X Close

Inside El Salvador’s brutal gang crackdown Bukele's violation of human rights is winning votes

Members of the MS-13 and 18 gangs in Quezaltepeque prison (YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of the MS-13 and 18 gangs in Quezaltepeque prison (YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)


January 11, 2023   7 mins

In her cramped breeze-block home on the outskirts of El Salvador’s capital, across an alley from a school currently occupied by soldiers, 65-year-old Francisca Alas rolls down her sock to show a scar from the machete of a gang member. The maras, as gangs here are known, were attacking her son, a factory worker, for refusing to pay an extortion demand. They were smashing his face in with rocks when she stood in the way and was hacked down. Shortly after the attack in 2016, her son fled to the United States, while Alas had to live with the maras operating brazenly on her street, carrying out murders, rapes and shakedowns, and deciding who could enter the neighbourhood.

This situation has radically changed since March, however, when President Nayib Bukele launched an unprecedented and brutal crackdown on gangs, involving mass imprisonment. “It’s a huge improvement,” Alas tells me, explaining that the maras on her block have disappeared. “Now we can go outside when we like. Our family can come and visit us. No president has cared about us here before.”

Alas’s comments reflect the widespread support for the anti-gang offensive and for Bukele: a December survey found 87.8% of voters approved of him, making him the most popular president on the continent, perhaps even the world. Such popularity contrasts sharply with the harsh rebuke of Bukele’s crackdown by human rights groups, journalists and members of the US Congress.

This gang offensive, though, is ruthless and violates human rights. Following a record 62 murders in a day, Bukele beseeched his legislative assembly to pass a State of Emergency on March 27, and ordered heavily-armed military units to move into the barrios — the poor neighbourhoods where most people live. “No terrorist involved in the wave of violence against the Salvadoran people will go unpunished,” Public Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro posted on Twitter, a favoured communication tool of the government. “We will take them off the street and put them behind bars.”

Since then, more than 60,000 people have been imprisoned — 1% of the entire population — adding to another 40,000 already in jail. It’s a mass incarceration comparable with some of the harshest regimes and wars in history — the equivalent of locking up more than three million in the United States in under a year.

Outside the Mariona prison, in the northern outskirts of the capital San Salvador, hundreds of family members are gathered, mostly mothers and wives, waiting to pass on packages of rice, cornflakes, soap and even prison uniforms to their loved ones. Javiera Maricela, 37, describes how police and soldiers called on her house in a farming village in April and took away her 20-year-old son, saying he would be processed and returned. She has had no contact with him since and does not know if he is still in that prison, let alone alive.

“The lack of information is torturous,” Maricela says. Like most of the detainees, her son is charged with a crime called “agrupaciones ilícitas”, roughly translated as “gang affiliation”, although it applies to those who help gangs as well as actual members. It carries a maximum sentence of 30 years, or 45 years for gang leaders.

Through a contact, I meet a prisoner who succeeded in getting his charges dropped and being released from Mariona. He describes how he was crammed into a cell with 162 inmates and the stink of faeces, had his ribs broken by guards, and frequently heard the screams of prisoners being tortured. During his month in jail, he says, he saw five corpses being carted out. Human rights groups have documented 90 deaths in prisons since the emergency was declared, although many believe the real number is much higher.

“Many of those captured are innocent,” says Samuel García, a former government official who has founded the Victims of the Regime Movement. “The families have proof but the regime doesn’t care. Bukele is very Machiavellian
 What he is doing is illegal. He has broken the rule of law.”

Despite this, the crackdown remains popular and has certainly had an immense impact on reducing crime. For decades, the two main gangs, the MS-13 and Barrio 18, brazenly controlled barrios, towns and villages across El Salvador. New members committed murders as part of their initiation and continued to kill to elevate their status in their “clique”, or gang chapter. And it was not only other gangsters who were gunned down. Civilians could be murdered for simply walking on the wrong street. I recently spoke to one woman who was gang-raped when she travelled from a Barrio 18 neighbourhood where she lived to visit her mother in MS-13 turf. In the worst atrocity, in 2010, maras torched and shot up a bus killing 17 people.

