El Salvador gangs: Mass arrests bring calm but at what price?

The sprawling municipality of Soyapango was once a battleground for El Salvador’s two biggest and most feared street gangs.

For decades, the MS13 and the 18th Street Gang dumped victims’ bodies in ditches and streams, on roadsides and wasteland across the notoriously dangerous district of the capital, San Salvador.

These days, though, the only war being waged is by the government.

Following a weekend of extreme gang violence in March last year, El Salvador’s young and media-savvy president, Nayib Bukele, imposed a state of exception – an emergency measure under which several constitutional rights were suspended and police were granted wide-ranging powers of arrest.

Since then, some 66,000 people have been detained.

In Soyapango, a joint police and military operation sweeps through the backstreets as a helicopter whirrs overhead.

Some officers carry out search warrants at specific addresses while others randomly stop young men in the streets, checking them for gang tattoos…

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This article was written by and originally published on www.bbc.co.uk