El Salvador

Two decades after the end of its civil war, El Salvador has been trying to limit the influence of criminal gangs that control large portions of the country. Once afflicted by the world’s highest murder rate, the country now sees fewer homicides, but the gangs have tightened their grip upon turf where they run extortion rackets and exercise other forms of social control. Every year, the dangers of daily life push tens of thousands of Salvadorans to hazard the journey north to the U.S. border. Through its fieldwork and advocacy, Crisis Group presses for crime prevention, rehabilitation and socio-economic reform policies that can make El Salvador a safer place to live.

CrisisWatch El Salvador

Unchanged Situation

President Bukele slashed size of Congress and number of municipalities, raising fears govt is consolidating power ahead of 2024 polls; authorities put pressure on former officials accused of corruption.

Govt enacted number of administrative-political reforms. During State of the Union address on 1 June, President Bukele announced reorganisation of govt: reduction of municipalities from 262 to 44; reduction of legislative assembly from 84 seats to 60; and “war on corruption”. Following speech, govt 7 June passed law slimming Congress down to 60 deputies, 14 June reduced number of municipalities to 44. Opposition politicians warned move concentrates power in hands of ruling party Nuevas Ideas ahead of Feb 2024 presidential, legislative and local elections; Nuevas Ideas 26 June announced Bukele had registered to run for re-election, despite constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election. Meanwhile, Legislative Assembly 14 June approved state of exception’s fifteenth extension amid human rights concerns.

Judicial proceedings against former officials accused of corruption continued. Attorney General 6 June charged former President Alfredo Cristiani in connection with 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two women. National Civilian Police director 6 June announced politicians and journalists involved in 2012 “gang truce” talks will face judicial proceedings. Attorney General 17 June announced money laundering charges against former Defence Minister David Munguía Payes, sentenced in May to 18 years in prison for having conducted truce negotiations with criminal groups in 2012.

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