2,000 Sent To Prison As Government Goes To War With Gangs, Vows They ‘Are Never Going To Return’

[Screenshot/YouTube/NBC News]

Gretchen Clayson Contributor
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El Salvador sent 2,000 more suspected gang members to jail following the opening of a new prison facility built specifically for the government’s anti-gang initiative March 15.

Following El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele’s anti-gang initiative, government and police officials in the Central American country have essentially gone to war with gang members in an effort to stamp out violence and drugs in their society. In the past year, approximately 65,000 people have been arrested under suspicion of gang activity, much to the chagrin of human rights groups who have accused the country of violating the civil rights of its citizens, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

“They are never going to return to the communities, the neighborhoods, the barrios, the cities of our beloved El Salvador,” Gustavo Villatoro, the government’s minister for justice and peace, stated, according to the outlet. (RELATED: El Salvador Extradites Alleged MS-13 Member To US Nearly Two Years After Arrest)

Bukele, who cheekily refers to himself as the world’s “coolest dictator,”was granted special emergency power last March in order to crackdown on street gangs like MS-13 and Barrio 18 following a rise in crime which saw 62 people killed in a single day, The AP reported. In a recent speech defending his actions, Bukele compared El Salvador’s gang problem to Nazism in Germany during World War II.

“Here in El Salvador…we never had a Nazi problem, but we did have a gang problem. It’s a similar issue,” Bukele explained because they are “interwoven in Salvadoran society.”

The new prison, built at his request and dubbed the Terrorism Confinement Center, has been designed to house up to 40,000 inmates, with cells accommodating 100 prisoners at a time, The AP reported. It is not a place for rehabilitation, but for punishment as pointed out by Rev. Andreu Oliva, rector of the Jesuit-founded Central American University in San Salvador, who criticized the facility.

“It shook me to see punishment cells where the people are going to be in total darkness, total isolation, sleeping on a concrete slab,” he told The AP. “With no library or rooms for education or training, he saw little that could help prisoners who wanted to leave criminal life.”

Bukele dismissed criticisms, tweeting after the prison’s unveiling, “El Salvador has managed to go from being the world’s most dangerous country, to the safest country in the Americas. How did we do it? By putting criminals in jail. Is there space? There is now.”