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El Salvador: 2,000 alleged gangsters transferred to mega-prison under high tension

Hundreds of men sit with their legs crossed, their heads bowed, their hands tied and their bodies covered in tattoos. On Wednesday, footage was released of the transfer of a group of 2,000 suspected Salvadoran gangsters to “America’s largest prison.”

“As part of a new operation, we have transferred a second group of 2,000 bandits to the Terrorist Detention Center (CECOT). Now four thousand gangsters live in the most criticized prison in the world,” Naib Bukele said on his Twitter account. On 24 February, the first group of 2,000 bandit suspects was brought to CECOT.

Built to house 40,000 prisoners as part of a “war” on crime launched a year ago by El Salvador’s president, the prison has been heavily criticized by several human rights associations.

Images shared by Naib Bukele show many of the prisoners in chains, with tattoos showing their affiliation to the two main gangs, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18, shirtless and barefoot, wearing only white shorts.

Reuters/Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia

Defense Minister René Francis Merino specified that 1,200 soldiers provided security for the operation, which was also monitored by three army helicopters.

64,000 bandit suspects behind bars

The giant prison, equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment, opened in early February. It was built to house most of the 64,000 suspected gang members imprisoned after being attacked under an exceptional regime imposed by Parliament at the request of Naib Bukele.

Reuters/Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia
Reuters/Secretaria de Prensa de la Presidencia

Conditions at this giant prison in Tecoluca (74km southeast of San Salvador) have been denounced by several human rights organizations. Despite criticism from human rights NGOs for abuses, President Bukele’s “war on crime” has made him hugely popular.


Source: Le Parisien

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