El Salvador extends state of emergency decree once more

El Salvador state emergency decree
Salvadoran officials announcing the renewal of the country’s state of emergency. Photo: Twitter/@PNCSV

By a 67-15 majority, lawmakers in El Salvador greenlit the government’s push to extend the country’s state of emergency, in force since late March. The outcome of the vote was unsurprising, given that an overwhelming majority of seats are held by allies of President Nayib Bukele.

Mr. Bukele pulled for the extension, granting exceptional powers to law enforcement (which no longer needs warrants to arrest suspects), aiming at cracking down on gang activity. The decree originally came in response to a peak of homicides after 87 bodies were found in a single week. 

Human rights activists, however, say these powers have been used in an arbitrary fashion. In just over 100 days since the state of emergency was first enacted, over 46,000 people have been arrested. Multiple prison inmates denounce torture and violence. Some claim to have been deprived of food and legal support.

NGOs also accuse authorities of killing people in custody — flagging a blackout of death records. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International urged the Bukele administration to respect human rights.

A recent study published by the Due Process Of Law Foundation highlighted that the separation of powers no longer exists in El Salvador since Mr. Bukele won his vast majority in Congress, which allowed him to overhaul the court system to his liking.

The foundation says “the only remaining checks and balances come from social organizations, academic sectors, and investigative journalism.”