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El Salvador Government Burns $67 Million Worth of Seized Cocaine

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El Salvador authorities have burned a massive 2.7-ton pile of cocaine worth an estimated $67.5 million. The drugs were incinerated in Ilopango, just east of the capital, San Salvador.

The cocaine was seized in May from seven men in boats over 1,000 miles off the Salvadoran coast. The arrested individuals included two Ecuadorians, two Colombians, and three Mexicans. Authorities have not yet detailed their charges.

The destruction of the cocaine aligns with President Nayib Bukele’s ongoing crackdown on gangs and drug trafficking. Bukele, re-elected in February with 85% of the vote, has implemented severe measures to combat gang violence and crime. In March 2022, his government declared a state of emergency, resulting in the arrest of tens of thousands of suspected gang members.

Recently, approximately 2,000 suspected gang members were transferred to a new 40,000-capacity prison in Tecoluca. Bukele shared a video on social media showing the prisoners being escorted under heavy guard, vowing they would “pay for the crimes committed against our people.”

Gang violence has plagued El Salvador for decades. Official estimates suggest between 60,000 and 86,000 gang members are in the country. In 2015, the homicide rate peaked at 105 per 100,000 people but fell to a historic low in 2022.

Bukele’s challenging anti-crime strategies have drawn criticism from human rights groups. Concernsinclude due process violations and arbitrary detentions. Amnesty International reported over 78,000 arbitrary detentions and 235 deaths in custody, leading to 148% prison overcrowding. Human Rights Watch has accused Bukele’s government of dismantling democratic checks and balances. Despite these criticisms, El Salvador’s government seem to continue its aggressive stance against gangs and drug traffickers.

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