CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, an early warning tool designed to help prevent deadly violence. It keeps decision-makers up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises every month, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace. In addition, CrisisWatch monitors over 50 situations (“standby monitoring”) to offer timely information if developments indicate a drift toward violence or instability. Entries dating back to 2003 provide easily searchable conflict histories.

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January 2024

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele looked set for re-election in February; Minister of Justice announced start of trials against gang leadership as authorities again renewed state of exception. 

Poll suggested Bukele poised for victory in Feb election. Salvadorans will head to polls on 4 Feb to elect president, vice-president and legislative assembly, with possible runoff in March if no presidential candidate secures over 50% of vote. This appeared unlikely, however, after Francisco Gavidia University Centre for Citizen Studies 16 Jan presented their final poll prior to election day, which gave Bukele (who is constitutionally banned from seeking immediate re-election) 71% lead over his nearest rivals. 

Authorities renewed state of exception as trials of gang leadership began. Congress 9 Jan extended state of exception until 10 Feb amid continued criticism from human rights groups. Minister of Justice Gustavo Villatoro 4 Jan declared that El Salvador’s 2023 homicide rate was lowest in Latin America; he added that authorities had arrested 75,163 “terrorists” under measure and that approximately 18,000-20,000 gang members are still at large. Trial to prosecute 494 gang leaders 22 Jan commenced. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 3 Jan approved reform granting Attorney General capacity to declare persons or entities “national terrorists”, and to petition for their inclusion on UN Security Council terrorist list.

December 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Claudia Rodríguez became interim president as 2024 election cycle kicked off, and govt again extended state of exception.

Presidential designee appointed as Bukele stepped back for election campaign. President Bukele and VP Ulloa 1 Dec began leave of absence to focus on electoral campaign ahead of Feb 2024 presidential poll. Bukele ally Claudia Rodríguez, who independent media outlet Gato Encerrado previously accused of corruption, same day became interim president. At request of women candidates facing online harassment, Supreme Electoral Tribunal 5 Dec began investigating political violence against Nuestro Tiempo and ARENA political parties.

Emergency security measures extended amid human rights violations. Authorities 6 Dec extended state of exception for 21st time amid more concerns about human rights abuses under measures. Notably, NGOs Movement of Victims of the Regime and Humanitarian Legal Aid 3 Dec discovered four more people had died in prison, none of whom had been sentenced; according to NGOs, around 200 people have died in prison. Human rights monitor Amnesty International 5 Dec warned El Salvador “is experiencing an alarming regression in the respect for and protection of human rights”.

In other important developments. Bukele 1 Dec announced construction of National Stadium and Library with Chinese funding, signalling deepening ties. Court 22 Dec ordered arrest of former president Alfredo Cristiani for alleged cover-up in relation to 1981 El Mozote massacre during civil war.

November 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Justice system struggled under state of exception, and Congress granted President Bukele leave of absence to contest Feb 2024 polls.

Authorities renewed state of exception amid concerns of violations in prisons. Legislative Assembly 8 Nov extended state of exception for twentieth time. Mass arrests put pressure on justice system, with 85% of 5,000 people released from prison between March 2022 and July 2023 still awaiting trial. Human rights organisations continued to denounce violations in prison. Notably, NGO Cristosal 1 Nov reported that 191 persons had died in custody since March 2022. Meanwhile, authorities in Mexico 8 Nov arrested Salvadoran MS-13 gang leader Elmer Canales, 9 Nov extradited him to U.S.; U.S. claimed authorities released him from prison in El Salvador in Jan 2021, boosting claims widely reported in Salvadoran media that President Bukele negotiated directly with gangs to reduce violence.

Election Tribunal approved Bukele’s bid for second term. Electoral Tribunal - which is elected by govt-controlled Congress – 3 Nov approved President Bukele’s candidacy for 2024 presidential election despite constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election. Bukele 28 Nov said he would ask Congress for leave of absence from presidency for six months to allow him to run; Congress 30 Nov granted permission for period 1 Dec to 31 May 2024, with current head of National Directorate of Municipal Works due to replace Bukele in his duties.

October 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Concerns about human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence, under state of exception persisted.

Govt denied allegations of rights violations under state of exception. Legislative Assembly 12 Oct extended state of exception for 19th time, with VP of assembly claiming that human rights violations committed during measure were isolated incidents. Despite claims, civil society organisations and journalists continued to document cases of arbitrary arrests and torture, and shed light on conditions within prisons. Notably, coalition of human rights organisations 18 Oct estimated inmate population of 1,620 people per 100,000, translating into 148% overcrowding rate. Meanwhile, military 11 Oct sent 3,500 soldiers into Apopa municipality, San Salvador department (centre), amid ongoing efforts to root out gangs.

Women’s groups spotlighted sexual violence at hands of military and police. Following late Sept charges brought against six soldiers involved in rape of minor, military and police came under scrutiny for abuse of power and allegations of rape from within their ranks. Notably, several feminist groups 18 Oct protested in front of army headquarters, accusing military and police of using state of exception to act with impunity; they reported, for example, that one soldier had raped an eight-year-old girl in Bajo Lempa area, Usulutan department (south east).

In other important developments. Govt and opposition 3 Oct began campaigns for Feb 2024 general elections, which President Bukele is expected to win; Bukele 26 Oct officially registered as candidate despite constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election.

September 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt introduced initiative to combat poverty, while officials defended President Bukele’s re-election bid.

Bukele launched phase six of his security plan amid ongoing anti-gang efforts. Legislative Assembly 12 Sept extended state of exception for 18th time upon Defence Minister Monroy’s request. Bukele 15 Sept announced phase six of his anti-gang Territorial Control Plan, dubbed “integration”; under this phase, authorities will create Directorate for National Integration to combat poverty with budget of $30mn; several other bodies, including Salvadoran Institute of Professional Formation and National Youth Institute, will now fall under Directorate for National Integration. Bukele 19 Sept defended anti-gang efforts at UN, saying security “results” were “irrefutable”. Several media sources late Sept reported confidential police document from 1 Sept showed nearly 43,000 people allegedly connected to gangs yet to be detained.

