The Salvadoran President Hints That International NGOs Support Maras

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, criticized international organizations on Thursday that have indicated alleged human rights violations with the actions taken in the context of a rise in murders, attributed to gangs, and others related to attention to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The international support that the gangs have is incredible. Organizations that keep silent when they see how Salvadorans are cut up, cry out in the sky because we take away their privileges,” said the president.


He added that “we were not wrong when we said that (the gangs) were an international criminal organization.”

“It is too obvious: they are totally silent in the face of barbaric acts; but they unleash all their fury if they try to bring order to penal centers, which were controlled by the gangs for decades,” he added.

The president, of the right-wing Grand Alliance for National Unity (Gana), added that “it is clear who they work for and what the interests of their financiers are,” without going into details.

According to data from the Prosecutor’s Office provided to Efe, El Salvador recorded at least 88 homicides between Friday and Wednesday, averaging 14.6 murders a day in this period, higher than the single-digit rates recorded in recent months.

This escalation of homicidal violence led Bukele to order the tightening of the security regime in prisons and to seal the cells of 16,000 gang members.

The first images of half-naked gang members, many without face masks and without respecting physical distance to avoid the spread of COVID-19, have caused an impact outside the Central American country. So did Bukele’s call to use “deadly force” to confront gang members.

The Salvadoran president said that the gangs took advantage of the fact that the security forces are focused on controlling the pandemic and stated that “the Government will be in charge of the legal defense of those who are unjustly accused of defending the lives of honest people.”

International entities have also criticized the president for his decision to ignore a ruling of the Constitutional Chamber that prohibits him from detaining and confining “forcibly” those who supposedly skip the quarantine by COVID-19.

Organizations that have drawn the Salvadoran president’s attention include Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International.


This Thursday, seven more international organizations were concerned about the president’s decisions and asked to “respect the rule of law.”

“We are writing to you to express our concern at reports of abuses by the security forces in the context of the current emergency, and by government actions and statements that could be against the rule of law and democracy,” says one “open letter” addressed to the president.

These include the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the Foundation for Due Process (DPLF), Amnesty International, Asociadas por lo Justo and JASS-Mesoamerica.

The letter was also signed by the Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IMD), the Washington Office for Latin American Affairs (WOLA) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).

In addition, they criticized the president’s statements regarding civil society organizations and journalists that “could discourage public scrutiny and stigmatize those who seek greater government transparency.”

“Limiting the spaces for public dialogue would be particularly counterproductive in the current context, in which the Government should seek the collaboration of non-governmental organizations and other sectors of civil society to face the COVID-19 crisis,” they pointed out.

President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Lower House, Eliot Engel, asked Bukele on Wednesday not to use COVID-19 as a pretext to undermine democracy.

In a letter to the president, Democrat Engel is “concerned” about the recent decisions of the Central American president “that endanger the human rights of the Salvadoran people and the democracy of his country.”



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