Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2022. 2:39 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: A report by the NGO International Crisis Group warns of potential backlash to the ongoing war between the government of El Salvador headed by Nayib Bukele and the country’s criminal gangs, according to Reuters.
Since March, a state of exception suspending some constitutional rights has been in place to challenge the hegemony of the criminal gangs Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 among others. While many support it, others warn that prisons can become overcrowded and criminals strike back, per the ICG report.
Some 53 thousand alleged gang members and collaborators have been captured, leading to overcrowding conditions, rights violations – such as reports of torture – and the deaths of some 80 people in custody. For the ICG, this heavy-handed policy could generate a “boomerang effect.” The group said precarious conditions and unjustified arrests could fuel tensions, giving rise to prisoner riots, escapes and regrouping of gang members outside.
Since Bukele took office as president in June 2019, the number of homicides in the country has more than halved. Last year Reuters and other media reported the reduction had been achieved at least in part via secret meetings with imprisoned gang leaders.
Many Salvadoran criminal gangs originated in the United States after a wave of immigration to North America during the Salvadoran civil war from 1979 to 1992. Mass deportation then moved criminals back to El Salvador and other countries in the region, where gangs control extortion and drug sales. In El Salvador, authorities estimate more than 70,000 people make up the Mara Salvatrucha, its rival, Barrio 18, and other smaller criminal groups.
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