Gangs grew in the country fueled by decades of neglect by the state, by the complicity of former rulers with crime, and because various sectors benefited, economically or politically, from the resulting insecurity.
Preventing young people from joining criminal groups is a titanic task that has been carried out since the first day of President Nayib Bukele’s government. The CUBO (urban centers of welfare and opportunities) that this administration has built throughout the country are an effort to eradicate the stigma of communities by bringing modern infrastructure, backed with first class services, starting with the internet and also with educational, cultural and technical training projects, all so that young people have several options for personal growth, but also to outline future areas of work performance.
Never in national history has a government done so much for young people and children to insert them in the new technologies. Students and teachers of national institutes and public schools have computers, internet access and software to improve learning.
In this way, Salvadoran youth are not condemned, as they were during the ARENA and FMLN governments, to remain in poverty with no other opportunities than informality and crime.
However, despite the new conditions and opportunities, the gangs kept a group of the population very close and blind to their fanaticism, willing to die while the leaders of the criminal organizations live the good life with great luxuries, mansions, cars and ample comforts.
For this reason it becomes necessary that the laws contain harsher punishments so that gang members know that by choosing this life they have only two paths: many years in jail or die when confronted by the security forces.
There are enough government efforts that promote academic and artistic advancement to discourage young people from seeking out gangs, and steer them away from conflict with the law.
El Salvador must set the record straight by correcting bad practices, preventing crime and enforcing the law with the full force of the state. Honest and upstanding citizens agree with the captures of gang members and the increased penalties for these criminals. They know it is the right course.
After months of relative calm and with reduced levels of violence in the streets, murders again reached levels not seen in almost 30 years in the Central American country.
As a result, the legislative assembly – with a pro-government majority – approved on Wednesday a controversial request from the Executive to combat the so-called maras, aimed at reforming the criminal justice code to toughen sentences against gang members.
This decision was mde after the government of Nayib Bukele asked the Assembly on Sunday to declare a state of emergency in the country, after more than 80 murders were reported over the weekend.
The regulations, which will be implemented in principle for one month -although it can be extended-, include the suspension of freedom of association, the right to defense and the inviolability of correspondence.
Now, with the reform approved on Wednesday, members of the maras or gangs may be punished with sentences of 20 to 40 years in prison, while the leaders of these groups may receive between 40 and 45 years in prison.
In one of its most controversial sections, the criminal justice code also includes considering gang members over the age of 12 as adults – and judging them as such.
This is the first time that the government proposes a specific penalty for those it considers gang members.
Previously, gang members in El Salvador were considered “terrorists” and were prosecuted under that category, although according to local press, it was difficult to prove their participation in these groups and sentences ranged from six to nine years in prison.
The increase in gang violence in El Salvador comes after the murders in the streets of the Central American country were reduced to historic levels for most of 2020.
Several media outlets, such as the digital newspaper El Faro, attributed this reduction to a truce between Bukele’s government and the gangs, something the authorities denied.
However, the US sanctioned two members of the Salvadoran Executive at the end of last year for “secretly negotiating” with organized crime.
BBC Mundo explains the situation in El Salvador in five key points.
Last weekend, El Salvador experienced some of its most violent days since the end of the civil war 30 years ago.
On Friday, at least 14 homicides were reported and on Saturday, another 62 were added in what was the day with the most murders so far this century.
In total, 87 people were killed over the weekend, according to police reports.
Authorities attributed the killings to criminal gangs and launched a large-scale operation to arrest suspected gang members.
The closest figure to Saturday’s 62 killings was 51 homicides in a single day recorded in August 2015, when the country experienced its deadliest year since the end of the civil war (1980-1992).
In 2021 the number of murders stood at 1,140, lower than the previous year (1,341), and the lowest since the end of the armed conflict
Bukele came to power in 2019 with the promise to fight organized crime and reduce the homicide rate.
Following the weekend’s record number of murders, the government reinforced security on the streets and asked Congress to approve a state of emergency.
Article 29 of the country’s Constitution establishes that such a state of emergency may be declared in “cases of war, invasion of territory, rebellion, sedition, catastrophe, epidemic and other general calamities, or serious disturbances of public order”.
The measure, approved by the ruling majority in the Legislature, limits freedom of association, suspends the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest, extends from 72 hours to 15 days the period of administrative detention and allows the authorities to tap the cell phones of those they consider suspicious.
Images broadcast by local television stations show security forces carrying out patrols and special operations in populated communities in the country.
According to reports, soldiers with M-16 rifles have set up barricades with spikes in some streets and control the entry and exit of people, who are subjected to a thorough search.
Several photographs of children and women being searched by the police have gone viral on social networks in El Salvador.
RENA ASKED TO STUDY “CALMLY” ANTI-GANG MEASURES, DESPITE INCREASE IN MURDERS
Deputies of Nuevas Ideas question the proposal of ARENA deputy Rodrigo Avila to send to commission the proposals that seek to strengthen the fight against gangs.
by Mariela Quintanilla April 6, 2022
Authorities capture 40 gang members in Santa Ana and Sonsonate.
The deputy of Nuevas Ideas, Caleb Navarro, affirms that the security of Salvadorans is not an issue “that can be taken calmly”, before the proposal made yesterday during the plenary session by the ARENA deputy, Rodrigo Ávila, to pass first to the commission the initiatives sent by the president to reinforce the fight against criminal structures.
