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Gangs will pay dearly for the murder of three police officers

Gangs will pay dearly for the murder of three police officers

El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, warned Tuesday that the state will unleash its full power against the gangs that ambushed and killed three policemen while they were patrolling a populous community in the west of the country.

“I want to inform you that an attack against the police forces took place today. This is unprecedented, having an attack against police officers is something very hard and shows us that the gangs are still there with force to attack”, said the president at a press conference at the Presidential House.

Visibly upset, he confirmed that three agents of the National Civil Police — two men and one woman — died in an ambush perpetrated by alleged gang members in the community of La Realidad, in the municipality of Santa Ana, 56 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of the city. capital, San Salvador.

The Workers’ Movement of the National Civil Police identified the deceased as inspector Carlos Mauricio Velásquez Rodríguez, and agents Franklin Antonio Lemus Mágico and Martha Lisseth Alas González.

“They are going to pay dearly for the murder of these three heroes who gave their lives to protect the population,” Bukele said, adding that the “gang members are fools” if they thought that murdering policemen would force the government to back down in its fight against these criminal groups.

“We are not going to back down. And if they thought that the force of the State had been unleashed on the criminals, well now they will see the true force of the State”, he warned.

On March 26, when 26 homicides were recorded at a level of crime not seen in El Salvador in years, Bukele asked Congress to approve a state of emergency, which limits freedom of association and suspends the right to be duly informed of the rights and reasons for the arrest, as well as the assistance of a lawyer.

Before dawn on March 27, hours after Congress approved the state of emergency, heavily armed police and military units stormed neighborhoods and populous communities, strongholds of the gangs. They went door to door arresting young numbers, as well as imposing restrictions on movement.

In three months, more than 43,000 suspected gang members have been arrested, a considerable number in a country of 6.5 million inhabitants. According to official information, the judges decreed provisional detention for more than 36,000 people accused of crimes such as homicide, extortion, possession of weapons, illegal grouping or collaborating with gangs.

Human rights organizations have denounced repeated irregularities, including arbitrary arrests and violations of due process.

The human rights NGO Cristosal denounced that it has documented the death of some 50 people in prisons. There is no official information about it.

In addition, they have asked Bukele to end the state of emergency and to reverse the reforms of the Penal Code approved by Congress, alleging that they violate the rights of the population.

“If we suspend these measures against the gangs, that cancer will continue to grow stronger,” said Bukele, who took the opportunity to attack these organizations, stating that they are not going to speak out for the murder of the three policemen.

“Human rights organizations and NGOs are not going to say anything, because they don’t care. When a gang member is taken to jail they begin to say ‘poor thing, he’s not going to eat well in jail’. But they are alive and facing legal proceedings,” he added. “If gang members and their national and international allies think this is going to push us backwards, they are wrong.”

He warned that the government will continue to fight until the gangs are eliminated, although he acknowledged that it will not be easy.

The gangs, or maras, with an estimated 70,000 members, are present in populous neighborhoods and communities and are involved in drug trafficking and organized crime. They also extort merchants and transportation companies, and kill those who refuse to pay, according to authorities.

In 2015, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice declared the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs to be terrorist groups.

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Written by Editor TLN

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