On the verge of completing a year of validity, the Salvadoran Congress approved this March 15 a new extension of the emergency regime, while the president Nayib Bukele announced the transfer of another 2,000 gang members to “the most criticized prison in the world.”
In El Salvador, the new extension of the emergency regime was approved with the votes of 67 of the 84 deputies of the unicameral Congress. Eight opposition deputies abstained, seven voted against, and two did not attend the session. According to the Constitution, the emergency regime must be approved for 30 days and can be extended, as has happened in the last 12 months, as long as the causes that originated it exist.
One year of exception regime
Next March 27 will be one year since the Central American country entered a state of emergency. This supposes the suspension of freedom of association, of the right of a person to be duly informed of their rights and of the reasons for their detention, and of the right to have the assistance of a lawyer. The state of emergency also extended the period of preventive detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allowed the authorities to seize the correspondence and cell phones of those they consider suspicious.
The authorities hold the gangs responsible for most of the crimes registered in recent years and attribute an improvement in the figures on levels of violence to their security policy. According to official figures, 2022 closed with a record of 495 homicides, the lowest figure in recent decades, but which does not include at least 120 deaths of gang members in alleged clashes with the authorities.
Transfers to the Terrorism Containment Center
A group of 2,000 alleged imprisoned gang members was transferred this Wednesday under tight security measures to the “largest prison in the Americas,” reported Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. “In a new operation, we transferred the second group of 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT). With this, there are already 4,000 gang members who inhabit the most criticized prison in the world,” Bukele wrote on Twitter.
This day, in a new operation, we transferred the second group of 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT).
With this, there are already 4,000 gang members who inhabit the most criticized prison in the world. pic.twitter.com/A2oTUIYubW
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) March 15, 2023
The mega-prison, with a capacity for 40,000 prisoners, has a severe confinement regime that has been denounced by human rights organizations. Among the prisoners transferred to CECOT are a “historical gangster (founding leader), 57 national gangsters, 33 commanders of different categories, 43 “gatilleros” and 1,866 “homeboys.”
The first 2,000 gang members had been taken to the CECOT on February 24. Equipped with high technology for surveillance, the gigantic prison was inaugurated at the beginning of February by Bukele himself, to detain part of the 65,000 alleged gang members detained under the emergency regime.
Despite international criticism, Bukele, after three years and nine months in government, maintains high popularity as confirmed by the most recent survey by LPG Data – La Prensa Gráfica. According to the survey, 91% of Salvadorans approve of his work, while 92.5% approve of his security policy, and only 2.3% affirm that it is bad or very bad.