Amnesty International has been accused El SalvadorThe government committed “gross violations of human rights” during an extraordinary security crackdown that saw the arrest of more than 36,000 people in just over two months.
The respression Orchestrated by the autocratic-minded President of Central America, Neb Bokel, in late March after a sudden outbreak of bloodshed that saw 87 murders in one weekend.
Bukele’s response to those killings was fast and intense, with lawmakers loyal to the government agreeing to the harsh state of exception, which entered its third month last week. This week, Bukele’s Minister of Security, Gustavo Villatoro, claimed that 36,277 people had been arrested since the “guerrilla war” began: 31,163 men and 5,114 women.
If true, it means that more people have been arrested in El Salvador in the past two months than in the whole of last year. The country’s already overcrowded prison population has nearly doubled since March while nearly 2% of the country’s total adult population He will now find himself behind bars.
“What we are doing is responding … to the demands of millions of Salvadorans who are tired of living under the control of these terrorist groups,” Vilaturo told state television on Wednesday as Bukele celebrated his third year in power.
“[Critics] “They did not realize the transformations that President Nayib Bukil brings to this country,” Vilatoro added. He claimed that the 40-year-old populist had shown “great courage” in defying the notorious gangs that were I was born in the United States during the eighties It seized much of El Salvador after the end of a bloody 12-year civil war in 1992.
Independent polls show that many of El Salvador’s 6 million citizens agree, with approval ratings for Bukele already high since the emergency was imposed.
However, activists, critics, and members of the international community have deep concerns about the staggering wave of arrests, the suspension of basic civil liberties and due process, and the detention of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent citizens from often impoverished communities.
At least 21 prisoners died in custody, according to a local newspaper, El Diario de Huy, with many of these victims reportedly suffering from the effects of violence or torture. Reportedly, some of the detainees are as young as 12 years old.
It’s cruel and brutal,” said Erica Guevara Rosa, Amnesty International’s Americas Director Ineffective hard crime policies It has been imposed on many parts of Latin America over the years, from El Salvador and Mexico to Brazil and Colombia, with “adverse” results.
To denounce what she described as an “extremely painful” crisis, the activist, who is in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, added:
“It is frustrating to hear families – people who are already living in poverty and Lack of access to health care, education and drinking water – Now they do not have to worry, not only about where and how their family members are, but also whether they will be the next people to be arrested,” added Guevara Rosa.
Advertising billboards on El Salvador’s streets and highways urge passersby to report suspected criminals by calling an anonymous hotline. And they read: “We need your help to keep arresting the terrorists.”
“It’s just crazy,” said Fabricio Altamirano, owner of El Diario de Hoy, who believes the government’s attempt to turn citizens into informants means that “anyone at risk” from malicious information is “unbelievable.”
“If you anger anyone, you will be liable to imprisonment… You can’t get a lawyer, you don’t get a phone call, you don’t get rights – and you are thrown into hell,” Altamirano said.
Guevara Rosa described the campaign as the latest step in the “systematic dismantling” of El Salvador’s institutions and the “total breakdown of the rule of law” that has occurred since Bukele took power on June 1, 2019.
Since then, he’s been a social media-obsessed millennial populist — who called himself a satirical nickname. “The world’s finest dictator” It has nearly 4 million followers on Twitter – and has caused international concern with its massive power buildup. In one of the most hair-raising incidents, Heavily armed forces occupied the Parliament of El Salvador In February 2020, in an attempt to bully competitors in support of Bukele’s security campaign.
Last March, the president’s party, Nuevas Ideas (New Ideas), won an overwhelming majority in the House, giving it sweeping powers to push through highly controversial initiatives such as this year’s state of exception.
The vast majority of voters are celebrating the dramatic reduction in violence achieved under Bukele’s presidency, even if independent media reports indicate that it was achieved through a secret pact with gangs that appear to have collapsed temporarily in late March for reasons that remain unclear.
“It is backed by massive popular support… [People] Altamirano, the owner of the newspaper, said that seeing him as an absolute hero … could not be praised more than others by the majority of the population … he makes great publicity. The son who is thrown into prison.”