SAN SALVADOR ( Associated Press) — At the request of Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, Congress on Tuesday approved a new extension of the state of emergency that suspends constitutional rights while tougher policies against gangs are implemented. With this new extension, the temporary measures will be in effect for at least a year from when they were approved in March last year.
Authorities have blamed the Mara or gangs for most of the crimes recorded in the Central American country in recent years, and their tough policy – heavily criticized for human rights violations – has improved statistics on violence levels.
“The historic results obtained in terms of security confirm that we are on the right track, transforming the country,” said Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro, when submitting the request for an extension for another 30 days. “We closed January as the least violent month,” he said, repeating the official discourse on the decline in violent deaths.
Villetoro warned that the state of emergency would not end until the last gang member was caught.
The new extension was approved with votes in favor of 67 of the 84 representatives of the Legislative Assembly. Eight opposition delegates abstained, six voted against, and three did not attend the session.
Organizations defending human rights have condemned the repeated violations and abuses of human rights within the framework of the state of emergency in El Salvador, which suspends freedom of association, the right of a person to exercise their rights and their detention. The right to be duly informed of the reasons, and the right to take the assistance of a lawyer.
In addition, it increases the period of preventive detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows authorities to intercept the correspondence and cell phones of people they consider suspicious.
Officials said they have arrested more than 64,000 people accused of being gang members or associates. Of these, 57,000 have been ordered into temporary detention by a judge and more than 3,745 have been released because a true connection to these criminal structures could not be established.
The Salvadoran government recently inaugurated the Prison Center for Terrorism (CECOT), a massive prison complex with a capacity for 40,000 prisoners, which was built as part of its offensive against gangs. Officials assure that it is the largest prison in Latin America and has state-of-the-art technology to stop the escape.
There, gang members would have no contact with the outside world and would only leave their cells for hearings with courts of justice, which would be conducted by video conference from a local room.
“Terrorists who go to CECOT will never return to our communities, that is the commitment of President Nayib Bukele. We are not going to stop and nobody is going to stop us,” warned Villetoro.
Human rights defenders have condemned the repeated irregularities accompanying the state of emergency, including: arbitrary arrests, violations of due process, and even the death of some people in state custody. In the first 10 months of the state of emergency, seven human rights organizations say they received 5,564 complaints of “abuse of power” by the authorities, and most refer to arbitrary arrests.
With a large pro-government majority, the Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency for the first time on March 27, 2022, a day after 62 homicides were recorded in one day, a level of crime that had not been seen in El Salvador. . In a while.
According to the constitution, the exception rule must be approved for 30 days and can be extended as long as there are reasons for it to arise.
Villetoro said that 2022 ended with a record 495 murders, and assured that this is the lowest figure in recent decades. The official’s report does not include at least 120 deaths of gang members killed in alleged conflicts with officers.
So far in 2023, El Salvador has recorded 25 murders, including three suspected gang members who died in a shootout with authorities and a police officer who was shot by two of his colleagues while on vacation and while in the hospital. He was shot dead. effects of alcohol.