El Salvador vandalizes gravestones of gang members

El Salvador vandalizes gravestones of gang members


El Salvador’s government, embroiled in a controversial “war” against gangs, is destroying gang members’ tombstones to prevent them from becoming shrines, the government said on Thursday.

Justice Minister Osiris Luna Meza urged the public to report the locations of gangster graves, tweeting: “There is NO place for terrorists in El Salvador.”

He published photos of tombstones being torn to pieces with hammers or pickaxes, some with the initials “MS-13” of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, one of the most violent in El Salvador.

“Terrorists will no longer be able to ‘glorify’ the memory of dead criminals,” the minister tweeted.

The demolitions began earlier this week at a municipal cemetery west of the capital San Salvador, coinciding with Day of the Dead commemorations being held across Latin America for deceased relatives.

Although their headstones will be removed, the remains of the gang members will remain intact, the government said.

How many tombstones were destroyed was not specified.

Eight months of what President Nayib Bukele has called a “war” against criminal groups has involved more than 55,600 suspected mobsters in a crackdown that has been greeted and criticized in equal measure.

As part of the crackdown, the Central American country has increased penalties for gang membership fivefold to up to 45 years, and Bukele has ordered the construction of a gargantuan prison for 40,000 gang members.

Human rights groups have denounced the arbitrary detention of many people, including minors, without gang connections, but many citizens have welcomed a relative calm after a spate of gang violence that left dozens dead.

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