Crime & Justice

Kin of detainees call for end to El Salvador state of emergency

San Salvador, Aug 16 (EFE).- Family members of individuals detained since a state of emergency was first declared in late March to combat gang violence on Tuesday urged the government not to renew that special measure for an additional 30-day period.

They also demanded the release of loved ones they claim were arrested arbitrarily.

That group of 50 people gathered at one of the entrances to the unicameral Legislative Assembly in San Salvador and held up signs containing the names of detainees and denouncing the state of emergency.

Margarita Lopez, one of the demonstrators, told Efe that her son was arrested on May 1 “at work” and called for the release of “wrongly detained men and women.”

“I demand the government free these people – men and women guiltlessly detained … I want the prompt release of my son, whose name is Walter Odir Rodriguez,” she said.

Lopez added that her son has a daughter, is married and is an aquaculture technician.

“With my hand on my heart, my son never went around committing crimes … I ask God and this government to free innocent men and women,” she said.

On Tuesday, El Salvador’s public security Cabinet will ask Congress to approve a new 30-month extension of the state of emergency (until late September) despite hundreds of complaints about human rights violations and the alleged deaths of people in custody.

El Salvador has been under a state of emergency since the end of March, a measure declared after a wave of violence left 87 dead in that month’s final weekend.

The Legislative Assembly, which is controlled by allies of President Nayib Bukele, voted then to suspend certain constitutional guarantees and grant special crime-fighting powers to the executive branch.

Salvadoran and international rights groups have since compiled thousands of complaints about possible human rights violations, most of them related to purported arbitrary arrests.

Since the state of emergency was declared, more than 49,600 arrests have been made and over 3,000 complaints of rights violations – including allegations of arbitrary arrests, deaths in custody and torture – have been submitted.

Besides releasing arrest figures, authorities have been mostly mum about the actions taken since the start of the state of emergency and have provided no official numbers on people who allegedly died while in detention. EFE


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