On Saturday, March 26th, El Salvador experienced the deadliest days since their civil war ended 30 years ago in 1992. 62 people were murdered in a country of only 6.5 million. But human rights organizations around the globe are attacking the Salvadoran government’s approach to the situation and questioning the President’s policies.
Source: NBC News/Youtube
El Salvador is known for having one of the youngest presidents, Nayib Bukele, who was 37 when he was elected in 2019. There is a lot of controversy surrounding Bukele, and he is most known for wanting to introduce bitcoin as the currency, which most Salvadorans have strongly opposed.
The gang violence in the country has been affecting El Salvador for decades. Authorities said that the MS-13 and Barrio-18 gangs, with others, include nearly 70,000 members and are responsible for homicides, extortion, and drug trafficking. Although they are unsure of why this day was so high in slayings, many suspects that it might be a message to the government. US authorities have accused the Salvadoran government of negotiating a secret truce with the gangs in order to decrease violence through monetary incentives. Although Bukele denies this, people suspect the gangs could be attempting to get higher pay from the government under their supposed deal.
The day after the rise in murders, the parliament approved a state of emergency for the country for 30 days. Constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly are suspended during that time, and arrests can be made without warrants. Citizens’ phone calls and messages can also be legally intercepted.
The President has been tweeting about the captures and boasting that they have already arrested over 6,000 people. University of Central America (UCA) told Laura Ouseley for the Independent that the National Police Force is not basing the arrests on investigations, intelligence, or anticipation of criminal action.
In a tweet from the President, he said they need more space to hold the detained. He also announced on Twitter that the food rations for gang member inmates would be cut because the government does not want to increase the budget for the influx of new inmates. Those arrested under the age of 18 will also be tried as adults.
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) April 4, 2022
The government’s suspension of basic liberties has caused an uproar amongst humanitarian groups both in the country and abroad. Many are even questioning if the state of emergency is relevant to the murder spike, as the government already used the COVID-19 pandemic to restrict the freedom of their citizens.
Source: CGTN America/Youtube
These humanitarian rights organizations face attacks if they bring the government’s practices and the impact of the policies on democracy into question. Once arrested, these people are not treated like human beings, and innocent citizens are having their basic rights stripped away. Bukele has attacked groups on Twitter, and told a US human rights group that they are “only defending murderers.” He also attacked the public more broadly, saying that if people are so concerned, they should come to take them to their own countries and “help these little angels.”
The government is particularly active on social media and even has a newspaper that they sell for cheaper than other competitors. They also have their TV channel, which has left journalists and humanitarian groups, who often receive threats, to attempt to reveal the true extreme of what is happening in the country that the government doesn’t want to share.
Economic struggles are also another reason for the violence. Ouseley reported that prices, particularly for food, have skyrocketed. This is a tough time for Salvadorans, and the absence of civil liberties and institutional independence is completely unacceptable. The streets are filled with military and human rights organizations and brave journalists who are attacked by the President of the Democratic country.
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