El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced on Wednesday that the country had sent at least 5,000 soldiers and 500 police officers to surround a town in the country’s northwest in an effort to apprehend those responsible for a suspected gang killing of a police officer.
Nueva Concepcion is about 42 miles (67 kilometers) northwest of the capital, and an officer was killed while on patrol there on Tuesday by individuals suspected of belonging to a local gang.
“Since early this morning, we have established a security perimeter around Nueva Concepcion,” Bukele said on Twitter, allowing for the “search for those responsible for the murder and the entire structure of gang members and collaborators still hiding there.”
“They will pay dearly for our hero’s murder,” said Bukele. Human rights organizations have criticized Bukele’s authoritarian leadership style and harsh crackdown on crime, particularly street gangs.
El Salvador has declared a state of exception, suspending constitutional safeguards such as the right to an attorney and the requirement that preliminary detention be approved by a court, allowing police to quickly arrest and imprison suspected gang members.
Thousands of inmates have been transferred to the new “mega prison” since last year, when over 68,000 were arrested.
According to human rights organizations, dozens of people have died in custody, and many more innocent people have been caught up in the policy.
However, the policy has been widely praised for its success in lowering violent crime rates, and it is widely supported by the public.
Bukele’s government has previously deployed similar surges of security forces in high-crime cities to combat drug trafficking and gang activity.
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