Crime & Justice

Salvadorans demand release of youths arrested under state of emergency

San Salvador, Jun 16 (EFE).- Friends, family, and colleagues of two young entertainers arrested under El Salvador’s state of emergency organized a protest here Thursday to demand their release.

Wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the prisoners’ images, the loved ones of Juan Erazo and Jose Orellana gathered at San Salvador’s famous Monument to the Divine Savior of the World along with a troupe of drummers and circus performers on stilts in full costume.

The two young men were arrested at the start of this month as part of the 30-day state of emergency congress approved in March at the request of right-wing President Nayib Bukele, who said he needed additional powers to cope with a spate of murders blamed on gangs.

But the families of Erazo and Orellana say that neither has any connection to the gangs.

The state of emergency, which has already been extended twice, entails the suspension of constitutional guarantees and thousands of people have been detained without any requirement for warrants or grounds that would stand up to judicial scrutiny.

Bukele requested special powers after El Salvador witnessed 87 homicides in three days.

Authorities attributed the killings to the powerful Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS13.

Since the start of the emergency, more than 3,000 complaints about abuses – mainly arbitrary arrests – have been filed with the national ombud’s office and domestic and international human rights organizations.

A succession of governments has struggled to subdue MS-13 and the other gangs, which actually originated in Los Angeles among the children of Salvadorans fleeing the country’s 1980-1992 civil war.

Convicted gang members deported back to their homeland from the United States established the gangs on Salvadoran soil.

El Salvador’s murder rate began to decline in 2016 and the reduction gathered pace after Bukele took office in 2019 before a dramatic surge in March of this year.

Online newspaper El Faro reported that the eruption of violence was due to the breakdown of a secret pact between the government and Mara Salvatrucha.

Bukele has not responded to the claim. EFE


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