Belonging to a gang “has only two outcomes: prison or death” threatens the president of El Salvador

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele warned Thursday on Twitter that gang membership “has only two outcomes: prison or death”, supporting video of prisoners, the day after the six-fold increase in the maximum prison sentence for gang membership.

“Show this video to your teenage children, explain to them that joining a gang has only two outcomes: prison or death”, writes the young Salvadoran president elected on the promise of a merciless war against criminal gangs, the “maras”, which are rampant in the country.

A twenty-minute video shows the deplorable conditions of detention of gang members, usually all tattooed and dressed in simple white underpants, in overcrowded rooms, sleeping on the floor since their mattresses were confiscated.

“Since Sunday, food has been rationed and the 16,000 imprisoned gang members have not left their cells, nor seen the sun. In recent days, we have arrested 3,000 more people (and this will continue). So there will be less and less space and we will have to ration even more,” added President Bukele in another message.

After a series of 87 murders in 24 hours, El Salvador’s parliament on Sunday approved a month-long state of emergency in the small Central American country to curb gang violence.

In particular, it allows arrests without a warrant of suspected members of maras, mainly those of Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, which have some 70,000 members in El Salvador.

A “maximum alert” has also been decreed in all prisons.

Photo distributed by El Salvador’s presidential press office on March 28, 2022 showing imprisoned members of the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs at Ciudad Barrios prison, El Salvador (EL SALVADOR’S PRESIDENCY PRESS OFFICE/AFP/Archives – -)

“All cells will be closed 24/7, no one is allowed out. This is a message to the gangs: because of your actions, your ‘guys’ won’t see a ray of sunshine” , had tweeted the president.

The presidential-majority parliament also amended the penal code on Wednesday to increase the maximum sentence for gang leaders from nine to 45 years in prison.

“Anyone who participates in an illicit group, association or organization”, such as a mara, “will be punished with a prison term of twenty to thirty years”. Prior to this reform, membership in a gang was punishable by three to five years in prison.

In 2021, the homicide rate in El Salvador was 18 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, according to official data. By way of comparison, it was 64 in Cape Town and 37 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and 5.5 in New York and only 1.2 in Paris.

Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by

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