A hard-line M.O. to deal with rampant gangs

by The REJIGIT Blog

July 2023

In 2019, now fourty two year old Nayib Bukele, the leader of the Nuevas Ideas party, was elected the fourty third president of El Salvador.

With a population of 6.4m, El Salvador was confronted by a widespread and horrendous gang problem.

The new president and his government had the political balls to declare a state of emergency and embarked on a program they termed “Guerra Contra las Pandillas” (War Against the Gangs).

A new maximum security prison facility was constructed between July 2022 and January 2023 in Tecoluca and it received an initial 2,000 prisoners during February 2023. As at March 2023, the prison had a population of over 4,000 inmates with a total ultimate capacity of 40,000 inmates.

Nation-wide, as at 12 July 2023, 71,479 people had been arrested for having gang affiliations and have been imprisoned.

The result of a Gallup poll released in April 2022 indicated that 91% of Salvadorans supported the government's state of emergency action against gangs.

It has been reported that President Bukele and his government have generated widespread support throughout Latin America for their crack-down on gangs however there has also been criticism from human-rights organisations with regard to what they describe as authoritarian behaviour by the El Salvador government.

In 2022, the El Salvador government implemented a policy which requires gravestones relating to deceased members of gangs to be removed in order to prevent them from becoming shrines. The government also decreed that buried bodies in affected graves were to remain intact and undisturbed.

Images released by the El Salvador presidential press office