El Salvador closes 2022 with an exception regime and homicides drop


(CNN Spanish) — In March it will be one year since the entry into force of the exception regime in El Salvador, a measure that to date has left more than 60,000 people in detention, according to the authorities. Most remain in provisional detention by order of a judge and await a trial to determine their guilt or innocence.

Among those thousands of detainees are two of the five children of Rafael Ruiz and Norma Díaz.

Irvin Antonio Ruiz, 31, was the first to be arrested by police, his parents tell CNN. They add that this occurred on April 25, when he was returning home on a motorcycle. Authorities accuse him of gang ties.

And on December 1st, his brother was arrested for the same accusation.

Both remain in preventive detention by order of a judge. His parents deny the accusations.

“They are practically taking my life because my children are not criminals. My children are good people, hard workers,” says Díaz.

Ruiz considers that not in all cases there is a good investigation.

“What they do is decree provisional detention, and because they do it in a group. This, my son who was arrested the first, seemed to be done with 40 more subjects, who knows who they are, ”he says.

The government leaves the decision to keep people in detention in the hands of judges, after evaluating the reasons for their arrest. In addition, it rejects the criticism from local and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), which point out that this policy has caused human rights violations. These non-governmental organizations say that several studies carried out indicate that the Police carry out mass arrests based on anonymous accusations that are not verified, or because they have tattoos or a criminal record, among other reasons.

Drop in the official homicide number

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The Government attributes the drop in the official number of homicides to the implementation of the emergency regime and the “Territorial Control” security plan.

In the first 18 days of December, according to figures from the security cabinet, there have been 14 days without homicides. The authorities project to close 2022 with eight homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.

“El Salvador is already irrefutably the safest country in Latin America. It is incredible to think that, until a few years ago, we were the most dangerous country in the world,” said President Nayib Bukele.

The drop in homicides in 2022 is notable when compared to the 105 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants registered in 2015, according to World Bank data.

“Good government gives results. A bad government makes excuses,” added the president.

Distrust in figures

The reduction in homicides that the government highlights does not convince all sectors in El Salvador. Some doubt, because they do not have access to the details of the official figures because the authorities have declared them confidential.

“There is no way to verify if this is true or not. We are operating on advertising figures managed by the government propaganda apparatus. If what they are affirming is true, why don’t they open the official sources?” Celia Medrano, a human rights activist, told CNN.

The government, for its part, has already responded to this type of criticism.

“How is the government going to hide the corpses in the street, for example? Or how is the government going to stop charging extortion charges, or that you no longer see gang members in your communities? How could that be a make-up of numbers?” Bukele assured on November 9.

The implemented measures have broad popular support, according to surveys by local pollsters. The University Institute of Public Opinion of the Central American University published a national survey in October that indicated that 75.9% of those consulted approved of the exception regime, with an average “citizen rating” of 7.24.

The survey was carried out between September 9 and 27 and was carried out through interviews with 1,269 people, with a margin of error of +- 2.75 and a confidence level of 95%.


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