El Salvador: Congress Votes to Allow Mass Trials for Gang Members

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The Facts

  • El Salvador’s congress passed legislation on Wednesday that will permit courts to try accused gang members in mass trials. This is an effort to expedite thousands of cases for those imprisoned under an operation against street gangs.

  • The new bill could allow the state to try up to 900 people at the same time if they come from the same region or are accused of belonging to the same designated criminal organization. It also increases prison time for gang leaders from 45 years to 60.

The Spin

Narrative A

In contrast with previous administrations, Bukele's crackdown on the country's notorious gangs has been highly successful — putting more than 60K dangerous criminals behind bars and dramatically slashing the murder rate that has plagued the nation for decades. Other nations in Latin America should take note of his wildly successful law and order policies, which have widespread approval with the voting public.

Narrative B

Bukele's all-out war on criminal organizations has taken a terrible toll on democracy and human rights. Thousands of innocent people have been arrested on loose grounds, as the rise in safety comes at the expense of grave human rights abuses. Bukele has consolidated his power to near-dictatorial levels — if he's let off the hook for his abuses, then any politician could be free from scrutiny.

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