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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

El Salvador’s “war” against gangs leads to nearly 42,000 arrests

El Salvador has accumulated almost 42,000 detainees in the framework of a “war” against gangs declared almost three months ago by President Nayib Bukele, said Thursday the attorney general, Rodolfo Delgado.

“The last count that was carried out in the early hours [of Thursday] morning already reflected more or less 41,846 people detained,” Delgado told state-run local television station Canal 10.

Of the total number of alleged gang members arrested, the Attorney General’s Office has managed to get 33,258 “provisionally detained” for a period of six months.

Another 8,588 have yet to be tried, while 456 were released at the first hearing because “they were not linked to gangs,” said Delgado.

Once the first six months of detention of an alleged gang member are over, the Attorney General’s Office could request to “extend” the incarceration for another six months, depending on the “complexity” of the cases.

“We consider that a detention of at least one year would allow us to complement the proceedings against these people,” the prosecutor stressed.

Among the “evidence” that, according to Delgado, they are using to demonstrate the detainee’s links to the criminal organization are “the marks [tattoos of their respective gangs] that they have on their bodies,” and the drugs that have been seized.

Also used as evidence are the 1,015 vehicles found in their possession that “come from activities such as extortion,” as well as firearms seized in raids or after confrontations with security forces.

According to the latest balance sheet of the Justice and Security Ministry, the gangs have also been seized 1.5 million dollars in cash, 821 firearms and 8,994 cell phones.

The murder of 87 people between March 25 and 27, in crimes attributed to gangs, led Congress to declare a state of emergency at Bukele’s own request, which was extended until at least the end of June. Prosecutor Delgado expects it to be extended again.

Under a regime of exception, authorities can make arrests without a warrant. The parliament, controlled by allies of the president, has also increased penalties for gang-related crimes.

In El Salvador, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs are the main gangs operating in El Salvador. 16,000 of their members were incarcerated.

But with the arrests of the last three months, 57,846 members are now behind bars, 83% of the 70,000 members officially considered to exist in the country.

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