SAN SALVADOR ( Associated Press) — Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele reported Saturday that security forces have dismantled several clandestine camps of gangs that have fled to rural areas of the country and said these groups are trying to evolve into a guerrilla group.
“The arrests of gang members are taking place more and more in clandestine camps in rural areas. It is clear that the gangs are trying to evolve into a guerrilla, since it is impossible for them to confront our agents and our troops in urban areas, ”said the president on his official Twitter account.
The Salvadoran president affirmed that: “This revolution” is being carried out under the auspices of international organizations, NGOs and the opposition, who give them legal, media, political and financial coverage. But we are not going to let that occur”.
Bukele assured that the combined forces of police and soldiers are dismantling three to four gang camps every day.
The president published a series of photographs of the camps with the weapons and ammunition seized, and said that “they correspond to only 1 of the more than 100 camps dismantled in recent weeks.”
He assured that, in these dismantled camps in the department of Cabañas, northeast of the capital, they seized weapons, drugs, money, communication equipment, extortion documents and of course gang members, who have fired their weapons at the security forces.
According to a report from the National Civil Police, they seized rifles, pistols, chargers for pistols and AK-47 and M-16 rifles, carbines and shotguns, as well as abundant ammunition for weapons.
For his part, the Minister of Security, Gustavo Villatoro, said on the official Twitter account that: “We are not going to allow these terrorist groups to mutate into another criminal form to continue causing harm to our honest population.”
After 62 homicides were recorded on March 26—a level of crime not seen in years in El Salvador—Congress approved a state of emergency that limits freedom of association and suspends a person’s right to be duly informed. of your rights and reasons for the arrest, and the assistance of an attorney. In addition, it extends the period of administrative detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows the authorities to seize the correspondence and cell phones of those they consider suspicious.
Since March 27, when the state of emergency was decreed, the authorities say they have captured 39,667 suspected gang members, in a country of only 6.5 million inhabitants. According to official information, judges have ordered provisional detention for 31,000 people accused of crimes such as homicide, extortion, possession of weapons, illegal grouping or collaborating with gangs.
In August 2015, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador declared the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang and the Barrio 18 gang terrorist groups.
In March of this year, the Salvadoran Congress approved some reforms to the Penal Code so that being part of a gang constitutes a crime, and belonging to these criminal structures can be punished with a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison. The leaders could face a sentence of 40 to 45 years in prison.
The so-called maras or gangs are involved in drug trafficking and organized crime, but they also extort merchants and transport companies, and murder those who refuse to pay, according to authorities. They have a presence in populous neighborhoods of the country.