“In all the security proposals, Rodrigo Avila has said that they should be returned to the commission and that we should discuss them there, that we should brainstorm there, that we should give them a little more thought,” said Navarro.
In view of this, the legislator indicated that “there is no time” to discuss initiatives that are urgent and are already sufficiently clear and that are totally in favor of the security of the citizens.
“I would like to ask Rodrigo Avila if he is really seeing the crime problems, maybe he lives in a neighborhood where there are no gang members because he has all the time in the world to analyze what is already more than clear”, reiterated Navarro.
ARMED FORCES PREPARES 1,400 SOLDIERS TO JOIN PLAN TERRITORIAL CONTROL
Last Monday, President Nayib Bukele and the Minister of Defense, René Francis Merino Monroy swore in 1,450 soldiers who are already performing tasks in the Plan.
by David Carpio April 6, 2022
Defense Minister Rene Francis Merino Monroy informed, this morning during a television interview, that they are already preparing more than 1,000 new soldiers who will be integrated to the tasks of the Territorial Control Plan in three months.
“Since April 1, 1,400 new soldiers began their training and will be incorporated to the activities of the Territorial Control Plan in three months”, assured the minister.
He added that apart from the human resources, the Armed Forces are also equipping themselves technologically to combat gangs, for this reason, the 10 recently acquired YAGU all-terrain vehicles were already tested last Sunday in the capture of several gang members in the Conacaste canton of Ciudad Arce, in La Libertad.
“Since Phase 3 of the Territorial Control Plan we have begun to generate changes, providing new equipment and protective vests for our elements and now fully armored vehicles for patrols and arrests,” said Merino Monroy.
The minister also made an account of all that has been achieved during the 10 days of implementation of the exception regime.
“Up to this moment we have already captured more than 7,000 gang members, 450 interventions and 50 permanent roadblocks in different parts of the country, during the implementation of the exception regime”, said the official.
Regarding the approval of the Special Law for the Use of Goods, Money, Values and Assets Seized from Organized Crime, Terrorism and Drug Trafficking Structures, Merino Monroy indicated that it is a fundamental tool to combat gangs.
“The resources we confiscate from drug trafficking are the ones we use to fight them,” the minister explained.
Regarding the new sanctions against gang-related graffiti, the official mentioned that it is important to eliminate this form of intimidation by members of criminal structures against the population.
“Salvadorans want to live in peace and tranquility, for this reason, we are working hard every day,” said Merino Monroy.
EL SALVADOR REGISTERS ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT HOMICIDES
On April 5 there were no deaths due to violence in the whole country, according to the PNC.
by Jonathan Laguán April 6, 2022
President Nayib Bukele leads the swearing in ceremony of 205 new PNC agents, graduates of the ANSP.
El Salvador has registered a new day without homicides throughout the territory, after Tuesday, April 5, ended without deaths due to violence, according to official figures released by the National Civil Police (PNC)
This new day without homicides in El Salvador is part of the exception regime approved by the Legislative Assembly on March 27, in response to a rise in crime reported on the 26th of that month.
The President of the Republic, Nayib Bukele, highlighted this new day without homicides throughout the Salvadoran territory and reiterated the commitment of the current government to fight crime and gangs.
Tuesday April 5 also ended with a total of 566 gang members arrested, which brings the number of gang members captured throughout El Salvador to a total of 6,894 in the last 11 days.
MORE THAN 6,800 GANG MEMBERS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED IN THE LAST 11 DAYS.
The PNC highlighted that this past Tuesday, April 5 alone, 566 gang members were captured.
by Jonathan Laguán
A total of 6,894 gang members have been captured by the authorities in the last 11 days, according to official figures from the National Civil Police (PNC) published in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The police highlighted that last Tuesday, April 5 alone, 566 gang members were captured throughout the country. In addition, the institution remarked that, of these last 11 days, 10 have been under the exception regime approved by the Legislative Assembly.
The President of the Republic, Nayib Bukele, also highlighted the arrests made by the police, with the support of the Armed Forces of El Salvador (FAES) and reiterated the commitment to fight crime in the country.
During the early hours of the morning, the president held a meeting with the Minister of Defense, René Francis Merino Monroy; the Attorney General, Rodolfo Delgado; the Minister of Security, Gustavo Villatoro; and the Director of the PNC, Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, to evaluate the actions that have been carried out in recent days.
Since last Sunday, March 27, the Legislative Assembly approved an exception regime due to the increase in homicides registered on the 26th of that month. Since then, authorities have deployed throughout the territory to capture gang members and criminals.
PRESIDENT BUKELE ANNOUNCES TWO MORE INITIATIVES TO COMBAT GANGS
President Bukele to gang members: “The best thing is to surrender”.
The President of the Republic, Nayib Bukele, announced that he has sent a bill to the Legislative Assembly to prohibit graffiti alluding to gangs.
“At this moment it is being discussed by the deputies. We will see, again, who are in favor of the people and who are with the gangs”, he added.
He also reported that he sent another bill to allow the state to use all the weapons, money and goods seized from the gangs.
In this way, the security authorities will use their own resources to fight them.
“We will see, once again, that the deputies are with the people”, he said.