Govt defended Bukele’s re-election bid. As Feb 2024 polls drew closer, ruling party Nuevas Ideas’ continued to face accusations that its nomination of Bukele and VP Félix Ulloa as presidential and vice-presidential candidates violates constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election. Ulloa continued to describe re-election attempt as “second mandate” rather than re-election. Electoral authorities appear set on allowing Bukele’s re-run after Supreme Electoral Tribunal Magistrate Noel Orellana 31 Aug said only four of five magistrate votes are required to allow Bukele’s re-run; just one magistrate has said he will vote “in accordance with the constitution”.

August 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt’s hardline security policies continued to fuel concern among rights groups.

Authorities carried out massive security operation amid anti-gang efforts. In one of biggest military operations since President Bukele first declared state of exception in March 2022, govt 1 Aug deployed 7,000 soldiers and 1,000 police officers to Cabañas department (north) to tackle “terrorist cells”. While previous raids had focused on particular communities, Cabañas became first full department to be placed under siege as authorities arrested scores and seized dozens of weapons. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 9 Aug approved state of exception’s 17th extension until 13 Sept. Authorities 22 Aug announced 7,000 of 72,000 people detained under measure had been released.

Rights groups kept condemning security measures. Civil society organisations, including Movimiento de Víctimas del Regimen and Institute of Human Rights of the University of Central America, continued to denounce persecution, harassment and abuses under state of exception. Former Supreme Court of Justice magistrate Sidney Blando 1 Aug said no judicial independence existed in El Salvador. Andrés Guzman, appointed to Commission for Human Rights and Freedom of Expression by Bukele, 7 Aug defended administration.

July 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Ruling party named President Bukele as their candidate for 2024 presidential poll, and Congress voted to allow mass trials for alleged gang members.

Political parties held primaries to select candidates for Feb 2024 general election. Ruling party Nuevas Ideas 9 July nominated Bukele and VP Félix Ulloa as presidential and vice presidential candidates in Feb 2024 poll despite constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election; should Salvadorans vote for Nuevas Ideas, Bukele will be able to further consolidate power at all levels of govt. Two main opposition parties – conservative ARENA and leftist FMLN – 16 July announced Joel Sánchez and Manuel Flores as their respective candidates, with Hilcia Bonilla and Werner Marroquin as running mates.

Congress passed legislation enabling mass trials for alleged gang members. Legislative Assembly 12 July approved state of exception’s sixteenth extension. Congress 26 July passed bill allowing courts to try alleged gang members in mass trials and increasing sentences for gang leaders from 45 to 60 years; up to 900 people can now be tried simultaneously if they hail from same region or are accused of belonging to same criminal group. Civil society and international bodies continued to raise concerns about human rights abuses under state of exception. Notably, a coalition of human rights groups 14 July denounced govt for third time at Inter-American Commission of Human Rights over arrest of innocent people and deaths of inmates; govt denied allegations.

June 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele slashed size of Congress and number of municipalities, raising fears govt is consolidating power ahead of 2024 polls; authorities put pressure on former officials accused of corruption.

Govt enacted number of administrative-political reforms. During State of the Union address on 1 June, President Bukele announced reorganisation of govt: reduction of municipalities from 262 to 44; reduction of legislative assembly from 84 seats to 60; and “war on corruption”. Following speech, govt 7 June passed law slimming Congress down to 60 deputies, 14 June reduced number of municipalities to 44. Opposition politicians warned move concentrates power in hands of ruling party Nuevas Ideas ahead of Feb 2024 presidential, legislative and local elections; Nuevas Ideas 26 June announced Bukele had registered to run for re-election, despite constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 14 June approved state of exception’s fifteenth extension amid human rights concerns.

Judicial proceedings against former officials accused of corruption continued. Attorney General 6 June charged former President Alfredo Cristiani in connection with 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two women. National Civilian Police director 6 June announced politicians and journalists involved in 2012 “gang truce” talks will face judicial proceedings. Attorney General 17 June announced money laundering charges against former Defence Minister David Munguía Payes, sentenced in May to 18 years in prison for having conducted truce negotiations with criminal groups in 2012.

May 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities renewed state of exception as crackdown on gangs continued, and court handed down lengthy prison sentence to former president for ties to gangs.

Security forces fenced off community after suspected gang members killed officer. As Legislative Assembly 16 May approved state of exception’s 14th extension, presumed gang members same day killed officer in Nueva Conception municipality (Chalatenango department); authorities 17 May deployed 500 police and 5,000 soldiers to area and installed fence around perimeter, making Nueva Conception fifth municipality to be cordoned off since President Bukele late 2022 announced phase 5 of Territorial Control Plan, intended to “extract every last terrorist from the communities of El Salvador”. Meanwhile, NGO Cristosal 29 May said at least 153 people had died in custody since state of exception began in March 2022.

Court sentenced former president for illicit association with gangs. Trial proceeded against former President Mauricio Funes and former Justice and Security Minister David Munguía Payés, accused of “illicit association” and “breach of duties” during 2012-2014 gang truce, notably making “pact” with gangs. Former director of State Intelligence Service José Ricardo Perdomo 3 May testified that Funes knew of “irregular conditions” inside prisons, such as mediators entering without registering, deactivation of cell phone signals and gang leaders’ transfer to other prison facilities with lower security measures. Court 29 May sentenced Funes and Munguía to 14 and 18 years in prison, respectively.

April 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities renewed state of exception for 13th time as concerns about human rights violations persisted; U.S. arrested key MS-13 leader on terrorism charges.

State of exception extended amid continued concern over human rights violations. Legislative assembly 12 April once again approved state of exception’s extension, while Justice and Public Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro 17 April said authorities had arrested 67,467 people for gang affiliation since introducing measure. Complaints of human rights violations continued. Notably, NGO Amnesty International 3 April published statement accusing authorities of “systematically” committing human rights violations; five local civil society organisations 11 April submitted report to UN regarding extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions in El Salvador’s prisons. Meanwhile, trade union representatives 18 April condemned arrest of at least 16 trade unionists since Jan 2023 under state of exception framework; moves signal measure’s expanding use against political actors, which may increase as elections edge closer.