I have interviewed dozens of gang members in visits over the years; you could often find them openly hanging out in the centre of neighbourhoods. But since the state of emergency, their presence has been greatly reduced: Maras are largely in prison, have fled, or are underground. The number of murders, as a result, has plummeted. Last year, El Salvador’s government reported that there were 496 homicides — a murder rate of about 8 per 100,000, which is lower than the United States for the first time on record. Back in 2015, El Salvador suffered 105 murders per 100,000, making it the most homicidal country on the planet.

Bukele addresses his troops (Photo by Marvin RECINOS / AFP) (Photo by MARVIN RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s like if you have a patient with cancer, the doctor has to use chemotherapy,” says Tito Elias Ponce, who works in a government agency for barrio outreach. “These criminals are like a cancer for El Salvador.” When I meet Ponce, he is working with youths painting up walls of a slum. As well as wielding the stick, Bukele offers the carrot of rehabilitating poor areas, building football pitches and community centres.

Nearby, I spot a 23-year-old soldier from the motorised infantry who has pulled over at a stand to buy pupusas, a popular Salvadoran food. The soldier claims that the troops are welcomed in the barrios and he denies that innocent people are being carted off. “Some of them may not be full gang members but they are involved in some way,” he says. “We have found messages on their phone or something. Of course, the mothers will protest. For a mother, her son is always an angel.” This claim that no innocent people are swept up seems dubious considering the sheer scale of the arrests. Detainees are stood before judges in mass closed hearings, so it is unclear how convincing the evidence is. Meanwhile, citizens are urged to inform on gang members, which could encourage people to finger anyone they have a beef with.

One reason the crackdown is so popular is that Salvadorans are fed up with gang extortion. Unlike Mexican and Colombian gangsters, maras are not big players in drug trafficking but make their money shaking down everyone from bus drivers to grocery store owners. The emergency has reduced extortion, according to reports, but lingering shakedowns remain a part of daily life. I meet a taxi driver whose base used to pay both the main gangs, but now only pays one, whose member actually drives a taxi there. “I am paying these criminals half the amount I used to,” he says “But at least that means I have more money in my pocket.”

The second reason so many Salvadorans support the offensive is more deep-rooted, a consequence of them living most of their lives in warlike conditions. Between 1980 and 1992, a civil war between a series of Right-wing US-backed governments and a Left-wing guerrilla movement tore the country apart. Young refugees largely fled to Los Angeles, where they formed gangs to protect themselves in violent inner-city neighbourhoods. And when they were deported, they turned to crime in their shattered homeland and found plenty of willing recruits among the war orphans and scarred veterans. El Salvador’s new rulers promised peace, democracy and respect for human rights. But the country was drowned in the blood of gang warfare.

Bukele, the son of a wealthy businessman of Palestinian descent, first joined the party of the former guerrillas, the Farabundo MartĂ­ National Liberation Front. I interviewed him in 2017 when he was mayor of San Salvador and he spoke of rehabilitating the barrios and rescuing young men from a life of crime. He won the presidency on a populist platform, railing against the corrupt elites, and formed his own party to smash the power of the old guard in the midterms.

By 2021, Bukele had halved the homicide count, but he is accused of doing this by reviving a truce with the gangs. According to reports by the independent news outlet El Faro, the truce gave gang leaders better treatment in prisons and allowed the gangs to carry on with their shakedowns while they dialled down the murder rate. It was only after this truce broke down with a spree of killings that Bukele launched his State of Emergency. Bukele denies this pact, though many Salvadorans I spoke to don’t care much if it is true; they simply want less violence.

Yet it remains to be seen if the drop in murders now secured by the State of Emergency will hold in the long run. The gangs may be in hiding now but they could regroup, and perhaps turn to guerrilla tactics. It is also tough and expensive to keep almost 2% of the population behind bars. To achieve this, Bukele is constructing a new mega prison, baptised the “Centre for Confinement of Terrorism”, which he claims will hold 40,000 inmates.

Meanwhile, the external criticism looks unlikely to make Bukele shift course. US Congressman James McGovern called the crackdown “draconian”, while Amnesty International warned of “a human rights crisis”. Elsewhere, the US Treasury has sanctioned several officials close to Bukele on corruption allegations, freezing their bank accounts and banning them from entering the States. But there is not much more leeway for Washington to pressure Bukele. Sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have not stopped human rights abuses there. What’s more, the idea of a return to a more interventionist US foreign policy in Latin America inspires wrath on both the Left and Right these days.

