President of El Salvador Declares Total War Against MS-13, Arms Prisoners with Sledgehammers and Gives Them One Target


President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador on Thursday morning tweeted

The tweet was written in English, suggesting that its intended audience was unlikely to be his own countrymen; Spanish is the official and most commonly spoken language in El Salvador.

Bukele posted undated video of tombstones being broken up with sledgehammers in a cemetary, describing the scene: “We sent prisoners to destroy all tombstones with gang symbolisms.”

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An ABC News report from November told of inmates being sent into cemeteries with a similar mission in Santa Tecla, El Salvador. At time, inmates demolished nearly 80 tombstones and also erased gang-related graffiti in the city-run facility.

“Our plan is that there is no graffiti so the people feel safe,” Santa Tecla Mayor Henry Flores told ABC News.

It was not immediately clear whether the video shared by Bukele this week was from that event or another, more recent, repetition of the same tactic.

Either way, Bukele has repeatedly shown that he isn’t playing around since he requested “special powers” a year ago and suspended some of the nation’s constitutional rights in the name of quelling gang violence.

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On Feb. 24, Bukele showcased a new prison intended for hardened gang members in a video shared on his official Twitter account.

The video detailed a law enforcement operation in which 2,000 detainees were transferred from other jails and prisons to El Salvador’s Center for the Confinement of Terrorism, a new facility intended to house gang members.

The prisoners — many tattooed with gang imagery — were made to shuffle in handcuffs as they were led to their new residence.

“Today at dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 gang members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT),” the translated tweet read. (The tweet was published in Spanish.)

“This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, mixed up, unable to do any more harm to the population.”

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The prison is slated for an eventual capacity of 40,000 inmates, according to Insider, which, at full capacity, would make it the most populous penal facility in the world, dwarfing the current record-holder of Silivri Penitentiaries Campus in Turkey.

Some inmates in the video bear tattoos marking their affiliation with MS-13, one of the most bloodthirsty and dangerous drug smuggling organizations in the Americas.

The Central American nation has long struggled with the scourge of organized crime and gun violence. Bukele’s extra-constitutional approach has caused the nation’s homicide rate to drop by 56.8 percent in 2022, according to Reuters.

The Center for the Confinement of Terrorism opened earlier this year in connection with Bukele’s stated intention to crack down on the country’s crime epidemic, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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George Upper is the former Editor-in-Chief of The Western Journal and was a weekly co-host of "WJ Live," powered by The Western Journal. He is currently a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. A former U.S. Army special operator, teacher and consultant, he is a lifetime member of the NRA and an active volunteer leader in his church. Born in Foxborough, Massachusetts, he has lived most of his life in central North Carolina.
George Upper, is the former editor-in-chief of The Western Journal and is now a contributing editor in the areas of faith, politics and culture. He currently serves as the connections pastor at Awestruck Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a former U.S. Army special operator, teacher, manager and consultant. Born in Massachusetts, he graduated from Foxborough High School before joining the Army and spending most of the next three years at Fort Bragg. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English as well as a Master's in Business Administration, all from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He and his wife life only a short drive from his three children, their spouses and his grandchildren. He is a lifetime member of the NRA and in his spare time he shoots, reads a lot of Lawrence Block and John D. MacDonald, and watches Bruce Campbell movies. He is a fan of individual freedom, Tommy Bahama, fine-point G-2 pens and the Oxford comma.
Foxborough, Massachusetts
Beta Gamma Sigma
B.A., English, UNCG; M.A., English, UNCG; MBA, UNCG
North Carolina
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Faith, Business, Leadership and Management, Military, Politics