MS-13 leader arrested on terrorism charges. U.S. 18 April arrested MS-13 gang leader Jose Wilfredo Ayala-Alcantara, also known as “Indio de Hollywood”, upon his arrival in Texas state after Mexico deported him. He and 12 associates already in U.S. custody were detained on terrorism charges and now await trial; President Bukele’s administration had previously released some of these leaders from Salvadoran prisons.

March 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

One year after govt first imposed 30-day state of exception, authorities renewed measure for 12th time amid widespread support; Legislative Assembly lifted electoral reform ban.

One-year anniversary of state of exception passed. 27 March marked one year since govt first imposed state of exception for 30 days to tackle gang violence. Twelve days prior, legislative assembly 15 March approved measure’s 12th extension. Justice and Public Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro 27 March said authorities had arrested 66,417 people for gang affiliation since measure took effect. Complaints about human rights violations persisted. Notably, UN human rights office 28 March said 90 people have died in custody since March 2022, adding that “there is only limited information on how investigations of those deaths are proceeding”. Despite human rights concerns, state of exception continued to enjoy wide popular support and President Bukele maintained high approval ratings.

Authorities repealed ban on reforms to electoral processes. Legislative Assembly 15 March lifted ban on enacting changes to electoral system one year before elections. Opposition politician Claudia Ortiz condemned move, arguing measure will allow govt to modify rules up to one day before polls are held, which indicates ruling party may seek to make changes ahead of next presidential election in Feb 2024; Ortiz accused Bukele of seeking to “concentrate more power”.

February 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities extended state of exception for 11th time, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) published findings on state of economy and outlook.

State of exception renewed once again amid continued concern about human rights. Following Legislative Assembly’s 11th renewal of state of exception on 14 Feb, Minister of Justice and Public Security Gustavo Villatoro 22 Feb said 64,512 people had been arrested for gang affiliation since measure began. Concerns about human rights violations continued as state of exception’s one-year anniversary neared. Notably, online news outlet El Faro 3 Feb said measure had broken gangs’ hold on communities but also resulted in systematic violation of human rights and slide into authoritarianism. According to NGO Cristosal, as of 15 Feb there had been at least 107 in-custody deaths since March 2022. Meanwhile, authorities 24 Feb transferred 2,000 prisoners to new mega-prison of Tecoluca, which will house 40,000 prisoners; NGO Human Rights Watch 26 Feb said “packing tens of thousands of detainees is unlikely to bring security for Salvadorans in a sustainable manner”.

International Monetary Fund released statement on economic situation. Following its latest mission to El Salvador, IMF 10 Feb presented final statement amid concerns about economic situation, saying country must bring its debt “back to a sustainable path”; statement also highlighted increased vulnerabilities, including account deficit, low international reserves and high stock of short-term domestic debt.

January 2023

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities renewed state of exception for tenth time as President Bukele lauded improved security situation; Salvadoran debt remained high.

Authorities once again renewed state of exception. Legislative Assembly 11 Jan extended state of exception, cornerstone of Bukele’s administration, for tenth time. News outlet La Prensa Gráfica 17 Jan reported that more than 97,000 people, or 2% of country’s adult population, is now behind bars, making it highest imprisonment rate worldwide; Legislative Assembly 12 Jan reported over 61,000 people have been arrested since state of exception began in March 2022. Bukele 17 Jan declared that El Salvador had become “safest country in Latin America” and that state of exception would last “as long as necessary”.

NGOs raised concerns over arbitrary arrests and deaths in custody in past year. NGO Cristosal 5 Jan said it had received 3,086 complaints of human rights violations between March 2022 and 31 Dec, 97% of which were for arbitrary arrests. In its World Report 2023, NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) 12 Jan expressed concern for high number of arbitrary arrests and deaths of 90 people while in custody. In joint statement, HRW and Cristosal 27 Jan said leaked database belonging to Ministry of Public Safety “supports findings of mass due process violations, severe prison overcrowding, and deaths in custody”.

In other important developments. News outlet Elsalvador.com 18 Jan reported that Bukele had increased Salvadoran debt by $5 billion in his three years in office. Legislative Assembly 11 Jan approved controversial Digital Securities Law, allowing El Salvador to issue Bitcoin-backed bonds. VP Ulloa 3 Jan asked Brazil to rejoin Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, signalling willingness to engage with other countries in region.

December 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt launched major offensive in Soyapango to combat gang violence as authorities renewed state of exception for ninth time; relations with U.S. remained tense.

Campaign of mass arrests to tackle gangs continued. President Bukele 3 Dec launched offensive in Soyapango city (centre), deploying 8,500 soldiers and 1,500 police officers to cut off transit in and out of city and search houses for gang members. Ministry of justice 12 Dec confirmed apprehension of at least 375 alleged gang members in ongoing operation, next day announced that 60,000 alleged gang members had been arrested since state of exception began late March. In capital San Salvador, over 2,000 soldiers and around 230 police officers 24, 25 Dec surrounded Tutunichapa and La Granjita neighbourhoods to root out gang members. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 14 Dec extended state of exception for ninth time.

Broad public support for crackdown continued, NGOs denounced abuses. NGO Human Rights Watch and Salvadoran group Cristosal 7 Dec published report documenting hundreds of forced disappearances, torture, deaths in custody and arbitrary arrests under state of exception. Journalist association APES 21 Dec said freedom of press is in “critical state”. Nonetheless, crackdown remained popular, with news outlet La Prensa Gráfica 12 Dec publishing survey showing that 88% of 1,520 interviewees support Bukele and 85% consider security situation improved.

In other important developments. U.S. Treasury Department 9 Dec sanctioned two officials close to Bukele – Minister of Labour Rolando Castro and Bukele’s legal secretary Conan Castro – on charges of corruption and human rights violations. Meanwhile, Bukele 7 Dec announced govt had repurchased $82mn of its sovereign debt bonds in attempt to calm market concerns around possible debt default.

