El Salvador to build prison for 20,000 gang members, says President Bukele
President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele announced his intention to build a maximum-security prison for 20,000 gang members during a graduation ceremony for army cadets on Tuesday (April 5).
Bukele warned of gangs that he will keep rationing food in jail unless the violence ends. "Let's see how long those "home-boys" last in there. I swear to God that they won't eat a (grain of) rice. Let's see how long they last." Said Bukele.
El Salvador's Congress approved on March 27 emergency powers that temporarily suspended some constitutional protections after the Central American country recorded a sharp rise in killings attributed to criminal gangs.
In 2015, El Salvador recorded a rate of 103 homicides for every 100,000 people, one of the highest in the world. Figures show that the rate has fallen steadily since Bukele took office in 2019.
Yet, critics say Bukele's administration has been marked by democratic backsliding, as he has sought to consolidate his control over the legislative and judicial branches.
Director at Cristosal Human Rights Organization, Abraham Abrego, says the government's actions put the youth at risk.
"Everyone can potentially be a gang member or suspected gang member. Young people are vulnerable, and we are seeing this in buses and houses raids. Just because they are minors and because of their appearances, (the government) is prompting abuses against minors and children," he said.
Bukele's government has also been accused of brokering a pact with the two main gangs, offering gang members better prison conditions, money and other benefits in exchange for them reducing homicide rates and giving electoral support to Bukele's party at legislative elections. He has repeatedly denied those accusations.