Salvadoran State of Exception gets extended for the 18th consecutive time

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Sep 12th, 2023
El Salvador Army Personal
Minister of Defense of El Salvador Merino Monroy. Image by @merino_monroy

The Salvadoran State of Exception will remain in force for another 30 days; the 18th extension was approved by the Legislative Assembly on the September 12 plenary session. The security measure has strong support from the Salvadoran population and will continue until October 2023.

The 18th extension was approved with a supermajority (67 votes) of the country’s 84-seat Legislative Assembly. Seven legislators voted against it, and eight abstained from voting.

Legislators align with President Bukele, and Government officials articulate that the emergency measure has led to a historic drop in murders during its implementation. The country has experienced over 175 days with zero homicides in 2023.

The government’s argument for extending the security measure is that “there are gang members who have not yet been captured and are still a danger to the Salvadoran population and police officers.”

Criminal structures have not completely disappeared, but we have degraded them. To date, 446 days have been recorded without homicides. Some sectors do not accept these results; however, they are clear and undeniable. PNC Director Mauricio Arriaza Chicas.

The new extension maintains the suspension of three constitutional guarantees; the right to defense, the limit of 72 hours of detention without a hearing, and the necessary judicial authorization for the intervention of telecommunications.

This measure will continue until El Salvador is absolutely free of crime. We have defeated the gangs, they can no longer recruit honest Salvadorans; However, there are still terrorists and we will continue to capture them.” Merino Monroy, Salvadoran Minister of Defense.

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.

The State is ignoring the damage caused to the innocent people captured in the emergency regime. The exception regime is not about capturing criminals. The exception regime is about removing constitutional guarantees from EVERYONE. Deputy Claudia Ortiz.

Homicide reduction

Based on homicide reduction, the Salvadoran Government supports maintaining the emergency regime. El Salvador closed 2022 with 495 murders for a rate of 7.8 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. El Salvador ended the year with fewer homicides than Costa Rica.

Homicides in El Salvador in 2022 were reduced by 56.84% compared to 2021. 2022 ended as the safest year in Salvadoran history.

Lastly, El Salvador has set a record of days with zero homicides during the Bukele administration. As of September 11, 2023, the national police reported 446 days with zero homicides, 176 of those days accomplished in 2023.

Abuses and human rights violations

Human rights organizations have claimed that many of the 68,500-plus arrests were based on the appearance or social background of the detainees and not actual 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 the first 30 days of 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 last March 27, 2022. Based on comments by these legislators, it seems that the Estate of Exception will be extended until 2024.