BARRIO – More than 64,000 suspected gangsters have been arrested in El Salvador under a state of emergency following a spike in murders and other violent crimes.
Pictures show the first massive group of inmates – tattooed and barefoot – being led to the facility in shackles. The prisoners are left sitting on the floor with their hands behind their shaven heads, stacked closely together, before being taken to their cells. The jail will eventually hold more than 40,000 inmates.
President Bukele tweeted that the first 2,000 people were transferred “at dawn, in a single operation” to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, which he says is the largest jail in the Americas.
“This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any further harm to the population.”
The mega-prison is located in Tecoluca, 74 kilometers southeast of the capital San Salvador.
President Bukele declared a “war on gangs” last March, passing emergency measures which have been extended several times.
The emergency powers have been controversial as they limit some constitutional rights, such as allowing the security forces to arrest suspects without a warrant.
The aim of the mass arrests is to make the gangs such as MS-13 and Barrio-18 “disappear altogether”, the government says.
Human rights organizations have argued that innocent people have been caught up in the mass arrests, and some of those held have reported being subjected to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”.