Up First Sunday El Salvador's Year of Exception Nayib Bukele crack down on gangs For the past year, the government of El Salvador has been in the midst of an extraordinary crackdown on gangs. The courts have waived human rights protections, allowing police to detain anyone they suspect of having gang affiliations—even without evidence. So far, they've arrested more than 60-thousand people. Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele has been the force behind the country's "state of exception." His "reforms" have included harsh new sentencing guidelines, which have lowered the point of criminal responsibility from 16 years of age to just 12. The government has also opened a new "mega prison" to house the exploding numbers of detainees, a place where, President Bukele said, "they would live for decades." El Salvador, once a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, is now safe. But critics of the policies say the human rights costs have been way too high. Today on Up First Sunday, NPR's Eyder Peralta tells us about what he heard and witnessed during his recent reporting trip to the country.

The Sunday Story: The price of peace in El Salvador

The Sunday Story: The price of peace in El Salvador

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As President Bukele, moves around San Salvador, he is followed by troops. They set up perimeters and use drones to surveil his movements. Eyder Peralta /NPR hide caption

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Eyder Peralta /NPR

As President Bukele, moves around San Salvador, he is followed by troops. They set up perimeters and use drones to surveil his movements.

Eyder Peralta /NPR

For the past year, the government of El Salvador has been in the midst of an extraordinary crackdown on gangs. The courts have waived human rights protections, allowing police to detain anyone they suspect of having gang affiliations—even without evidence. So far, they've arrested more than 60-thousand people.

Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele has been the force behind the country's "state of exception." His "reforms" have included harsh new sentencing guidelines, which have lowered the point of criminal responsibility from 16 years of age to just 12. The government has also opened a new "mega prison" to house the exploding numbers of detainees, a place where, President Bukele said, "they would live for decades."

El Salvador, once a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world, is now safe. But critics of the policies say the human rights costs have been way too high. Today on Up First Sunday, NPR's Eyder Peralta tells us about what he heard and witnessed during his recent reporting trip to the country.


Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR, covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

The audio portion of this episode was produced by Audrey Nguyen, with engineering support from Joby Tanseco. It was edited by Jennifer Schmidt and Tara Neill.

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