Nayib Bukele's Territorial Control Plan


President Nayib Bukele rolled out the first phase of his plan to reduce crime and violence in El Salvador in June. This first phase, called the Territorial Control Plan, consists of a variety of measures being aggressively applied in the country against gang structures. 

There has been a large scale deployment of police and soldiers into 17 communities including the historic center of San Salvador. Heavily armed patrols flood the streets to take back control of neighborhoods from gangs. Young men are stopped and frisked and having their identities checked against lists of wanted gang members. 

There have been arrests of more than 4200 persons in the first four weeks of the Territorial Control Plan.

Bukele wants the presence of security forces in these communities to have the effect of curtailing extortion, a major economic input for the gangs.

 Police and soldiers are also being deployed onto buses to reduce robberies on the buses and provide a sense of security.

 A state of emergency has been declared at all the prisons throughout the country putting them on lockdown. Visits from the outside world are cut off. Prisoners are confined to their cells 24 hours per day. Already harsh conditions in El Salvador’s prisons are made worse by the lockdown.

The government has transferred inmates among prisons to end the former practice of designating certain prisons to contain the prisoners from a single gang. The old policy had allowed prisons to become gang training and organization schools.

The government has ordered a blackout of cell phone communications in the areas around the prisons.

Bukele has threatened that the state of emergency in the prisons will not be lifted and no one will see a ray of sunlight unless the gangs stop their killings.

The National Assembly reassigned some $31 million at Bukele’s request to support the Plan. The armed forces plan to call into active duty some 1000 reservists as part of this effort.

 
Security forces receiving daily orders

Today there was also the inauguration of construction of a new center for forensic investigation (think “CSI-EL Salvador”) financed with funds from the US government and the Howard Buffet Foundation.

Bukele has declared that in three to four years, the gangs will cease to exist in their present form. From AFP:
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said on Sunday that security measures implemented by his government would do away with the country's long-running gang problem in four years.

"I believe that the blow we are going to give to this structure is a mortal blow. I do not believe that gangs as we know them now will exist in three or four years," Bukele said at a press conference to evaluate the progress of the first phase of a security plan launched last month.
Although the government no longer releases daily homicide statistics, there appears to have been at least a short term decline in the murder rate. Nayib Bukele tweeted that two straight days had passed with only two murders per day, a significant reduction from rates of 10 or more per day during some of the years of the prior administration. 

Bukele with security team

Phase 2 of Bukele’s plan implements his government’s social policies, consisting of bringing improvements in government services which directly benefit people’s lives and which bring opportunity to youth. As an example, his plan includes making available technical schooling for 100,000 youth at the convention and fairgrounds in San Salvador.  Through improving opportunities and quality of life, Bukele believes he can compete with the gangs for the allegiance of young people who might otherwise join a gang.

Bukele is betting that a sustained focus on mano dura policing strategies along with delivery of social services will result in a true reduction in the gang problem which has escaped Salvadoran governments for the past several years. He is working with the same police force, the same army, the same prosecutors and the same judicial system as his predecessors. Bukele claims that the difference is that his government has the voluntad, the will, to see the effort through to the end. We will have to wait and see if that is enough.

Comments

I like that he's trying something at least somewhat different. Considering the role the US has played in the tragic history of El Salvador I think we should help with their economic development.
"The government has transferred inmates among prisons to end the former practice of designating certain prisons to contain the prisoners from a single gang. The old policy had allowed prisons to become gang training and organization schools."

It also prevent bloody confrontations between gangs in prison. The government knows very well that mixing them will result in violence and death. This gives the impression that the government wants them to kill each other off in prison--a sort of self-implemented, extrajudicial death sentence. Keep in mind that police/soldiers have picked up gang members and dropped them off in rival territory precisely to get them killed.
Erick M said…
I like the fact that he's trying and really seems to care. Based on what I've seen, Bukele really wants to make a difference. Hope this is all real and lasting. I wish the man the best of luck.