El Salvador’s lawmakers on Sunday extended a state of emergency for another month at the request of President Nayib Bukele, after it was imposed in late March to stamp out a wave of deadly gang violence.
The measures were initially enacted on March 27th after a weekend in which 87 people were killed in gang-related violence, extending police powers to allow them to arrest gang members without a warrant.
Since then, over 16,000 people have been arrested, and Bukele on Sunday requested lawmakers to extend the state of emergency for another month. 67 out of 84 voters agreed on the extension of the state of emergency.
The new decree states that “security conditions persist which urgently demand the extension… due to the continuation of the circumstances which motivated it,” he said.
Besides arrests without a warrant, the emergency measures also restrict freedom of assembly, while telephone calls and emails can be intercepted without a court order.
On Sunday, they approved another law to “simplify and facilitate” the acquisition of tax-free goods and render services by the government to address the emergency. The authorities have said they are planning to build new prisons to hold the large number of gang members they detain.
Bukele hailed the extension, calling it “the definition of democracy.” He added in a tweet, “More than 1,000 terrorists captured on this day alone. More than 17,000 in just 30 days. We continue… #WarAgainstGangs.”
Human rights groups have criticized the measures, saying arrests are often arbitrary, based on a person’s appearance or where they live. El Salvadoran NGOs asked the judiciary this week to declare that legislation unconstitutional.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: SF CHRONICLE