Move Over Supermax, You've Got Competition

El Salvador, whose President suspended civil rights last March 27 and had 60,000 alleged members of MS-13 and other gangs arrested (no probable cause needed), proudly showed off to the world last week its newest creation --the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, a concrete prison built in the middle of nowhere that will house 40,000 gang members. The first 2,000 moved into last week. The videos are deplorable to anyone with a belief that human beings must be treated as such, and not as caged animals.

For El Salvador, there will be no rehabilitation programs. Forced labor. No outside cell activities. No gyms, no classes. No going outdoors. No seeing the sun.

The enormous prison, which was built in 7 months, is now the largest and most severe on American continents. [More...]

The prison was built to hold part of the 62,975 gang members detained under the controversial emergency regime established by Nayib Bukele , in response to an escalation of violence that claimed the lives of 87 people between March 25 and 27.

In order to build the prison, the State bought 166 hectares, 23 of which were used to build eight pavilions that are located within a perimeter surrounded by a concrete wall 11 meters high and 2.1 kilometers long, protected by electrified wire fences.

According to Amnesty International , Bukule began his mass arrest plan, after declaring a national emergency last year:

The arrests are taking place without any evidence or court orders. Anyone perceived by the authorities as a threat – most of the time the residents of the poorest neighborhoods – can be arrested at will, says AI, “because they have tattoos, are accused by a third party of having alleged links to a gang, are related to someone who belongs to a gang, have a previous criminal record of some kind, or simply because they live in an area under gang control.” The non-profit has “meticulously” documented 28 cases of human rights violations involving 34 people.

...The reforms imposed in the country by Bukele, who has just completed three years in power, “have undermined the rights to defense, the presumption of innocence, effective judicial remedy and access to an independent judge,” said Amnesty International.

Of course the President Nayib Bukele claims the subsequent decrease in violence is due to his orders for the military to go into the streets and arrest every suspected gang member.The reality may be quite different. For years, media in El Salvador and elsewhere have shown that Bukele has negotiated with the gangs:

But investigations by the newspaper El Faro – and confirmed by the United States when it sanctioned some of the participants – have revealed that the decline is related to Bukele’s negotiations with MS-13 and the two factions of the 18th Street gangs: “Los Sureños” and “Los Revolucionarios.” These gangs have acted like a parallel army that for decades has survived by killing and extortion, replacing the state in places where it does not reach...

According to news reports, Bukele grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He believes he can run El Salvador with his cell phone. While it is true he has reduced homicides in the country, the media allege he is hiding how he did it. It wasn't with the military alone, but with the aid of gang leaders with whom he negotiated.

According to Bukele the decrease in violent deaths in El Salvador, which have fallen from 50 homicides per 100,000 people when he was elected to almost 19, is the result of his Territorial Control Plan, which the army has deployed in every corner of the country with a heavy hand on both the streets and in jails, including authorizing the use of deadly force if deemed necessary.

According to left-leaning digital newspaper El Faro, though, this relative peace has been brought about by a secret pact with the most powerful of El Salvador’s gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha, a claim Bukele denies.

Bukele won election for a five year term and since then, he has gained the majority of the legislature, which has permitted him to change the criminal justice system, the country's constitution and grant him powers that would be beyond the reach of any President in a free country.

Please watch some of the short 3 minute videos showing the gang members being woken up at night, stripped to their shorts, no shoes, bare-chested, forced to put their hands in back and their heads down into the neck of the person in front of them, as they are herded to a large field where they sit until it looks like a human sea of skulls, and then they are chained at feet and loaded on to buses. Not only were all seats on the buses filled, but the inmates were forced to sit in the ailes (what a fire hazard). They sat like that all night until dawn when the buses reached the prison, which sits at the foot of a volcano with nothing around it.

The prisoners include children age 12 and older " accused of gang related crimes. Under Bukele, the age for criminal responsibility for gang related crime was reduced from 16 to 12. (Some of these kids are forced on their way to school to open their bags where the gang members put stuff in them).

The law has been renewed 8 times and Human Rights Watch, which has published several reports on the abuses, says the violations include:

....arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and significant due process violations. In addition, the circumstances of many deaths in custody during the state of emergency suggest state responsibility for those deaths.

To top it all off, DOJ last week declassified a report and indicted two El Salvadoran officials:

In a newly unsealed indictment, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asserted that, as part of the accords with the Mara Salvatrucha, the current government of El Salvador protected gang members wanted for crimes in the United States by skirting their extradition or even releasing one of them from prison before he had finished his sentence.

