El Salvador’s government sent 2,000 more suspects to a huge new prison built especially for gang members Wednesday, and the the justice minister vowed that “they will never return” to the streets.
The tough statement came as the administration of President Nayib Bukele asked for yet another extension of an anti-gang emergency measures that would take the crackdown into its 13th month.
Over the last 354 days, about 65,000 people have been arrested in the antigang campaign. Human rights groups say that there have been many instances of prisoner abuses and that innocent people have been swept up in police raids.
The government announced the mass inmate transfer with a slickly produced video posted on social media. It showed prisoners forced to run barefoot and handcuffed down stairways and over bare ground, clad only in regulation white shorts. They were then forced to sit with their legs locked in closely clumped groups in cells.
Gustavo Villatoro, the government’s minister for justice and peace, said the suspected gang members would never return to the streets, even though about 57,000 of those arrested are still awaiting formal charges or a trial.