El Salvador President Nayib Bukele announced the deployment of 10,000 troops Saturday to the San Salvador suburb of Soypango in an effort to deter gang violence.
All roads in and out of Soypango have been blocked, and special forces are stopping everyone attempting to leave the city and checking identity papers, according to BBC News.
“Soyapango is totally surrounded,” Bukele posted Saturday on Twitter.
Soyapango is one of El Salvador’s most populous cities with nearly 300,000 residents. The city has been known as a violent center of gang activity, which was previously considered unassailable by law enforcement until now. The area has seen a sharp increase in gang violence since March.
Bukele began his plan to de-escalate gang violence by ordering the arrest of more than 57,000 alleged gang members and has since denied them fundamental rights before trial.
Bukele tweeted that “the municipality of Soyapango is totally fenced off” attaching a video showing hundreds of troops preparing to barricade the area.
Bukele said that “8,500 soldiers and 1,500 agents have surrounded the city, while extraction teams from the police and the army are tasked with extricating all the gang members still there one by one.”
Since Bukele announced a state of emergency in March, authorities have jailed more than 58,000 people. The state of emergency was initially approved for only 30 days, but has since been the norm leading into December.
The order suspends fundamental individual rights in the El Salvadorian Constitution including freedom of association and assembly, to remain silent, privacy in communication, the right to be informed about the reason for arrest, and to legal representation and maximum holding, which has now been extended beyond 72 hours, to name a few.
Bukele said on Twitter after suspending rights: “Religious services, sporting events, commerce, studies, etc., can continue to be carried out as normal. Unless you are a gang member or the authorities consider you suspicious.”
Human rights groups have criticized the state of emergency, saying it has also allowed law enforcement to arrest suspects without warrants, which ultimately led to unjust detentions.
“We have found evidence of arbitrary detentions of innocent people, who have been disappeared for short periods, as well as alarming deaths while in custody,” said Tamara Taraciuk Broner, the acting Americas director for Human Rights Watch, told the Associated Press.
A recent poll taken by the Central American University (UCA) found that 75.9% of Salvadorans approved of the state of emergency and suspended rights. Bukele’s supporters also say the extreme law enforcement measures are necessary after gangs were blamed for 62 murders in a single day on March 26.