November 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt’s heavy-handed approach to gangs continued amid eighth renewal of state of exception; further evidence of past ties between officials and gangs emerged.

Bukele administration continued its mano dura approach to tackle gangs. Vice Minister of Justice and director of prison system Osiris Luna Meza 1 Nov posted video of non-gang affiliated prisoners destroying tombs of gang members, part of new effort to erase all gang symbolism in country. Legislative Assembly same day approved series of reforms that ease proceedings to approve wiretapping through newly established Examining Courts; reforms exempt attorney general’s office from submitting reports on wiretaps to judges and strip human rights ombudsman’s office of oversight role. President Bukele 23 Nov announced phase 5 of “Territorial Control Plan”, called Extraction, intended to “extract every last terrorist from the communities of El Salvador”. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 15 Nov renewed state of exception for eighth time, while ministry of security 21 Nov reported arrest of over 58,000 suspected gang members since state of exception began in March. Police reported stark reduction of daily homicides between Jan and 14 Nov, putting 2022 on track to break record low murder rate of 2021. However, UN Committee against Torture 25 Nov published report expressing concern over arrests and irregularities committed under state of exception.

Media continued to expose past ties between authorities and gangs. Association of Journalists of El Salvador 3 Nov accused authorities of harassment and threats against journalist Juan Martínez d’Aubuisson after investigation published four days earlier found that current Attorney General Rodolfo Delgado had defended MS-13 collaborators in the past. Meanwhile, online news outlet El Faro 7 Nov revealed that National Civil Police had investigated Luna Meza in 2020 for possible links to gang leaders and drug traffickers.

In other important developments. Bukele 9 Nov announced that El Salvador and China will sign free trade agreement.

October 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt continued crackdown on gangs amid seventh renewal of state of exception since March; relations with Western partners grew more strained.

Authorities launched major military operation targeting gang members. Gang-related homicide early Oct prompted govt to launch massive military operation in Comasagua municipality (centre west). Over 2,000 soldiers and police 2 Oct surrounded and closed off town of 12,000 inhabitants to search for members of MS-13 gang, and arrested at least 155 gang members in following days; Attorney General’s Office 16 Oct charged detainees with “illicit association” and other crimes.

State of exception renewed for seventh time amid concerns over human rights. Then human rights ombudsperson Apolonio Tobar 14 Oct released report revealing that between 27 March (when state of exception was first imposed) and 3 Oct, his office had received 3,777 complaints of human rights violations; despite allegations, Legislative Assembly same day renewed state of exception for seventh time. Although measure remains popular among Salvadorans, survey published 18 Oct by Central American University revealed growing awareness of state of exception’s limitations; notably, 51% of interviewees feared it would not solve gang issue and over 30% knew someone unjustly detained.

New allegations against senior figures of past collusion with gangs emerged. Attorney General’s Office 13 Oct formally accused former ARENA party presidential candidate Norman Quijano of negotiating with gangs to gain electoral support in 2014 elections. Meanwhile, news outlet El Faro 27 Oct published new evidence that authorities released senior MS-13 gang leader Élmer Canales Rivera, alias “Crook,” from prison in November 2021, despite multiple upstanding sentences adding up to over four decades in prison.

In other important developments. El Salvador was one of three countries to abstain in Organization of American States General Assembly’s resolution 7 Oct denouncing Nicaraguan President Ortega’s crackdown on dissent; 12 Oct did not participate in UN General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s pledged annexation of four Ukrainian territories.

September 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele announced candidacy for 2024 elections, authorities renewed for sixth time state of exception, and economic outlook remained poor.

President Bukele announced re-election bid. On anniversary of country’s independence, Bukele 15 Sept announced he would seek re-election in 2024, defying country’s constitution prohibiting presidents from serving consecutive terms. Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, appointed by current legislature, had already ruled in favour of allowing Bukele to stand for re-election in Sept 2021.

State of exception was extended for sixth time amid small-scale protests. Several protests against state of exception (imposed in March to address gang violence) took place throughout month. Notably, relatives of detainees 5 Sept marched to Human Rights Ombudsperson’s office calling on institution to address alleged abuses perpetrated under emergency powers; hundreds 15 Sept took to streets in capital San Salvador demanding end to state of exception. Civil society groups 23 Sept filed lawsuit with Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for arbitrary detention of at least 152 people. Legislative Assembly 14 Sept however extended emergency measures for sixth time; decision came days after consulting firm Cid Gallup 5 Sept published poll showing that 91% of respondents supported govt’s measures to crackdown on gangs.

Economic outlook remained worrying. Govt 12 Sept offered creditors partial buyback of $1.6 billion bonds due in 2023 and 2025 in order to reduce risk of debt default; Bukele 21 Sept announced govt had repurchased $565 million bonds. However, financial services company Fitch Ratings 15 Sept said “default of some sort” in future was “probable”.

August 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt extended state of emergency for fifth time to combat gang violence as more evidence emerged of authorities’ abuses. Press and civil society organisations accused authorities of human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and torture, during state of emergency imposed late March. Notably, media outlet El Faro 7 Aug published court records of 690 people arrested since March, showing that police had justified arrests of at least 60 with ambiguous criteria such as “looking suspicious” or being “nervous”; Central American University Human Rights Observatory 10 Aug released report documenting 306 cases of torture between 27 March and 7 July; news outlet La Prensa Gráfica 25 Aug reported that, according to sources from Institute of Legal Medicine, 73 people have died in custody since March, at least 35 of them presenting signs of violence. Dozens of people 9, 16, 24 Aug took to streets in capital San Salvador, demanding release of their relatives detained since March. Despite criticism, Legislative Assembly 17 Aug approved fifth extension of state of emergency; govt same day said that 50,000 suspected gang members had been detained since March. Authorities 9 Aug extradited MS-13 members José Jonathan Guevara-Castro, alias “Sospechoso”, and Edwin Mauricio Rodríguez Morales, alias “Manicomio”, to U.S., 24 Aug reported capture of one MS-13 leader, Byron Arístides Salazar Ramírez, alias “Sleepy”. La Prensa Gráfica 9 Aug revealed court had ordered Attorney General’s Office to investigate whether 18th Street gang had intervened in favour of President Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas candidates in 2021 municipal and legislative elections. In interview with French daily newspaper Le Monde, VP Félix Ulloa 12 Aug said that audios, in which govt official Carlos Marroquín admitted to negotiating with gangs, were genuine and suggested authorities open investigation against him. On international front, El Salvador 12 Aug abstained from condemning Nicaraguan President Ortega’s crackdown on dissent during Organization of American States (OAS) extraordinary session; OAS approved resolution.

