El Salvador Forces Encircle Neighborhoods in Gang Crackdown

Date:


El Salvador’s security forces intensified their operations against the country’s street gangs Tuesday with mass arrests, the cordoning off of neighborhoods and house-by-house searches under a state of emergency sought by President Nayib Bukele.

The country’s relatively low homicide rate during Bukele’s administration had been one of his most touted accomplishments. Even while some raised doubts about how it was obtained, the country had been living in peace compared with earlier periods of bloodshed.

That changed last weekend when 89 people were killed in a four-day span, compared with 79 in all of February. The Congress passed Bukele’s state of emergency early Sunday, giving authorities broad latitude in making arrests and extending jail time while investigations are carried out.

Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado told state television that in the past two days, nearly 1,500 alleged gang members were captured “without firing a single shot.”

A soldier checks a man's backpack at the exit of the Las Palmas Community, a neighborhood that is supposed to be under the control of the Barrio 18 Gang in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 27, 2022.

A soldier checks a man’s backpack at the exit of the Las Palmas Community, a neighborhood that is supposed to be under the control of the Barrio 18 Gang in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 27, 2022.

Only two homicides were confirmed Monday, compared with 62 on Saturday.

“I’ve been a victim of the gangs, I’ve paid them (extortion),” said Esteban Maravilla, who works in transportation. “They should lock them all up.”

Bukele enjoys extremely high popularity in El Salvador, but some have criticized him for heavy-handed tactics.

Opposition politicians and nongovernmental organizations say security forces are going beyond even their newly enhanced powers.

Eduardo Escobar, director of the nongovernmental Citizen Action organization, noted that the state of emergency had not included restrictions on mobility, yet security forces had encircled some neighborhoods, controlling who entered and who left.

At an entrance to the San José El Pino neighborhood Tuesday, soldiers wearing masks and carrying rifles stopped everyone entering and leaving, searching cars and backpacks and requiring identification documents. They denied access to an Associated Press reporter.

“Free transit was not limited (in the state of emergency), and there are already citizens denouncing the encircling of neighborhoods,” said national lawmaker Claudia Ortiz of the conservative Vamos party.

An informal food vendor, left, waits at her stall next to a Municipal Police officer at a crime scene in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 27, 2022.

An informal food vendor, left, waits at her stall next to a Municipal Police officer at a crime scene in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 27, 2022.

William Soriano, a lawmaker from Bukele’s New Ideas party, suggested the spike in homicides could have been a message from the gangs after the government had taken control of two bus routes in the capital earlier this month. The gangs extort transportation companies and drivers, and the government takeover of nearly 300 vehicles slashed a revenue stream.

“Coincidentally, after they intervene in certain public transportation routes which function as a way to launder money for the gangs, as a source of income for the gangs … this spike occurs,” Soriano said. “It means they’re directly touching the gangs’ pockets.”

The state of emergency could last 30 days and might be extended.

Bukele has railed against politicians from previous administrations who allegedly entered into pacts with the street gangs to lower killings in exchange for benefits for their imprisoned leaders. The president has vehemently denied that his administration had entered into a similar deal.

He has been accused of infringing on fundamental rights before. Early in the pandemic, Bukele’s administration was criticized for holding people in detention centers to limit the spread of COVID-19. Those imprisoned were caught breaking curfew or returning to the country from abroad.



Source link

Previous articleVOA Newscasts
Next articleVOA Newscasts

Share post:

Subscribe

spot_imgspot_img

Popular

More like this
Related