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News > El Salvador

Salvadoran Mega Jail For Gangs Is A Concentration Camp: Petro

  • Suspects to be gang members are held in the Center for Confinement of Terrorism, El Salvador, February 2023.

    Suspects to be gang members are held in the Center for Confinement of Terrorism, El Salvador, February 2023. | Photo: Twitter/ @LaHuellaSV

Published 2 March 2023

The Colombian President explained that thousands of young people are imprisoned in this jail.

On Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro called El Salvador’s Center for Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT), which President Nayib Bukele inaugurated in January to fight gang violence, a concentration camp for young people.


Salvadoran Congress Extends State Of Exception For 11th Time

"You can see the terrible photos of the CECOT concentration camp, full of thousands of young people imprisoned. These images give shivers," Petro stated.

A social media post from Bukele showed images of members of the Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs entering CECOT under heavy police custody, barefoot, wearing barely white shorts, and being held in rooms where sunlight does not enter.

"There are people who like to see youth between prisons and believe that that is security," the Colombian President said, stressing that violence cannot be countered with more violence.

"In Colombia, we managed to reduce homicides and crime rates. While we registered 90 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 1993 in Bogota, there were 13 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2022. We did not make prisons but universities," Petro recalled, inviting his Salvadoran counterpart to compare experiences in an international forum.

With a capacity for about 40,000 inmates, the CECOT is among the largest prisons in Latin America. So far, about 2,000 people suspected to be gang members remain in it.

Human Rights organizations accused Bukele of using torture and other arbitrary methods, such as the extension for 11th times of the "State of Exception", which suspends constitutional rights to keep prisoners in CECOT.

"Until we know that we have captured the last of the Salvadoran gang members, we will not deactivate this entire security strategy," Salvadoran Justice Minister Gustavo Villatoro said.

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