5000 soldiers sent to surround town in El Salvador by President

More than 5,000 soldiers and 500 police officers were sent to surround the small town of Nueva Concepción in northern El Salvador on Wednesday 17th May 2023 as a response to the killing of a member of the national police by gang members in the area.

President Nayib Bukele announced the deployment on Twitter, saying that it was intended to apprehend those responsible for the homicide, dismantle the gang structure in the town, and capture any collaborators.

He vowed that the culprits would face severe consequences for the murder of the police officer, whom he referred to as a hero.

The latest operation in Nueva Concepción is part of President Bukele’s ongoing campaign against the powerful street gangs in El Salvador.

Since March 2022, he has been waging a comprehensive effort to combat gang violence, which led him to request extraordinary powers from Congress. These measures included the temporary suspension of certain fundamental rights.

On Tuesday, the Congress voted to extend these measures for the 14th time.

Under the authority granted by the emergency powers, authorities have arrested over 68,500 people who are either alleged gang members or collaborators.

The government has previously implemented similar tactics, such as the shutdown of towns, to address gang-related incidents.

In October 2022, Comasagua, located approximately 20 miles southwest of the capital, was surrounded by 2,000 soldiers and police officers in search of suspects involved in a killing. During the two-day operation, about 50 individuals were detained.

Similarly, in December, the government dispatched 10,000 soldiers and police officers to seal off Soyapango while conducting a search for gang members.

The heavy-handed measures taken by the government have faced criticism from human rights organisations, which have urged the authorities to uphold due process and respect individual rights.

Nevertheless, these efforts have resulted in a significant decline in homicides throughout the country, allowing residents to reclaim control over neighbourhoods that were previously dominated by gangs.