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Friday, February 3, 2023

El Salvador Deploys Thousands of Troops to Capital Suburb in Gang Crackdown 

Twelve people have been detained so far, said the Justice Minister

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Sadaf Hasan
Sadaf Hasan
Aspiring reporter covering trending topics

EL SALVADOR: Nayib Bukele, El Salvador’s president, has announced the deployment of around 10,000 troops to Soyapango, a populous city on the outskirts of the capital San Salvador, as part of a massive crackdown on gangs.

“As of this moment, the municipality of Soyapango is totally surrounded,” the president wrote on Twitter, adding that 8,500 soldiers and 1,500 agents have been deployed.

He continued by saying that normal citizens “have nothing to fear” and that the move was part of “an operation against criminals, not against honest individuals.”

The operation was the most recent escalation in a campaign against gang violence that began in March, which human rights organisations say has been tarnished by arbitrary detentions.

Special troops are scouring homes for gang members, while all access roads to the city have been shut. In addition, officers have been stopping everyone trying to leave the city and examining their identification documents.

Twelve people have been detained so far, said the Justice Minister.

Images shared by the government showed highly armed soldiers wearing body armour and holding assault rifles outside the city.

One of El Salvador’s biggest cities is Soyapango, with a population of around 290,000. The city, which is only 13 km (8 miles) west of San Salvador, has a long history of being a centre for gang activities.

Guadalupe Perez, a local of El Salvador, told the news organisation that the raid had come as a good surprise.

The 53-year-old said, “They search you and ask for your identity papers to verify where you reside, but that’s great – it’s all for our safety.”

Since late March, when Bukele proclaimed a state of emergency, the government has imprisoned more than 58,000 people in the 6.5 million-person country.

The heavy-handed aspect of the crackdown has drawn criticism from rights groups, who claim that the provisions, which permit police to detain people without a warrant, have resulted in arbitrary detentions.

However, Bukele’s defenders contend that the crackdown is necessary as a result of a spike in homicides that peaked on March 26, with 62 killings blamed on gangs in a single day.

A recent survey by the Central American University (UCA) noted that 75.9% of Salvadorans agreed with the declaration of an emergency.

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