Early on Friday morning, about 2,000 alleged gang members were transferred to the 40,000-person jail, which is thought to be the biggest in the Americas. The transfer of thousands of suspected gang members to a newly opened prison is the newest step in a divisive campaign against crime that has seen El Salvador’s prison population soar. President Nayib Bukele stated on social media that “this will be their new home, where they won’t be able to do any more harm” to the people.
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After a sharp increase in homicides attributed to violent gangs, Bukele urged his allies in El Salvador’s Congress to approve a state of exception that suspends some constitutional rights last year. The state of exception has since been extended several times. The first hard-core gangbangers have reportedly moved into El Salvador’s new mega-prison, which President Nayib Bukele boasts is “impossible to flee,” according to reports.
(Credit President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele Twitter)
According to the BBC, images from the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism show heavily tattooed, barefoot, and dressed-down inmates chained and kneeling shoulder to shoulder as heavily armed guards tower over them. The facility was built by officials bent on winning the war against violent street gangs in El Salvador.
Inside the massive facility, which is claimed to be the biggest in the Americas, the prisoners are reportedly forced to crouch down with their hands behind their heads while chained.
The prison, which is in Tecoluca, about forty-six miles from the capital of the Central American nation, San Salvador, will ultimately house as many as 40,000 inmates in eight buildings, each of which has thirty-two cells that can accommodate about one hundred inmates. There are only two faucets in each cell and two toilets. The new jail is a component of Bukele’s war on gangs, which started last year.
Human rights watchdogs have expressed concern about the initiative, claiming that it infringes on fundamental constitutional rights by enabling security forces to detain suspects without a warrant, among other violations.
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More than 64,000 alleged gang members have been apprehended so far, including members of the infamously violent MS-13 and Barrio-18 groups. Human rights groups contend that innocent people, including at least dozens of those who have passed away while in police custody, have been affected by the policy.
However, Salvadorans continue to support Bukele’s anti-gang initiative, and the country’s security director reportedly revealed that it will continue until all criminals have been apprehended.
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Anti-government protesters in El Salvador burn Bitcoin ATM, express anger against President Bukele