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HomeCentral AmericaEl SalvadorEl Salvador's State of Emergency Blamed for Orphaning 176 Children, Says NGO

El Salvador’s State of Emergency Blamed for Orphaning 176 Children, Says NGO

At least 176 Salvadoran children have been left orphaned due to the death of one of their parents who were imprisoned under the state of emergency implemented by President Nayib Bukele since March 2022 to combat gangs, an NGO denounced on Wednesday. “It has been determined that at least 176 sons and daughters of detained individuals have been orphaned due to the death of their mother or father during the first two years of the measure,” stated the NGO Cristosal.

According to the report presented this Wednesday, “261 detained adults have died in state custody between 2022 and 2024,” figures presented by Zaira Navas, head of their Rule of Law unit. In April, several human rights NGOs, including Cristosal, had already reported the death of 244 people in state custody between March 27, 2022, and February 29, 2024.

“These deaths of individuals deprived of their liberty during the state of emergency have that high cost, leaving many children orphaned because the state failed to fulfill its obligation to ensure their life and health,” added Navas. She warned that the number of deaths in prison “could be higher,” but “the lack of access to official information” prevents knowing the real number.

Various human rights organizations have criticized the state of emergency policy for violating fundamental guarantees, but Bukele refuses to revoke it. The report states that “the number of minors ‘exposed’ to abandonment as a ‘consequence’ of the arrest or imprisonment of their parents cannot yet be precisely quantified.”

Nevertheless, Cristosal estimated that at least 62,022 children under 15 “may have experienced some form of abandonment” for this reason. The state of emergency policy, which allows detentions without a judicial order, was approved by Congress at Bukele’s request in response to a surge of violence that claimed the lives of 87 people between March 25 and 27, 2022. On Tuesday, Congress extended the measure, under which more than 81,000 suspected gang members have been detained.

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