Obituary: El salvador Gangs dead, State of emergency after 62 gang killings in a day

The gang pact between El Salvador’s Bukele government and MS-13/B18 to lower homicide numbers in exchange for privileges and protections gives gangs enormous leverage to extract further concessions by dropping bodies. Reposting my piece in @GlobalAmericans

El Salvador’s parliament approved a state of emergency after the Central American country recorded dozens of gang killings in a single day.

Obituary: El salvador Gangs dead, State of emergency after 62 gang killings in a day image 395

Police said there were 62 murders on Saturday, the most violent 24-hour period since the civil war ended in 1992. The new law restricts the right to assemble, allowing arrests and surveillance of communications without a warrant.

The gang-riddled country recorded 1,140 homicides last year, a 30-year low.

But that still equates to 18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. In November, another wave of violence killed more than 40 people in three days.

Four leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang have been arrested over a spate of killings, hours before MPs vote on the new powers, which will run for 30 days.

President Nayib Bukele, who was elected in 2019 on a promise to fight organized crime and improve security, said: “We had a fresh spike in homicides, something we had worked so hard to reduce.

“When we’re fighting criminals on the streets, we have to try to figure out what’s going on and who’s funding it.”

He added in a statement tweeted by Congress President Ernesto Castro that the country “must allow agents and soldiers to do their jobs and protect them from those who protect gangs. member’s allegations”.

However, Juan Papier of the international campaign group Human Rights Watch tweeted that the measures were “very concerning, especially in a country that lacks independent democratic institutions”.

Authorities say the MS-13 and Barrio-18 gangs, including about 70,000 members, are responsible for murder, racketeering and drug trafficking.

Police said the latest bloodshed killed 12 people in central La Libertad province, nine each in the capital San Salvador and the western province of Avachapan, with other killings spreading across the country.

In April 2020, as the coronavirus swept the country, President Bukele imposed a 24/7 lockdown on imprisoned gang members after more than 50 people were killed in three days.

He argued that many of the killings were ordered in prisons and said inmates belonging to rival gangs were forced to share cells to cut communication lines.

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