The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on March 28 called for authorities in El Salvador to urgently address human rights concerns as the nation marked one year under a state of emergency. Authorities enacted the state of emergency on March 27, 2022 following a wave of gang-related murders. The measure was initially for 30 days but has been regularly renewed. Since March 2022, 65,000 people have been detained, and 90 people have died in custody. OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado stated that 7,900 complaints of abuses against prisoners have been lodged with El Salvador's national human rights body. According to the report, many detentions were arbitrary and founded on "poorly substantiated" investigations or "crude profiling." Conditions in detention have also declined significantly, and the UN has received reports of prolonged solitary confinement and inmates being denied prescribed medications. (Jurist)
President Joe Biden on Jan. 5 announced that the US is to extend a parole program previously offered only to migrants from Venezuela to those from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, allowing them to apply for residency—but reiterated that his administration will continue to enforce Title 42, in compliance with a recent order from the Supreme Court. In fact, under his new policy, Title 42 expulsions are to increase, with Mexico agreeing to accept expelled Cubans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. A provision of the Public Health Service Act allowing for summary expulsion of migrants at the southern border, Title 42 has been in effect pursuant to a Centers for Disease Control order of March 2020 as a COVID-19 emergency measure.
A year ago, El Salvador's baseball cap-donning president Nayib Bukele declared Bitcoin legal tender in the country—a global first that has been a flop. Since then, Bitcoin has lost half its value. Many Salvadorans, who were dubious on the plan to begin with, cashed in on a $30 government bonus offered as an incentive to download a dedicated Bitcoin app, only to delete it once they received the money. The lack of enthusiasm may have protected people from losses due to Bitcoin's volatility. But many in the country have still sunk deeper into poverty in the past year. One reason—in addition to the country's overall financial struggles—is a crackdown on gang violence by the self-described "dictatorial" president that has seen more than 52,000 alleged gang members rounded up since March. Instead of catching criminals, innocent people are being arrested to meet quotas. The majority of those detained may not even have links to gangs, according to local media, and the arrests have left many poor families without breadwinners.
The June 24 US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade comes six weeks after a court in El Salvador sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison after she suffered an obstetric emergency that resulted in termination of her pregnancy, according to a local advocacy group that was assisting in her defense. The Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion (Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto-ACDATEE) denounced the sentence and said it would appeal the conviction. The woman, identified only as "Esme," was held in pre-trial detention for two years following her arrest when she sought medical care at a public hospital. She already had a seven-year-old daughter. (DW, May 11)
Amnesty International reported June 2 that authorities in El Salvador have committed "massive" human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, due process violations and torture, under cover of an ongoing state of emergency. Amnesty found that 35,000 individuals have been illegally detained without due process since President Nayib Bukele declared a state of emergency in response to gang violence in March, suspending constitutional guarantees. At least 1,190 minors are among the detained, and more than 18 detainees have died in custody. The National Assembly has twice extended the so-called "regime of exception" by 30-day intervals. The day after Amnesty issued the report, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged El Salvador's government to comply with international human rights obligations in implementing security measures. (Jurist, Jurist)
El Salvador's Legislative Assembly approved a state of emergency March 27 at the request of President Nayib Bukele, in response to a sharp increase in the number of killings by criminal gangs. The emergency regimen seeks to dismantle criminal structures by prohibiting associations and disrupting their communications. It also extends the "administrative detention" period, and suspends certain constitutional freedoms.
Hondurans last month elected Xiomara Castro of the left-populist LIBRE Party to be the country's first woman president, defeating Nasry Asfura of the conservative National Party. Taking office next month, Castro is to replace the National Party's President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose term has been plagued by scandal and accusations of ties to narco-trafficking. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro seems poised to revive his program—and take it much further. "Never again will the power be abused in this country," she declared upon her victory. She has proclaimed herself a "democratic socialist," and pledges to govern through a new model of "participatory democracy," placing a series of reforms before the voters through referenda or "consultas."
Agents of El Salvador's Fiscalía, backed up by police troops, raided seven non-governmental organizations Nov. 22, ostensibly on the grounds of investigating "corruption." The Salvadoran popular movement describes the raids as the latest in an escalating campaign of political persecution by President Nayib Bukele against voices critical of the regime. Among the groups targeted were Las Mélidas, a long-standing women's rights organization, and PRO-VIDA, a humanitarian group that works in areas of healthcare, ecology, and strengthening of democratic institutions. Also targeted were the Coordinator of Communal Projects of El Salvador (PROCOMES), the Salvadoran Foundation for Democracy & Social Development (FUNDASPAD), the Helping Hand Foundation (Una Mano Amiga), the Association of Tecleña Women (AMTSV), and the Environmental Association of Santa Ana (FUNDASAN).