Wednesday, September 28

El Salvador: desperate cries in a country in Exception Regime

“I want to die.” On the night of Tuesday, August 16, I received that message on my cell phone. It was sent to me by someone who has been hiding from the police for five months. He hides because he lives in a country where today there are no judicial guarantees to prove that he is innocent. They do not exist since El Salvador entered under the Exception Regime on March 27 last, after a weekend in which there were more than 70 murders. The Nayib Bukele government decided to establish a regime to declare “war” on the gangs. That war, as boasted by the authorities in your social networkshas achieved the arrest of almost 50 thousand “terrorists”.

Three words, a succinct and hard message. The person who sent me this message was accused in the past and although she was acquitted of her charges, because there was never any evidence to incriminate her, now they are persecuting her again under the exceptional regime for another crime. It is so desperately feared when the options run out, because to submit to a process is to assume that there will not be due respect for the process or guarantees of a fair process. And this is not just my opinion, it says so International Amnesty In its most recent reports, Human Rights Watch, the Foundation for Due Process and many other Salvadoran social organizations, which are saturated daily by complaints that arrive about human rights violations in the context of the regime. These include a long list of abuses, torture, threats and injuries by agents of the National Civil Police as well as the Army. There is even talk of possible crimes against humanity by the State. The Office for the Defense of Human Rights says it is investigating the death of 28 people inside the prisons, however, social organizations have so far counted 63 people who were arrested during the regime and who have died while in prison. Many of these deaths have been reported to their relatives long after they occurred, because that is another constant in this context: no one knows anything about the condition of their relative who is in prison. No matter how much information they request, it is denied. Even autopsies.

But that is El Salvador today: whoever raises his voice must stick to being riddled on social networks by the entire official machinery, accompanied by an army of trolls, ready to discredit, distort and lie with impunity.

Since the Exception Regime began, arbitrary arrests of people who have been captured on their way to work or on the street or in their homes have been denounced, as local media point out in endless stories that they have been able to document. Hundreds of these arrests have occurred for having a criminal record, having gone through a judicial process -although there is a clear acquittal of the charges- or because for the authority it is enough to “appear” to be a gang member. It is not only a question of whether or not one has a tattoo allusive to gangs so that someone can be accused of being a criminal, but the criteria used fall into the absurd, such that a person “because of nervousness” can already be classified as a gang member. so what reported the newspaper El Faro, after analyzing hundreds of pages of files on how the authorities have generated these arrests, with which there is no doubt that the least there is behind them are solid investigations by the Attorney General’s Office. For the Public Ministry, controlled by Bukelismo, only the police record, which is drawn up at the time of arrest, is enough to accuse before a judge that a person is a criminal.

In the Exception Regime, not only are there no guarantees of effective defense, taking into account that defense cases are concentrated in an Attorney General’s Office that collapses daily and it is humanly impossible for him to defend, but if a person is arrested it is possible that he will spend at least six months in prison while the investigation phase lasts and the Prosecutor’s Office presents incriminating evidence. Even when they do not present them, a judicial system has been set up ready to decide in favor of the State. This happens because the Legislative Assembly of Bukele reformed the law to retire a third of the judges and thus be able to impose their own. That is why there are few voices that speak out within the justice system, because whoever does so runs the risk of being removed.

But that is El Salvador today: whoever raises their voice must stick to being riddled on social networks by the entire official machinery, accompanied by an army of trolls, ready to discredit, distort and lie with impunity. You have to be in power to feel untouchable. If we lived in a parallel world, many officials should be being prosecuted for defamation. Why keep the attacks to themselves when they know that there will be no system to judge them? Therefore, citizens like josselyn They were sentenced to exile for protesting against the regime, for demanding the freedom of their relative. She marched in mid-July in the first massive protest against the Exception Regime. She demanded the freedom of her brother, but also raised her voice against the repression. Her face went viral and it didn’t take long for the attacks against her to arrive. She was accused of being a gang member for a photograph in which she appears making a representative sign within rock groups (the one with the cornuta hand). However, for the authorities, she was replicating a sign with which gang groups of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) identify themselves. One must be ignorant or vile enough to make such a comparison. But the purpose was achieved and the sentence was brutal. She fled the country out of fear.

But the protests continue. The thousands of arrests have led to the birth of the Movement of Victims of the Regime (Movir), made up of relatives of detained persons. The last protest was on the afternoon of August 16, the same day I received the text message. The Movement protested in front of the Legislative Assembly to prevent another extension of the regime from being approved for the fifth time. But they didn’t make it. The Assembly extended for another 30 days what is beginning to sound more like a new Salvadoran justice system. Although the “first capture and then investigate” is anything but new in this country, because the Police have always acted that way when it comes to detaining people in massive raids, now the fact is that they have the legal tools to do it . There is nothing that prevents them from arresting a person and accusing them of illicit groups or collaborating with gangs.

Here it is not that the authorities do not fight crime, they have had more than US$400 million for a Territorial Control Plan, a budget financed through loans and of which little or nothing is known about its execution. What is being talked about here is that they lock people up without sufficient evidence and subject them to a process without guarantees instead of going after the gang leaders. Instead of doing their job, they facilitate departures from the country of MS-13 leaders, as revealed by The Lighthouse.

Meanwhile, there are people who decide to hide from a twisted system, which is rotting more and more, which does not guarantee the protection of the rights of any citizen. When a person runs out of options and without a country to protect him, he has no choice but to send a desperate cry through a text message.