President Nayib Bukele says the ‘war on gangs’ continues despite concerns raised by rights groups and other observers.
Authorities in El Salvador have arrested more than 10,000 suspected gang members, President Nayib Bukele said, as his government pushes to root out violent crime after a recent surge in killings.
The country’s Congress imposed a state of emergency in late March after 87 people were killed in a single weekend of violence that Bukele’s government blamed on criminal gangs.
Since then a large number of police and military officers have been deployed in El Salvador. They have detained thousands of people under emergency measures that suspend certain civil liberties, including the right to legal advice and the right to association.
On Tuesday, Bukele noted on Twitter that 10,094 terrorists had been arrested in 17 days, adding that “we are continuing the war against gangs.”
Human rights groups and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have drawn criticism over the wave of arrests and civil rights curbs, urging Salvadoran authorities to respect international law in their effort to root out the gang.
The two main criminal groups in the country, Mara Salvatrucha – commonly known as MS-13 – and Barrio 18, have an estimated 70,000 members between them, and several thousand are already in Salvadoran prisons.
“Now, we recognize the challenges posed by mass violence in El Salvador and the duty of the state to ensure security and justice. However, it is imperative that this is done in compliance with international human rights law,” said the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner. spokeswoman Liz Throsel said in a statement last week.
Members of Bukele’s governing party recently pushed through a substantial increase in prison sentences for gang membership in response to violence, and criminalized gang-related messages in the media.
Under the new sentencing rules, convicted gang leaders could face up to 45 years in prison – nine years earlier – while olive thereAng members can face sentences ranging from three to five years to 20 to 30 years.
The United States Department of State has also expressed concern over the new measures, saying how media outlets’ reports on gang-related issues could lead to censorship.
“The law lends itself to efforts to censor the media, prevent reporting on corruption and other matters of public interest, and silence critics of the Salvadoran government. Journalists are allowed to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats or unjust detention.” There must be freedom,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Sunday.
Blinken said that while the US supports El Salvador in the fight against gangs, he urges the Salvadoran government to “protect important civil liberties, including freedom of the press, due process and freedom of speech, to address this threat.” does”.
It drew a rebuke from Bukele, who tweeted that his government received support from the administration of former US President Donald Trump – but not from the administration of current President Joe Biden.
“You are now only supporting gangs and their ‘civil liberties’,” Bukele said on Monday.
“The US government continues to support El Salvador in reducing the spread of gangs”. Really?
Yes, we got support from the US government to fight crime, but that was under the Trump administration.
You are only supporting the gang and their “civil liberties” right now. https://t.co/SJK4vEVYcs
— nayibbukele (@nayibbukele) 11 April 2022