This Friday, February 24, 2,000 gang members were transferred to a mega prison in El Salvador. The operation is part of the Nayib Bukele government’s offensive against the gangs, which he has called “terrorist groups.” The president of the approved a state of emergency, renewed since last March by the Legislature, which has granted him extraordinary powers that, according to various groups, have resulted in the violation of multiple human rights such as due process.
Dressed in white shorts and completely shaved. This is how the first 2,000 gang members were transferred to the recently inaugurated mega-prison in El Salvador.
A video posted on the Twitter account of the country’s president, Nayib Bukele, shows how the detainees were transferred in multiple vehicles and then the long lines of inmates entering the largest prison in America. One that is part of the controversial campaign of the Salvadoran government against crime.
Today at dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT).
This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, mixed up, unable to do any more harm to the population.
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) February 24, 2023
“This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, mixed, without being able to do more harm to the population,” Bukele said on said social network. “We continue,” he added.
It was a single operation, in which hundreds of police officers and security agents from the Directorate of Penal Centers participated, accompanied by soldiers.
The Confinement Center for Terrorism, the Salvadoran mega-prison
The Terrorism Containment Center (CECOT) was inaugurated at the beginning of February by Bukele. It is located 74 kilometers southeast of San Salvador, the capital of the country.
The gigantic prison was built in the rural area of the city of Tecoluca. For this, the State needed 166 hectares, in 23 of them are the eight pavilions. It has high-tech surveillance and is surrounded by a concrete wall 11 meters high and 2.1 kilometers long.
The CECOT has been a symbol for the Bukele Government. An imposing construction that betrays the objective of eliminating what has been classified as “terrorism” in the country.
“Cell by cell we are eliminating this cancer from society. Know that you will not walk out of CECOT again,” wrote Gustavo Villatoro, the Minister of Justice and Security, on his Twitter account.
Bukele’s offensive against gangs and DD violations. H H.
In March of last year, Bukele sued the country’s Congress, controlled by the ruling party, to approve a state of emergency that granted him extraordinary powers and suspended some constitutional rights. This was justified by the increase in murders attributed to violent gangs.
The measure, which had been ratified in Congress for a few months, has been extended on multiple occasions under the same justification of fighting crime.
However, as shown by the Washington Office on Latin American Affairs, “during these months, the executive branch has used the state security forces to implement a policy against violence through repression, persecution and stigmatization against the population; thereby aggravating the crisis of democratic governance and human rights that the country is going through”.
During these months, more than 64,000 suspects have been arrested. Some procedures, which due to this mechanism, can be carried out without a judicial origin. In fact, the government can even access private communications and detainees no longer have the right to a lawyer.
According to the Reuters news agency, many “human rights organizations argue that innocent people have been drawn into politics, including at least dozens who have died in police custody.”
Despite this, Bukele’s reprisals remain popular among Salvadorans. The popularity of the president at the end of December 2022 had an approval of more than 87%.
Justice Department Charges 13 Alleged MS-13 Gang Leaders
The gang known as MS-13 has been at the center of persecution by Bukele.
On Thursday, the US Department of Justice announced charges against more than a dozen alleged high-ranking leaders of that criminal group.
Among the charges against the defendants are racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to provide or conceal material support to terrorists, and narco-terrorism conspiracy.
Four of the suspected gang leaders were removed from Mexico and arrested by the FBI in Houston on Wednesday, according to a Justice Department statement. This group faces additional charges for which they could receive the death penalty if convicted.
“The defendants have actively engaged in public displays of violence to threaten and intimidate the civilian population, obtain and control territory, and manipulate the electoral process in El Salvador,” the Justice Department statement said.
With AP and Reuters