Experts have cautioned that El Salvador's extensive campaign against violent offenders, which has resulted in thousands of supposed gangsters being detained in a mega-prison, might cause those remaining at liberty to leave the country in distress.
At the end of last month, authorities moved thousands of convicts to El Salvador's new maximum security facility in Tecoluca, the Terrorism Confinement Center. On Wednesday, there were an additional 2,000 prisoners brought in, with the prison's overall capacity reaching 40,000 inmates.
🇸🇻 | El Presidente Bukele trata con mano dura a miles de criminales y pandilleros que antes causaban terror a la población de El Salvador. ¿Estás de acuerdo con la forma en que el Presidente Bukele trata a los delincuentes? pic.twitter.com/iJQWWr5akt
— Eduardo Menoni (@eduardomenoni) on February 26, 2023
Gustavo Villatoro, El Salvador's justice minister, proclaimed, “Our beloved El Salvador's neighborhoods, barrios, and cities will never again see them return.”
The government of El Salvador's efforts to imprison more gang members is assumed to be beneficial, however, this has caused the gangs to move northward.
Certain heads of the notoriously vicious MS-13 organization have already escaped to Mexico.
The El Salvador justice minister declared that they had knowledge of the fact that the instructions were being issued in a cowardly manner from Mexico.
In the past twelve months, Mexican officials have noticed an increase in the presence of gangs associated with El Salvador, such as MS-13 and the 18th Street gang. Tragically, three drivers of public transportation in Mexico were recently murdered by these Salvadoran gangs, who have been causing fear and demanding money from the drivers.
One of the Mexican drivers warned, "We'll be like El Salvador if we don't take action."
Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, cautions that El Salvador's gangsters and heads are continually attempting to gain entry into the United States.
In 2017, the U.S. had an estimated 10,000+ members of MS-13.
The Biden administration's overwhelmed border forces would be unable to prevent gangs from El Salvador entering the U.S. if the war on gangs in El Salvador drives them to the southern border, as they would have little difficulty infiltrating the country.
According to Vaughan, it is currently relatively easy for those that have not been in the United States before to gain entry; there is less of a risk of border and interior enforcement than in earlier years.
If individuals who have been members of a gang have been deported from the United States, they must be cautious to prevent being prosecuted and deported a second time.
Vaughan remarked that, despite being far from intelligent, MS-13 members are unlikely to relocate to another country.
In the last few years, MS-13 has been involved in human trafficking and providing security for drug cartels. Their arrival in Mexico could make an already hazardous situation even worse.
Vaughan commented that it would be a risky endeavor to enter into a partnership with a cartel, as it would bring a certain level of uncertainty and further participation in violence. Furthermore, he added that the presence of MS-13 would likely make the situation even more unpredictable, as they are usually determined to find a place to carry out their activities and willing to vie with other criminal organizations.
El Salvador has one of the highest crime rates globally, with around 2% of the adult population held in prison. A year ago, the government declared an emergency and initiated a crackdown on gangs, which is something that Vaughan remarks is a recurrent pattern in that country, as they struggle to reduce the soaring murder rate.
Since then, roughly 65,000 individuals have been detained due to the repeated extensions of the state of emergency. Human rights activists have reported worries that the government's strategy is excessively authoritarian — with 57,000 of the arrested still awaiting a formal indictment and court proceedings.
In the meantime, the inhabitants of El Salvador have rejoiced over the increased safety of their streets, with the murder rate having dropped significantly by around 50%.