top of page

Ends Justify the Means for Gangs In El Salvador

El Salvador is a historically violent country. Since 1994, the country has been on the top 20 countries with the highest homicide rate list. Since 2015 they have been on a downward crime trend from an average of 18 homicides a day to the following year (2016) at 14. The crime rate in 2018 was 9 homicides a day, and in 2019, when El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele took office, crime rates dropped to 6 homicides a day. There is conflicting information on how the drop in crime was obtained by the current El Salvadorian President Bukele.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said, "This weekend, the world witnessed yet another attempt by Salvadoran authorities to take the country back to those moments in its history where human rights were trampled on a daily basis." Guevara-Rosas continued, "Public security officials do not seek justice through investigation, maintain due process, and actively persecute these gangs."

These statements were based on how those suspected of gang activities were persecuted. A Lack of due process and sentencing of up to 20 to 30 years in prison if found guilty of gang affiliation has led external non-governmental organizations to believe that Bukele's policies on crime are "humanitarian violations." Severe punishment continued when President Bukele called for a state of emergency on March 22, 2022, after gangs killed 80 people in one weekend (62 murders in one day) (Algazeria).

Bukele ordered the head of the country's prisons to carry out an immediate 24/7 lockdown of gang inmates in their cells. Stating to the gangs, "They are not to go out even to the patio" of prisons, adding, "a message to the gangs, because of your actions, now your homeboys will not see even one ray of sunlight."

Bukele's decrease in crime rates was undercut by the United State's accusation that these decreases in crime resulted from 'bought gang support' including financial benefits and other privileges given to gang leaders while serving prison sentences (AP).

Bukele's approach yielded results as crime rates continue to subside. In 2021, El Salvador was out of the top 20 countries with the highest homicide rate in the world. The country had been part of this notorious list since 1994, according to Eddie Galdamez, coorespondent for Living in El Salvador.

It is not easy to find solutions for dealing with the ongoing decades old problem of gang violence and dealing with the root of the problems like stability, education, order, and financial opportunities. The handling of gang crimes in El Salvador are strict. Unorthodox measures are often taken because the situation is dire. "We must start somewhere. If we do not get these issues under control, we may never have stability in El Salvador," crime analyst Carlos Martano said.

"I like what the president (Bukele) is doing regardless of how it may seem overseas," Jose Gonzalez, a native El Salvadorian, said, "I migrated to this country (United States) three years ago because of the issues in El Salvador were terrible. You couldn't sleep without thinking you were going to be shot."

Another sign of improvements is that tourism to El Salvador increased 25 percent from 2015 to the present (El Salvador Tourism 1995-2022). Tourism will financially help bring opportunities to the impoverished nation.

Although there is criticism of Bukele’s approach to the problems in his country, crime has decreased during his presidency and it still seems to be on that trend. There are no indications that he will change his stance to avoid the alleged violation criminal’s human rights, but as it stands, most El Salvadorians can have hope, knowing that crime is a downward slope, not on the rise.

Additional Source: