El Salvador, a Central American country gripped by gang violence, is attempting to curb the crisis by stamping out symbols throughout the country associated with those gangs, even going so far as to destroy tombstones bearing them.
President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador responded to criticism Thursday in a video posted to social media that his administration was “violating the human rights” of deceased members of gangs by having prison inmates destroy their tombstones.
Why did we destroy the tombstones on the graves of gang members? pic.twitter.com/DUHUFKACK8
— Nayib Bukele (@nayibbukele) March 3, 2023
“First of all we are not prohibiting gang members from having graves. What we are prohibiting is for their tombstone to read : MS13 or 18th Street Gang,” Bukele stated.
The president went on to explain that this prohibition stems from a recently passed law, the Gang Proscription Law, that specifically bans those symbols within the country. “Gang symbols are not allowed anywhere: not in graffiti, not at home, not on people’s bodies, not on people’s graves,” he stated.
After a surge of violence in March 2022, Bukele initiated an unprecedented anti-gang crackdown throughout the country, embarking on the largest strategy for ensnaring gang members ever seen in Central America, according to International Crisis Group. His “iron-fisted” methods have made him highly popular with the El Salvadoran people, with his approval ratings consistently hovering between 80 and 90%, the United States Institute of Peace reported.
Since initiating his crackdown, which required the suspension of some constitutional rights, Bukele’s government has arrested more than 53,000 suspected gang members, putting two out of every 100 Salvadorans behind bars, leading to the highest incarceration rate in the world, International Crisis Group reported. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans Introduce Legislation To Designate MS-13 As A Foreign Terrorist Organization)
Referring to Nazi Germany, Bukele stated, “It wasn’t just enough to arrest the Nazi leaders and kill them…they also had to erase all Nazi ideology from German society.” Bukele explained that after World War II, the swastika was banned in that country to stamp out Nazism. “It’s a problem they had in Germany, so they banned it – and not just on paper,” Buckle explained.
“They went on to destroy all Nazi symbols anywhere in the country. On public buildings, postage stamps, letters stationery, signs, flags and vehicles. Anything and everything that had Nazi symbols had to be destroyed, including tombstones,” Bukele stated.
“Here in El Salvador…we never had a Nazi problem, but we did have a gang problem. It’s a similar issue,” Bukele explained because they are “interwoven in Salvadoran society.”
“They are everywhere,” Bukele stated, “even in the cemeteries.”