Families request release of loved ones arrested by Salvadoran gov’t

San Salvador, Mar 28 (EFE).- Relatives of people detained during El Salvador’s “state of exception” on Tuesday once again called for the release of their loved ones, who they said were “arbitrarily (arrested and are) … innocent,” asking for access to the prisons where they are being held so that they can see them.

Carrying signs, the demonstrators, mostly women, gathered at the Jose Marti traffic circle in San Salvador and later marched to the Legislative Assembly, where Order Maintenance Unit (UMO) officers blocked their passage with a barricade.

“They were taken away alive, we want them back alive,” “Freedom, freedom, freedom,” “Bukele, listen, the people are fighting,” and “We’re not defending criminals” were among the slogans shouted in unison by the marchers.

Maria del Carmen Reyes traveled to the Salvadoran capital from Usulutan, a journey of more than 130 kilometers (80 miles), to participate and request the release of her 38-year-old son, who was arrested in June 2022 at his home, she told EFE.

“I’m asking for the release of my son because he’s the only one I have and it’s he who supports me (economically),” said Reyes, adding that she doesn’t know if her son “is alive or dead, because since June I haven’t been able to see him.”

Jose Zuniga was also among the marchers, traveling from the central province of Cuscatlan, and calling for the release of his 19-year-old son, who was arrested in April 2022.

“He doesn’t have anything to do (with gangs), he shouldn’t be arrested … It’s an injustice what the president is doing,” Zuniga said, referring to President Nayib Bukele.

The marchers also called for the indemnification of the families of detainees who have died in state custody and the release of people who have already had a court hearing and were sentenced to alternatives to incarceration.

El Salvador on Monday marked the first anniversary of the imposition of the “state of exception,” which suspended constitutional guarantees such as the right to a legal defense and the inviolability of telecommunications and during which more than 66,417 people have been arrested.

The Bukele government says that its crackdown and its Territorial Control Plan have led to a decrease in murders, with 496 homicides registered by authorities during 2022.

During the year of the state of exception, non-governmental organizations have registered a total of 4,723 complaints of human rights violations involving 5,082 people.

In addition, the number of state of exception detainees who have died in state custody currently stands at 111, according to a report by NGOs.

EFE sa/bp

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