutional rights, extortion in some areas while cracking down on criminal groups. declared emergency.

And on Tuesday, Jamaica, which has the highest homicide rate in the Caribbean (per 100,000 people), declared a general state of emergency, allowing security forces to make arrests without warrants and search buildings.

when the heavy hand fails

Previous Salvadoran governments have tried to tackle the gang problem with similar strategies, but have only made the results worse.

Former President Antonio Saka, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to embezzling $300 million in public funds, revealed a scheme known as “Super Mano Dura” that analysts say was a mass incarceration Which prompted the gangs to consolidate their power behind bars.

“The deployment of army and police to combat gangs resulted in gangs fighting not only among themselves but also with the government. In 2015, El Salvador overtook Honduras as the world’s most violent country with a murder rate of over 100 per 100,000 residents. According to a 2020 study by Rosen, the country has seen more violence in recent years than during the civil war.

Tackling crime remained top of the agenda in 2019, when Bukele came to power promising to end corruption and gang violence. Millennials called themselves an iconoclast with their embrace of bitcoin and their propensity for backwards baseball caps, but fears about their authoritarian tendencies quickly began to grow.

El Salvador Arrests 2% Of Its Adult Population In War On Gangs: Other Countries Take Note

Critics of El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele have accused him of authoritarian tendencies.

His government has reportedly attacked critical journalists and members of civil society, sent armed troops to Congress in 2020, while lawmakers approved his plan to secure loans to address mass violence. Last September, a constitutional court filled with his allies cleared the way for Bukele to run for two consecutive terms, according to the nonprofit organization Freedom House.

In 2022, the government of El Salvador denied responsibility for hacking the cell phones of at least 35 journalists and other members of civil society using spyware called Pegasus.

As the country’s murder rate began to decline in 2020, reports emerged that Bukele’s government had allegedly struck a deal with gangs.

According to a statement by the US Treasury Department, Bukele’s government was accused of providing financial incentives to MS-13 and Barrio 18 in 2020 to “ensure that incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed murders do not exceed it’s limits.” Keep it short.”

The Bukele government denies the allegations, and the president described them on Twitter as “blatant lies”.

Breda said there is some consensus among security experts that Bukele’s conflict with gangs broke out in late March (2022), which led to the massacre to put MS-16 under pressure on the government to disband.

The said measure failed and Bukele declared a state of emergency and the suspension of various constitutional rights.

According to HRW, exact figures are difficult to obtain since the data is kept private by the authorities. The human rights group said in its report, but citing a National Civil Police document obtained by the organization, that murders had dropped by 50% between the end of January and October compared to the same period last year.

Other analysts agree: “What we hear from communities living close to gangs confirms that most gangs are on their knees, (many) have fled or are hiding in rural areas, certainly this rank and The (gang) leadership is influencing the file members more,” Breda said.

a new crisis

Human rights experts have noted recent US silence on the prolonged crackdown.

After initially being tough on Bukele’s attacks on the rule of law, “lately we’ve seen ambiguous positions that seem part of the Biden administration’s obsession with stopping migration,” Papier said.

Lower crime means fewer people will leave the country to seek asylum in the US sooner, he said, although Papier doubts this will last long as many families have lost their sole breadwinner in the war on crime. “Some of them are afraid of the police…so there is a cost to being denied rights and it can even create their own exodus,” he said.

A State Department spokesperson told CNN that “gang violence is a serious problem, and El Salvador and the United States have a vested interest in ensuring that these violent criminals are off the streets. Additionally, we have urged President Nayib Bukele and urged his government to address the gang menace while respecting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of El Salvador.

The spokesman reiterated the US belief that the state of emergency is “an unsustainable policy that has raised serious concerns about human rights violations, arbitrary detentions and deaths.”

El Salvador Arrests 2% Of Its Adult Population In War On Gangs: Other Countries Take Note

A prison in El Salvador.

The conditions are now perfect in El Salvador to recruit new gang members, says Papier. “People who have no gang links are being arrested, are in jails and are completely deprived of their livelihood; It’s the right profile of person to recruit”, Papier said.

So, will Bukele listen? El Salvador’s president wrote on Twitter a day after the publication of the HRW report, “Have you noticed how the mainstream media and NGOs have stepped up their attacks in recent days?”

“It’s not that they’re interested in El Salvador (they never were), their fear is that we’ll be successful, because other governments will want to copy it. They’re afraid of the power of example.”

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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