Press release

El Salvador: President’s Responses to COVID-19 Violate Human Rights

We condemn President Bukele’s recent actions, which violate fundamental human rights and undermine democratic values in El Salvador.

In response to President Nayib Bukele’s actions to combat COVID-19 and violence in El Salvador, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“We condemn President Bukele’s recent actions, which violate fundamental human rights and undermine democratic values in El Salvador,” said Deborah Ullmer, director of Freedom House’s Latin America and Caribbean programs. “He has defied Supreme Court orders to respect basic rights while enforcing quarantine regulations, imposed inhumane conditions on jailed people, and authorized the use of lethal force against gangs. We call on the president to reverse course, protect fundamental rights, and respect the rule of law and due process.”

Background:

On April 25, after an outbreak of gang violence, President Bukele ordered a mandatory lockdown in some prisons—under inhumane conditions that could put inmates’ lives at risk—and announced that he was authorizing police and the military to use lethal force against gangs for “self-defense and to protect the lives of Salvadorans.” In recent weeks, security forces implementing quarantine regulations have arbitrarily detained hundreds of people in containment centers where there is an increased risk of COVID-19 contagion. The Supreme Court has issued three rulings intended to halt the harsh penalties for alleged quarantine violations, the most recent one on April 15, but the president has publicly rejected them.

El Salvador is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020.