On the flip side, other Latin American governments are taking note of Bukele’s approach. Over the border in Honduras, President Ximora Castro, the country’s first female leader, has launched her own partial state of emergency to fight gangs. In Mexico, President AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador has largely abandoned his call for “hugs not bullets” to bolster the army.

Outside a San Salvador church, I watch a dozen mothers light candles and pray for their loved ones behind bars. They share stories, their faces full of torment from not knowing whether their sons will ever return. I wonder if support for this mass incarceration shows a tyranny of the majority, and these are the victims. Or if the benefits could outweigh the injustices. Or if one evil has simply been replaced by another evil. But the truth is, Bukele has only arisen because of a failure to deal with an immense problem of organised crime that is a central issue for most people here. And unless liberal governments in Latin America can find a better solution that works in practice, not just rhetoric, we will surely encounter more authoritarian populists and more mega prisons in the years to come.


Ioan Grillo is a journalist based in Mexico and the author, most recently, of Blood Gun Money.

ioangrillo

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

42 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

The author uses rates to mask the huge improvement the supposed brutal crackdown has had. 90 people dying in prison seems huge, right? A homicide rate of 8 or even 105 is made to sound ballpark.

A reduction in homicide from 105 to 8 per 100,000 is over 6,111 lives saved every year. Even if a hundred gangsters die in prison, that’s still over 6,000 lives saved every year.

So in fact the crackdown is not brutal. It was the not cracking down that was brutal.

Some would argue this is the runaway railway wagon utilitarian viewpoint of the greater good versus the deontological perspective that killing an innocent person is always wrong. Except the people incarcerated are not innocent, they are violent criminals. The runaway railway wagon morality test does not apply here. The author’s hand-wringing is not just misplaced, it is utterly inappropriate.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Sorry to be skeptical in the direction of fake news but this seems dodgy to me….
“I meet a prisoner who succeeded in getting his charges dropped and being released from Mariona. He describes how he was crammed into a cell with 162 inmates and the stink of faeces, had his ribs broken by guards, and frequently heard the screams of prisoners being tortured. During his month in jail, he says, he saw five corpses being carted out.”
And if those accounts are true, one can imagine that torture and killings are gang vs gang as opposed to abuse by guards. In that case, hands can be wrung but maybe only for a moment or two.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Some of them ARE probably innocent, you neatly evade that likelihood. Someone is shopped by a neighbour who doesn’t like them, and other similar scenarios.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Sorry to be skeptical in the direction of fake news but this seems dodgy to me….
“I meet a prisoner who succeeded in getting his charges dropped and being released from Mariona. He describes how he was crammed into a cell with 162 inmates and the stink of faeces, had his ribs broken by guards, and frequently heard the screams of prisoners being tortured. During his month in jail, he says, he saw five corpses being carted out.”
And if those accounts are true, one can imagine that torture and killings are gang vs gang as opposed to abuse by guards. In that case, hands can be wrung but maybe only for a moment or two.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Some of them ARE probably innocent, you neatly evade that likelihood. Someone is shopped by a neighbour who doesn’t like them, and other similar scenarios.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
1 year ago

The author uses rates to mask the huge improvement the supposed brutal crackdown has had. 90 people dying in prison seems huge, right? A homicide rate of 8 or even 105 is made to sound ballpark.

A reduction in homicide from 105 to 8 per 100,000 is over 6,111 lives saved every year. Even if a hundred gangsters die in prison, that’s still over 6,000 lives saved every year.

So in fact the crackdown is not brutal. It was the not cracking down that was brutal.

Some would argue this is the runaway railway wagon utilitarian viewpoint of the greater good versus the deontological perspective that killing an innocent person is always wrong. Except the people incarcerated are not innocent, they are violent criminals. The runaway railway wagon morality test does not apply here. The author’s hand-wringing is not just misplaced, it is utterly inappropriate.

