San Salvador, Mar 29 (EFE).- Salvadoran authorities boasted Tuesday of a sharp drop in homicides three days into the state of exception approved by lawmakers at the request of right-wing President Nayib Bukele, yet thousands of families were struggling to get information about loved ones arrested under the emergency measures.
Two murders took place on Monday, according to the National Civil Police (PNC), compared with 89 over the three preceding days.
While Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro said that more than 1,400 suspected gang members have been detained in dozens of raids across the Central American nation.
The operations, mainly targeting the powerful Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang, began Saturday and have intensified since then.
Twenty-seven other people were arrested on suspicion of ties to international drug trafficking, the PNC said.
The state of exception allows authorities to a suspect for 15 days without bringing him or her before a judge. Detainees also lose the right to be told the reason for their arrest and the right to see a lawyer.
Bukele says that the gangs have some 70,000 members, of whom 16,000 are behind bars.
On Tuesday, Efe saw dozens of women – and a few men – outside the PNC’s main lockup in San Salvador, El Penalito, anxious for information about family members rounded up in the raids.
“What I want is for them to eat, they’re going to die of hunger,” a 30-something woman said, adding that she had already spent three hours in line waiting to talk to someone.
If her relative is indeed being held at El Penalito, the next step will be to stand in another line at a nearby commissary where she can buy food, toiletries, and the regulation prison whites for the prisoner.
A woman in her 50s told Efe that police arrested two of her sons without a warrant, kicking the boys in the head as they took them from the family home.
The police also confiscated the proceeds from the sale of a car because they wrongly assumed the boys bought the vehicle with ill-gotten gains.
The Salvadoran Supreme Court announced the appointment of additional criminal-court judges to prevent the sheer number of arrests from overwhelming the judiciary.
Without providing many details, the high court said that the new judges would be drawn from the ranks of “judicial officials, who will have the (requisite) human and material resources.”
Bukele is not the first Salvadoran president to resort to mass arrests to tame the gangs. Francisco Flores, who governed from 1999-2004, and his successor, Tony Saca, implemented similar plans. EFE hs/dr