In a new offensive of the war against violent gangs, the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, imposed this Wednesday a military siege around a town where a policeman was killed on Tuesday.
“Since early morning, we established a security fence around the municipality of new conception, [departamento norteño de] Chalatenango, with more than 5,000 elements” of the armed forces and 500 of the police to catch those responsible for the crime, the president assured on Twitter.
In this city of some 30,000 inhabitantslocated a little more than 80 km north of San Salvador, suspected gang members killed the policeman the day before, prompting Bukele to promise that he will “wipe out” the gangs.
Fourteen months ago, the president launched a “war” against the gangs, with massive arrests of suspects and taking away the territorial control they had exercised for years, which has restored the sense of security to the population.
The military operation this Wednesday began in the rural hamlet of La Cruz and later spread to other rural areas of Nueva Concepción, where the uniformed they searched houses and they reviewed the identification documents of passers-by and drivers of vehicles and motorcycles, according to local media.
Dressed in combat gear and armed with assault rifles, the military rode through the streets in Polaris all-terrain vehicles.
The uniformed men carry out the “search for those responsible for the homicide and the entire structure of gang members and collaborators who they still hide in that place”, affirmed Bukele.
The gang members “will pay dearly for the murder of our hero,” the agent Maximino Antonio Vasquezhe added.
The crusade against gangs has the support of nine out of ten Salvadorans, according to surveys, but Human rights organizations and the Catholic Church have criticized Bukele’s methods.
The police crime “is reprehensible,” but the military sieges “bring anxiety and fear” to the innocent population in that area of Chalatenango that suffered the harshness of the civil war (1980-1992), he told the news agency AFP the coordinator of the Human Rights Commission, Miguel Montenegro.
The National Civil Police (PNC) reported that agent Vásquez died after being “attacked” by gang members “while patrolling with other police officers” in Nueva Concepción.
He is the fourth Salvadoran police officer killed since Bukele launched his “war” in March 2022 and the first this yearwhile the country is governed by a state of emergency that authorizes arrests without a warrant.
Hours after the crime, the Legislative Assembly extended the exception regime in force, which allows arrests without a warrant, the main tool of the “war” against the Bukele gangs.
With this extension, The state of exception will be in force until June 15.
The emergency regime was originally declared by parliament, at the request of Bukele, in response to a homicidal escalation that claimed the lives of 87 people, from March 25 to 27, 2022.
Since then 68,720 suspected gang members have been arrestedalthough some 5,000 have been released for not being linked to these gangs, according to the government.
The military sieges around municipalities have been a recurring weapon of Bukele in the “war” against the gangs.
These began on December 3 in the Soyapango municipality of the capital and later spread to other areas. In some cases, the military remained on the scene for weeks, detaining thousands of suspects.
“We are going to destroy”
To detain gang members, Bukele inaugurated at the beginning of February a “megacarcel” with a capacity for 40,000 prisoners, considered the largest in Latin America.
The gangs were taking territorial control in the country after the end of the civil war and the government attributes 120,000 deaths to them, many more than the armed conflict (75,000).
Reporting on the policeman’s homicide on Tuesday, Bukele promised to “destroy” the gangswho in the territories they controlled subjected Salvadorans to their whims and charged merchants and carriers for extortion.
“Let all the ‘human rights’ NGOs know that we are going to wipe out these bloody murderers and their collaborators, we will put them in prison and they will never get out,” Bukele emphasized.
After the police crime, an alleged gang member was arrested at the scene.
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