July 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt extended state of emergency for fourth time amid continued crackdown on gangs, and new evidence of release of MS-13 gang leaders came to light. National police 18 July reported that authorities had arrested over 46,000 alleged gang members since state of emergency began in late March, and which govt 20 July extended by another month for fourth time. Human Rights Prosecutor Apolonio Tobar 4 July said his office had received 2,673 complaints of human rights violations related to state of emergency implementation. Tobar 11 July visited country’s fullest prisons and acknowledged overcrowding problems, but did not mention deaths in custody, which news agencies early July reported to be over 50 since late March. As govt’s crackdown on gangs continued apace, clashes between gangs and security forces increased. Notably, unknown assailants 13 July shot dead one soldier in rural community of Chalatenango (north west), which has strong MS-13 gang presence; three gang members were killed and ten more arrested 10 July after shootout with security forces in rural area of Sonsonate (west). President Bukele 21 July said new jail under construction in Tecoluca municipality of San Vicente department (centre) would be ready in 60 days and will be able to house up to 40,000 gang members. New evidence surfaced in connection with release from prison and subsequent escape abroad of top MS-13 leaders. El Faro news outlet 11 July published report showing pictures and videos of MS-13 leader Elmer Canales Rivera, alias “Crook”, posted on social media by his partner between late 2021 and early 2022, which seemed to confirm that he was released from prison and subsequently left El Salvador, reportedly with govt’s help. Guatemalan news outlet No-Ficción 12 July reported that authorities in late 2021 released another key MS-13 leader, known as “Viejo Santos”, having served sentence, despite U.S. in 2013 designating him one of MS-13’s most important leaders; he was rearrested in Guatemala in April. U.S. State Dept 20 July added six current and former Salvadoran officials to list of corrupt actors in Central America known as Engel list, including head of Bukele’s Nuevas Ideas party.

June 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities continued crackdown on gangs despite international criticism; economic situation worsened amid Bitcoin’s volatility. President Bukele 1 June highlighted success of his security measures to Legislative Assembly, saying “we have almost won the war against the gangs”. National Police 24 June reported authorities had arrested over 42,250 alleged gang members since state of emergency began late March. Legislative Assembly 21 June approved third extension of state of emergency, while Bukele 22 June announced construction of “Terrorism Confinement Centre”, due to house around 20,000 gang members. Shootout between suspected gang members and security forces 28 June, left three police dead in Santa Ana department (centre); Bukele same day said govt would “ramp up” war against gangs. Govt crackdown on gangs continued to prompt condemnation. Notably, NGO Amnesty International 2 June accused govt of “massive human rights violations”; Human Rights Ombudsman 9 June announced his office had received nearly 2,000 complaints of human rights violations in first two months of state of emergency (27 March- 25 May); and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 13 June expressed concern about arbitrary detentions. As of 24 June, human rights groups reported at least 52 deaths since 27 March. Meanwhile, Bukele’s relations with U.S. deteriorated further. According to Associated Press media outlet, Bukele, who did not attend 6-10 June Americas Summit held in Los Angeles, U.S., 9 June declined to speak with U.S. Sec of State Antony Blinken. U.S. State Department 24 June called on country to “immediately extradite” some 15 MS12 gang leaders; govt had yet to respond by end of month despite extradition treaty with U.S.. Economic prospects continued to worsen amid concerns that Bukele’s renewed tensions with U.S. and multilateral financial institutions could impact govt’s ability to access foreign funds and investments in future. Central Bank 8 June announced that inflation reached 7.5 per cent in May, highest rate since 2010. Bitcoin 24 June plunged to around $20,000.

May 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Under renewed state of emergency, authorities continued mass detentions campaign to address gang violence; economic outlook deteriorated. Legislative Assembly 25 May extended state of emergency, initially imposed in late March to deal with surge of gang violence, and approved $10 mn budget increase to Attorney General’s office for wiretapping. Authorities continued heavy crackdown to deal with gang violence. National Police 27 May said over 35,000 people arrested since 27 March; Attorney General 22 May said over 23,000 will remain in temporary detention while trials proceed. Security Minister 9 May said authorities released at least 168 wrongfully detained, while Central America University radio 17 May said 17 have died in custody. Human rights organisations continued to criticise crackdown; notably, NGO Cristosal raised concerns about almost 700 human rights violations by authorities, including numerous cases of arbitrary detentions, between 27 March and 24 May. Central America University polling institute 25 May released survey showing eight out of ten interviewees felt crime had decreased since state of exception, with 50% approving its extension. New evidence emerged about govt dealings with gangs. Media outlet El Faro 17 May published report with confession from high-ranking MS-13 gang members for killing at least 87 after fellow gang members were arrested late March; senior govt official admitted he released prominent MS-13 leader to illustrate commitment to talks. Meanwhile, country’s economic outlook worsened, driven by stark decrease in Bitcoin value, which country adopted as legal tender in 2021. Emerging Markets Bonds Index 16 May rated country’s bonds at over 24%, signalling increasing risk, while govt 8 May bought another 500 bitcoins despite drop in prices.

