El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, who has declared “war” on gangs, warned Saturday that these groups are trying to “evolve” into guerrilla groups by setting up more and more clandestine camps in rural areas.
“The captures of gang members are increasingly taking place in clandestine camps in rural areas. It is clear that the gangs are trying to evolve into guerrilla groups,” the president said on his Twitter account.
In the “last few weeks,” authorities have dismantled “more than 100 clandestine camps” of gang members in different rural areas of the country, Bukele said.
Following the murder of 87 people in the country between March 25 and 27, the Congress, controlled by government allies and at Bukele’s request, decreed a state of emergency which has been extended and under which the government maintains its offensive against gangs.
Bukele’s “war” has put thousands of soldiers to patrol the streets and has taken to jail without warrants more than 39,000 alleged “mara” members to date, in addition to another 16,000 already in prison.
According to the president, the gangs now “find it impossible to confront” police agents and army soldiers in urban areas and therefore set up clandestine camps in wooded areas or mountains that are difficult to access.
But the governor went further and pointed out, without mentioning names, that this “evolution” of the gangs would take place “under the auspices of international organizations and opposition NGOs” which, according to him, “give them legal, media, political and financial coverage”.
“But we are not going to allow it”, said the Salvadoran president, after affirming that “3 to 4 camps are being dismantled daily” in rural areas.
He added that in these camps are found “weapons, drugs, money, communication equipment, extortion documents and of course gang members”.
The president’s statement came on the same day that members of the Armed Forces and the police dismantled a gang camp in a rural wooded area in the town of San Isidro, in the department of Cabañas, 74 km east of San Salvador.
There, authorities seized several assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, ammunition, drugs and money.
“We are not going to allow these criminal groups to mutate into another criminal form to continue causing harm to our honest population,” added the Minister of Justice and Security, Gustavo Villatoro.