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El Salvador: State of emergency over gang killings

March 28, 2022

The Central American country is imposing measures to crack down on violent street gangs. More than 60 gang-related deaths were recorded on Saturday.

Heavily armed police officers on the streets of San Salvador
The state of emergency will last 30 days but can be extendedImage: Salvador Melendez/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Lawmakers in El Salvador's congress on Sunday agreed to President Nayib Bukele's state of emergency request to tackle the spike in violent gang crime.

The president announced the panned state of emergency on Saturday, the same day that 62 were killed. Another 14 were killed on Friday.

The sudden rise in violence comes amid already high numbers of gang-related homicides. In February, the monthly total reached 79.

The state of emergency suspends the freedom of assembly as enshrined in the constitution and loosens rules on arrests for at least 30 days.

Police pledge 'war against gangs'

Police said they had arrested five leaders of the notorious street gang the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, who they claimed were behind the spate of killings over the weekend.

Large parts of the capital San Salvador are considered to be under the control of various gangs.

Bukele said on Saturday that he was also ordering a full lockdown of prison inmates who belong to gangs.

"They are not to go out even to the patio" of prisons, Bukele wrote, adding "a message to the gangs: because of your actions, now your homeboys will not see even one ray of sunlight."

A tweet from the country's national civil police said that they were focusing their efforts on the "war against gangs conducted at a national level."

"We are going to capture the criminals who cause suffering for the Salvadorian people," they added. "We won't let their crimes go unpunished."

ab/jsi (AP, AFP, EFE)