El Salvador declared a state of emergency due to a wave of gang-related killings

Bulsha:- El Salvador’s lawmakers declared, on Sunday, a state of emergency, the speaker of the legislature said, restricting civil liberties and expanding police authority as the country faces a wave of gang-related bloodshed that has left dozens dead in just two days.

Gang violence has escalated in El Salvador, with police reporting 62 deaths on Saturday alone.

According to official figures, 12 deaths occurred in the central province of La Libertad, with the capital, San Salvador, and the western province of Ahuachapán, each with nine deaths. The rest was distributed to the remaining departments of the country.

Hours earlier, several leaders of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang had been arrested by the police and military over the killing spree.

“We will not back down in this war against gangs and we will not rest until the criminals responsible for these acts are caught and brought to justice,” the country’s National Civil Police posted on Twitter.

In response to the escalation of violence, President Najib Boukil asked the Legislative Council – controlled by his ruling party – to approve a state of emergency, under which certain freedoms are restricted.

Lawmakers did so early Sunday morning, in a decree that “declares an emergency regime throughout the national territory resulting from serious disturbances of public order by criminal groups.”

The declaration – approved by a large majority – restricts freedom of assembly, the sanctity of correspondence and communications, and allows arrests without a warrant.

“We agree to the emergency regime that will allow our government to protect the lives of Salvadorans and confront crime head-on,” Legislative Assembly President Ernesto Castro said in a tweet.

“Since yesterday, we have seen a new rise in murders, something we have worked hard to reduce,” Bukele said in a statement posted on Twitter by Congress President Ernesto Castro.

“As we fight criminals on the streets, we must try to find out what is happening and who is financing it.”

Bukele said the country “must let agents and soldiers do their job and must defend them from the accusations of those protecting the gang members.”

He also asked the attorney general’s office “to be effective in all” gang member cases it hears, warning that it will monitor “judges who favor criminals.”

Ricardo Martinez, the government’s chief human rights lawyer, called on residents to “remain calm” and contribute to promoting a “culture of peace” in the country.

Last November, El Salvador suffered another spike in murders that claimed nearly 45 lives in three days.

The Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, among others, have about 70,000 members in El Salvador, according to the authorities, and their operations involve murders, extortion and drug trafficking.

The country recorded 1,140 homicides in 2021 – a rate of 18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants – down from the 1,341 homicides recorded the previous year and the lowest number since the end of the civil war in 1992, according to official data.

Elected in 2019, Bukele enjoys wide support in El Salvador for his promises to fight organized crime and improve security in the violence-torn country.

His allies also hold a large majority in the country’s Congress – a situation not seen since the 1992 peace deal that ended 12 years of a bloody civil war.

But he has long been accused of authoritarian tendencies.

>> Thousands demonstrate in El Salvador against President “dictator” Bukele


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