State of emergency in El Salvador: Thousands of officials take action against youth gangs

After a wave of violence by youth gangs, El Salvador has been in a state of emergency for months.

State of emergency in El Salvador: Thousands of officials take action against youth gangs

After a wave of violence by youth gangs, El Salvador has been in a state of emergency for months. 56,000 suspected gang members have already been arrested. Now the government of the Central American country is preparing for the next blow.

In a major operation against the powerful youth gangs in El Salvador, the security forces cordoned off the city of Soyapango and searched for gang members. President Nayib Bukele said 8,500 soldiers and 1,500 police officers were involved in the operation in the greater area of ​​the capital San Salvador.

"Ordinary citizens have nothing to fear and can go about their lives normally," wrote the populist head of state on Twitter. "This is an operation against criminals, not against honest citizens." After a wave of violence in the Central American country of six million people, the government declared a state of emergency in March.

Since then, the government of conservative President Bukele has been cracking down on the gangs with great severity. More than 56,000 suspected gang members were arrested, and the murder rate has recently fallen significantly. However, activists denounce human rights violations. Youth gangs - the so-called maras - control entire neighborhoods in El Salvador and are involved in racketeering and drug trafficking. A few years ago, violence between hostile gangs and against the population made El Salvador one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

The government recently even had the tombstones of suspected gang members torn down. Videos showed prison inmates using hammers and pickaxes to destroy tombstones with gang symbols. The government said it wanted to eliminate all traces of the gangs.

Neighboring countries of El Salvador are also strengthening their border protection in view of the tense situation. Honduras mobilized around 600 police officers. Military police units have been deployed to the borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Their task is to prevent "the entry of members of criminal structures" from neighboring countries and in particular from El Salvador.

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