April 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities arrested scores of suspected gang members following surge in gang violence in March, prompting concerns locally and internationally over citizens’ rights. Following most lethal killing spree in March, which prompted imposition of state of emergency 26 March, authorities took number of steps to tackle gang violence which drew concerns about citizens’ rights. Legislative Assembly 5 April approved changes to criminal code, imposing ten to 15 years imprisonment for reports that could be interpreted as sharing messages coming from gangs; Association of Journalists of El Salvador immediately expressed concern and described it as “gag measure”. Numerous other rights groups condemned govt’s legislative measures; notably, NGO Human Rights Watch 8 April expressed concerns that “sweeping legal amendments” since late March “violate basic due process guarantees and children’s rights”. Authorities continued to arrest suspected gang members during month. Parliamentarians 19 April passed law to build new jails and 24 April renewed state of exception for 30 more days. Bukele 27 April announced over 20,000 alleged gang members arrested since state of emergency. Head of Police Workers Union Marvin Reyes 12 April denounced being obliged to reach detention quotas. Bukele 5 April threatened to stop feeding imprisoned gang members if gangs attempted to retaliate. Labour Minister Rolando Castro 28 April said 1 May labour demonstrations banned in light of state of exception. Internationally, U.S. State Department 10 April criticised penal code reform, said “law lends itself to attempts to censor the media (…) and silence critics”, and expressed support for El Salvador’s fight against gangs; President Bukele next day argued current U.S. administration is “only supporting the gangs and their ‘civil liberties’”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 5 April expressed concern about measures introduced since late March to counter rise in gang violence, said some of those arrested “reportedly been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, also expressed concerns about criminal trials held in abstentia and rights of teenagers associated with gangs. NGO Amnesty International 25 April commented govt’s measures to address gang-related killings “have created a perfect storm of human rights violations”.

March 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities declared state of emergency in response to most lethal killing spree since President Bukele took office; tensions with U.S. persisted. Gang violence peaked during month: gangs 26 March killed 62 people in 24 hours, making it deadliest gang violence in a day in country’s recent history. Govt same day declared state of emergency for 30 days and Bukele 27 March ordered to tighten liberties in jails, including by reducing meals. Authorities 28 March declared more than 1,000 suspected gang members had been arrested. Parliament 30 March approved tougher sentences for gang members, including sentences of between 40 and 45 years for “creators, organisers, chiefs, leaders, financiers or ringleaders” of gang groups. Meanwhile, amid elevated oil prices in part due to conflict in Ukraine, Bukele 10 March announced several measures to tackle economic impact on population, including temporary suspension of fuel taxes to address public transport cost. After Catalino Miranda, owner of almost 300 buses covering two routes, allegedly raised ticket prices, authorities 12 March detained him, and accused him of “aggressive resistance”, and 18 March of overpricing; military officers subsequently started driving Miranda’s buses, and minister of public works advertised hiring of new bus drivers. Business association ANEP 12 March expressed concern about act it considered expropriation; Bukele next day threatened to intervene further in case of strikes, including by taking over public services. As Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 16 March held hearing into alleged unlawful surveillance of Salvadoran journalists and activists using Pegasus spyware, authorities denied responsibility in reported case. After El Salvador 2 March abstained in UN General Assembly vote denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, head of U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Bob Menéndez same day requested reconsidering El Salvador’s participation in free trade agreement with U.S.. Court 11 March ordered capture of former President Alfredo Cristiano in relation to 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two others. Some 3,000 women 6 March marched in capital San Salvador calling for legalising abortion and combatting femicides.

February 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Following allegations of state-sponsored surveillance on journalists and activists, authorities endorsed revisions to criminal code allowing “digital undercover operations”. Legislative Assembly 1 Feb amended criminal code, with new measures authorising state-led digital undercover operations, reportedly in response to crimes that are and can be committed through abuse of information and communication technologies; opposition alongside NGOs including Human Rights Watch and Association of Journalists of El Salvador (APES) immediately condemned move, said it legalises espionage and gives too broad powers to prosecutor’s office. NGO Cristosal 8 Feb filed complaint before Court of Audits against President Bukele, and three other officials including minister of justice and minister of defence, for alleged use of funds to support Pegasus surveillance program which had been found in numerous Salvadoran activists’ and journalists’ devices. Dozens 4 Feb protested in capital San Salvador demanding pension reform promised by Bukele. U.S. agency Fitch Ratings 9 Feb downgraded El Salvador’s Long-Term Foreign Currency Issuer Default Rating from B- to CCC, arguing “weakening of institutions and concentration of power in the presidency have increased policy unpredictability” and “adoption of bitcoin as legal tender has added uncertainty about potential for IMF [International Monetary Fund] program that would unlock financing for 2022-2023”. After three U.S. senators 16 Feb introduced Accountability for Cryptocurrency in El Salvador (ACES) bill, Bukele same day called them “boomers” and denied U.S. jurisdiction over “sovereign and independent nation”. Bukele 20 Feb said he will send Congress proposal to grant citizenship to foreign investors. Attorney General’s Office 25 Feb brought forward charges against former President Alfredo Cristiani and 12 others for role in 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two women. Nicaragua 6 Feb denounced violation of maritime space by El Salvador naval forces in Gulf of Fonseca, deemed it provocative; El Salvador next day said space under its sovereignty.

January 2022

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele continued to tighten authoritarian grip as controversial legislative decision prompted thousands to protest and revelations about media surveillance program sparked anti-govt outcry. Legislative Assembly 11 Jan abolished 1993 decree designating 16 Jan “Day of commemoration of the Peace Agreements”, renamed it “National day of the victims of the armed conflict” as move appeared to reflect President Bukele’s position on issue of peace agreements which he described as a “farce”. In protest, some 2,000 former guerrilla, army veterans, human rights victims, and social and feminist organisation members 16 Jan marched in capital San Salvador; police checkpoints same day reportedly tried to prevent others from across country to join. Civil society groups Citizen Lab and Access Now 12 Jan reported that Pegasus surveillance program found in 35 Salvadoran activists and journalists’ devices, including 22 of media outlet El Faro, who had often clashed with Bukele; govt next day denied links with Pegasus or its producer while Association of Journalists of El Salvador 14 Jan requested Attorney General’s office to launch investigation. Attorney general 24 Jan confirmed allegations currently under investigation. Court 10 Jan authorised Attorney General’s office to inquire and seize electronic devices of seven current and former prosecutors who had investigated Bukele’s govt for acts of corruption, including negotiations with gang leaders, on suspicion that they may have leaked details of ongoing investigations to El Faro. Attorney General’s office 12 Jan charged former ARENA party presidential candidate, Norman Quijano, with illicit association and electoral fraud; court 18 Jan issued arrest warrant against him. Meanwhile, rating agency Moody’s 13 Jan warned El Salvador’s bitcoin trading threatens sovereign credit rating; Bukele 15 Jan dismissed warning. International Monetary Fund 25 Jan urged govt to remove Bitcoin’s legal tender status.

