El Salvador Sheds ‘Murder Capital’ Title Under Bukele’s Rule Despite Controversy

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Resplendent in confidence, El Salvador President Nayib Bukele hailed the triumph of his strident action against gang-related crime during his U.N. General Assembly address on Tuesday. Assertively defending his administration’s decision-making, Bukele dismissed global condemnations surrounding the contravention of human rights within his country.

He boldly argued that had El Salvador bowed to the geopolitical pressures and critiques—including numerous objections from the United Nations—the small Central American nation would have retained its ignominious title as the world’s murder capital.

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Bukele declared an end to such discussions amid the sea of international diplomats. “The path we chose was correct,” Bukele stated, the echo of his voice bouncing off the assembly hall walls. “We successfully severed ourselves from the dark title of the world’s death capital—and in record time. We have transformed into a beacon of security, a fact beyond contention. The results are undebatable.”

The stringent measures adopted by Bukele’s government, including the implementation of a state of emergency in March 2022, resulted in the arrest of over 72,000 individuals in response to escalating gang violence. This move, endorsed by the Congress, led to the suspension of essential freedoms, including the right to a lawyer and to be informed of one’s arrest reason.

Detractors lambasted the security blitz, arguing it has disregarded the principles of due process and, in doing so, entangled thousands of innocents within its expansive net. More than 7,000 of those arrested have since been released, having shown no verifiable evidence of their involvement in gang activities.

Earlier this year, the United Nations human rights office voiced its concern regarding the crackdown, highlighting a troubling pattern of human rights violations, unverified arrests, and an upsetting number of deaths in custody.

However, back in El Salvador, Bukele’s stronghold on security is broadly supported. Likely to be the cornerstone of his upcoming re-election campaign—a move deemed unconstitutional but nevertheless permitted by his legislative allies—Bukele’s approach resonates with common Salvadorans. Thanks to his policies, Salvadorans, Bukele noted, can now fearlessly stroll in their neighborhoods while their children can freely play outside without the looming threat of gang-related violence or recruitment.

El Salvador was once classified amongst the world’s most violent countries. In 2015, the nation documented staggering 6,656 homicides—equating to a chilling 106 murders per 100,000 people. Since his policies began, the National Civil Police have noted a substantial decrease in killings: only 146 homicides were recorded until September 18 of this year, marking a 72% plunge compared to last year’s violence levels during the same period.