The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, pledged on Tuesday to “crush” the violent gangs following the murder of a police officer in the northern department of Chalatenango.
“The gang members who still remain in our country have just killed one of our heroes. But the human rights NGOs won’t say anything about it; they only protect the rights of criminals,” stated the president on Twitter.
The National Civil Police (PNC) reported that the officer died after being “attacked” by gang members “while patrolling with other police officers” in Nueva Concepción, Chalatenango, about 85 km north of San Salvador.
This is the fourth Salvadoran police officer killed since Bukele launched his “war” against the gangs 14 months ago and the first one this year, according to Deputy Guillermo Gallegos.
After the incident, a suspected gang member was arrested at the scene.
“Let all the human rights NGOs know that we will devastate these damn killers and their collaborators, we will put them in prison and they will never get out,” emphasized Bukele.
Human rights groups and the Catholic Church have criticized Bukele’s methods for combating the gangs, but his crusade has the support of nine out of ten Salvadorans, according to surveys.
Hours after the officer’s death, the Legislative Assembly approved, with 67 votes out of a total of 84, the extension of the current state of exception, which allows arrests without judicial order, the main tool in Bukele’s “war” against the gangs, which has restored a sense of security on Salvadoran streets.
With this extension, the state of exception will be in effect until June 15.
“Do you see why we must continue with the State of Exception until we completely eradicate this plague? This cowardly murder will not go unpunished. We will make them pay dearly for what they did,” wrote Bukele.
The state of exception was originally declared by the parliament, at Bukele’s request, in response to a surge in homicides that claimed the lives of 87 people from March 25 to 27, 2022.
Since then, 68,720 suspected gang members have been arrested, although about 5,000 have been released for not being linked to these gangs, said the Minister of Justice and Security, Gustavo Villatoro, on Tuesday.
Regarding the alleged deaths of innocent people in prisons reported by human rights organizations, Villatoro said that there is a task force investigating the cases.