Friday, December 09, 2022

El Salvador: gang harassment intensifies

SAN SALVADOR ( Associated Press) – Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele announced Wednesday that he would impose military and police sieges on major cities in a bid to intensify the crackdown on gang members, whom authorities blame for most of the crimes committed in the country. .

“Now comes phase five, which is the extraction part of the criminals who still remain in the communities,” the president said during an act in front of some 14,000 soldiers who will be involved in the crackdown on gangs.

Bukele gave no details on when the controls would be implemented or which cities would register entry and exit, alleging that this would alert gang members.

But he explained that he would be reenacting the experience of a military siege set up in the municipality of Comasagua, south of San Salvador, to catch those responsible for the murder of a farmer in the area. “It was successful,” defended the president despite criticism of his harsh policy from organizations that condemn human rights violations.,

In the operation deployed in the first week of October, more than 2,000 soldiers and approximately 500 special forces police took control of the access road to Comasagua.About 29 km from the capital. People entering and exiting the enclosure were being frisked.

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They also used drones to search for gang members taking shelter in coffee plantations in the area. According to the official version, in two days they captured about 50 gang members, including the alleged killer of the farmer.

Bukele assured that all entrances and exits to the cities would be closed to prevent exodus and that the measure was also aimed at those who “give them food, weapons and everything they use to intimidate the population”. are in charge of the supply of

On March 27, when 62 murders were recorded in one day, Congress approved the imposition of a state of emergency, which had been renewed for the eighth time 10 days earlier. And it limits freedom of association, suspends the right of people to be duly informed of their rights and the reason for arrest, as well as the assistance of a lawyer.

However, seven human rights organizations have repeatedly condemned the irregularities. They have documented more than 4,000 cases of human rights violations – arbitrary arrests, torture, intimidation and torture – during the first six months of the state of emergency and 80 deaths in state custody, according to a report tabled in October. Even injuries.

So far, 58,098 gang members or gang associates have been arrested under the state of emergency, according to government figures, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 843 leaders of Barrio 18’s factions or groups. In his records, there is evidence of 76,600 gang members and about 26,000 remain to be caught.

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The president assured that in eight months he had achieved great results and that “El Salvador is on its way to becoming the safest country in the whole continent.”

According to official data, from January 1 to October 31, 572 homicides were recorded, down 38% from 928 in the same period in 2021.

So far in November, 14 people have been murdered, three of them gang members killed in a shootout with the authorities, and it has gone 13 days without a murder.

The so-called Mara or gangs, which have a presence in populated areas and communities in the country, are involved in drug trafficking and organized crime. According to officials, they also extort money from traders and transport companies and kill those who refuse to pay.

In August 2015, the Supreme Court of Justice declared the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs as terrorist groups. In its judgement, it declared leaders, members and associates of these groups as terrorists.

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