Deals and Devils

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El Salvador declared a state of emergency this week after criminal gangs began killing people on the streets Saturday, marking the bloodiest day in the country’s history since the end of the civil war three decades ago, the New York Times reported.

The new 30-day emergency powers will allow the government to suspend some civil liberties, facilitate conditions for arrest and allow the government to monitor the communications of citizens.

Saturday’s attack killed at least 62 people and comes after nearly three years of relative peace following the election of populist President Nayib Bukele.

Bukele had campaigned on promises to eradicate gang violence in El Salvador but the weekend attack threatens to tarnish his record. He condemned the recent violence and vowed to retaliate against the gangs.

Even so, analysts described the attack as random and not the result of conflicts between the criminal groups in the Central American country. They suggested that the killings were a message by gangs to renegotiate a clandestine deal with the government.

The young president has been accused of creating a secret agreement with the country’s criminal organizations to provide financial incentives to gang members and preferential treatment to their imprisoned leaders.

The US government has sanctioned a number of El Salvadoran officials for their alleged roles in negotiating “a secret truce with gang leadership.”

Bukele, however, denies the accusations but Saturday’s massacre underscores that the pact might be falling apart.

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