The Congress of El Salvador has extended an State of emergency that has allowed the government to detain over 71,000 alleged gang members. The decree, which was approved by a vote of 67 lawmakers, will come into effect on July 16 and will last until August 14.
The State of emergency was established in March 2022 after the country experienced a wave of violence that left 87 people dead in a single weekend. The government attributed the escalation of violence to the gangs, and the State of emergency gave the government sweeping powers to detain and prosecute suspected gang members.
The decree states that the extension of the State of emergency is necessary to “maintain security strategies” and to “decisively win the war against gangs.” However, the measure has been criticized by human rights organizations, who argue that it has led to the arbitrary detention of innocent people.
Marleni Funes, a lawmaker from the opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), said that the State of emergency “has only served to violate the human rights of many individuals.” She added that the measure has been used to “silence dissent” and to “harass political opponents.”
Guillermo Gallegos, a lawmaker from the ruling Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party, defended the State of emergency, saying that “gang members have no rights and must pay for all the pain caused to Salvadorans.” He added that the measure has “brought peace of mind to families.”
The State of emergency has been credited with reducing the homicide rate in El Salvador. In the first six months of 2022, the homicide rate was 16.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, down from 51.1 per 100,000 inhabitants in the same period of 2021. However, human rights organizations argue that the reduction in the homicide rate is due to other factors, such as the implementation of a new police strategy.
The extension of the State of emergency is likely to continue to be controversial. Human rights organizations will continue to criticize the measure, while the government will argue that it is necessary to maintain security in the country.