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Colombia Ex-Guerrilla President Starts Feud with El Salvador, Calling Gang Mega-Prison a ‘Concentration Camp’

Far-left Colombian President Gustavo Petro and El Salvadoran President Naïve Bukele clashed on Wednesday after Petro, a former member of the Marxist terrorism guerrillas, called Bukele’s “huge prison” a “concentration camp”. bottom.

Bukele announced On Friday, the first 2,000 inmates were transferred to El Salvador’s new 40,000-bed ‘mega prison’ at the Center for Containment of Terrorism (CECOT) as part of El Salvador’s crackdown on rampant gang violence. was announced. As such, El Salvador has been given the dubious distinction of being one of the most dangerous countries in Latin America.

A verbal skirmish between Nayib Bukele and Gustavo Petro began after Petro criticized El Salvador’s new prison facilities in a speech Wednesday. inauguration ceremony of the new University of Bogota.

“A terrifying picture of a concentration camp in El Salvador where thousands of young people are imprisoned – I can’t go to another country.” Look, believing this is security, it’s skyrocketing in popularity, and we’ve definitely experienced this in Colombia.”

In his speech, the far-left president added that he had achieved a reduction in crime rates in Colombia without having to build prisons.

“The president of El Salvador, in my opinion, is proud to have reduced the murder rate by putting down gangs in Dante-esque prisons,” Petro said. We have also succeeded in reducing murder rates, crime and violence – but not through prisons, but through colleges, schools and dialogue venues. , a space for the poor to stop being poor.”

In fact, six Colombian cities are feature As of February 2023, it is on the list of the most violent cities in the world. Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, where Petro was mayor, had a murder rate of gain Murder rate in Cali increased by 21% in the first month of 2023 gain By mid-February 2023, a 3% increase compared to the previous year.

According to statistics Presented About 1.8 million crime reports were registered in 2022 at a rate of 3,486 per 100,000 population, according to the civil society organization Excellence in Justice Corporation (CEJ). This is up from his 1.4 million in 2021 when Petro’s predecessor, conservative Ivan Duque, was president. .

Petro’s statement drew a response from the Salvadoran president, who posted a video excerpt of the Colombian president’s criticism of El Salvador’s CECOT prison on his Twitter account on Wednesday.

“Gustavo Petro, results beat rhetoric” Bukele responded Via Twitter. “I hope that Colombia will really succeed in lowering the murder rate as we Salvadorans have achieved. God bless you.”

An hour later, Petro responded to Bukele’s message by proposing an “international forum” for his Salvadoran counterpart to compare experiences in reducing homicide rates in both El Salvador and Colombia.

“Mr Naive, in 1993 Bogota had 90 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, but in 2022 there will be 13 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Built a university, it is good to compare experiences, I propose an international forum “Petro I have written.

Petro avoided mentioning that much of that decline in murder rates occurred while Colombia was under a conservative president. Petro is America’s first leftist president. From 2002 to his 2010, under conservative Alvaro Ribe his president of Velez, Colombia was able to largely defeat the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) terrorist organization. Use Counter-terrorism tactics shared by the United States from operations against al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of Uribe’s term, most of the FARC leaders were in hiding or in exile in Cuba.

Bukele responded to Petro shortly afterwards, without acknowledging his request to hold an international forum on reducing the murder rate.

“Since 1993? Thirty years… Thirty years ruled? Bogota? Isn’t he the president of Colombia?” Bukele asked. “Our experience: from over 100 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, we are now in the single digits, and the decline has been rapid as the death toll does not recover.”

Peter finally replied to Bukele: Present A graph of Bogota’s homicide rate statistics from 1962 to 2020. Petro served as mayor of Bogotá for his two terms, from 2012 until 2015.

“As you know, I am sending you this information. [Antanas] Moccus is worth studying internationally Naive Bukele,” answered Peter.

Petro’s response was then retweeted by Bukele.

Bukele has made the removal of Salvadoran gangs such as the Mara Salvatrucha-13 (MS-13) and 18th Street a key goal of his regime. declare It declared a state of emergency in March 2022 and has since put the country under virtual martial law to combat gang violence.

Although his policies were attractive, criticism A dramatic decline in gang violence and a crackdown on gangs in the country, according to organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), have contributed significantly to Bukele’s high approval ratings among Salvadoran citizens. hover At about 92% as of March 2001, it is well ahead of other presidents in the region.

February, El Salvador newspaper El Farousually very critical of Bukele. report Due to his policies, gang members have all but disappeared from areas of El Salvador where they used to extort and terrorize civilians.

On Tuesday morning, Bukele announced that his government had sent prison inmates to destroy headstones featuring symbols and images reminiscent of MS-13 and other gangs.

Bukele too announced There were no registered homicides in the first day of March 2023, according to his government tracking data, Thursday.

In contrast to Bukele, Gustavo Petro, a former member of the Marxist M19 guerrillas, launched a “total peace” plan that focused primarily on negotiations with criminal gangs, education and social reintegration.

One example is Peter’s “Youth in Peace.” programIt aims to provide scholarships and education to young impoverished Colombians, to make them “peace managers” and act as mediators of conflict in their respective communities.

Petro’s government gave similar benefits to criminals caught on the violent left Riot This will take place in Colombia in 2021, when released from prison, every month scholarship 1 million Colombian pesos (about $206) if they agree to become “peace spokesmen.”

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer who documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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