El Salvador Congress extends crackdown on gangs

El Salvador’s Congress voted to further extend emergency rules that allow police to arrest suspected street gang members.

Late Wednesday’s vote was widely expected and marks the 12th such one-month extension granted to President Nayib Bukele since the measure was first approved on March 27, 2022.

The crackdown has led to over 65,000 arrests and thousands of alleged violations, but remains popular in a country where gangs once demanded protection payments with impunity.

According to opinion polls, about 9 in 10 Salvadorans support the government’s crime-fighting strategy.

The extension came the same day the government on Wednesday sent 2,000 more suspects to a massive new prison built specifically for gang members, and the justice minister vowed “they will never return to the streets”.

The government announced the mass transfer of detainees with a cleverly produced video posted to social media. It showed prisoners being forced to run barefoot and handcuffed down stairs and across bare floors wearing only regulation white shorts. They were then forced to sit in cells in tight groups with their legs locked.

In his Twitter account on Thursday, Bukele mocked social media comments about the prisoners being paraded shoeless and shirtless during the prison transfer.

“What does the saying that the damn dictatorship didn’t give the prisoners tuxedos mean? shoeless? Now we’re taking money from children’s hospitals to buy them shoes! Which brand do you think they would like?” Bukele wrote.

Gustavo Villatoro, the government’s Justice and Peace Minister, said on Wednesday the suspected gang members would never return to the streets, although about 57,000 of those arrested are still awaiting a formal charge or trial.

“They will never return to the communities, the neighborhoods, the barrios, the cities of our beloved El Salvador,” Villatoro said.

Only about 3,500 people caught in the raids have been released so far.

Human rights groups say there have been many cases of prisoner abuse and that innocent people have been arrested in police raids.

Local human rights group Cristosal documented 3,344 cases of human rights abuses during the first 11 months of the state of emergency. Most of the attacks involved arbitrary arrests; Relatives claim that young men are rounded up because of their looks or because they live in low-income areas.

There were also complaints about inadequate medical treatment in prisons.

Source : news.yahoo.com

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