El Salvador State of Exception; a security measure implemented to fight criminal gangs

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Jan 20th, 2023
El Salvador State of Exception
Soyapango El Salvador. Image by @AlexiaRivasG1

El Salvador state of exception is a security plan implemented by the Salvadoran Government to attack criminal gangs directly. The state of exception that restricts some constitutional guarantees has resulted in the arrest of over 60,000 alleged gang members.

The Salvadoran state of exception was initially approved in late March in response to a spike in homicides. This increase in violence left 87 people dead and was attributed to the MS13 and 18 Street gangs.

In late March, the Salvadoran Legislature approved the security measure for 30 days. Since then, the state of exception has been extended in 30-day increments multiple times. The security measure will most likely get extended for many months in 2023.

Reactions to El Salvador State of Exception

International and local organizations have condemned the Salvadoran State of Exception because, according to them, it has violated many fundamental individual human rights.

Humanitarian organizations, such as Cristosal, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Amnesty International, have produced reports attacking the security strategy for alleged human rights violations.

Even though the State of Exception has produced good results, such as lowering the homicide rate, these organizations want the Salvadoran Government to stop it. However, most Salvadorans are happy with the security measure and want to continue its implementation.

Even though the State of Exception has produced good results, such as lowering the homicide rate, these organizations want the Salvadoran Government to stop the measure completely. However, most Salvadorans are happy with the security measure and want to continue its implementation.

Salvadorans approve of the State of Exception

Based on surveys, most Salvadorans approve of the State of Exception being implemented by Salvadoran Authorities.

Iudop survey

A January 2023 survey by the University Institute of Public Opinion (Iudop) of the Jose Simeon Cañas Central American University UCA revealed that 90% of the population believed delinquency in El Salvador had decreased in 2022, compared to 2021.

When asked what the main reason was why crime in the country had decreased, 43.8% stated the State of Regimen, 22.2% said the arrest of gang members, and 20% answered because of the actions implemented by the Government.

FundaUngo survey

FundaUngo conducted a study released on December 12, 2022, that asked, “How much do you agree with the emergency regime implemented by the Government and the Legislative Assembly to control crime?” 89.8% answered that they either agree or strongly agree with the Salvadoran State of Exception. Click here to view the entire survey.

CID Gallup September survey

The CID Gallup survey released in September 2022, shows that 90% of Salvadorans approve of the security measures implemented by the Bukele administration against gangs, including the controversial State of Exception. Luis Haug of CID Gallup communicated the results in a TV interview.

La Prensa Grafica newspaper survey

According to the May survey by La Prensa Grafica newspaper, 73.9% of Salvadorans approve of the exception Regime requested by President Nayib Bukele and approved by the Legislative Assembly.

IUDOP survey

In late May, the UCA university conducted a survey related to the country’s security. According to the IUDOP survey, 66.2% of Salvadorans at a National level believe the massive captures during the state of exception are designed to improve the Government’s security strategy.

CID Gallup April survey

Nine out of ten Salvadorans support the security measures, including the state of exception, implemented by the Nayib Bukele administration against gangs, according to a CID-Gallup survey released on April 22nd.

Salvadoran State of Exception

The Salvadoran State of Exception is part of Nayib Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan that aims to reduce crime and violence in El Salvador.

According to the Government and survey results, the security measure is producing excellent results, and people want the government to continue to extend it. However, there is plenty of evidence that some people not associated with gangs have been wrongfully arrested.