A human rights agenda for El Salvador
At the end of June, Amnesty International, met with the president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, to deliver a set of recommendations concerning the human rights situation in El Salvador. The brief deals with the need to assess responsibility for historic human rights abuses in the civil war, the rights of women and girls, the need to protect human rights defenders, the needs of migrants, human rights in public security and policing, and adherence to international human rights commitments.
Bukele has frequently voiced a commitment to human rights standards, but the level of his commitment to human rights is most in question as he deploys a mano dura / iron fist approach in his Territorial Control Plan to combat gang violence in the country. Adding to the security presence on the streets of the country, Bukele announced that the armed forces will recruit another 3000 soldiers to engage in domestic crime fighting actions.
El Salvador’s police and armed forces are not known for their attention to human rights. This reflects the sentiment of the Salvadoran population as a whole. According to a recently published poll, 81.2% of Salvadorans are in favor of Bukele’s Territorial Control Plan, so there is little political cost for Bukele in allowing troops wide latitude in policing.
Similarly, he has not shown much interest in the need for protection of human rights defenders, instead taking a rhetorical approach of asserting that anyone who criticizes his approach must be siding with the gangs against the Salvadoran people.
With respect to the rights of migrants who have fled El Salvador, Bukele acknowledges that the country is responsible for addressing the conditions which lead migrants to leave. He has largely refused, however, to criticize the Trump administration with respect to its treatment of immigrants in detention.