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New Photos Reveal Glimpse Into Mega-Prison Where 40k Inmates Can Be Held Indefinitely
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New Photos Reveal Glimpse Into Mega-Prison Where 40k Inmates Can Be Held Indefinitely

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Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, has released new footage from the Center of Confinement of Terrorism, the controversial mega-prison built in 2022 as part of a crackdown on street gangs and criminal organizations.

The video was published to announce the transfer of 2,000 gang members from the Izalco, Ciudad Barrios, and San Vicente detention centers to the maximum security prison known as CECOT.

Highlights
  • El Salvador President Nayib Bukele released footage of 2,000 gang members being transferred to CECOT, the largest prison in Latin America.
  • The murder rate dropped significantly since the prison's opening, with 2023 recording the lowest number of homicides in Salvadoran history, according to official data.
  • Human Rights Watch has denounced "enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment of detainees."

“There, they will pay for the crimes committed against our people, isolated from the outside world, without any possibilities of leaving or organizing crimes from prison,” Bukele wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Tuesday (June 11).

Image credits: Gettyimages

The video shows the criminals, who reportedly operated within the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and Barrio 18 gangs, arriving at CECOT with their heads tilted down and arms tied behind their backs, being constantly followed by heavily armed guards.

Upon entering the prison, the semi-naked detainees squatted in a long line, their heads tilted forward until they nearly touched the backs of the inmates in front of them.

The mega-jail has a capacity for 40,000 prisoners, making it the largest prison in Latin America. It’s located in Tecoluca, San Vicente, 74 km (45 miles) southeast of San Salvador, and it occupies 166 hectares, as per the local newspaper TicoTimes.

The video was posted to announce the transfer of 2,000 gang members to the CECOT, which can hold up to 40,000 inmates

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Image credits: NBC News

The decision to build the CECOT came after 92 Salvadorans were killed between March 24 and 27, 2022, as a result of gang violence, the deadliest peak in lethal violence in the country’s recent history. 

The Legislative Assembly adopted a state of exception, which allows the state to transcend the rule of law and suspend constitutional rights in the name of the public good.

Police officers and soldiers then arrested over 58,000 people—including at least 1,600 minors—in eight months.

There are currently 14,532 prisoners in CECOT. At the national level, the imprisoned population reaches 108,200, which translates to 1,707 prisoners for every 100,000 Salvadorans.

 “They will pay for the crimes committed against our people, isolated from the outside world, without any possibilities of leaving or organizing crimes from prison,” the president wrote

Image credits: NBC News

While Bukele’s policies have significantly lowered the country’s murder rate, human rights organizations have denounced “torture and other ill-treatment of detainees”

Image credits: NBC News

According to official data published by the government in January 2024, 2023 saw the lowest number of homicides in the history of the country, as 154 homicides were recorded, a rate of 2.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. 

In 2022, 495 homicides were recorded, or 7.8 per 100,000 inhabitants.

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“The majority of Salvadorans have applauded the severe measures,” reads a 2022 report by the International Crisis Group, an independent organization working to prevent wars and shape policies for peace.

Detainees don’t have mattresses, as guards fear they would give them a chance to hide dangerous objects

However, many human rights organizations have criticized the harsh conditions that the prisoners are subjected to at CECOT, including excessive use of force and torture by authorities. 

In a report published in 2022, Human Rights Watch denounced that, since the state of exception was established, there have been “arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, and significant due process violations.”

“In addition, the circumstances of many deaths in custody during the state of emergency suggest state responsibility for those deaths,” the 94-page report reads.

Similarly, Amnesty International warns El Salvador is experiencing the “gradual replacement of gang violence with state violence.”

In a report published in December, the organization accuses the government of adopting “a policy of systematic torture of all persons detained under the state of emergency because they are suspected of being gang members.” It also asserts that the “prevailing impunity” among Salvadoran authorities is facilitating “repeated violations.”

Bukele achieved a landslide victory in February when he was reelected with 83% of the votes

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Taking to his X account, Bukele wrote a “message to gangs” in the year the mega-prison was built: 

“We have 16,000 ‘homeboys’ in our possession. Apart from the 1,000 arrested these days. We confiscated everything from them, even their sleeping mats. We rationed their food, and now they no longer see the sun. STOP KILLING NOW, or they are going to pay, too.”

In February 2024, the president, who has described himself as “the world’s coolest dictator” and a “Philosopher King,” was reelected for a second term with 83% of the votes. His victory in the elections was largely attributed to his fight against crime in the country.

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Marina Urman

Marina Urman

Writer, BoredPanda staff

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Marina is a journalist at Bored Panda. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she holds a Bachelor of Social Science. In her spare time, you can find her baking sweet treats, reading, or binge-watching a docuseries on Netflix. Her main areas of interest are pop culture, literature, and education.

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Marina Urman

Marina Urman

Writer, BoredPanda staff

Marina is a journalist at Bored Panda. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she holds a Bachelor of Social Science. In her spare time, you can find her baking sweet treats, reading, or binge-watching a docuseries on Netflix. Her main areas of interest are pop culture, literature, and education.

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Author, BoredPanda staff

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I am employed as a Visual Editor in the news team. I make sure you have the best pictures near the most interesting text. In general all day I am looking at all you favourite celebrities facies and I am geting payed for it!

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Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Ugnė Lazauskaitė

Author, BoredPanda staff

I am employed as a Visual Editor in the news team. I make sure you have the best pictures near the most interesting text. In general all day I am looking at all you favourite celebrities facies and I am geting payed for it!

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carlosmoreno avatar
Carlos Moreno
Community Member
1 month ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I applaud the president for this. I actually went to el Salvador last year and I was able to walk on the streets and feel safe. I know a lot of people will complain about the human rights of those prisoners, but what happened to the human rights of the victims committed by those gangs. No one cared when el salvador was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and now they are one of the safest.

ceecu1985 avatar
CatWoman1014
Community Member
1 month ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

My thoughts exactly. You’re worried about the human rights of the prisoners, what about the human rights of their victims?

Load More Replies...
drdlyamamoto avatar
BoredPossum
Community Member
1 month ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This just shows that human beings are the worst species on this planet.

smvoigt60 avatar
Sheila Voigt
Community Member
3 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I don’t see a problem here. These ‘human rights ‘ groups need to focus on humans. These thugs have no remorse, no conscience, and, I’d bet, no souls. They didn’t stop to think about their victims, why should we stop to think about them?

Load More Comments
carlosmoreno avatar
Carlos Moreno
Community Member
1 month ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I applaud the president for this. I actually went to el Salvador last year and I was able to walk on the streets and feel safe. I know a lot of people will complain about the human rights of those prisoners, but what happened to the human rights of the victims committed by those gangs. No one cared when el salvador was one of the most dangerous countries in the world, and now they are one of the safest.

ceecu1985 avatar
CatWoman1014
Community Member
1 month ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

My thoughts exactly. You’re worried about the human rights of the prisoners, what about the human rights of their victims?

Load More Replies...
drdlyamamoto avatar
BoredPossum
Community Member
1 month ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This just shows that human beings are the worst species on this planet.

smvoigt60 avatar
Sheila Voigt
Community Member
3 weeks ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I don’t see a problem here. These ‘human rights ‘ groups need to focus on humans. These thugs have no remorse, no conscience, and, I’d bet, no souls. They didn’t stop to think about their victims, why should we stop to think about them?

Load More Comments
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