December 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Despite maintaining great popularity, President Bukele continued to face protests amid strained relations with U.S. as Washington imposed new sanctions on govt officials. U.S. Treasury Dept 8 Dec sanctioned prison system director and vice minister of justice and public security, Osiris Luna Meza, and chairman of govt body Social Fabric Reconstruction Unit, Carlos Amilcar Marroquin Chica, for corruption, accusing them of negotiating truce with gang leaders on behalf of govt, and granting privileges to gang leaders in exchange for lower violence and political support; also said Luna and his mother Alma Meza responsible for embezzling millions of dollars from prison system and stealing and reselling pandemic relief supplies. U.S. Treasury Dept next day sanctioned Bukele’s chief of cabinet, Carolina Recinos, on accusations of heading “corruption scheme” and authorising “suspicious pandemic-related purchases”. Bukele immediately denounced “absurd daily accusations” and claimed U.S. officials, including former Chargé d’Affaires in El Salvador Jean Manes, sought to halt actions against corrupt Salvadoran officials. Former senior anti-corruption prosecutor German Arriaza 28 Dec accused govt of making deal with gangs in 2019 to reduce murder rates and help ruling party win elections, said Bukele shut down his unit’s probe into pact. Thousands 12 Dec demonstrated in capital San Salvador denouncing authoritarian drift and corruption of govt officials; Bukele same day accused U.S. govt of “fund[ing] communist movements against a democratically elected govt”. Legislative Assembly 15 Dec stripped immunity of former presidential candidate for right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance party (ARENA), Norman Quijano, now member of Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), on accusations of paying gangs to support his presidential campaign in 2014; ARENA deputies immediately condemned move, saying PARLACEN, not legislature, has jurisdiction over case. Legislative Assembly 22 Dec re-elected Rodolfo Delgado to serve for three more years as attorney general; Delgado’s decision last June to end anti-corruption accord with Organization of American States had fed friction with U.S.

November 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele deployed military in response to surge in gang-related violence, and relations with U.S. deteriorated further. After months of low violence rates, authorities 9-11 Nov recorded at least 42 homicides, mainly in and around capital San Salvador; upsurge of violence reportedly mostly driven by inter-gang killings. In response, Bukele 11 Nov ordered military to patrol streets; in following days, security forces detained dozens of gang members. Violence immediately dropped with police recording “zero homicide” nationwide 12 Nov. News website Infobae next day alleged escalation of violence came after break in negotiations involving govt, MS-13 and 18th Street gangs; govt however denies negotiating with gangs. Following unprecedented anti-govt protests in Sept-Oct, Bukele 4 Nov suggested U.S. is financing NGOs to act as political opponents, and 9 Nov presented “Foreign Agents” bill to Legislative Assembly; bill aims to “prohibit foreign interference” in domestic affairs notably by imposing 40% tax on foreign donations to civil society and media organisations. Over 50 NGOs 16 Nov expressed concern that law might affect freedom of press and association and hinder continuity of their projects. Prosecutors 22 Nov raided offices of seven NGOs, allegedly as part of investigation on embezzlement of public funds, but rights activists denounced move as intimidation. American technology company Apple 24 Nov alerted over two dozen reporters, activists, opposition and ruling party New Ideas politicians of potential govt surveillance of their iPhones. Attorney general 17 Nov urged National Assembly to withdraw immunity of two New Ideas lawmakers to investigate them over allegations of accepting bribes from U.S. to plot against their own party, which U.S. embassy denied. U.S. chargé d’affaires in El Salvador, Jean Manes, 22 Nov announced her departure, said bilateral relations currently “paused” due to San Salvador’s apparent lack of interest in dialogue.

October 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele continued to face mounting opposition from civil society. Around 4,000 people 17 Oct took to streets in capital San Salvador, decrying Bukele’s “antidemocratic” moves in past months, including ouster of Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber judges and potential plan to seek second consecutive term despite constitutional prohibition on re-election, as well as adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender; in attempt to hinder march, police reportedly set up checkpoints along main highways and stopped vehicles headed to capital. Bukele same day responded to critics with changing his Twitter bio to “Emperor of El Salvador”. In apparent attempt to stem nascent protest movement, National Assembly 20 Oct banned mass gatherings for 45 days, citing need to prevent COVID-19 spread, while exempting sporting and cultural events. National Association of Private Enterprise and José Simeón Cañas University 8 Oct called on International Monetary Fund, with which govt is negotiating $1.3bn loan, to set conditions for any loan agreement to prohibit Bukele’s re-election and ensure ousted judges are restored. Inter-American Press Association’s annual report on press freedom 20 Oct ranked El Salvador 18th out of 22 countries, losing two positions compared to 2020. Meanwhile, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires to El Salvador Jean Manes 5 Oct urged authorities to abide by extradition agreement with Washington; comment comes after Supreme Court in Aug halted top MS-13 gang leader’s extradition to U.S.. U.S. embassy in El Salvador 31 Oct denied links to alleged plot to disband parliamentary group of Bukele’s New Ideas party, after party published recording in which individual negotiates, allegedly on behalf of U.S. govt, departure of two lawmakers from parliamentary group.

