President Nayib Bukele says "war against gangs" will continue, a month after he invoked emergency powers to suspend some constitutional rights to crackdown on gangs engaged in drug trafficking and extortion.

El Salvador's authorities arrested a total of 9,120
El Salvador's authorities arrested a total of 9,120 "gang members" since the beginning of the "war against gangs," officials say. (AFP Archive)

Authorities in El Salvador have arrested more than 9,000 suspected gang members in the past 15 days, President Nayib Bukele announced, amid a state of emergency pushed by the president after a spike in homicides.

"More than 9,000 gang members (arrested) in just 15 days. We continue the war against gangs," tweeted the president on Sunday, who has been criticised by local and international humanitarian organisations for alleged human rights violations.

For its part, the National Civil Police (PNC) reported on Twitter that "507 terrorists" were captured on Saturday.

War on gangs

Since the beginning "of the war against gangs, we have put a total of 9,120 gang members behind bars," it said.

From March 25-27 in El Salvador 87 people were killed in a wave of violence, prompting the police and military to begin mass arrests.

On March 27 the pro-government Congress approved a state of emergency that gives legal cover to arrests without warrants.

In addition, Congress approved, at Bukele's request, reforms to increase the maximum sentence for gang membership from nine to 45 years in prison, and to punish the dissemination of gang messages in the media with up to 15 years in prison.

The Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs, among others, total some 70,000 members.

As of March 16,000 of them were in prison.

El Salvador closed 2021 with 1,147 homicides –– 18 per 100,000 inhabitants –– while in 2020 it registered 1,341 violent deaths.

Source: AFP