Soldiers at a security checkpoint in San Salvador

Authorities in El Salvador are considering implementing a state of exception that would suspend certain constitutional rights as the country's security crisis continues to worsen, raising questions about the legality and ultimate efficacy of such a move. 

On March 8, El Salvador's Supreme Court, President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and lawmakers considered a plan to implement a state of exception in the country's most violent municipalities, reported La Página. The proposed state of exception would likely affect at least ten municipalities, including the capital city of San Salvador. 

If implemented, the state of exception would provide authorities with broad powers to suppress public meetings, restrict freedom of movement, and monitor mail, e-mail, telephone, and social media communications. 

El Salvador's constitution permits authorities to declare a state of exception under conditions of war, invasion, uprising, sedition, or "grave disturbances to public order." According to El Diaro de Hoy, El Salvador's Legislative Assembly must approve such a decision.

Congressman Guillermo Gallegos, of the GANA political party, spoke in favor of the proposed measure, telling La Página that communities "should have the legal tools needed to respond to threats from criminal groups."

In contrast, leader of the conservative ARENA party, Jorge Velado, said he has "serious doubts about whether this proposed state of emergency is really about fighting crime," suggesting it might be an attempt by Cerén to silence criticism of his administration.

InSight Crime Analysis 

El Salvador's violence levels rapidly deteriorated during 2015, and the country finished the year with a homicide rate of over 100 per 100,000 citizens, the highest in the world. Acute violence levels have continued into 2016, with around 1,400 homicides committed during January and February -- an average of one every hour.

In recent days, official rhetoric towards insecurity has taken on an increasingly defiant tone, with President Cerén declaring that "war" was the only option left for managing the country's gang problem. Nonetheless, Cerén asserted that violence in El Salvador is a "structural problem" that "will not be resolved overnight."

SEE ALSO: El Salvador News and Profiles

This understanding of the country's violence problem as a chronic, long-term condition is somewhat at odds with the idea of a state of exception, generally considered a tool for managing acute crises or sudden onset emergencies. Regionally, recent states of exception have been declared in Venezuela, in response to a border crisis with Colombia, and in Peru, in response to rising criminality along the coast. Both measures received criticism for failing to address root causes or provide long-term relief. 

Moreover, the legality of whether current conditions in El Salvador meet the standards outlined in the constitution for when a state of exception can be declared is an open question. Yet this is not the first time that Sánchez Cerén's administration has sought to apply existing legal tools in new ways to address the gang problem. In August 2015, then Attorney General Luis Martinez began trying gang members under anti-terrorism statutes. While challenged in court, those efforts were ultimately ruled constitutional

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...