Gang Arrests in El Salvador Surpass 30,000 in 50 Days

(Photo: Michele D’ottavio, EyeEm, Getty Images)

Photo: Michele D’ottavio, EyeEm, Getty Images

  • President Nayib Bukele launched the war on criminal groups terrorizing the country in March.
  • A state of emergency was also announced following the deaths of 87 people in gang-related violence.
  • El Salvador also increased sentences for gang membership to up to 45 years.

El Salvador has arrested more than 30,000 suspected gang members since President Nayib Bukele launched his “war” against criminal groups terrorizing the country in March, police said Monday.

Bukele announced a state of emergency in late March after a bloody weekend in which 87 people died from gang-related violence.

Since then, the police and military have been rounding up suspected gang members using emergency powers that have eliminated the need for arrest warrants.

The small Central American country has also increased sentences for gang membership fivefold, up to 45 years.

The National Civil Police said on Twitter that “536 terrorists were arrested on Sunday, May 15, the date on which we celebrated 50 days since the start of the state of emergency.”

“The total number captured since the beginning of the war against the gangs is 30,506.”

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The wave of arrests is unprecedented in a country of 6.5 million people that has suffered decades of violent crime fueled by powerful gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18.

These gangs have about 70,000 members, and including recent arrests, about 46,000 of them are behind bars, according to authorities.

Rights groups have denounced the arrest of many minors with no gang ties.

Earlier this month, Vice President Félix Ulloa told representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross that the arrests were necessary to combat the gangs.

“The Salvadoran state counts on the assistance of Jus ad Bellum (Latin for ‘right to war’) to defend the people against criminal gang violence,” he said.

Jus ad bellum is an international set of criteria that must be consulted before the use of armed force or resort to war.

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