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ARGENTINA | 17-06-2024 16:43

Bullrich visits El Salvador to study Bukele’s approach to crime, security

Patricia Bullrich visits El Salvador as she takes closer look at nation’s approaching to tackling crime; Security minister due to visit President Nayib Bukele during trip to Central America.

Security Minister Patricia Bullrich has made a four-day visit to El Salvdor as Argentina looks to study President Nayib Bukele’s hardline approach to tackling drug-gang violence.

Government officials in Buenos Aires said Bullrich would research the “method” deployed by Bukele to deal with drug crime and improve security.

Bullrich, 68, began her visit with a tour of the CECOT Terrorism Detention Centre, a high-security jail. Bukele, with whom she is scheduled to meet while in El Salvador, spear-headed its development and construction.

The Argentine official also spent time at El Salvador’s National Academy of Public Security (ANSP) and held talks with her Salvadoran counterpart Gustavo Villatoro.

“Together against criminals who murder en masse and fancied themselves as the owners of our countries and societies", Bullrich posted on X after visiting CECOT, the mega prison that is a symbol of the war on gangs launched by Bukele’s government.

The CECOT, which opened in 2022, can house as many as 40,000 inmates. Bullrich toured the side with El Salvador’s Justice & Public Security minister Gustavo Villatoro, who “welcomed” the official “to the safest country in Latin America.”

“It’s a true pleasure to have you in El Salvador. I’m sure this visit from Argentina will prove enlightening. You and your team will be able to get to know the ‘Bukele Model’ first-hand,” wrote the minister on the X social media network.

According to official data, as of February this year, 12,500 gang members from the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs were incarcerated at the mega prison.

Bukele launched a war on gangs in March 2022, with a state of emergency suspending the need for arrest warrants, among other civil liberties. It cleared the way for the arrest of over 80,000 alleged gang members.

Three-quarters of El Salvador's total gang members – estimated to be some 79,000 – have been arrested since Bukele declared war on them, Villatoro said last month. Authorities are working to locate the remainder, thought to number around 25,000, he added.

Human rights organisations have criticised Bukele's methods, which Amnesty International last week described as "disproportionate."

Bukele, who was re-elected in February for another five-year term, has promised to continue the war "until we eradicate the little that still remains of the gangs."

 

Closer ties

Argentina’s President Javier Milei has been a vocal supporter of Bukele and his tactics and Bullrich has been tasked with strengthening those ties.

Earlier this month, the head of state attended the Salvadoran leader’s inauguration, with the two sharing a bilateral meeting afterwards.

The government in Buenos Aires said in a press release that Bullrich is “interested in the whole structure which helped drastically reduce crime in El Salvador,” which “until not very long ago was a country dominated by gang violence.”

During her stay in the Central American nation, Bullrich will meet with Bukele and other senior security, defence and intelligence officials. 

The first order of business after landing on Saturday night was for Bullrich to go to the ANSP, which is responsible for training the police officers and other public security authorities.

During the tour, Bullrich was shown different training activities, before delving into the educational programmes. The two nations then exchanged notes on practices implemented to professionalise police forces.

 

– TIMES/AFP/NA

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