A recent prison massacre in El Salvador is indicative of the government’s problematic response to the nation’s ongoing security crisis.
Members of the Barrio 18 street gang killed 14 members of Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios faction, or “clique,” during an “internal purge” at the Quezaltepeque prison in El Salvador’s southwestern La Libertad department, reported local media.
The motive behind the killings is still unknown. Barrio 18’s Revolucionarios faction is suspected of killing seven bus drivers during a gang-enforced transportation strike in July.
Authorities admitted to having prior warning of a possible purge, but were unaware of the “silent” attacks while they occurred, EFE quoted prisons director Rodil Hernandez as saying.
Prison violence is an ongoing issue in El Salvador, with as many as 31 people killed during a particularly bloody gang dispute at the Mariona facility in 2004. Two other gang members were killed in Quezaltepeque in May.
InSight Crime Analysis
The government’s response to this latest prison massacre seems dismissive at best, with officials fully admitting they were warned ahead of time. Nor has anyone yet publically proposed ways to try and address this type of prison violence. This is unsurprising, given the administrations’ hysterical rhetoric and current focus on militarized or “iron fist” security policies.
El Salvador continues to suffer some of the worst violence in a decade, with each month’s homicide rates higher than the last. However, instead of calling for a different approach, Public Security Minister Benito Lara has framed rising murder statistics as a positive development, attributable to police being more effective and shooting more criminals.
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Within this context, incidents of gang members killing other gang members is likely a non-issue for authorities. This may especially hold true, given that the gang faction under attack — the Revolucionarios — is accused of instigating an transportation strike which highlighted the government’s inability to maintain order.
As resources in El Salvdor remain limited, it is highly unlikely that inmate rights will receive much attention in the near future, particularly when previous proposals have centered around limiting those rights.