EL SALVADOR: El Salvador’s government transferred thousands of suspected gang members to a recently opened “mega prison” on Friday, marking the latest development in a divisive campaign against crime that has caused a dramatic increase in the country’s prison population.
“Today at dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT). This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, mixed up and unable to do any more harm to the population,” President Nayib Bukele tweeted.
Early on Friday morning, about 2,000 accused gang members were transferred to the 40,000-person-capacity jail, which is thought to be the biggest in the Americas.
The mega-prison, which is situated in Tecoluca, 74 kilometres (46 miles) southeast of the capital San Salvador, consists of eight buildings. Each one has 32 cells, each measuring 100 square metres (1,075 square feet), and can accommodate “more than 100” inmates, the administration says.
There are only two sinks and two toilets per apartment. In a video shared by Bukele, inmates are seen rushing into cells while wearing nothing but white shorts and shaving their heads. Many people bear gang tattoos.
Bukele pushed his allies in El Salvador’s Congress to approve a “state of exception” last year, which has since been extended multiple times, that suspends some constitutional rights after a sharp rise in murders linked to violent gangs.
Since then, the anti-crime dragnet has resulted in the apprehension of more than 64,000 suspects. Private messages are accessible by the government, arrests can be made without a warrant, and detainees no longer have the right to an attorney.
Authorities have stated that tens of thousands of criminal gangs, including MS-13 and Barrio 18, are accountable for murders, extortion, and drug trafficking. According to the government, the goal of the widespread seizures is to “disappear altogether” the gangs.
Human rights groups contend that innocent people, including at least dozens who have passed away in police custody, have been caught up in the policy. Some of those detained have claimed to have experienced “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.”
However, Bukele’s anti-gang campaign continues to gather strong support from Salvadorans, and the nation’s security minister informed the media that it will go on until all criminals are apprehended.
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