El Salvador: 66,417 prisoners, 5,802 victims of abuse in 1 year

The emergency regime declared in El Salvador in the face of gang violence completed one year in force on Monday with 66,417 detainees, 4,304 released and 5,802 alleged victims of human rights violations.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said on Twitter that “March 2023 is close to being the safest month” in the history of El Salvador, recalling the massacre of 62 homicides on March 26, 2022. “This was one of the most difficult of my life and of this government. Now, a year later, we closed with 0 homicides”, he indicated. As a result of that day, the exception was decreed, which has been repeatedly extended until it has been in force for one year.

Bukele shared a video on Monday that recalls the “bloodiest day in the country in its recent history”, with 87 deaths in three days, from March 25 to 27, 2022 and the approval of the state of emergency.

“If it was makeup of figures, the figures would be fine but reality would say something else,” he defended. “At last our people live in true peace,” the video resumed words expressed by the president over the past year.

For their part, on Monday, a network of Salvadoran organizations, including Cristosal and the Foundation for Studies for the Application of Law (Fespad), reported 111 deaths in custody in the first year, 4,723 cases of human rights violations in of which there are 5,802 presumed direct victims of arbitrary capture, torture, lack of due process, trespassing, threats, police harassment, ill-treatment or cruel or degrading treatment.

The organizations assured that El Salvador has become the country with the highest rate of inmates in the world, 2,303 per 100,000 adults, since there are 101,558 people deprived of liberty and prisons have a capacity of 69,363. The government reported on Friday the release of 4,304 people.

The Security Minister, Gustavo Villatoro, assured in a television interview that “35 percent of the members” of the gangs still need to be captured.

Villatoro denied that the government has colluded with the MS13, as a US indictment in a New York court claims. He argued that “it cannot be possible” that the gang leaders of 2018 have been connected “with the officials that President Nayib Bukele was going to put in some positions”, referring to the directors of penal centers and social fabric mentioned in said accusation. “False, that accusation is against the 15 chairs that arrived from the MS until 2018,” he said.

In the Salvadoran Congress, the state of exception was defended by the official party and criticized by the opposition. The head of the official Nuevas Ideas bench, Christian Guevara, described it as “extremely profitable for Salvadorans” due to the attraction of tourism and investment and the freedom of movement of students.

The deputy of the opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), Anabel Belloso, assured that there are “massive captures without investigation, guilty and innocent alike” and the deputy of the opposition Vamos, Claudia Ortiz, asked to punish the criminals and ” release now” the innocent.

Also, the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) criticized on Monday that more than 90% of detainees have been detained for a long time, without a judge hearing their cases, and that the government uses “what should be a measure of temporary emergency” as a long-term security strategy that allows the State to carry out “arbitrary mass detentions, torture and ill-treatment”.

Salvadoran Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez asserted that many visit “a virtual country” that “billion-dollar propaganda” has created and others “come to the real country” in which “there is not only a great airport, excellent highways, wonderful beaches,” he acknowledged. , “but also pain and suffering.” In his homily on Friday, he said that the emergency regime affects “above all young people who live in risk areas” who are arrested “without having a specific reason for detention.”

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Some Salvadorans consulted by the AP agency say that they have seen changes in the places where they live or work during the emergency regime, although they point out some unfair captures.

Claribel, a 49-year-old woman, believes that the measure “is very good” because “if it wasn’t like that” the country would not have come out of the crisis. “Maybe it’s not the right thing to do, but they did it anyway, you know what I mean? Against innocent people. There you have the change, although I know that what the president is doing is not so correct because in some cases there are people who have nothing to do with it, ”she said.

The woman, who works as a street sweeper in the capital city, San Salvador, reported that before she could not enter any neighborhood to sweep. “Now we sweep everywhere and there we go, when we went to other areas to sweep, like Tutunichapa, they took us out,” she said. However, she criticized that she did not capture important gang leaders and she believes that they have been allowed to flee.

Adonai, a 66-year-old man who worked as a bricklayer for one of El Salvador’s big construction companies, said he couldn’t sit quietly in the middle of the city without the exception regime. “Before I couldn’t come here, once they ran into that wall, ‘wow, old man, we’re from the MS’, like I was the authority, ‘show your backpack’ and searching me, ‘where do you live?, ‘there I live in the Saavedra condominium’, ‘go, well, go away, well’… Today I’m resting”, he recounted.

In his opinion, the situation “is better” although “several people don’t like it, since they have relatives, children… Since I don’t have children, they all died on me,” added Adonai, who is now retired. Now, he asserted, he can arrive at his apartment at any time since before the gang members closed the place at 9:00 at night.

A taxi driver, who disagreed with the emergency regime, did not want to express himself because he fears something will happen to him if he does.

Nearby, Jorge Ezequiel Bran, a 25-year-old young man, believes that the emergency regime is “okay”. “Since I am a calm person…”, he expressed, while preparing a hot dog to sell for dollars. He added: “It is not a secret that there have been unjust arrests. There are always mistakes, nothing is perfect, but it’s fine for me.”

The population rates the exception regime with an 8.2 agreement out of 10 to the survey of the Dr. Guillermo Manuel Ungo Foundation (Fundaungo) carried out from March 1 to 6, 2023 and published on Monday. The study found that 86 percent of Salvadorans agree with the exception regime but only 27% endorse the capture of people without an arrest warrant and 11% support that family members not be informed of the whereabouts of a person. arrested.

During the emergency regime, the government has reported 227 homicides, a daily average of 0.6 and a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, official data that exclude murdered gang members. Taking all homicides into account, official data indicates that violence has fallen from 1,211 homicides in 2021 to 615 in 2022 and to 42 crimes in the first 85 days of 2023.

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