El Salvador declares State of Emergency after Record Wave of Gang Killings
28 March 2022
El Salvador declared a state of emergency on Sunday following a record wave of gang-related homicides over the weekend.
Authorities reported a total of 62 homicides on Saturday, marking the country’s most violent day since the Salvadoran Civil War came to an end in 1992.
The country’s parliament approved President Nayib Bukele’s request for 30 days of emergency powers after an extraordinary session early on Sunday.
“We approve the exceptional regime, which will allow our government to protect the lives of Salvadorans and confront criminality head-on,” announced Ernesto Castro, President of the Legislative Assembly.
The emergency measures will temporarily suspend several constitutional guarantees, including curtailing the freedom of assembly, the right to be informed for the reason of detention, and the guarantee of access to a lawyer upon arrest.
President Nayib Bukele praised the new measures and immediately ordered the head of the country’s prisons to carry out a 24/7 lockdown of gang inmates in their cells.
“It’s a message to the gangs: because of your actions, now your ‘homeboys’ won’t be able to see a ray of sunshine,” tweeted the president on Sunday.
Home to violent gangs such as MS-13 and 18th Street Gang, El Salvador remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries, despite having experienced a steady decline in homicides since President Bukele took office in 2019.
However, critics say that Bukele’s administration has been marked by democratic backsliding as a result of the Presidents’ efforts to consolidate his power over the legislative and judicial institutions.
In December, the US Treasury department sanctioned two officials from Mr. Bukele’s government, accusing them of secretly brokering a deal with imprisoned leaders from two of the country’s top criminal gangs last December —a claim which the President has repeatedly denied.
The alleged deal offered gang members several benefits such as money, and better prison conditions —including access to cell phones and sex workers— in exchage for a reduction in homicide rates and the support of his political party during legistative elections.
Writer: Luc Hillon
Photo Credits: ES James