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The State of Emergency in El Salvador: What Does This Mean?

Thirty years ago in 1992, a time of great violence and uncertainty, the Tamarindo was born in post-war El Salvador. Today, 30 years later, violence, hatred and disregard for the dignity of human life still persist here. Last week, on one tragic night, 60 people in El Salvador were gunned down in cold blood. Without a consolatory word for the victims' families or the nation, President Nayib Bukele reacted by declaring a "Régimen de Excepción" (State of Emergency), declaring an all-out war against the gangs.

On the ninth day of the mandate, Salvadoran authorities have already arrested almost 6000 men and women, accused of being members of or associated with gangs, others for just being young or committing the “crime” of having a tattoo somewhere on their bodies. All are being held without formal charges. All are being held without legal representation. The president over social media has already declared them guilty and condemned them to 30 years in prison.

Many have criticized the move, questioning his motives as the civil liberties of all Salvadorans, especially youth, are being trampled. Others question what happened to the president’s national security plan, ‘Plan Control Territorial Nacional’. Some may remember 2/10/2020, when the “social-media-savvy'' president marched armed troops into Congress demanding $109,000,000 in security funds. It appears that the plan has failed or maybe never existed at all.

Like other despots currently dominating the news, President Bukele blames the international community concerned over a growing list of anti-democratic actions and human rights violations, as “defenders” of the gangs. His enemy list was published in a recent tweet of his and includes: “financiers, narcos, human rights organizations, the international community, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, NGOs [which he also refers to as parasites], journalists and media controlled by Open Society, etc.”

This weekend, it was the honor of the Tamarindo to host youth leaders from communities across the country who comprise a collective promoting human rights and youth citizen participation in political life. Our session was blessed by the presence of the Reverend Andreu Oliva de la Esperanza, S.J., rector of the Jesuit university here in El Salvador, a significant voice for human rights and civil liberties for all Salvadorans. The meeting facilitated a profound analysis over the concerns of the State of Emergency.

We concluded that the tactics being implemented by the Salvadoran government are clearly an assault on Salvadoran democracy, reminiscent of the Salvadoran civil war from 1980 to 1992. Our analysis reaffirms the Tamarindo program's 30 year commitment to the education and formation of Salvadoran youth leaders in becoming protagonists in the transformation of Salvadoran society. It will be these leaders that will create a just, prosperous and peaceful future for El Salvador.

We know you care. Please know how grateful we are for all you have done for us over the past thirty years. Today we need you, now more than ever, so please consider becoming a monthly donor to help us sustain the work that we do.

Saint Oscar Romero, pray for us.

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