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Salvadoran Gang Members Leave Cathedral Peacefully

November 18, 2005

SAN SALVADOR (EFE) – A group of Salvadoran gang members who last week occupied this capital’s cathedral to demand prison reforms gave up their protest and abandoned the church peacefully.The hooded protesters, who had been inside the cathedral’s towers for four days, left of their own volition Nov. 10 without violence and without causing any damage, Father Carlos Blanco said.Blanco said the Catholic Church does not welcome these types of acts, but “it takes in all its children, especially those who see in the church the only means to be heard.”The protesters were demanding that authorities repeal new prison regulations that, among other things, limit the visits inmates may receive. They also wanted to discuss conditions at the maximum security prison in Zacatecoluca, where relatives complain inmates’ rights are violated through physical and psychological abuse.Conjugal visits have been restricted for months now, and visitors must talk to the inmates through a glass wall, via telephone receivers.Human rights groups have complained of inhuman overcrowding at the nation’s 20-odd prisons, where some 12,000 inmates are housed.

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