Last edited 1 year ago by Nell Clover
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

A strict regard for legal due process is the luxury of a settled an well ordered society. To try to uphold it in the face of widespread violent and lawless gang culture is to fail to protect the majority who are the victims. What seems to be happening in El Salvador seems to be more akin to a war against an occupying force of gangsters than a strictly judicial process. It appears, for the present, to have greatly improved the lives of the non-gang members of the country.
Why should those who live in relatively peaceful societies wish to intervene on the side of the violent forces of gang occupation in the name of an ideal that is manifestly inapplicable in practice there?
I seem to recall that Amnesty was set up to campaign for individuals who had committed no crime but were the victims of unjust political imprisonment. No doubt if they can identify some imprisoned individual who has been incarcerated for purely political reasons they should speak on their behalf but otherwise remain silent.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

A strict regard for legal due process is the luxury of a settled an well ordered society. To try to uphold it in the face of widespread violent and lawless gang culture is to fail to protect the majority who are the victims. What seems to be happening in El Salvador seems to be more akin to a war against an occupying force of gangsters than a strictly judicial process. It appears, for the present, to have greatly improved the lives of the non-gang members of the country.
Why should those who live in relatively peaceful societies wish to intervene on the side of the violent forces of gang occupation in the name of an ideal that is manifestly inapplicable in practice there?
I seem to recall that Amnesty was set up to campaign for individuals who had committed no crime but were the victims of unjust political imprisonment. No doubt if they can identify some imprisoned individual who has been incarcerated for purely political reasons they should speak on their behalf but otherwise remain silent.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago

”They share stories, their faces full of torment from not knowing whether their sons will ever return. I wonder if support for this mass incarceration shows a tyranny of the majority, and these are the victims. Or if the benefits could outweigh the injustices.”

So the writer wonders if it is unjust to lock up the world’s most violent criminals as it distresses the Mothers? That doing so victimized the Mothers beyond the crimes the criminals victimized their victims with?

100% Support Trump’s call for speedy death sentences for drug dealing of high level (Federal level – that means not possession but cartel level)

from the Independent

‘Trump calls for ‘quick’ death penalty for drug dealers as he describes US ‘going to hell very fast’
YES! These guys arrested for heinous crimes, even if not actual murder, being part of a gang which commits murder is enough – if you are part of it, you are part of the crime. – death penalty is the only thing which makes sense.ï»ż

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I was gobsmacked by the exact same comment. Tyranny of the majority – this is what we call law and order now?

Unfortunately, the more you let criminals run wild, the harsher the reaction has to be to solve it.

No one wants innocent children to be imprisoned, but the most basic function of govt is to protect citizens from violence.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

So, I presume by that airy dismissal you are happy with the Democratic majority (as it is) in the United States imposing its values and laws on the minority? You guys are almost always entirely transactional in your espousal of supposedly fundamental principles.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Hmm. One thing isn’t like the other. I don’t have to like the Dems or their policies. I don’t have to like Biden either. Regardless, we should all respect the rights of minorities. Yet, I can support gay rights while opposing the rights of gang members to commit crimes.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Hmm. One thing isn’t like the other. I don’t have to like the Dems or their policies. I don’t have to like Biden either. Regardless, we should all respect the rights of minorities. Yet, I can support gay rights while opposing the rights of gang members to commit crimes.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

So, I presume by that airy dismissal you are happy with the Democratic majority (as it is) in the United States imposing its values and laws on the minority? You guys are almost always entirely transactional in your espousal of supposedly fundamental principles.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago

I’m with the soldier who was interviewed and said “all mothers view their sons as angels”. In a culture with such close-knit families that are also very highly honour based, I imagine this makes coming to terms with any misdeeds from close family that much harder to swallow.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I was gobsmacked by the exact same comment. Tyranny of the majority – this is what we call law and order now?

Unfortunately, the more you let criminals run wild, the harsher the reaction has to be to solve it.

No one wants innocent children to be imprisoned, but the most basic function of govt is to protect citizens from violence.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
1 year ago

I’m with the soldier who was interviewed and said “all mothers view their sons as angels”. In a culture with such close-knit families that are also very highly honour based, I imagine this makes coming to terms with any misdeeds from close family that much harder to swallow.

Phillip Arundel
Phillip Arundel
1 year ago

”They share stories, their faces full of torment from not knowing whether their sons will ever return. I wonder if support for this mass incarceration shows a tyranny of the majority, and these are the victims. Or if the benefits could outweigh the injustices.”

So the writer wonders if it is unjust to lock up the world’s most violent criminals as it distresses the Mothers? That doing so victimized the Mothers beyond the crimes the criminals victimized their victims with?

