Gang violence in El Salvador under threat of contagion El Salvador has been grappling with gang violence and mafia for decades. On the other hand, the country’s safe prison capacity is 18,051, but the penitentiary system currently holds more than 38,000 inmates.
Extreme heat, unsanitary conditions, infectious diseases, more prominently tuberculosis, and lack of healthcare facilities had claimed several lives of many inmates, even before the pandemic struck the world with its vicious claws.
Dozens of prisoners are crammed into the tiny cells wherein social distancing is impossible. Inadequate medical facilities and crowded infirmaries are familiar sights. However, officials fear that even a single case of Covid-19 in an El Salvador penitentiary would be preposterous since the virus will spread like wildfire.
President Nayib Bukele, who assumed office in June 2019, introduced a zero-tolerance policy against gang violence and its atrocities, including inside the country’s prison.
In El Salvador, inmates are not allowed basic social amenities like visitations or phone calls. They are confined to their cells 24/7. Some pictures depict jailed gang members during a search operation in the highest security prison in Izalco, Sonsonate.
The pictures demonstrate inmates crammed in cages and lined up for inspections violating all norms of social distancing. Although everybody wore a mask, the sight was disturbing since all the remaining health codes were infringed.
However, some allegations state that the inspection was initiated as President Bukele was accused of supposedly granting favours to the imprisoned leaders of some prominent gangs in return of support in elections.
The granting of favours to jailed gang leaders arose from the inevitability that government officers would require their assistance to sway the election results in their support.
The favours ranged from better food to reversal of decisions to house the gang members of the same clan into one cell.