Arrest tally in El Salvador gang crackdown reaches 50,000
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 17, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - El Salvador has arrested some 50,000
suspected gang members since President Nayib Bukele launched a "war" in March
on criminal groups terrorizing the country, the head of the country's police
force announced Tuesday.
"We can inform the Salvadoran people that we have already reached 50,000
recorded detentions during the period of the emergency regime," said Mauricio
Arriaza, director of the National Civil Police.
Arriaza, as well as Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro and Defense Minister
Rene Merino appeared Tuesday at parliament to request an extension of the
emergency powers, which have done away with the need for arrest warrants.
They were first enacted in March and have been prolonged by the legislature
on a month-by-month basis ever since.
The 84-seat unicameral assembly agreed Tuesday night to grant the
government's newest request to maintain the decree, with 66 members voting in
favor of an extension through mid-September.
The small Central American country has also increased sentences for gang
membership five-fold, to up to 45 years.
To house part of the detainees, Bukele ordered the construction of a gigantic
prison for 40,000 gang members in a rural area of the city of Tecoluca, in
the center of the country, which should be ready before the end of the year.
"The results of the emergency regime have been overwhelming, we have had a
strong impact on these terrorist structures," Villatoro said Tuesday in his
report on the gang crackdowns.
Almost 69 percent of the detainees are accused of belonging to the notorious
Mara Salvatrucha gang -- also known as MS-13 -- followed by the Surenos
faction of the Barrio 18 gang (17.7 percent) and the Revolucionarios faction
of the same group (12.7 percent).
Rights groups have denounced the arbitrary arrest of many people, including
minors, with no gang links.
In different operations, the police and the army have seized more than a
million dollars, in addition to 1,283 weapons.
More than 1,500 vehicles, as well as drugs and cell phones, have also been
The wave of detentions is unprecedented in the country of 6.5 million people,
who have suffered decades of violent crime driven by powerful gangs such as
MS-13 and Barrio 18.
These gangs count some 70,000 members, most of them now behind bars,
according to the authorities.