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International News: El Salvador deploys 3,000 troops and police officers in gang crackdown

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2024. 5:10 pm CST.

By Horace Palacio: President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador announced on Saturday that his government has deployed 2,000 soldiers and 1,000 police officers, armed with rifles, in five neighborhoods of the city of Apopa, north of the capital, in a concerted effort to root out remaining gang elements. The move comes after multiple complaints from residents about gang activity.

“After several citizen complaints, we have just installed a security perimeter in the Tikal 1, 2, and 3, Valle del Sol, and La Chintuc neighborhoods in Apopa,” President Bukele stated on his social media account on X. Accompanying his announcement, Bukele shared video footage of uniformed personnel patrolling the streets, armed with rifles and wearing bulletproof vests.

The operation saw soldiers and police officers entering the targeted neighborhoods on foot and in police cars, establishing vehicle checkpoints at street and alley entrances. Apopa, a city with a population of 131,000, located 13 kilometers north of San Salvador, has long been known for its strong presence of violent gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.

The police confirmed via X that the operation has already resulted in the arrest of four members of the Barrio 18 gang. For more than two years, El Salvador has been under a state of emergency declared by President Bukele, as part of a “war” against gangs that began on March 27, 2022, following a weekend spike of 87 homicides. This emergency state allows arrests without a court order.

Since the onset of this aggressive campaign against gangs, authorities claim that over 80,000 alleged gang members have been arrested. However, human rights organizations argue that many innocent people are among those detained and warn that the ongoing human rights “crisis” could become entrenched in the country.

Despite the controversy, the crackdown on gangs has significantly reduced violence, restoring a sense of peace to the streets, which has, in turn, boosted President Bukele’s popularity. His approval ratings soared, leading to his re-election for a second five-year term in February.

As the operation in Apopa continues, the government remains resolute in its commitment to eradicating gang violence and ensuring the safety of its citizens.

 

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