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El Salvador proclaims state of emergency as homicides soar

A state of emergency law was approved by El Salvador’s legislative body early Sunday. The state of emergency was proclaimed due to a rising homicide rate, driven by gangs Barrio 18 and MS-13. 62 homicides were reported by El Salvador’s police on Saturday. In response to the homicide rate, the freedom of association and the right to a state-sponsored defense in court will be suspended for 30 days to target criminal groups. Security forces will have the ability to intercept phone calls and hold suspects in detention for longer periods of time.

El Salvador has a history of organized crime groups fighting to control territory and drug routes across the Central American country. The country led the world for number of populations relative to the size of its population for several years in a row between 2000 and 2010. President Nayib Bukele was elected in June 2019 and promised to be strong against gang violence. In 2020, the use of lethal force by police and army forces against gang members was authorized after 50 homicides occurred over a weekend of gang violence. Homicides have decreased since Bukele took power, however, they have been rising in recent weeks.

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