The Guardian Says El Salvador Reducing Murders By Over Half Is Problematic, Actually

Thousands of suspected gang members have been arrested.
TECOLUCA, EL SALVADOR - FEBRUARY 24: A first group of 2,000 detainees are moved to the mega- prison Terrorist Confinement Centre (CECOT) on February 24, 2023 in Tecoluca, El Salvador. Since president Nayib Bukele announced state of exception in March 2022, over 62,000 suspected gang members have been arrested. Human Rights organizations denounce abuses and due process violations. El Salvador has one of highest crime rates in Latin America. (Photo by Presidencia El Salvador via Getty Images )
Presidencia El Salvador via Getty Images

El Salvador‘s crackdown on violent gangs, which has reduced the country’s murder rate by over half is problematic actually, according to The Guardian.

The Guardian published an editorial on Sunday criticizing El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele for his unsparing crackdown on violent organized crime, saying his methods do not address the root cause of the crime, among other issues, Townhall noted.

The Guardian acknowledged that the crackdown has made the country safer, made Bukele more popular, and even made other Latin countries want to copy El Salvador and rid their streets of crime the same way.

“Even long-term critics acknowledge that extortion appears to have fallen sharply and that many in communities which lived in terror are enjoying the freedom to live their lives unmenaced. Yet others, many of them innocent of any crime, have paid a high price for a campaign that has trampled over basic rights: at least 153 people have died,” the editorial said.

The Guardian questioned Bukele’s power as well as the crackdown.

“Some may consider that a price worth paying. But even focusing purely on results, the story is more complicated than it appears,” The Guardian said, saying the murder rate has been falling since 2015.

El Salvador’s murder rate plummeted 56.8% in 2022, with authorities counting 496 homicides last year, down from 1,147 in 2021.

The editorial also said the crackdown does not address the underlying causes of organized crime.

“[Critics] also say the fall in crime is unsustainable – with good reason,” the editorial continued. “Previous hardline drives in the region have ended badly, followed by surges in offending. They do nothing to tackle underlying causes such as poverty and discrimination. They breed resentment and enable the recruitment and hardening of those not entrenched in gangs. Many of the criminal organisations that now terrorise parts of Latin America were born in prisons.”

The Guardian said one critic said the “real success story is not of the defeat of gangs, but the perpetuation of Mr Bukele’s power.”

“This is a man who dubbed himself ‘the coolest dictator in the world’ in response to criticism,” The Guardian said.

“It is assumed that the popularity of his crackdown will sweep him back into power next year, even though multiple experts say that would violate the country’s constitution. What worries opponents, scholars, lawyers and civil society most is what he may do after that, with renewed authority,” the editorial said.

“‘Bukelismo’ should not be admired, or emulated,” The Guardian concluded.

Last month, Bukele encouraged journalists to speak to El Salvadorans on the street about the crackdown.

“Given that we have over 300 international media outlets in the country today, I want to ask you to go speak with people on the street, ask anyone you meet at random,” Bukele said in a video message to journalists posted to Twitter.

“Here, in El Salvador, you are free to go anywhere you want. It’s totally safe,” Bukele said. “Nothing will happen to you. Nobody will stop you.”

El Salvador’s crackdown on violent criminals began last year when the government declared a state of emergency as the country battled a spike in murders.

The crackdown has seen thousands of suspected gang members locked up in the country’s new maximum security prison in central El Salvador, which can hold up to 40,000 inmates. Striking video footage showed lines of shirtless, heavily-tattooed prisoners with shaved heads running bent over and handcuffed as they were moved to the new prison facility.

“They are never going to return to the communities, the neighborhoods, the barrios, the cities of our beloved El Salvador,” declared El Salvador’s justice minister Gustavo Villatoro at the time.

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