The Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, where the ruling party has a majority, on Wednesday extended for 30 days the state of emergency instituted at the request of President Nayib Bukele, whose “war” against violent gangs has already led to more of 61,000 arrests.
The measure extends “the exceptional regime […] to pursue the restoration of order, ensure the safety of citizens and control of the territory”, states the text which was approved with 67 votes for the unicameral congress of 84 seats.
This is the tenth extension of the state of emergency. This will come into force from January 17 to February 15 to attack the gangs which, according to the president of El Salvador, control 80% of the territory.
The state of emergency, which has drawn criticism from human rights organisations, allows arrests without warrants. It was established at the end of March after a wave of 87 assassinations attributed to the “maras”, the criminal gangs which sow terror in El Salvador and in neighboring countries.
“You (the deputies of the presidential majority) have the power to fight against crime without putting innocent people (in prison)”, was indignant Marleny Funes, deputy of the former left-wing guerrilla Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. (FMLN).
“What we are saving are the lives of Salvadorans,” said Assembly Vice-President Suecy Callejas in plenary.
This decree was justified by the fact that the criminal organizations, which maintain their threat, have “varied their methods of criminal action” aimed at “preventing their location and arrest”.
According to the latest official statistics, 61,000 suspected gang members have been arrested, including 900 leaders, most of them from Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.
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