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

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”.

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In The News

5 Sep 2020
The reduction of homicides [in El Salvador] seemed not to be due to government security strategy, but rather a gang decision. Washington Post

Tiziano Breda

Analyst, Central America
1 Mar 2018
Un pacto de Estado por la paz en El Salvador [entre el Partido FMLN y Arena que] suponga un compromiso con los cinco ejes del Plan El Salvador Seguro [es un paso indispen... El Faro

Sofía Martínez Fernández

Former Analyst, Northern Triangle
20 Dec 2017
Reprimir y perseguir el crimen [en El Salvador] es necesario, pero tratar por igual a los supuestos criminales y al casi medio millón de personas que viven bajo su yugo p... El Faro

Sofía Martínez Fernández

Former Analyst, Northern Triangle

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