100% Support Trump’s call for speedy death sentences for drug dealing of high level (Federal level – that means not possession but cartel level)

from the Independent

‘Trump calls for ‘quick’ death penalty for drug dealers as he describes US ‘going to hell very fast’
YES! These guys arrested for heinous crimes, even if not actual murder, being part of a gang which commits murder is enough – if you are part of it, you are part of the crime. – death penalty is the only thing which makes sense.ï»ż

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago

The lesson to be learned in the US is that allowing criminality will eventually require mass and tragic use of violence to restore order. We could find ourselves alarmingly close to such situations in the murder-riven blue-jurisdictions of major American cities, where the left refuses to even acknowledge that civilization is breaking down there, much less to anything effective about it.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

It’s probably like that in Chicago right now.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

It’s probably like that in Chicago right now.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago

The lesson to be learned in the US is that allowing criminality will eventually require mass and tragic use of violence to restore order. We could find ourselves alarmingly close to such situations in the murder-riven blue-jurisdictions of major American cities, where the left refuses to even acknowledge that civilization is breaking down there, much less to anything effective about it.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I’m no utilitarian but it is difficult to argexception seems ue with results like those. Given that the gangs had essentially paralysed the country for decades and drivens hundreds of thousands into exile a state of exception seems suitable

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

I’m no utilitarian but it is difficult to argexception seems ue with results like those. Given that the gangs had essentially paralysed the country for decades and drivens hundreds of thousands into exile a state of exception seems suitable

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
1 year ago

When a government serves the people, it seems that the usual Amnesty International and other human rights NGO support murderers and criminals. If liberal elites they like gang members so much, maybe they could join them in the prison cells ?

Last edited 1 year ago by Emmanuel MARTIN
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I think it’s related to a disconnect from living conditions for the poor and working class. In this sense, it’s more like a luxury belief. Similar to Defund The Police – only people living in safe or gated communities actually support these kind of ideas.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I think it’s related to a disconnect from living conditions for the poor and working class. In this sense, it’s more like a luxury belief. Similar to Defund The Police – only people living in safe or gated communities actually support these kind of ideas.

Emmanuel MARTIN
Emmanuel MARTIN
1 year ago

When a government serves the people, it seems that the usual Amnesty International and other human rights NGO support murderers and criminals. If liberal elites they like gang members so much, maybe they could join them in the prison cells ?

Last edited 1 year ago by Emmanuel MARTIN
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

According to that fabled organisation the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) El Salvador was the most dangerous place on earth for a number of years. Much to my surprise even more dangerous that relatively tranquil South Africa!

Thus Mr Bukeke is to be applauded for taking decisive, if somewhat brutal action. “Needs must” as we used to say.

Just a Marcus Licinius Crassus crucified the supporters of Spartacus along the Appian Way, sometimes there is just no other way.

Chantal Ettling
Chantal Ettling
1 year ago

I assume you mean ‘”stable South Africa” as a joke… or relative to what? It is neither safe nor stable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chantal Ettling
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Yes!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Yes!

Chantal Ettling
Chantal Ettling
1 year ago

I assume you mean ‘”stable South Africa” as a joke… or relative to what? It is neither safe nor stable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chantal Ettling
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

According to that fabled organisation the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) El Salvador was the most dangerous place on earth for a number of years. Much to my surprise even more dangerous that relatively tranquil South Africa!

Thus Mr Bukeke is to be applauded for taking decisive, if somewhat brutal action. “Needs must” as we used to say.

Just a Marcus Licinius Crassus crucified the supporters of Spartacus along the Appian Way, sometimes there is just no other way.

Sean Booth
Sean Booth
1 year ago

A harsh solution to a massive problem. Many governments across the globe either turn a blind eye to developing problems involving organised crime and extreme gang violence (UK, USA, Sweden, Denmark), are directly involved via kick backs and corruption (Zimbabwe, Venezuela) or are so totally incompetent and devoid of courage they do not know what to do.
The solution applied here is indeed harsh, but it is a cure that is much more preferable to the disease. Yes, there is a possibility that some people are incarcerated for minor crimes and associations, but minor crimes spawn major criminals, so maybe those individuals will see the light and reform if and when they are released?
Oh and by the way, Mothers are rarely the most independent minded individuals when it comes to assessing the failings of their sons.

