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Thousands of gang members locked up in El Salvador’s new ‘mega prison’

Stripped down to just their boxers, the prisoners are seen running along hunched over, before having their details in-putted into the prison system by balaclava wearing guards.

The MS-13 and 18th Street gang members are seen waiting for the cells.© AFP

The prison has opened in Tecoluca, 45 miles southeast of San Salvador.© AFP

Níall FeiritearSunday World

The President of El Salvador moved thousands of gang members into an enormous new prison in Tecoluca at the weekend, stating “they will live here for decades.”

Nayib Bukele took to social media on Friday afternoon to mark the first arrival of inmates into the country’s newest gang prison, which will eventually hold more than 40,000 prisoners.

“At dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT).

“This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any further harm to the population,” the president said.

The prison is set to be the largest in South America. Officials posted a video of the gangsters’ arrival, with hundreds of tattooed men being loaded onto buses.

Stripped down to just their boxers, the prisoners are seen running along hunched over, before having their details inputted into the prison system by balaclava-wearing guards.

At the facility, the men were lined up before being led into their cells, where they were left sitting on the floor next to stacked metal beds.

The warden reportedly told journalists that no mattresses would be provided.

“We are eliminating this cancer from society,” Justice and Public Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro said on social media.

“Know that you will never walk out of CECOT, you will pay for what you are, cowardly terrorists,” he wrote.

The prison has opened in Tecoluca, 45 miles southeast of San Salvador.© AFP

Most of the gang members belong to the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs, two rival cartels with branches in Los Angeles.

The two sets of tribes have been at war with each other for decades, with most of their activities revolving around drug trafficking, gun trafficking, money laundering and extortion.

“The crimes that we're talking about are brutal. Their weapon of choice is a machete. We end up seeing people with injuries that I've never seen before.

“You know, limbs hacked off. And that's what the bodies look like that we're recovering. So, they're brutal. They're ruthless,” said the New York District Attorney in relation to MS-13.

President Bukele had asked congress last year to suspend some constitutional rights in order to implement a crackdown on the two gangs.

This came after there had been a huge increase in murders in recent years. Since then, there has been nearly 65,000 arrests in El Salvador.

People can now be apprehended without a warrant; private communications are accessible by the government and detainees no longer have the right to a lawyer.

Human rights organisations have criticised the moves but the President’s actions are seen as favourable amongst many of the 6.3m population.


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