El Salvador extends state of emergency to halt gang violence
Bukele declared a state of emergency to temporarily suspend constitutional protections, after the country saw a dramatic rise in homicides
April 25, 2022 7:23pm
Updated: April 25, 2022 7:23pm
El Salvador’s Congress approved a one-month extension of the emergency measures proposed by President Nayib Bukele to crackdown on gang violence, despite criticism from human rights organizations.
After a session in Congress, the president of the Legislative Assembly, Ernesto Castro, declared that the extension was approved with 67 out of 84 votes. “Security conditions persist which urgently demand the extension... due to the continuation of the circumstances which motivated it," he said.
On March 27, Bukele declared a state of emergency to temporarily suspend constitutional protections, after the country saw a dramatic rise in homicides. Over four days, 89 people were killed, compared to 79 in all of the month of February.
Under the state of emergency, the government has limited freedom of association, suspended constitutional protections for those being arrested, and phone calls and emails can be intercepted without court orders.
The country also reformed the country’s penal code to increase jail time for gang members and try minors who are alleged gang members to be tried as adults. Furthermore, on April 6, El Salvador’s Congress authorized prison sentences for any media outlets that reproduce gang messages.
Since the state of emergency was established 30 days ago, El Salvador’s government has arrested more than 17,000 alleged gang members. On April 24 alone, police arrested 1,090 “terrorists,” according to the national police.
The president also claimed that gang members who are currently in Salvadorean prisons would face stricter punishments, including intensified food rationing, placing them in confined cells, and removing their bed mattresses.
Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights urged Bukele to respect human rights amid the crackdown. According to the commission, many arrests conducted under the premise of the state of emergency have been arbitrary and innocent people have been placed in jail.
Similarly, there have been reports by several local news outlets claiming that Salvadorean police are pressured to meet daily arrest quotas. According to these sources, the officers have been giving “false statements” about individuals when they don’t reach the established number of arrests.