El Salvador has arrested 2% of its adult population during its gang crackdown
The crackdown on gangs has led to overcrowded prisons, using the country’s military to patrol the streets and the arrest of many innocent individuals
December 16, 2022 7:47pm
Updated: December 17, 2022 9:52am
El Salvador had arrested nearly 2% of its adult population, or roughly 100,000 people, since President Nayib Bukele announced the war on gangs eight months ago, reported CNN.
In March, Bukele declared a state of emergency that temporarily suspended constitutional protections after the country saw a dramatic rise in homicides. Over four days, 89 people were killed, compared to 79 in all of February.
Since then, Bukele has extended the state of emergency several times, limited freedom of association, and reformed the country’s penal code to increase jail time for gang members and try minors who are involved with gangs as adults.
Bukele’s moves, however, have been widely criticized by human rights organizations. The crackdown on gangs has led to overcrowded prisons, using the country’s military to patrol the streets and the arrest of many innocent individuals.
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on December 7, Bukele’s administration has committed several human rights violations, including torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and arbitrary arrests that are targeting low-income neighborhoods.
“Between March and November, police officers and soldiers have conducted hundreds of indiscriminate raids, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, arresting over 58,000 people, including more than 1,600 children. Officers have often targeted communities where people have, for years, suffered insecurity and lack of economic and educational opportunities,” said the report.
Many of the arrests appeared to have been based on questionable evidence, such as whether an individual has tattoos or is related to a gang member. Other arrests have been made to meet a daily quota imposed on police officers, leading to many arbitrary arrests, according to members of the National Civilian Police (PNC).
According to Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at HRW, Bukele’s measures can be seen as authoritarian and constitute “a perfect recipe for abuse.”
El Salvador is home to some of the world’s most famous gangs, including MS-13 and Barrio 18, who carry out violent acts and extort the residents of several neighborhoods of the country.