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El Salvador goes into state of emergency after record gang killings – lessons for Belize?

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Posted: Monday, March 28, 2022. 11:34 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: After a single-day record for murder – 62 killed in the most violent day since the end of the civil war – El Salvador’s parliament has approved a 30-day state of emergency, according to the BBC.

New laws restrict the right to gather, allow arrests without a warrant, and the monitoring of communications.

Belize has on several occasions declared a state of public emergency on Southside Belize City, involving the detention of dozens of suspected gang members in an effort to quell the violence, with mixed results.

The cause of El Salvador’s issues is the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang which had four leaders arrested. Along with the Barrio 18 gang, they are accused of homicides, extortion, and drug trafficking. There has been evidence of MS-13 activity in Belize in the last few years as victims and perpetrators flee north.

Police said the latest bloodshed had left 12 people dead in the central department of La Libertad, as well as nine each in the capital, San Salvador, and the western department of Ahuachapán, with the other killings spread around the country.

President Nayib Bukele, elected in 2019 on promises to fight organized crime and improve security, said: “We have had a new spike in homicides, something that we had worked so hard to reduce.

“While we fight criminals in the streets, we must try to figure out what is happening and who is financing this.”

President Bukele has previously imposed a total lockdown for imprisoned gang members in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in April of 2020, trying to prevent murders from being ordered from behind bars.

Last year, the gang-plagued nation recorded 1,140 murders – a 30-year low. However, that still equates to 18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In November, another spate of violence led to more than 40 people being killed within three days.

However, Juan Pappier, from the international campaign group Human Rights Watch, tweeted the measures were “very worrying, especially in a country where there are no independent democratic institutions”.

 

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