Dozens of Salvadorans marched through the streets of the capital this Sunday, demanding the release of family members detained under the state of emergency imposed by President Nayib Bukele in 2022, on the eve of Christmas.
“It’s a bitter Christmas because there are many children (…) who have been left without their parents due to being detained by the regime,” said sixty-year-old Alfredo Rosales, leader of the Movement of Victims of the Regime (Movir).
“Enough of the regime, we want freedom for the innocent,” “Freedom for my son, enough with the arrests of hardworking and innocent people,” read the banners of the protesters who also carried photos of detainees.
A man dressed as Santa Claus also took part in the demonstration, and the crowd chanted slogans against the state of emergency measures in place since March 2022 as the government’s spearhead in its “war” against gangs.
Additionally, during the march to commemorate International Human Rights Day, participants burned a black cardboard coffin symbolizing the state of emergency.
“Many children live with the lie, deceived that their parents aren’t around but will return, they are not told where they are so the children don’t cry,” added 54-year-old housewife Sandra de Rivera.
“As a father himself, I would like Bukele to touch the deepest part of his heart and feel what it would be like for him if he were in a situation like the one we are in,” the woman added.
The government took emergency measures in response to a surge in violence in March 2022, attributed to gangs that left 87 murders in one weekend. Bukele launched a “war” against these groups under the state of emergency, which is questioned by humanitarian organizations.
Under the state of emergency, authorities have arrested more than 74,000 alleged gang members, but more than 7,000 innocents have been released, according to the government.
During this time, at least 191 people have died in prisons under state custody, according to Movir and other human rights organizations.