Murder wave in El Salvador – politics

El Salvador had hoped the worst of gang violence was over. But now there were as many murders in a few days as there would otherwise be in a whole month – and the government, so the concern, could use the chaos for itself.

After one of the deadliest weekends in the country’s recent history, there are growing concerns in El Salvador that the authoritarian president could use violence as an excuse to expand his power.

More than 60 people were murdered last Saturday alone. Street vendors and passers-by were among the victims. The government blamed gangs for the violence and declared a state of emergency. It will initially apply for 30 days and removes some rights guaranteed in the constitution. For example, suspects can now be detained for up to 15 days without giving a reason. The police and security authorities are given extensive powers to tap telephone conversations and search through message histories.

Immediately after the state of emergency was declared, police and army units cordoned off entire neighborhoods. Cars and homes were searched. There have been more than 2000 arrests in the last few days, President Nayib Bukele wrote on Twitter on Tuesday, adding: “No one will be released again.”

The terror and the deaths are a serious problem for Bukele: El Salvador’s president has always claimed to have brought the omnipresent violence back under control. After a bloody civil war in the 1980s, gangs modeled on American street gangs formed in El Salvador. Soon these so-called maras complete quarters. Today they are closely networked with politicians and the police and earn their money with drug smuggling, extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking.

There were days when no one died a violent death in El Salvador

Again and again there were bitter power and territorial struggles between hostile gangs and the state. Measured against the number of inhabitants, the murder rate in El Salvador in 2015 was more than 100 times higher than in Germany. Since then, however, the violence has steadily decreased.

President Nayib Bukele, who took office in 2019, attributes this primarily to his “territorial control plan”: more police officers, a larger military presence and an allegedly heavy hand against gang members. However, there is much to suggest that the government actually has secret agreements with the maras has closed: Money for gang members and parole for jail bosses in exchange for some peace. In any case, the murder rate had recently fallen. There were days when no one died a violent death in El Salvador.

President Nayib Bukele brought enormous popularity: In the end, 85 percent of the population supported him and his politics. However, the opposition and non-governmental organizations are tamed and critical journalists are bugged. At the same time, Bukele continues to expand his power: last year his Nuevas Ideas party won an absolute majority in Congress. Since then, laws have been waved through in summary proceedings and tiresome judges have been dismissed. Contrary to the constitution, Bukele has already obtained permission from the newly appointed Supreme Court to run for another term in 2024.

Human Rights Watch laments that there are no longer independent institutions in El Salvador capable of overseeing the executive branch. The human rights organization fears that the situation could now worsen. The state of emergency that has now been declared does not protect the people of El Salvador, explained America spokeswoman for HRW, Tamara Taraciuk Broner: “Instead, it jeopardizes their rights and is a guide to disaster.”

El Salvador: During a search of their cells, inmates of a prison in El Salvador were rounded up in the courtyard.

During a search of their cells, inmates at a prison in El Salvador were rounded up in the courtyard.

(Photo: Secretari de Prensa de la Presi/via Reuters)

Meanwhile, President Bukele rejects all criticism. On the internet, he distributes martial videos from prisons, in which inmates are herded together like cattle. And turned to the gangs Bukele wrote on Twitterthe government has thousands of gang members in its hands: “Stop killing or they will pay for it.”

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