El Salvador suspends rights, declares emergency over soaring gang violence

0
9

March 27 (UPI) — El Salvador on Sunday declared a state of emergency allowing for the temporary suspension of some constitutional rights in an effort to combat soaring gang violence.

The move, requested by President Nayib Bukele, was approved by 67 of the country’s 64 National Legislative Assembly lawmakers after police reported at least 76 murders this weekend, Bukele said in tweet.

Advertisement

Sixty-two of the victims were killed Saturday after 14 had died on Friday, the National Police said in a tweet.

“We will not back down on this #WarOnGangs, we will not rest until the criminals responsible for these events are captured and brought to justice,” the National Police said.

Bukele shared a link to an official state publication that noted El Salvador’s constitution allows the government to suspend the constitution for up to 30 days “for serious disturbances of public order,” such as war.

“Due to the serious emergency in our country in the last few hours, due to the increase in homicides that is affecting the population … it is necessary that this state body take legal measures to limit the exercise of certain fundamental rights,” the document reads.

Advertisement

It states that the “serious disturbances to public order” perpetrated by gangs “threaten the life, peace and security of the El Salvadoran population.”

Bukele said the state of emergency will allow police to target and temporarily close some areas of the country as investigators seek out gang members.

“Religious services, sporting events, commerce, studies, etc., can continue to be carried out as normal,” he said. “Unless you are a gang member or the authorities consider you suspicious.”

The measure identified which constitutional articles Bukele will be allowed to suspend, as explained in an English translation of the El Salvadoran constitution by the University of Richmond in Virginia.

The president, for example, will be allowed to restrict free speech and travel in and out of the country and police will not be required to obtain court orders to execute warrants for electronic messages and records.

They will also not be required to inform those who are detained about the reasons for their arrest.

“Message to the gangs: because of your actions, now your ‘homeboys’ won’t be able to see a ray of sunshine,” Bukele said.

His government has previously faced criticism for alleged leniency on gang members.

In December, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two members of Bukele’s government who allegedly gave financial incentives to members of the violent MS-13 and 18th Street gangs to ensure that violence remained low.

Advertisement

Gang leadership also agreed to provide political support to the Nuevas Ideas political party in upcoming elections, U.S. officials alleged.

Washington also accused one of the officials, Osiris Luna Meza, of participating in a scheme to steal items intended for COVID-19 pandemic relief and resell them back to the government.