Sean Booth
Sean Booth
1 year ago

A harsh solution to a massive problem. Many governments across the globe either turn a blind eye to developing problems involving organised crime and extreme gang violence (UK, USA, Sweden, Denmark), are directly involved via kick backs and corruption (Zimbabwe, Venezuela) or are so totally incompetent and devoid of courage they do not know what to do.
The solution applied here is indeed harsh, but it is a cure that is much more preferable to the disease. Yes, there is a possibility that some people are incarcerated for minor crimes and associations, but minor crimes spawn major criminals, so maybe those individuals will see the light and reform if and when they are released?
Oh and by the way, Mothers are rarely the most independent minded individuals when it comes to assessing the failings of their sons.

John Pade
John Pade
1 year ago

This is a matter of life and death. If protecting gang members’ so-called rights results in death and violating them results in life, and there are no other alternatives, then Bukele is right and his critics are wrong.
Rights don’t exist in a vacuum.

Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz
1 year ago
Reply to  John Pade

Agree completely

Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz
1 year ago
Reply to  John Pade

Agree completely

John Pade
John Pade
1 year ago

This is a matter of life and death. If protecting gang members’ so-called rights results in death and violating them results in life, and there are no other alternatives, then Bukele is right and his critics are wrong.
Rights don’t exist in a vacuum.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago

Mass incarceration is a terrible thing. But having your country ruled by gangs is worse. Haiti is what happens when gangs run your country. Best of luck to the good people of El Salvador. I hope you find a way out of this mess.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 year ago

Mass incarceration is a terrible thing. But having your country ruled by gangs is worse. Haiti is what happens when gangs run your country. Best of luck to the good people of El Salvador. I hope you find a way out of this mess.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

Can someone confirm that that’s 6014 fewer murders?

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

I got the same number. Strange the author isn’t more explicit – it is a massive improvement.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Mmm, strange.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt M

Mmm, strange.

Matt M
Matt M
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

I got the same number. Strange the author isn’t more explicit – it is a massive improvement.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

Can someone confirm that that’s 6014 fewer murders?

Slopmop McTeash
Slopmop McTeash
1 year ago

These gangs are made up of sub-human thugs…Their human rights!!! Do not talk to me of their human rights…I am far more concerned about the HUMAN rights of the people – who have the right to live peacefully in society without the vile terrorism these gangs inflict.

Bukele is a hero.

Slopmop McTeash
Slopmop McTeash
1 year ago

These gangs are made up of sub-human thugs…Their human rights!!! Do not talk to me of their human rights…I am far more concerned about the HUMAN rights of the people – who have the right to live peacefully in society without the vile terrorism these gangs inflict.

Bukele is a hero.

Mechan Barclay
Mechan Barclay
1 year ago

The author mentions:
“citizens are urged to inform on gang members, which could encourage people to finger anyone they have a beef with.”
Aren’t those they have a beef with the barrios/gangs along with all the complacent people who insulate these murderers? I’d have a beef as well if I had to live under such terrible situations.

Mechan Barclay
Mechan Barclay
1 year ago

The author mentions:
“citizens are urged to inform on gang members, which could encourage people to finger anyone they have a beef with.”
Aren’t those they have a beef with the barrios/gangs along with all the complacent people who insulate these murderers? I’d have a beef as well if I had to live under such terrible situations.

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
1 year ago

Human rights is a useless concept. Whose right is more important here? Try asking if it is fair and just that a country should have its inhabitants in the clutches of gangs. If you think it is, then complain about the treatment of these gang members.
If you think it is not, go with it. Far more serious is the future for EL Salvador once the gangsterism is under control. If the President does not release them into a community with decent jobs and work available, the entire strategy will have been wasted.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I’m not sure this is true. It can only be true if life was so miserable pre-crackdown that you had to commit crimes just to survive. I don’t think gang participation works this way. It’s often a social and convenience choice. If crime was allowed to take place without consequence pre-crackdown, and now there are severe consequences, there should be a dramatic drop in crime even when prisoners are released.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

I’m not sure this is true. It can only be true if life was so miserable pre-crackdown that you had to commit crimes just to survive. I don’t think gang participation works this way. It’s often a social and convenience choice. If crime was allowed to take place without consequence pre-crackdown, and now there are severe consequences, there should be a dramatic drop in crime even when prisoners are released.

