El Salvador’s State of Exception: The Anti-gang Security Measure Gets Extended for the 25th Consecutive Time

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Apr 10th, 2024
Salvadoran State of Exception Security MeasureMinister of Defense of El Salvador Merino Monroy. Image by Merino Monroy.

Not too far in the past, El Salvador frequently made headlines worldwide for its issues with violence and gangs. However, Starting in 2022, a notable transformation emerged, marked by a significant improvement in security thanks in part to the state of exception security measures.

To continue the direct fight against criminal organizations that began in March 2022, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly extended the State of Exception security measure for an additional 30 days on the April 9 plenary session.

The extension was approved with 67 votes from deputies aligned with the current administration.

According to the government, it is imperative to maintain the State of Exception measures to guarantee the population’s life and personal integrity. This is the 25th consecutive time the security measure has been extended.

SEE ALSO: El Salvador State of Exception; A Security Measure Implemented to Fight Gangs

The results of this security instrument have placed El Salvador as the safest country in the region. With the implementation of the measure, 589 days have been recorded with zero homicides and more than 79 thousand gang members have been captured ; More than 3 thousand firearms and more than 8 thousand vehicles have also been confiscated and the rate of violence and homicides has been reduced. Salvadoran Legislative Assembly

The extension upholds the suspension of constitutional guarantees, such as the 72-hour limit on detention without a hearing and electronic communication privacy.

The State of Exception allows law enforcement to search electronic devices and communications without judicial authorization and to detain individuals for 15 investigative days before seeing a judge.

Human rights organizations and the Bukele’s opposition have raised concerns about the long State of Exception because of reports of abuses and human rights violations.

Also, opposition legislators assure that there is no justification for maintaining the suspension of constitutional rights.

Homicide reduction

Based on the drastic homicide reduction, the Salvadoran Government supports maintaining the emergency regime. El Salvador closed 2023 with 154 murders for a rate of 2.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

El Salvador ended 2022 and 2023 with fewer homicides than Costa Rica, the nation known as the safety standard in Central America.

Abuses and human rights violations

Human rights organizations have claimed that many of the 75,000-plus arrests were based on the appearance or social background of the detainees and not actual gang affiliation evidence, which violates the individual’s human rights.

Human Rights Watch has documented that hundreds of people with no connection to gangs have been unjustly detained. According to these organizations,

During Bukele’s state of emergency, we have seen evidence of arbitrary arrests of innocent people, some of them subjected to short-term enforced disappearances, and worrying deaths in custody. Human Rights Watch.

What’s next

The State of Exception has the approval of the majority of Salvadorans. All surveys conducted since the security measure started have shown that it has a high approval rate.

The Legislative Assembly, controlled by New Ideas and allies, has supported the state of emergency since March 27, 2022. Based on comments by these legislators, it seems that the State of Exception will be extended throughout 2024.