The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has revived this Thursday the controversy that he has had on Twitter with the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro. The Central American leader reacted to a comment that his counterpart made on that social network, regarding a news item published on the account of Cnn in Spanish. It reported that some New York prosecutors accused Bukele government officials of making pacts with gangs in exchange for better prison conditions, to make it appear that their heavy-handed policy against those organizations was yielding results.
Petro quoted the tweet and wrote: “Better than making government agreements under the table is that Justice can make them on the table without deception and in search of peace.” With this, apart from launching a veiled criticism of the Salvadoran Executive, he incidentally defended the total peace policy of his Government, with which he seeks to disarm the illegal armed organizations that continue to commit crimes in the country.
Bukele, through the same way, first responded to CNN: “Agree. First he accuses of inhumane treatment and now they talk about “better conditions.” And immediately afterwards, to Petro: “Also, I don’t understand his obsession with El Salvador. Isn’t his son the one who makes pacts under the table and also for money? Everything is good at home?”. With the first question, Bukele referred to the accusations that Petro’s eldest son, Nicolás, has been the target of appropriating large amounts of money that various businessmen made to the presidential campaign of his father. According to Nicolás’s former girlfriend, one of the contributors is a former drug trafficker who paid his sentence in the United States, and another is a contractor known to have ties to paramilitaries.
The Colombian president did not let Bukele’s rhetorical questions go by and, in another tweet, hinted that democracy is being destroyed in El Salvador and appealed to the presumption of innocence in the face of the accusations against his son: “Dear President Nayib, all is well in my house. Here there is the presumption of innocence, a universal principle. Here the president does not remove judges or magistrates; he fights for a more autonomous and stronger justice. Here in Colombia we deepen democracy, we do not destroy it”.
The Salvadoran once again responded: “Presumption of innocence? I imagine that he has never accused any opponent of his. The Colombians will know if that is true or another lie, that he already seems to be addicted to them. Furthermore, it was you who attacked me (again) and our internal affairs; I didn’t even remember its existence.”
The controversy between the two leaders began in early March, when they exchanged various trills about the methods used by the Salvadoran government to reduce homicides in their country. While Bukele defended the recently inaugurated Confinement Center against Terrorism (“the largest prison in America”, in his words) and the treatment of imprisoned gang members, mostly captured under the state of exception in which the country has been for One year, Petro talked about the possibilities of education to combat crime.
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The Government of El Salvador has captured nearly 60,000 gang members in a vertical fight against the organizations of which they were a part and that led the country to be one of the most dangerous in the world. The exhibition of the captures and the treatment of the prisoners has been used by Bukele to promote his policy which, according to his figures, has managed to reduce the murders. However, several human rights organizations doubt the legality of these practices. A Human Rights Watch report from January indicates that “abuses on a large scale” have been committed in El Salvador, including extreme overcrowding, violations of due process, lack of guarantees, mass arrests, and deaths in custody.
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