El Salvador officials arrest 1K gang members after wave of killings

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The government of El Salvador says that it has arrested more than 1,000 gang suspects after declaring a state of emergency amid a spike in violent crimes. 

President Nayib Bukele ordered that the country’s 16,000 imprisoned gang members have their meals rationed in an effort to spread the current food supplies amid a wave of new detainees.

We seized everything from them, even their sleeping mats, we rationed their food and now they will no longer see the sun,” the president said in a tweet on Monday.

The inmates were also stripped to their underwear, according to The Associated Press.

“Don’t think they are going to be set free,” Bukele wrote in a tweeted statement, according to a translation from the AP. “We are going to ration the same food we are giving now.”

“And if the international community is worried about their little angels, they should come and bring them food, because I am not going to take budget money away from the schools to feed these terrorists,” he added.

On Sunday, the country’s Congress approved Bukele’s request for a state of emergency, which loosened policies surrounding arrests for at least 30 days. 

Under the order, suspects can be detained without a lawyer for up to 15 days, and police can search their cellphones and messages, the AP noted.

El Salvador saw 87 murders between Friday and Sunday, surpassing the 79 homicides the country saw during the entire month of February. The murders were reportedly linked to the country’s street gangs.

But while Bukele has attempted to come down hard on crime, his critics say he has at times sympathized with such groups. 

“We must remind the people of El Salvador that what is happening now is due to the negligence of those who protected criminals,” the conservative Arena party previously said in a statement. The group was reportedly referencing allegations that Bukele’s government negotiated a secret truce with the gangs including privileges such as prostitutes and cellphones for imprisoned gang leaders, accusations which the president has denied.

Tags El Salvador Nayib Bukele

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