SAN SALVADOR ( Associated Press) – More than 10,000 members of the Salvadoran armed forces and police completely locked down the country’s third-most populous municipality, a city on the outskirts of the capital, on Saturday. So that gang members operating in the area can be cracked down on.
“As of these moments, the municipality of Soypango is completely surrounded,” President Nayib Bukele told on his official Twitter account. “8,500 soldiers and 1,500 agents have surrounded the city, while police and army teams are working to flush out all the gang members one by one,” he said.
Units of the Police Operational Tactical Section, along with soldiers, controlled all access to Soypango, seven kilometers northeast of the capital, which until a few months ago was one of the gang’s main strongholds.
All passenger and private vehicles were being inspected and people must identify themselves to enter and leave the area, while counter-terrorism units searched communities to locate and apprehend gang members.
In a message to the residents of Soypango, Bukele said that “ordinary citizens have nothing to fear and can live their lives normally. This is a campaign against criminals, not honest citizens.”
Soyapango, with over one million inhabitants, became the first municipality to intervene within the fifth phase of the territorial control plan – called “Extraction” – implemented by Bukele to combat the gangs. The scheme seeks to trace and apprehend criminals living in communities.
Elite units of the armed forces and police took part in the operation, and drones and trained dogs were used to trace gang members who are believed to be still hiding in the area.
The Minister of National Defense, Rear Admiral Francis Marino Monroy, explained to reporters that intelligence work had been done before the fencing was put up and that there are extraction teams at 40 strategic points. He said that 12 gang members were nabbed during the first hour of the operation.
In the last week of November, Bukele announced that he would intensify the crackdown on gangs and that he would resume the military siege he had set up in the municipality of Comasagua, south of San Salvador, in order to catch those responsible for the murder. Could A farmer in the area… warned that fencing would go ahead in big cities regardless of criticism from human rights defenders
That heavy-handed policy was emphasized after 62 murders were reported in one day on 26 March. The Salvadoran Congress, at the request of President Bukele, approved a state of emergency to combat gangs that limit freedom of association, as well as the right of the people to be duly informed of their rights and the reason for the arrest. Suspended one’s aid. Advocate.
According to government figures, so far during the state of emergency, more than 58,000 people have been arrested on charges of gang affiliation or collaboration. Social organizations have stated that they have documented more than 4,000 cases of human rights violations during the first eight months of the measure’s validity. They claim that at least 80 people have died in the custody of the authorities.
According to official data, from January 1 to November 30, 598 homicides were recorded, down 43% from 1,052 in the same period in 2021.
The so-called Mara, gangs present in the country’s populous communities and neighborhoods, are involved in drug trafficking and organized crime. According to officials, they 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 the leaders, members and associates of these groups as terrorists.