September 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

First signs of discontent surfaced as President Bukele launched Bitcoin and continued to concentrate power in executive branch. Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber 3 Sept ruled presidents can serve two consecutive terms, tossing aside constitutional ban on re-election of incumbents and paving way for Bukele to stand for re-election in 2024; U.S. Interim Chargé d’Affaires in El Salvador Jean Manes next day condemned ruling and branded El Salvador “a democracy in decline”; U.S. State Dept 20 Sept denied U.S. entry to all five Constitutional Chamber’s magistrates. Govt 16 Sept said VP Félix Ulloa had submitted final proposal for constitutional changes to Bukele, including extension of presidential terms from five to six years and replacement of electoral tribunal. After Legislative Assembly late Aug approved judicial reform that mandates retirement of judges and prosecutors when they turn 60 or have completed 30 years of service, judges’ associations early Sept protested in capital San Salvador, said reform part of govt’s effort to assert control over judicial branch; Supreme Court 26 Sept however swore in 98 new judges. As El Salvador 7 Sept became first country worldwide to make Bitcoin legal tender, over 1,000 people marched in capital San Salvador to denounce cryptocurrency’s alleged flaws; protesters set fire to tyres. In one of largest anti-govt demonstrations in recent years, at least 8,000 people 15 Sept protested in capital against Bitcoin introduction and Bukele’s authoritarian tendencies; Bukele same day accused foreign powers of funding protesters and threatened to clamp down on future marches. Police 9 Sept detained former Justice and Public Security Minister Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde on corruption allegations, along with several former public officials.

August 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Authorities presented constitutional reform plan seeking to extend presidential term and rejected new evidence pointing to talks between govt and gangs. Govt 13 Aug presented constitutional reform draft to foreign diplomats; reform, which includes 215 constitutional amendments, notably seeks to extend presidential term from five to six years and allow president to be re-elected after one term out of office instead of two. Public opinion poll which surveyed 2,400 people 18 Aug showed 85% approval rating for President Bukele, highest among Central America’s presidents. Police 1-17 Aug registered average of 1.6 murder daily, lowest reported crime rate in recent years; yet, at least five public transportation companies decided to limit their operations as of 12 Aug, citing increase in gang extortion. Online news outlet El Faro 23 Aug published leaks of 2020 Attorney General’s Office’s investigation showing govt officials met with main gang leaders in jail; Bukele and other officials next day downplayed publication and denied talks. Supreme Court 24 and 26 Aug halted extradition of two MS-13 gang leaders to U.S. International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2 Aug unlocked $400mn to help country address COVID-19 pandemic; IMF late July had warned against using crypto assets as national currencies as El Salvador prepares for becoming first nation worldwide to make Bitcoin legal tender in Sept. Hundreds 27 Aug marched through capital San Salvador to voice concerns about use of Bitcoin, citing its volatility.

July 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele’s power grab became more evident as newly appointed judicial authorities scaled up prosecution against opposition; independent media also under attack. Attorney General’s Office 2 July raided opposition party ARENA’s headquarters in capital San Salvador and seized party’s assets and funds worth $3.9mn, in alleged attempt to recover funds donated by Taiwan in 2003-2004; 22 July issued arrest warrants against three high-level opposition party Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front officials, including former President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and detained five former ministers and deputy ministers on embezzlement charges; 25 July extended accusations against another two individuals. Meanwhile, authorities restricted space for independent media. Notably, migration authorities 6 and 9 July reportedly denied work permit to two foreign journalists of online news outlet El Faro; NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 12 July said denial of work permits “sends a clear signal that critical journalism is on shaky ground”. Bukele 19 July said 20,000 more soldiers will be recruited in next five years, doubling size of armed forces, to combat armed gangs. U.S. State Dept 1 July imposed visa restrictions on 14 Salvadoran public figures, including four senior members of current administration and two former ministers under Bukele, over accusations of corruption, obstructing justice, or undermining democracy; Bukele next day denounced move “motivated by political purposes”.

June 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

Govt shut down anti-corruption body, fuelling further tensions with international partners. Govt 4 June pulled out of 2019 anti-corruption agreement with Organization of American States (OAS) that created International Commission against Impunity in El Salvador (CICIES); govt said move resulted from OAS hiring as adviser former mayor of country’s capital San Salvador, Ernesto Muyshondt, currently investigated for paying gangs in exchange for votes in 2014 presidential election. Police same day detained Muyshondt, and attorney general 24 June charged him and five others with “illicit association” and “electoral fraud”. U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga 4 June “regretted” govt’s decision to shut down CICIES, while OAS Sec-Gen Luis Almagro 7 June accused President Bukele of having used CICIES as tool “to investigate actions of opposition politicians”. In world premiere, Legislative Assembly 8 June approved Bukele’s proposal to make cryptocurrency Bitcoin legal tender. International Monetary Fund 10 June said move raised “macroeconomic, financial and legal issues”; Central American Bank for Economic Integration 14 June said it will provide technical assistance to govt for Bitcoin implementation; World Bank 16 June denied support to govt citing “environmental and transparency shortcomings” of bitcoin. U.S. development agency Administrator Samantha Power 14 June visited country, reiterated “U.S. concerns on democratic governance”, but announced $115mn in aid to address root causes of migration.

May 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador

President Bukele moved to take control of judiciary, further straining relations with U.S. Newly inaugurated govt-controlled Legislative Assembly 1 May voted to remove all five justices of Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber, who had previously ruled against Bukele’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic; although Constitutional Chamber immediately declared move unconstitutional, four of five removed magistrates resigned in following days. Lawmakers overnight 1-2 May also dismissed Attorney General Raúl Melara, who had been investigating allegations of govt corruption and negotiations with gangs, over accusations of political affiliation. Washington slammed moves as dangerous power grab; notably, U.S. Special Envoy for Central America Ricardo Zuñiga 11 May decried removals as “unconstitutional”. Legislative Assembly 5 May approved legislation shielding officials from corruption investigations in COVID-19-related purchases since March 2020. U.S. Congresswoman 18 May disclosed names of five senior Salvadorian officials whom State Dept accused of corruption or involvement in narco-trafficking; Bukele immediately criticised list for not including opposition ARENA party representative, and Legislative Assembly next day ratified 2019 cooperation agreement with China in alleged response to U.S. pressure. U.S. development agency USAID 21 May redirected assistance away from National Police and Institute for Access to Public Information to civil society organisations; Bukele 25 May warned it would be illegal for USAID to fund opposition movements.

April 2021

Latin America & Caribbean

El Salvador