El Salvador

Two decades after the end of its civil war, El Salvador has been trying to limit the influence of criminal gangs that control large portions of the country. Once afflicted by the world’s highest murder rate, the country now sees fewer homicides, but the gangs have tightened their grip upon turf where they run extortion rackets and exercise other forms of social control. Every year, the dangers of daily life push tens of thousands of Salvadorans to hazard the journey north to the U.S. border. Through its fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group presses for crime prevention, rehabilitation and socio-economic reform policies that can make El Salvador a safer place to live.

CrisisWatch El Salvador

Unchanged Situation

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.

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