The first group of 2,000 suspected gang members in El Salvador have been moved to a huge new prison, the centrepiece of President Nayib Bukele’s self-declared war on crime.

Tens of thousands of suspected gangsters have been rounded up in the country under a state of emergency following a spike in murders and other violent crime. Pictures show the first massive group of inmates – tattooed and barefoot – being led led to the facility.

Despite that the fact that the war against the gangs has led to controversial emergency measures as they limit some constitutional rights, such as allowing the security forces to arrest suspects without a warrant, 90 % of the Salvadorians endorse their president in his campaign.

Not astonishingly, foreign human right groups protest. They always do, when a government suspends some constitutional human rights. They also did when the Ukrainian president declared the state of emergency and curbed some constitutional rights in his struggle with the Russian invasion. Human rights groups have a blind spot when they have to concern themselves with the bigger picture of a society’s needs.

Democracies can come under internal pressure when some criminal or subversive organizations abuse and corrupt the mechanisms of its judicial and political processes. In such cases most regimes switch to “emergency room” operations. Which in general is seen as a last resort to keep a failing democracy on life-support. From thereon two alternatives present themselves: either the patient (democracy) dies or he recovers after some long convalescence.

Alas, history has taught us that many benevolent dictators with good intentions cling to the plush seats of power long after the conditions of the state of emergency have been resolved.

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