El Salvador Congress Extends Year-Long Anti-Gang Crackdown

Gang members wait to be taken to their cells at the "mega-prison" in Tecoluca, El Salvador. Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia/Reuters
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SAN SALVADOR, March 16 (Reuters) – El Salvador’s Congress passed yet another extension suspending some constitutional rights in the Central American country’s year-long fight against gangs late Wednesday.

The emergency powers temporarily allow arrests without warrants, government access to private communications and detentions without the right to a lawyer.

It has been extended every month since last March, after a streak of murders blamed on gangs shook the country.

[1/3] Gang members wait to be taken to their cell after 2000 gang members were transferred to the Terrorism Confinement Center, according to El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, in Tecoluca, El Salvador, in this handout distributed to Reuters on March 15, 2023. Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia/Handout via REUTERS


The state of emergency, which has seen over 65,000 alleged gang members captured, is widely popular among Salvadorans but has been criticized by human rights groups alleging arbitrary arrests, torture and deaths of prisoners in custody.

“We ask that this regime be extended for more time,” police director Mauricio Arriaza told reporters. “We need to keep fighting criminal groups, we need to give assurance to Salvadoran families, for their lives and their property.”

Since the measure was enacted, extortion cases have dramatically dropped, and El Salvador has gone 215 days without a murder reported, according to the government.

El Salvador has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Last month, it opened a 40,000-person prison to relieve overpopulation as the crackdown is expected to continue.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Kylie Madry Editing by Dave Graham
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