A 16-year-old adolescent was arrested and deprived of liberty for 13 days after being accused of belonging to a gang during the Exception Regime decreed in El Salvador since March 27. During his first night, he was chained to the wall in an adult police detention center and reported being beaten by police officers. Subsequently, they transferred him to a Juvenile Shelter Center, where members of a gang with whom he shared a cell tortured him continuously, by punching him in the head and face, kicking him in the chest and abdomen, and constant threats.

This is just an excerpt from a report published this Thursday by Amnesty International, which denounces that, during the Exception Regime decreed by the Government of Nayib Bukele in the framework of his “war against gangs”, they have died until May 28 18 people under State guardianship who were deprived of liberty and warns that the number may increase in the coming days “given the precarious prison conditions.”

Thus, the Director for the Americas of Amnesty International for the Americas, Erika Guevara Rosas, warned that “the policy implemented by the Government could give rise to international criminal responsibility”, taking into account that the Salvadoran authorities “have committed massive violations of human rights, including thousands of arbitrary detentions and violations of due process, as well as torture and mistreatment”.

Meanwhile, Bukele puffs out his chest and took advantage of the third anniversary of his mandate that was commemorated this Wednesday to defend the Exception Regime, which has already been extended twice for 30 more days in the Legislative Assembly, the last one last week. In a speech to the Nation in the same Assembly where his party has a majority, the Salvadoran president stressed that “today we are very close to winning the war against the gangs,” thanks to a measure that has allowed the arrest without warrant of “more of 36,000 terrorists”, who could spend “up to 45 years in prison”.

By order of Bukele, the Legislative Assembly approved the aforementioned Regime, which supposes the suspension of several constitutional rights, after the gangs gunned down between March 25 and 27 87 random people who were not even initially targeted. of these criminal groups. This resulted in more than two months of arrests without a court order, the suspension of freedom of association and assembly and the right to defense and the possibility of being deprived of liberty for 15 days without going to court, instead of 72. maximum hours established by the Constitution of the Central American country.

“This is the most important moment in the history of our country, it is a war between all honest Salvadorans against the criminals who kept us in anxiety, mourning and misery for years. Today that we are so close to winning, I make a I call on all Salvadorans to support this battle without hesitation, let’s not waste the only opportunity we are going to have, because either we can do it now or we will never do it,” he warned.

However, the supposed “war against the gangs” is serving, in the opinion of Amnesty International, to “criminalize people in a situation of poverty”, as documented in an investigation by this organization. Specifically, it has found that “thousands of people are being detained without complying with the legal requirements, but only for being perceived by the authorities as people identified as criminals in the Government’s stigmatizing speeches, either for having tattoos or simply for living in an area controlled by a gang, which are areas with high levels of marginalization and historical state abandonment”.

In addition, it has documented 28 cases of human rights violations, corresponding to 34 people, while it has detected hearings that can be held against 500 accused at the same time and are resolved “summary” without the possibility of defending themselves and practically , all are subject to trial by the judiciary and sent to preventive detention, “even when there is no evidence.”

On the other hand, Amnesty International denounces that in practically all the documented cases, people expressed that there were times when they did not know where their relatives were detained and “at least in one case they still do not know, which could constitute forced disappearance.” “. “It is alarming to observe how the three powers of the State, including the justice institutions, are working in a highly coordinated manner to summarily, illegally and indiscriminately prosecute thousands of people,” criticizes Erika Guevara Rosas.

Along the same lines, the Acting Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) for the Americas, Tamara Taraciuk, has denounced that in the Exception Regime in El Salvador there are “arbitrary arrests that constitute short-term forced disappearances as the fate of the disappeared people is not known”. Thus, she has indicated that her organization has documented “serious human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and abuses in detention.”

Despite all this, Bukele begins his fourth year in office with great popular support, as reflected in different polls published this week, which reveal that the Salvadoran President has 87 percent approval of his management and even seven out of every ten people would support his re-election. The president is aware of this support and attributes it to his “war against the gangs” since he launched his Territorial Control Plan as soon as he began his mandate in June 2019.

“Today in front of this Assembly I am to say something that many thought was impossible and that until recently no one would have believed that it was so, and that is that we are about to win the war against the gangs,” he insisted, while remarking that ” This is the most difficult battle we have conquered so far, even greater than the pandemic.”

Bukele lamented that, after the signing of the peace agreements in 1992 that put an end to the armed conflict that devastated El Salvador for 12 years, “the war did not end, but only changed its form and during the last 30 years, more than 120,000 Salvadorans were murdered by the gangs without counting the tens of thousands of people who disappeared, millions extorted, wounded, assaulted, threatened, displaced and kidnapped”. This, he pointed out, forced 2 million Salvadorans to emigrate, most of them to the United States, although, in his opinion, this situation is close to ending, thanks to the fact that his government set out to “fight that cancer by eliminating it at the root.” .

Bukele stressed that, thanks to the Territorial Control Plan, which incorporated 1,500 new police officers and quintupled the number of soldiers assigned to security, “we have been out of the most violent countries in the world for three years”, after reducing homicides “by more than 80 percent”, to the point that “in three years of government, we have gone 128 days without homicides”. Despite this, he regretted that, at the end of March, “the gangs managed to coordinate an attack on a national scale that left 87 Salvadorans dead,” which caused Bukele to ask the Legislative Assembly to approve an Exception Regime, which is to extend for three months.

“This type of tool has allowed us to catch gang members faster and to be able to dismantle the structures before they can orchestrate another attack on the population,” he stresses, although he acknowledges that there is still a “considerable number of gang members on the loose who fear committing crimes because They know we’re going to catch them.” Along these lines, he stressed that “before, gang members used to get tattoos to feel proud of who they were and what they did, and now they put makeup on them and even burn them so as not to be recognized.”

In addition, Bukele took advantage of his speech to send a message to the international community: “Today they have to know that El Salvador is a sovereign, free and independent country and here we are going to make the decisions that we consider correct for us.” For this reason, he assured that “all those who want to support us are welcome to build this dream, but those who do not, better stay away because we are not going to allow them to come to our house to tell us what to do or give us orders.” In this way, he denied that El Salvador is a dictatorship, but that what there is is “democratic leadership, courage and firmness”, thus responding to criticism that Bukele controls the executive, legislative and judicial power, thanks to the influence of his party, New Ideas.

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