America has a huge problem with gangs and gang violence.
But when we look to other countries that also struggle we can see examples of what will never work here.
Take El Salvador, for example.
El Salvador’s leader, Nayib Bukele, caused controversy when he stated he would compete for a second term in 2024. His fans seem unfazed.
Bukele promised to eliminate El Salvador’s vast criminal gang network.
Can Bukele Beat Gangs Into Submission>
More than 50,000 suspected gang members have been captured or killed in shootouts.
This week, he sent the army and police to surround Comasagua, prohibiting its 14,000 citizens from entering or departing without being checked and recognized.
Bukele said MS-13 controlled big areas of the town, and he’d stop them.
10,000 security forces are encircling the city of Soyapango near San Salvador as part of Nayib Bukele's State of Exception and war on gangs which has already seized more than 58 thousand persons alleged to have gang ties. https://t.co/XhGS79JNfr
— Tim Muth (@TimMuth) December 3, 2022
The Military Goes On the Hunt
More than 2,000 military and police encircled a village in El Salvador on Sunday to hunt for gang members.
Comasagua’s mobilization is the latest iteration of heavy-handed government attempts to drive out criminal gangs. All town visitors were questioned or searched.
MS-13 criminals are still in Comasagua, 20 miles southwest of San Salvador, according to President Nayib Bukele.
As president, Bukele was quite dictatorial. Since entering office in 2019, he’s utilized legislative backing and judicial appointments to suspend numerous aspects of the constitution.
One is the right of the accused to know what crimes they’re charged with and to receive legal representation. Under Bukele, the police and army are locking up gang members.
"Now you can walk around here and you won't see any gang members, but I don't recommend doing it because the police could take you away." Pretty much sums it up. https://t.co/7tlsmq8RNK
— Michael Deibert (@michaelcdeibert) December 4, 2022
How Are El Salvadorans Reacting?
How do people feel about this governing style? Nayib Bukele is arguably the most admired leader in Latin America. He primarily employs his troops and police against gangs, not residents or political opponents. People adore and respect him.
MS-13 and other gangs fear him. Bukele doesn’t merely shoot and jail people. He’s deployed soldiers to demolish gang members’ headstones and graves. He’s waged war on gangs and believes all’s fair in love and battle. He’s thrown aside the rules and is killing terrible folks.
This Will Not End Well
Reading about Bukele’s gang battles inspires wonder and envy. It’s been enticing to send 20,000 soldiers to Nyc, Chicago, and Los Angeles to help cops lock up gangs and retail theft networks. Any such effort would violate posse comitatus and be quickly shut down by the courts.
Once you dismiss a bit of the constitution for convenience, the whole document is definitely doomed. This will likely happen in El Salvador. Bukele is beloved now, but he’s taken power for himself and his friends. Such authority is addictive, as we witnessed (to a lesser extent) with our president, governors, and lawmakers in the early days of the epidemic.
Nayib Bukele has disregarded or ignored various constitutional provisions. He’s popular because he’s focusing his strength on the gangs. He’s also turned his country into a totalitarian regime or military-police state. Eventually, he’ll use his authority on his political opponents. Bukele plays a benign dictator.
History shows that benevolent tyrants seldom last, and you’ll never get two in a row.This article appeared in NewsHouse and has been published here with permission.