"The Ranfla Nacional [highest gang echelon] demanded that the government of El Salvador refuse to extradite MS-13 leaders, including the Ranfla Nacional, to the United States for prosecution," the prosecutors wrote. "In exchange, the MS-13 leaders agreed to reduce the number of public murders in El Salvador, which politically benefited the government of El Salvador, by creating the perception that the government was reducing the murder rate."

How are the leaders of the other Latin/South American countries re-acting? I give a rose to Colombian President Gustavo Petro, who tweeted back to Bukele:

Well Nayib @nayibbuke

we went from 90 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 1993 in Bogotá to 13 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022. We did not build prisons but universities. It is good to compare experiences. I propose an international forum.

Today Bukele tweeted that he had sent prisoners out to destroy the gravestones of gang members.
The public loves this guy. Why? He's an authoritarian blowhard aiming to turn a democracy into his oown fiefdom, with his closest advisors being two of his brothers. Too much like Donald Trump for me.

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  • Display: Sort:
    El Salvador's plan is for them never to leave (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Mar 05, 2023 at 04:36:57 AM EST
    life sentences for all
    but some are innocent and got swept up
    Truly a horrifing reaction to the crime problem.

    You answered your own question. (4.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Tue Mar 07, 2023 at 02:08:33 PM EST
    Jeralyn: "The public loves this guy. Why? He's an authoritarian blowhard aiming to turn a democracy into his own fiefdom, with his closest advisors being two of his brothers. Too much like Donald Trump for me."

    Just my own observation, obviously, but in general I find that if left entirely toward their own devices, people do tend to gravitate toward authoritarian blowhards.

    Now, not everyone does, mind you - TalkLeft is proof enough of that. But if we look at the recent history of authoritarian demagogues, such right-wing performance artists - and occasionally left-wing, too, in the cases of Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (who, coincidentally, died ten years ago today) and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega - we see that they first gained traction in the collective consciousness during periods of collective uncertainty.

    The hallmark of the successful demagogue is an uncanny ability to invoke a childlike response from people, convincing them that he (and inevitably, she) is the adored parental figure everyone was waiting for and they should therefore trust everything to him / her.

    Such individuals likely exude a certain charisma that charms more people than repulses others. They also have a tendency to be incredibly glib in their dialogue with the public, seeking to patronize them into a sense of complacency with easy and attractive solutions to sometimes extraordinarily complex problems. (See Donald Trump's acceptance speech, "I alone can fit it," at the 2016 GOP Convention.)

    The primary issue with such leaders, and it's potentially a major problem if it's not confronted immediately, is that they often require a political bête noir, a foil from whom they can publicly evoke a specter of menace and villainy.

    For Adolf Hitler, it was the Jews and to a lesser extent, Communists and the West (specifically, France and Great Britain). For Benito Mussolini, it was first the Communists and later, the British Empire. For three decades, Josef Stalin railed against the capitalist West, then Nazi Germany, then the capitalist West again.

    For Castro, Ortega and Nicolas Maduro (Hugo Chavez's successor in Venezuela), the evil lurking just over the horizon is always imperialismo yanqui, which has long been a great crowd pleaser throughout Latin America. For El Salvador's latest tinpot jefe, Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez, it's the threat to his government posed by powerful criminal syndicates.

    And here in the United States, for Donald Trump it's alternately been leftist "woke cancel culture", "Antifa", and the liberal Democratic establishment, depending on his audience du jour. On both sides of the American political divide, our mutual problem with Trump is that just as we Democrats failed to sufficiently heed Hillary Clinton's warning about him in 2016, today's Republicans are roundly rejecting Liz Cheney's warning from 2021-22.

    And until sufficient numbers of us rally together in mutual self-interest, regardless of party, and make it our common cause and goal over the next decade to permanently consign Trumpism and all of its proto-fascist spawn to the political margins where it all belongs, the neofascist authoritarian movement will continue to loom as an existential threat to not only our own country, but also the western hemisphere and Europe.


    Extreme centrism is no solution (3.00 / 1) (#5)
    by This Wreckage on Sun Mar 12, 2023 at 06:04:19 AM EST
    during periods of collective uncertainty
    Which are when, exactly? I was unaware that in some periods of time we can accurately predict the future. Your centrist belief that if we all just somehow united, everything will turn out okay is never more than a cover for accepting the status quo.

    Wow (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdm251 on Sat Mar 04, 2023 at 11:06:05 AM EST
    That's awful!!

    The video (none / 0) (#2)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sat Mar 04, 2023 at 08:49:11 PM EST

    The video of inmates was frightfully scary.  

    Picture of bunks. (none / 0) (#6)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Thu Mar 16, 2023 at 03:19:09 PM EST