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The cost of having a family member detained in the exceptional regime of El Salvador

The packages are made up of essential items such as food, towels, bath soap, etc. [Foto Karla Patricia Arévalo/VOA].

At mid-morning on June 21, in the “La Esperanza” prison, known as Mariona, Carlos Menjívar was seeking information about his son Alfredo, a bachelor’s degree in programming and software studies in El Salvador.

The 20-year-old was arrested on June 7 in the rural area of ​​San Martín, 20 kilometers from the Salvadoran capital, during the second extension of the exceptional regime established since March 27.

Sitting on the sidewalk where the buses that circulate next to the prison stop, Carlos waits for a bus to take him to the office of the public defender who is handling his son’s case. At home, Carlos’ youngest son takes care of his mother, who has constant nervous breakdowns after Alfredo’s capture.

“Our economy has already been cut short (…) How can I work? I’ve been borrowing money,” Carlos told the voice of america.

Dismayed, this construction worker recalls that the agents who came to his house, while he was cutting iron with his son, recognized that they had no reason to arrest him. They checked the young man’s cell phone and said, “He’s clean.” However, they insisted on taking him away because, according to them, they had to investigate him.

Carlos managed to find out where Alfredo was being held after four days of searching. First, the young man was taken to the San Martín police station, then transferred to the Ilopango station and finally to the Mariona prison.

Helping an inmate can cost up to $150

The vendors outside the prison offer products to put together hygiene and food packages for the detainees, since the Salvadoran government has rationed food twice and has also said that “the menu will be reviewed to make it cheaper.”

Given this, the relatives of the detainees have no other option than to put together food packages that, at least, include oatmeal, cereal and powdered milk. In addition to items for personal hygiene.

These packages are not previously assembled but are filled depending on the budget of the detainee’s family.

There are families that barely have 30 dollars to put together a package. Others manage to pay up to $80 and even $150, hoping it will last three months.

The packages are made up of essential items such as food, towels, bath soap, etc. [Foto Karla Patricia Arévalo/VOA].

Carlos bought a package for 75 dollars. “Food spending is low. What costs the most money is clothing and personal hygiene items, ”he told the VOA.
But, without a steady job from which to earn income, these expenses are unsustainable.
The minimum wage in El Salvador is around 365 dollars a month, that is, about 12 dollars a day. But Carlos does not have a permanent job, since his job as a bricklayer depends on there being construction projects.

“At this time, in two or three days the bills for water and light (electricity) arrive,” he explained. “This is unsustainable for us,” he lamented after recalling that he pays $2.40 a month for the drinking water service and between $18 and $20 for electricity.

Since June 7, Carlos has not worked on any construction site, since all the time he has spent visiting police stations and prisons. First, to find out where his son was and then to find out when he will be brought to court.

Abraham Ábrego, director of Strategic Litigation at Cristosal, explained to the voice of america that the organization has found that the exception regime has caused impacts on the families of detainees such as “loss of resources for subsistence”, “deterioration in living conditions”, “decrease in income and investment of time” and ” impact on physical and emotional health.

“The impact of the exception regime… is more palpable on women, mothers, wives, grandmothers, girlfriends, who are the ones who are carrying the most problems,” says Ábrego. This is because the detainee was the “head of household” and contributed most of the economic income. “As a result of the arrest, the detainees have even lost their jobs,” he noted.

Women spend their time with their children and attending to health, food and education problems of minors, without having enough money to cover the needs of their sons and daughters, Ábrego pointed out.

The time that people spend investigating the whereabouts of their detained family members and mobilizing to obtain the documents required to verify family roots takes time away from work, which reduces the income of the families of detainees.

Outside of Mariona, the voice of america He spoke with women who came to leave packages for their detained relatives, from municipalities not as far away as Soyapango, in San Salvador, and from Ahuachapán, a department bordering Guatemala.

Most of them live from street vending and lose income by traveling from prison to prison to ask if their detained relatives are there.

In addition to the economic impact on the families of the detainees, Ábrego explained, they also have to bear physical and emotional damage. Well, there are “traumas caused by the way the capture was carried out (…), but also by the desperation to see his relative detained and by the situations that are happening in the prisons, with the fear that (his relative) going to die”.

On Thursday, June 23, in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Cristosal’s representative, Zayra Navas, said that in their records they have information on 52 people who died in Salvadoran prisons after being confined during the regime of exception.

hope is little

Carlos assured that his son’s public defender, assigned by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), told him that presenting documents of arraigo and discharge “is of no use, if when they are presented to the judge, he does not even see them.”

The arraigo documents are titles, letters, certificates and records with which the lawyers try to prove to the judges that the captured person had a job or occupation and that they did not belong to gangs.

“The day they captured my son, they captured some bolitos (customary alcoholics), that one knows them and they do nothing. (…) Well arbitrary how they do this”. That is the claim of Carlos, who acknowledges that in the canton where he lives, before the arrest of his son, several gang members had been arrested.
On June 14, the human rights defense organization Cristosal presented a report of complaints of violations of legal guarantees of victims during the second period of the state of exception from April 27 to May 25.

During the first two months of the regime’s validity, Cristosal received 743 complaints of violations of human rights and judicial guarantees.
Cristosal questioned that “to date the main perpetrators of the wave of violence that caused the death of 87 Salvadorans between March 25 and 27 have not been arrested,” and for which the emergency regime was established in El Salvador, according to The authorities.

Note: The names of Carlos Menjívar and his son Alfredo have been used to omit the real names of this family to protect their safety, at the request of the interviewee.

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Written by Editor TLN

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