March 27, 2023, marked the first anniversary of the Salvadoran State of Exception that negates some constitutional guarantees and has resulted in the arrest of over 66,000 people. The controversial measure has been extended over 11 consecutive times.
The Bukele security measure has the approval of most Salvadorans; however, local and international human rights organizations continue to denounce it for violating individuals’ human rights.
Tamara Taraciuk, the acting director at Human Rights Watch for the Americas, has intensified her statements condemning the Bukele administration’s security policies.
Taraciuk is asking democratic leaders to speak up against what she and the human rights watch organization call “Bukele’s repressive policies.” She wants multilateral pressure against the Bukele administration to respect human rights in El Salvador.
The emergency regime has been an extremely punitive response to a chronic, very serious problem, such as gang violence, at a very high cost for Salvadoran democracy.
Why does Tamara Taraciuk want international involvement?
Taraciuk argues that Bukele’s security policies have caused widespread violations of arrested people’s rights. She states that “many Salvadorans with no connections to gangs have been arrested, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”
According to Human Rights Watch, thousands of Salvadorans with no gang connections have been detained in security force operations and have had their human rights violated.
We have documented that security forces have committed widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment in prison, and serious violations of due process.
Tamara Taraciuk, HRW.
Furthermore, Taraciuk and human rights organizations are worried that other Latin American nations looking for responses to public security problems will look at Bukele’s policies and want to implement them in their countries. Honduras implemented a light version of Bukele’s State of Exception.
What worries me is the ease with which this narrative is permeating among governments, journalists, and society in several Latin American countries. It is alarming that the exhaustion generated by the situation of violence and insecurity makes this type of short-term measures attractive, such as those implemented by Bukele.
Lastly, she is concerned that President Bukele has used the security crisis in El Salvador as his campaign slogan to implant himself in power and weaken democratic safeguards in the country.
“The international community response against Bukele has so far been weak and uncoordinated,” states Taraciuk.
Chilean president Boric and President Petro in Colombia are the only Latin American leaders that have made comments against president Bukele and his policies. However, Bukele quickly responded to them and pointed out the problem Colombia and Chile are facing.
The social media confrontation quickly stopped as it is not easy to go against the most popular leader in Latin America, especially in social media and when you have problems at home.
Leaders in the region are hesitant to speak up for several reasons. One is Bukele’s popularity. Another is that many leaders are struggling to effectively address violence and organized crime in their countries.
The State of Exception has produced positive results.
There is denying that the State of Exception has produced positive results. The homicide rate in El Salvador has drastically dropped, and the country has achieved over 320 days with zero homicides. Furthermore, communities previously controlled by gangs are now free!
Media outlets critical of President Bukele and his security policies have acknowledged that the State of Exception has produced positive results, even Tamara Taraciuk!
The emergency regime seems to have significantly reduced the territorial control of the gangs, as well as the number of homicides and extortions and the violence that affected the lives of Salvadorans for decades. But there are serious doubts about how sustainable this reduction will be and what is the cost of these policies.
The following are some articles published in outlets not friendly to the Bukele administration but articulate that gang presence in El Salvador has crumbled.
- No Gangs, but No More Democracy (El Faro)
- Bukele Government Dismantled Gang Presence in El Salvador (El Faro)
- Thousands of families recover houses usurped by gangs in El Salvador (France 24)
- El Salvador seizes the La Campanera neighborhood from the dangerous gang 18 (VOA)
- El Salvador dismantled gangs at the expense of democracy and citizen rights (CNN)
The articles acknowledge that communities previously controlled by these criminal organizations are now free from gang presence. However, they also mention that it has been achieved at the expense of democracy. Nonetheless, most Salvadorans approve of these security measures.
Salvadorans approve of Bukele’s policies.
Even though local and international human rights organizations claim that security forces are violating individuals’ human rights during the State of Exception, most Salvadorans approve of the Bukele security plan.
The latest survey by FundaUngo released on the first anniversary shows that 85.6% of the population approves of the implementation of the State of Exception regime, and 82.2% agreed or strongly agreed with the extensions.
My point of view.
It is understandable why human rights organizations want other Latin American leaders to speak against Bukele’s security policies; however, it is also understandable why the majority of Salvadorans are happy with Bukele and his security policies.
Salvadorans that for years suffered human rights violations by these criminal organizations don’t care what Tamara Taraciuk and other human rights organizations say, at least not now. What they care about is being able to live their lives and not worry about violence from gangs.
Tamara Taraciuk wants to meet with Bukele!
We would like the opportunity to have a dialogue with the government and share the findings of our investigations. We have requested meetings with the president and other officials on multiple occasions.
In my opinion, these meetings will not take place anytime soon! Whether correct or not, Bukele, his allies, and most Salvadorans see these human rights organizations as part of Bukele’s political opposition and not as independent organizations looking out for Salvadorans.