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El Salvador: 2000 ‘Gang Members’ Moved To Mega Prison As President Nayib Bukele Continues Crackdown

The Salvadoran Government released footage to show the transfer of 2000 alleged gang members to a high-security prison that has a capacity for 40,000 inmates.
In the videos, the prisoners were seen wearing nothing but shorts, with their hands either cuffed behind their backs or crossed over their heads as armed masked security personnel kept a watch. Their heads were shaved and many had tattoos associated with being gang members. This is believed to be the largest prison facility in all of the Americas

The government said in a statement the prisoners “would pay for the crimes committed against the Salvadoran people with a long stay in the facility, in isolation and without the possibility of family visitation.”

It’s the latest step by El Salvador‘s President Nayib Bukele who won a second term in February in a landslide election that saw more than 80% of the vote in his favour. When he was sworn-in on the first of June earlier this month, he said he was confident his ‘prescription for gangs’ was working. “Salvadoran society is still like a sick person. It has had multiple illnesses since it was born, for a long time, since the birth of our country. We have problems with the economy, health, education, infrastructure, employment, housing, and a long list. But over 30 years ago, a bigger and more urgent disease appeared: the cancer known as gangs, which turned into the most urgent problem that needed to be solved,” said President Nayib Bukele

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Bukele is massively popular. When he came to power in 2019, he went after powerful street gangs that had terrorised people. In his first term, he is credited with overseeing a huge transformation in the security in the country of 6.3 million people that was considered one of the world’s most dangerous. President Nayib Bukele asked his allies in El Salvador’s Congress to pass a state of exception in 2022, which has since been extended several times. Under this, authorities got sweeping powers to arrest people on the mere suspicion of being gang members. They could hold them indefinitely and convict them in mass trials of up to 900 people. As per an NPR, El Salvador now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with over 1 percent of its population behind bars.

Human rights organisations have criticised Bukele’s way of getting things done and accused him of systematically dismantling democracy. But there is popular support for his policies which has seen a big drop in homicide cases in El Salvador.