El Salvador Territorial Control Plan. President Nayib Bukele Plan Control Territorial

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Mar 27th, 2023
El Salvador Territorial Control Plan
El Salvador Security Plan.

El Salvador Territorial Control Plan or Plan Control Territorial has seven phases; the first five are preparation, opportunity, modernization, incursion, and extraction. Phases six and seven have not been made public and are scheduled to be implemented before the end of Nayib Bukele’s presidency.

The Bukele administration credit its security plan for the record-setting homicide reduction of 2020 and 2021, which has continued into 2022. El Salvador’s territorial control plan has been complemented by the State of exception, which started in March 2022 and has been extended multiple times.

Territorial Control Plan
Historic downtown San Salvador.

History of Homicides in El Salvador

El Salvador has dealt with violent crime since the end of the civil war in 1991. In 2015, the violence reached such high levels that many news outlets began referring to El Salvador as the capital murder of the world. ABC News wrote, “The world’s murder capital has nearly one homicide an hour.”

Even though homicides have declined since 2016, they have reached new lows under the Nayib Bukele administration. Bukele began his presidential term in June 2019.

El Salvador Homicide Rate from 2010 to 2022
Year Total Homicides Daily Homicide Rate Homicides per 100,000 Inhabitants
(Jan 1 to Mar 26)
36 0.4 2.4 *Estimated
2022 495 1.4 7.8
2021 1147 3.1 18.1
2020 1341 3.7 20
2019 2398 6.6 36
2018 3346 9.2 50
2017 3962 10.9 60
2016 5280 14.5 81
2015 6656 18.2 103
2014 3921 10.7 61
2013 2499 6.8 40
2012 2594 7.1 41
2011 4371 12.0 70
2010 4004 11.0 64

The homicide stats for 2022 and 2023 do not include the deaths of alleged gang members that have died in confrontations with Salvadoran security forces; 120 deaths in 2022 and nine thus far in 2023.

Daily Homicides Under President Bukele
Month 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023
January 9.3 3.9 3.7 2.6 0.5
February 7.4 3.9 4.0 2.7 0.5
March 7.7 2.1 3.8 4.8
April 10.8 4.8 3.7 1.3
May 9.2 2.1 4.3 0.5
June 7.7 2.3 2.8 0.8
July 5.0 3.7 2.9 0.4
August 4.2 4.0 1.9 0.6
September 4.9 4.4 2.0 0.5
October 4.0 5.1 2.6 0.6
November 4.6 3.3 4.1 0.4
December 4.1 3.7 3.1 0.5
** Red is President Salvador Sanchez Ceren Administration FMLN.
Sources: Salvadoran National Police. PNC

Phases of Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan

Nayib Bukele’s territorial control plan consists of seven phases; the first five phases are called preparation, opportunity, modernization, incursion, and extraction. Phases six and seven are unknown at this time. This security plan aims to dismantle gangs and organized crime in El Salvador.

Control territorial plan

Phase One: Preparation

The government’s goals for phase one were to take control of the territory and to cut off gang communications from maximum security jails.

The first phase increased military and police presence in municipalities with a high gang and organized crime presence. The government also took control of Salvadoran jails and cut off communications between gang leaders in prison and those on the street.

To accomplish this, President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency in all Salvadoran prisons; this allowed authorities to stop visitations and enact severe measures.

Harder Measures. Toward the end of June 2019, prison officials found gang manuscripts ordering attacks against the police, and soon after, a police officer was murdered.

After this incident, President Nayib Bukele ordered the lockdown of inmates in all prisons. President Bukele ordered the mixing of rival gang members into the same prison cells; also, he ordered that no inmate was to leave their cells.

Mr. Director Osiris Luna decreed maximum emergency at Penal Centers; all cells closed 24/7, no one leaves for any reason. For the gangs: if you want your “hommies” to see a ray of sunshine, stop all homicides immediately. There is no other negotiation.” President Nayib Bukele.

El Salvador Territorial Control Plan
Inmates at a Salvadoran Jail.

Furthermore, President Bukele ordered Osiris Luna Meza, the General Director of Penal Centers, to cut off all communications from jails.

Phone companies were against cutting off communications from Jails as this was a lucrative business for them. Each inmate was allowed $100 a month on phone calls.

In the past, phone companies never completely blocked their cellular signal in prisons as they were required to do. However, the Bukele administration removed all phone boots inside the jails and made sure that phone companies completely blocked cellular signals within the prisons.

Lastly, as part of the Territorial Control Plan phase one, high-ranking gang leaders and those suspected of ordering homicides from jail were transferred to maximum-security prisons.

These harsh measures taken by the Bukele administration towards incarcerated inmates have received international condemnation by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Phase Two. Opportunity, the Social Reconstruction of Communities

Phase two involves the social reconstruction of communities and the training of young people. President Bukele has said on many occasions that he wants to give young people other options other than joining gangs.

Bukele stated that to eliminate gangs, “we have to make it difficult for criminal organizations to recruit new members.” One way of doing this is by giving young people alternatives to becoming gang members.

During phase two, the government is looking to train young individuals in different fields, allowing them to find suitable employment and, stay away from criminal organizations.

Phase two involves creating community centers (Cubos) where young people can spend time on productive activities, keeping them away from gangs.

This is the phase where we allow our young people to get out of the gangs. That is not going to lead to anything good; here, they will have a range of opportunities.” Nayib Bukele.

Phase Three. The Modernization of Security Forces

Phase three focuses on modernizing the equipment security forces use; this includes drones, night vision equipment, and video cameras. It also involves better equipment such as weapons, anti-bullet vests, patrol units, and uniforms.

The administration wants to modernize the national police by giving them modern equipment to fight organized crime and be better protected.

Nayib Bukele security plan
Photo by: @SecPrensaSV

Phase Four. The incursion of Police and Military Personal into the Territory

Phase four calls for deploying more police and army personnel into areas with heavy criminal activities. During this phase, more soldiers will be placed in the function of the territorial control plan; this is something many of Bukele’s opposition are against it.

Phase four began implementation on July 19, 2021, and will end in five years. It includes doubling the number of soldiers from 20,000 to 40,000.

You, the army, in support of the National Police, are going to enter all the territories, once dominated by gangs:” stated President Bukele. President Bukele

Phase five: Extraction

Phase five of the El Salvador Territorial Control Plan was announced by President Nayib Bukele on November 23, 2022. This phase is called extraction.

The president explained that this new phase consists of extracting all the gang members who are still committing crimes in neighborhoods throughout the country; during this phase, security forces will enclose larger municipalities and will extract all the remaining gang members.

We are going to release phase five, but a little modified. It has two elements, one is extraction, and the other is, based on what has been learned during the State of Exception, fencing off large areas while extracting gang members.” Nayib Bukele.

Phases Six and Seven of the Nayib Bukele Security Plan

These phases are to be implemented once the first five phases take effect and are working properly. As of right now, phases six and seven have not been made public. Only President Nayib Bukele and some in his administration know what they are.

Security Plan
Photo by: @DefensaSV

El Salvador Territorial Control Plan

Since its implementation, Bukele’s security plan has produced excellent results, particularly in lowering the daily murder rate. Nowadays, El Salvador has the lowest murder rate since the civil war ended.

According to President Bukele and other experts, the security plan implemented by the Bukele administration is responsible for the impressive homicide reduction.

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