BBC reports on the disappearance of gangs in El Salvador.

After decades of living in fear of crossing imaginary borders, being extorted and threatened, Salvadorans are now living in peace following the eradication of gangs, according to a report by the BBC. The report marks one year since the implementation of the exceptional regime in the country. Before this, criminal gangs had terrorised communities by imposing imaginary borders, crossing which put lives at risk. However, following the implementation of the Plan Control Territorial, the police and armed forces have dismantled the gangs, bringing peace to the country.

In the 1980s, many Salvadorans migrated to the United States in search of refuge due to the civil war. However, one group of migrants organised themselves in Los Angeles and became involved in criminal activities. The situation escalated and returned to El Salvador as the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gangs, which were responsible for some 120,000 deaths in the country. Despite previous government efforts to eradicate the gangs through truces, negotiations and “iron fist” strategies, it was not until the current administration of President Nayib Bukele that they were finally dismantled.

One of the consequences of the gangs’ disappearance is the removal of imaginary borders, which has allowed people to move freely. For instance, the BBC report describes how two groups of teenagers in Soyapango played football together for the first time in decades. It also describes how Jerrica, the coach of a football school in the Credisa neighbourhood, which was controlled by the MS-13, visited the San José neighbourhood, which was controlled by the Barrio 18, with her team. This was the first time in more than 20 years that they had visited the area, and the teenagers were excited to be able to play there without fear.

To ensure that gangs do not return, President Nayib Bukele ordered the construction of a mega-prison called the Terrorism Confinement Center (CECOT), with a capacity for 40,000 inmates. The first 4,000 gang members have already been transferred to the prison, which has been criticised by human rights organisations. However, the population has praised the president’s strategy, with a CID Gallup poll showing that 92% of the population supports his public security strategy.

According to the BBC, the population has seen an evident improvement in the country’s security, which was historically one of the most violent in the world, with a rate of 104 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015. Dennise, a young resident of La Campanera, a neighbourhood where it was previously impossible to enter or leave without the permission of the gangs, told the BBC that “This place was not safe until the president did that (…) I think the regime was the best decision that could have been made, and he is the best president we have had.”