A transfer of 2,000 gang members and criminals, including members of MS-13 and Barrio-18, has begun in El Salvador to fill its mega-prison.
“Today at dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT). This will be their new home, where they won’t be able to do any more harm to the population,” President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele posted on Twitter.
Also, Bukele shared a video on Twitter of inmates sprinting inside the brand-new institution while being restrained by ankle shackles and having their hands behind their backs. The inmates had shaved heads, white shorts, and several of the males had gang tattoos.
El Salvador's government moved thousands of gang members to a new "mega prison" 👀 pic.twitter.com/bI8CEyhzph— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) February 26, 2023
On the facility’s floor, the inmates can be seen sitting close to one another, their hands clasped behind their backs as they look down at their feet.
The capacity of El Salvador’s prisons has doubled in less than a year with the opening of the new 40,000-person facility last month. With eight impassable cell blocks and 37 guard towers, the jail is one of the biggest in Latin America.
In March 2022, Bukele proclaimed a state of exception, giving his administration the authority to target gang members by relaxing the nation’s arrest regulations, including removing the need for a warrant for an arrest and giving the government access to citizens’ communications.
He advocated for the new law after three days of rioting resulted in the deaths of 87 people. Bukele attributed the violence on MS-13, and the authorities said that during the statewide search, they had apprehended the MS-13 commanders who had directed the killings.
During the previous ten years, US authorities have linked the MS-13 gang to several homicides in the New York metropolitan region and on Long Island. In 2021, terrorist charges were revealed against 14 of the gangs’ leaders.
The state of exception in El Salvador was repeatedly extended by the congress, leading to more than 46,000 accused gang members being taken into custody. By the end of the year, that number had risen to almost 62,000, including accused collaborators.