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Thu Apr 30, 2020, 09:16 PM

El Salvador's jail crackdown on gang members could backfire

Marcos AlemÁn, Associated Press
Updated 2:24 pm CDT, Wednesday, April 29, 2020

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — Sealing some Salvadoran prisoners’ cells with sheet metal is a draconian measure sure to draw accusations of human rights violations, but President Nayib Bukele circulated photos of the cell modifications himself, counting on the support of a population traumatized by gang violence.

Still, experts warn that the popular president’s harsh move could backfire, unite the country’s powerful gangs against his government and return El Salvador to the days when it was one of the world’s deadliest countries. That would be a dangerous distraction as his government battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

. . .

“They won’t be able to see outside the cell anymore,” Bukele wrote on Twitter. “This will keep them from communicating with signs in the hall. They will be inside, in the dark with their friends from the other gang.”

. . .

Bukele’s measure is a 180-degree change from previous administrations that, in order to avoid more bloodshed, kept members of different gangs in separate wings or even different prisons. Outside the prisons, Bukele instructed his security forces to use lethal force to protect people from gangsters and promised to defend those accused of using excessive force.


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