El Salvador Has Deadliest Day in 30 Years

After 62 murders on Saturday, nation declares a state of emergency
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 28, 2022 10:00 AM CDT
El Salvador Sees Most Violent Day Since 1992
Soldiers man a checkpoint Sunday at the entrance to the Las Palmas Community, a neighborhood that's supposed to be under the control of the Barrio 18 gang in San Salvador, El Salvador.   (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

El Salvador is now under a state of emergency after racking up a staggering 62 murders in a single day on Saturday. The killings are blamed on gangs, particularly MS-13 and Barrio 18, but the victims weren't necessarily gang members: The New York Times reports that gunmen were "randomly shooting street vendors, bus passengers, and market goers." For context, the BBC notes that Saturday was the nation's deadliest day since its civil war ended in 1992, and the AP points out that with another 14 murders recorded on Friday, El Salvador nearly matched the murder total (79) for the entire month of February in just two days.

After the violence, popular El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele requested the emergency declaration, and the nation's Congress agreed. Among other things, arrest rules will be loosened and some constitutional guarantees will be lifted, per the Wall Street Journal. The Times reports that one possible explanation for the violence is that a deal Bukele's administration reportedly struck with gang leaders a few years ago is falling apart. Bukele, who denies any such "secret truce," also directed prisons to tighten security measures. "All the cells locked 24/7, nobody goes out even to the yard," Bukele tweeted, per the Journal. "Message to the gangs: Because of your actions, now your 'homeboys' won't be able to see a ray of sunshine." (More El Salvador stories.)

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