In the fight against the notorious youth gangs, El Salvador has extended the controversial state of emergency in the Central American country by another 30 days. On Thursday night (local time), parliament voted by a large majority in favor of conservative President Nayib Bukele's proposal. The restrictions on fundamental rights introduced as a result will then already have existed for a year on March 27th. The crackdown on the so-called maras caused an international sensation when thousands of prisoners were taken to a new high-security prison at the end of February. The government released video of the transfer of the tattooed suspects, dressed only in white shorts, lined up close together in long lines. Another 2,000 people were transferred to prison on Wednesday, the president wrote on Twitter.
After a wave of violence that killed 62 people within one day, the government applied for a state of emergency for 30 days at the end of March 2022. Since then, the measure has been repeatedly extended by Parliament. The state of emergency allows police to arrest suspects without warrants. Around 65,000 suspected gang members have been arrested so far. According to government figures, the number of homicides in the country of six million people fell to an all-time low last year at 495. The year before, there were more than twice as many. El Salvador was once considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Watch the video: El Salvador - mass transfer of 2000 gang members.
The state of emergency also allows a number of fundamental rights to be restricted and, according to human rights organizations, has led to arbitrary arrests. "Serious human rights violations are being committed during the state of emergency," said Human Rights Watch regional director Tamara Taraciuk Broner recently. "The Salvadoran authorities inhumanely corral detainees, including hundreds of children, while doing little to provide victims of gang violence with access to the justice system."
According to Human Rights Watch, most of the suspects are accused of being part of a criminal organization. The criminal offense is very broadly defined and includes any kind of contact with the gangs. Only a very small proportion of those arrested are specifically accused of serious crimes such as murder or rape. According to surveys, the measures are popular with the population. According to the newspaper "La Prensa Gráfica", the approval rating for the president's work was 91 percent. Bukele wants to run again in February 2024. The constitution forbids direct re-election. However, the pro-government constitutional judges of the Supreme Court overturned this ban.