SAN SALVADOR (AP) — About to complete a year in effect, Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele on Wednesday asked Congress to extend the emergency regime again and announced the transfer of another 2,000 gang members to “the most criticized prison in the world”.
The president confirmed on Twitter that after a new operation, there are already 4,000 prisoners “inhabiting” the mega prison intended only for gang members and leaders, according to Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro. This is the so-called Center for Containment of Terrorism (CECOT).
They have been confirmed to have taken 57 gang leaders to the mega prison, including one of the historical leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), identified as Alex Alfredo Abrego, also gunmen and 1,868 homeboys ( gang members).
The prison, located 74 kilometers east of the Salvadoran capital, in the municipality of Tecoluca, department of San Vicente, has 33 building blocks isolated from the city. It is composed of detention pavilions with metal cabins and disciplinary cells, virtual courtrooms and two modules of factories against prison leisure.
It has the capacity to house 40,000 inmates. It has been criticized by human rights groups for not adhering to international standards for social rehabilitation, which discourage large prisons that can accommodate thousands of inmates.
When the first 2,000 prisoners were transferred less than a month ago, Juan Pappier, deputy director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, told AP that the United Nations minimum rules for the treatment of detainees, known as the name of the Nelson Mandela Rules, suggest that Closed-regime prisons do not have such large numbers of inmates because this can constitute a “barrier to the individualization of treatment” of inmates.
The Nayib Bukele government has also been criticized by organizations and countries for violating human rights given the suspension of constitutional rights on which it bases its authoritarian strategy against maras or gangs.
According to official figures, more than 65,000 suspected gang members or collaborators were captured during this period, of which more than 90% were remanded in custody by a judge, the majority for the crime of illegal groups. . But also more than 3,700 people were released because a real link with these criminal structures could never be established.
Villatoro lashed out at national and international organizations that have denounced the captures of innocent people, as well as human rights violations. He attacked countries that he did not identify, “who call themselves the friends of El Salvador and who finance this whole campaign against this operation to free six million Salvadorans who were at the mercy of terrorist groups “.
March 27 will mark one year since El Salvador entered a state of emergency, which was approved by Congress at the request of the government in 2022, after 62 murders attributed to criminal gangs were recorded in a single day. Bukele requested his renewal again on Wednesday.
Since then, freedom of association, the right of a person to be duly informed of his rights and the reasons for his arrest and the right to the assistance of a lawyer have been suspended. The state of emergency has also extended the length of preventive detention from 72 hours to 15 days and allows the authorities to intervene in the correspondence and mobile phones of those they deem suspicious.
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 caused it exist.
Authorities hold gangs responsible for most of the crimes recorded in El Salvador in recent years and attribute improved figures on violence levels to their security policy.
When presenting the request, the Director of the National Police, Commissioner Mauricio Arriaza Chicas, affirmed that after almost a year of implementation of the measure, the results are conclusive and “based on this diagnosis, we consider it necessary to extend this.” .
“These legal tools allow us and the armed forces the certainty that the procedures are legitimate,” defended the police command.
For his part, the Minister of National Defence, Rear Admiral René Francis Merino Monroy, underlined: “We have been under the emergency regime for 354 days; thanks to him we have more than 200 with zero homicides. We appreciate the tools you have given us to continue the war on gangs.