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
1 year ago

Human rights is a useless concept. Whose right is more important here? Try asking if it is fair and just that a country should have its inhabitants in the clutches of gangs. If you think it is, then complain about the treatment of these gang members.
If you think it is not, go with it. Far more serious is the future for EL Salvador once the gangsterism is under control. If the President does not release them into a community with decent jobs and work available, the entire strategy will have been wasted.

Terry Black
Terry Black
1 year ago

Oh dear the bleeding heart mothers. I am concluding mothers are one of the biggest problems facing humankind.

Terry Black
Terry Black
1 year ago

Oh dear the bleeding heart mothers. I am concluding mothers are one of the biggest problems facing humankind.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Clearly El Salvador was in a terrible situation and something had to be done. I do not support arrest etc without reasonable evidence let alone incarceration BUT sometimes it has just fallen apart too much for that.
A good balanced article, thanks.

Snapper AG
Snapper AG
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

If you look at the top photo, is it really hard to figure out who the gangsters are? They all indelibly mark their gang allegiance on their skin. If your entire torso is covered in gang tatoos it’s going to require a pretty good explanation for me to believe you’re not a gang member.

Snapper AG
Snapper AG
1 year ago
Reply to  Rob N

If you look at the top photo, is it really hard to figure out who the gangsters are? They all indelibly mark their gang allegiance on their skin. If your entire torso is covered in gang tatoos it’s going to require a pretty good explanation for me to believe you’re not a gang member.

Rob N
Rob N
1 year ago

Clearly El Salvador was in a terrible situation and something had to be done. I do not support arrest etc without reasonable evidence let alone incarceration BUT sometimes it has just fallen apart too much for that.
A good balanced article, thanks.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

I think the US has a higher incarceration rate.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago

How’s that liberal arts degree working out for you?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Maybe check your facts before lobbing insults. I’m sure incarceration rates are fudged in many countries – China says hi – but there is no question the US has a very high number of people in prison.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Another humanities department member spoken from, I see. Hope that tuition forgiveness helped.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

I think I’ll leave both my embarrassingly foolish comments to hang in a gibbet for all to see as a warning to other bores like myself.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

One of the most impressive comments I’ve read in a long time. Super super cool. If everyone had this maturity, social media might be a little more tolerable. Not that it means much, but you’ve earned my profound respect Jacob Smith.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

One of the most impressive comments I’ve read in a long time. Super super cool. If everyone had this maturity, social media might be a little more tolerable. Not that it means much, but you’ve earned my profound respect Jacob Smith.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

I think I’ll leave both my embarrassingly foolish comments to hang in a gibbet for all to see as a warning to other bores like myself.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Another humanities department member spoken from, I see. Hope that tuition forgiveness helped.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Maybe check your facts before lobbing insults. I’m sure incarceration rates are fudged in many countries – China says hi – but there is no question the US has a very high number of people in prison.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

According to the World Atlas, the US does indeed have the highest incarceration rates per 100,000 at 655. El Salvador is second at 590.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

2.5 million inmates of all sorts in the US. 331 million citizens plus like 40 million other assorted residents. That’s less than 150 inmates per 100,000 people.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Sometimes the best advice is to stop digging the hole. Using your own stats, the number is 670 per 100,000.

And I think I was clear that all these numbers are questionable, certainly the numbers from authoritarian countries.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hah! You’re 100% correct! I was doing the math wrong. Damn, and I felt so clever and everything. I’m the worst!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

No sweat. All in good fun.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

No sweat. All in good fun.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Hah! You’re 100% correct! I was doing the math wrong. Damn, and I felt so clever and everything. I’m the worst!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacob Smith

Sometimes the best advice is to stop digging the hole. Using your own stats, the number is 670 per 100,000.

And I think I was clear that all these numbers are questionable, certainly the numbers from authoritarian countries.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

2.5 million inmates of all sorts in the US. 331 million citizens plus like 40 million other assorted residents. That’s less than 150 inmates per 100,000 people.

Jacob Smith
Jacob Smith
1 year ago

How’s that liberal arts degree working out for you?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 year ago

According to the World Atlas, the US does indeed have the highest incarceration rates per 100,000 at 655. El Salvador is second at 590.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
1 year ago

I think the US has a higher incarceration rate.