El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele has boastfully shared photographs of thousands of inmates sitting on the floor of a sprawling new prison in the South American nation, that they will ‘never return’ from.
More than 65,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since March last year amid a government crackdown in the country.
The 40,000-capacity Center for the Confinement of Terrorism in Tecoluca, San Vicente, was purpose-built to relieve the overwhelmed prison system in the country
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The first 2,000 inmates were sent there last month while a second group of 2,000 prisoners were moved on Thursday, March 16 to the facility, where human rights group have said is too congested.
Since president Bukele announced a state of exception in March 2022, over 62,000 suspected gang members have been arrested.
El Salvador has one of highest crime rates in Latin America and The country’s government has extended emergency powers to let the mass arrests continue.
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‘This day, in a new operation, we moved the second batch of 2000 gangsters to the Terrorism Contention Centre (CECOT),’ Bukele wrote on Facebook.
‘With this, there are now 4,000 gangsters inhabiting the world’s most criticised prison.’
Footage and photographs show thousands of barefoot men being led through the cavernous jail lined by guards in balaclavas.
They sit, side-by-side in only white boxers. Their beds stacked one on top of anotherdo not have mattresses.
‘This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any further harm to the population,’ Bukele, who campaigned on the promise of bringing law and order to El Salvador’s streets, said.
Minister for Justice and Peace Gustavo Villatoro added: ‘They are never going to return to the communities, the neighbourhoods, the barrios, the cities of our beloved El Salvador.’
Villatoro added: ‘We are eliminating this cancer from society.’
The 2,000 men were transferred there as part of a security operation that started at dawn and involved 1,200 troops and three Air Force helicopters.
According to Public Works Minister Romeo Rodriguez, the Tecoluca prison is made of eight concrete buildings, each packed with 32 100sq m cells containing 80 bunk beds, two sinks and two toilets for between 100 inmates.
The mega-prison also has dining rooms, exercise facilities and table tennis courts inside that the guards play..